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Flames 1, Oilers 0 post-game embers: At long last

Our long national nightmare is over. The Flames resumed beating bottom of the barrel teams – and still have another three of those to go.

MVP 1

Mike Smith did not have his best showing against the Islanders. He wasn’t solely to blame for the loss, but he wasn’t an innocent victimized party, either.

Getting a shutout win in a 1-0 game, though – that’s some heroics, and Smith earned every bit of the win. He stopped 28 shots, including some breakaways, and was crucial on all three penalty kills. The Flames didn’t exactly have a good first period, and it was Smith who kept them in the game through it, to the point they were eventually able to take over.

According to Natural Stat Trick, though, the numbers were close: the Flames had 33 scoring chances; the Oilers, 26. The game reflected the score.

This was Smith’s third shutout of the season. The first two were against Anaheim, a 2-0 win, and Arizona, a 3-0 win. He’s the only Flames goalie to have a shutout this season. His season save percentage now sits at .922, the second best season of his career to date, with another 11 games to go (including one back-to-back, so presumably he may play another 10, which would bring his total to 59). He’s tied for eighth league-wide in save percentage amongst goalies with at least 30 games played; a .927 even strength save percentage has him tied for seventh in that category.

Very hard fought win for Smith. The Flames’ next six games are all against divisional opponents; just two of their remaining 11 games are against non-Pacific teams. He’ll need to have a few more of those.

MVP 2

Johnny Gaudreau scored the only goal of the game, upping himself to a five-game point streak. It is presently his fourth longest point streak of the season, after a 10-gamer, eight games, and seven games. The Flames are 3-1-1 in this edition.

Probably seems obvious to say, but: in the 21 games this season Gaudreau has not scored, the Flames have lost 16 of them. In the 50 games this season in which he has scored, the Flames have lost 20 times. Absolutely wild that a team’s top scorer getting on the board tends to help them win, isn’t it?

Gaudreau’s goal was his 80th point of the season: the first time in his career he has hit that number. His previous career high was 78 points in 79 games; he’s at 71 games now. He’s on pace for 92 points of the season, and unless he really starts going ham to close out the year (who knows: it is a playoff chase and he has won at every single level except the NHL, so he’s probably got it in him) and some other guys fall off, though, an Art Ross probably isn’t happening. Gaudreau is seventh in league-wide scoring, 11 points back of first.

The Flames’ next top scorer is Sean Monahan, with 62 points. Monahan is a great player in his own right – helped create Gaudreau’s goal, after all – but he’s still nearly 20 points back of his linemate.

Smith has been very valuable to the Flames this season. Gaudreau is right up there with him.

Something else fun to note: Gaudreau is the fourth highest scoring player of the 2011 draft class. His 283 career points have him sitting just 17 back of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. One has played 445 games; the other, 302. One went first overall; the other, 104th.

Now let’s enjoy this work of art.

MVP 3

If a team has one of the, at absolute worst, top two players in the world, then let’s be honest: focus is going to go towards said player. His teammates may be a talented bunch as well, but also if they’re prime for a lottery pick uhh maybe not.

Connor McDavid played 24:41, the second most of any skater (Mark Giordano had him beat, 26:23). Mikael Backlund was stapled to his ass: of the 20:34 he played, 19:01 was sharing the same ice as McDavid.

McDavid still performed well throughout the game. He was second on the Oilers with an all situations CF of 62.50%. He got numerous high quality scoring chances, dummying talented players across the board – skating is probably T.J. Brodie’s best asset and he fell victim a couple of times, through absolutely no fault of his own – and Smith was there to stop him when he broke through, as a proper last line of defence should.

But the Flames maybe don’t make it through the game without having Backlund so consistently ready to play him. He did get burned – McDavid’s CF against Backlund was 63.64% – but it’s debatable whether anyone else would have fared better. Perhaps even more importantly than that, though, is Backlund allowed Monahan and Gaudreau to stay away from McDavid; they shared barely a minute of ice time with him, if even that, leaving them free to have 60%+ 5v5 CF nights of their own.

And, you know, score.

Honourable mentions

Giordano, Backlund, and Troy Brouwer played the most time on the penalty kill, something that proved crucial throughout the game as the Oilers failed to get shots off – especially on the very last kill of the game, the make-or-break moment. Ice time runners up were Travis Hamonic (who had a great game in his own right), Michael Stone, Brodie, Michael Frolik, and Matt Stajan.

Stajan is four games away from getting a silver stick. From scoring this team’s one playoff series winning goal of the decade to laying his body on the line for one last block to ensure a win, he’s earned the hell out of it. Leading the Flames with a 78.95% 5v5 CF sure helped, as well. The Flames have their bottom six woes – particularly when someone like Matthew Tkachuk is out – but Stajan, in his limited minutes, had a great showing.

Can’t do anything about the cap hit. Can appreciate the player.

This and that

Only three skaters failed to get a shot off: Andrej Sekera, Chris Stewart, and Sam Bennett. McDavid and Dougie Hamilton led the way with five shots apiece, while Jesse Puljujarvi and Curtis Lazar tied for four.

Backlund, Frolik, and Bennett played the most out of the Flames’ forwards last night. Again: stapled to McDavid, but completely freed up the top line to do their own thing.

The Flames’ next game is against the Sharks. That’s massive, because they are directly competing with them for a playoff spot. The Flames have the chance to take four points from them, two from the Kings, and two from the Ducks. If they do that, things get extremely interesting.

  • somewhereoutthere

    Good for the boys I couldnt stomach to watch this one, my nerves wouldve been shot. Didnt fare so well watching the Islanders game everytime I turned over from curling the Isle scored, no joke, I didnt want to curse us again tonight.

  • MDG1600

    Thought I heard something about Monahan playing hurt but missed the details. Does anyone know what the problem is?

    Playoff chances feel slim if both Monahan and Chucky are not 100%. Just another demonstration of the lack of depth at forward being a huge problem. It is not like this wasn’t a known problem throughout the last 2 years. I look forward to BT adding more defencemen this off season while ignoring the fact we need a good face-off man and two more decent wingers…

    • KeepitReal

      One of the tall foreheads who sits with Roger Millions on the panel between periods said that he’s “heard” that Monny is playing thru a significant leg or hip injury. There’ll be confirmation by team management at season’s end. As well as off season surgery.

    • JMK

      The commentary team were also worried Smith wasn’t right and changed their mind half way through because he had a good game. I’m not going to worry until something is announced or he starts missing games.

    • Cfan in Van

      Mony was one of the players to miss the last practice due to maintenance. He hasn’t been shooting or skating anywhere near his ability. I’d say it’s likely he’s nursing something. And ya, lack of depth means he’s damn-well playing through it.

    • withachance

      McDavid has dangerous chances against everyone… You really think there are more than a handful of centers in the league that can shut him down in a game??? Without Backlund on the ice McDavid would probably have scored a couple

      • Off the wall

        Haha WW. I gotta give you credit for being consistent with your remarks.
        But you know it’s not true. Backlund won face-offs against him and was in McDavids grill all night. Even the Oilers fans can see that.

        Being a #1 Flames fan that you purport to be, it would nice if you could at least recognize his contributions once in a while. No?

        • canadian1967

          If you watched, you would see Backlund “trailing” McD the whole night. If you watched closely, you would have seen that McD was actually checked closer by Bennett than Backlund. Any time Sam thought it should be him checking McD, he was on his horse making sure that he was on the right side of the puck.
          When Frolik and Backlund had the responsibility McD left them for dust. Frolik… goodbye.

          • withachance

            McDavid is the fastest player in the league… Every single player should be trailing him. Brodie, who’s a decent skater and in the best position ended up trailing him a couple of times. If you want fast players running around like headless chickens we can put Lazar on McJesus next time and see what happens. Really don’t know what you want the guy to do jeez

    • HOCKEY83

      “It’s irritating how little the Oilers got going without Connor McDavid on the ice. The Flames aggressively defended him by having their best all-around player Mikael Backlund stapled to him all game”

      straight from Oilers Nation article.

  • Off the wall

    Fitting that Smith is responsible for breaking the Honda curse in Anaheim and now the Oilers curse.

    The man deserves a lot of respect from the players and fans alike. I’d give him a hug, like Byng if I could.

    McDavid is one talented hockey player. His speed is something to behold. Backlund frustrated him all night. I’m sure glad we have Backlund and I really appreciated his defensive play.
    Bennett and Frolik did a great job on that line too.

    Our defence did a much better job at limiting scoring chances.
    Hamonic blew me away with his defensive play on McDavid. Not to mention his fight with Nurse.

    Stajan was great (blocked shot) as was Lazar.
    Maybe I’m missing something, but Stewart was not good. Again. I hate to say this, however I don’t think he should dress again. Especially for a postseason push. He’s out of position most of the time and those silky hands he’s supposed to have, are gone. Just my opinion.

    We’re at 25% of making the playoffs. We need to win 75% of our remaining games. I hope we can pull it off, but we’re going to have to be near perfect to do it.

    I’ve stopped looking at the Conference standings. It’s jammed, like a bad day on Deerfoot Trail. Better to focus on the present, cuz I’m going to lose my mind if I keep looking at every scenario possible.

    Great job by our boys, just give us 8 more of these and we’re in.

    • JMK

      Prior to Buffalo game I reckoned I’d be happy with 11 points out of 14 in the next 7 games. They’ve gotten 6 out of 8 in last 4, so that leaves 5 points out of next 3 games. Will be tough but if they can grind it out that puts a ton of pressure on California teams who they play the three games after. Gonna be a photo finish.

  • KeepitReal

    I’m sure the cOilers will have another banner nite or two before season’s end to help ease the pain of DOD.2 and to boost season ticket sales. There’s nothing like a trip thru the 80’s to lift one’s spirits.

  • buts

    One goal doesn’t win many hockey games but thanks to Smith he won this one with some unreal saves. If we make the playoffs it’s because of him. Solid effort by the flames….is it me or does it look like Edmonton gets up for games against Calgary because they sure don’t play against other teams with the same intensity as last night. McD looked like he was on a mission….Hamonic was outstanding against him….Hams best game as a flame.

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      Beating the Flames is all they got… Lets just hope they have enough pride not to throw their games against the teams were fighting for spots with just to screw us(and help their lottery chances). We’ll find out.

  • Burnward

    Big win. One quick thought…anyone catch that 30 seconds or so on the PP where Johnny was actually on the right side running things.

    Man that looked good. And he was swooping in, in control, looking like he was back in his office.

    More of that.

  • Jobu

    Jobu is happy for the win (and the locker room stall), but we wont be winning many games by scoring a single goal. Offense needs to come from more than Johnny Hockey if this is gonna happen.

  • Squishin

    My thoughts:
    – Fun game to watch, despite the low score.
    – I was impressed with the Brouwer-Shore-Hathaway trio. They’re definitely not an adequate third line, but they gave the Flames some solid 4th-line minutes (get it deep, cycle it through, tire out the Oil)
    – People complain about Stajan all the time, but he’s been very effective over the last 20 games or so. He’s working his tail off, and not looking like he’s behind the play at all. That shot block at the end was heroic.
    – I still haven’t seen enough from Ferland to show me that he’s a top-line winger. I noticed him have one really good shift where he got one or two shots, and one shift where he hit someone hard, but aside from that he was relatively invisible. Down the stretch we need him to be at his fiery best. Where’s that guy from November?
    – I agree with the consensus that Monahan is playing through injury. That’s the only explanation for his 30% speed reduction and lack of effectiveness lately.
    – Despite not getting a shot off, I thought Bennett played well. He seemed to have some jump.
    – The most important thing: WE BEAT THE DAMN OIL WOOOOO
    – The other most important thing: 2 points last night, and the playoff chances are a touch better now.

  • Derzie

    Backlund was all-world. Holding McLotto to 0 points is a badge of honour. I’m not a Backlund-guy but credit where credit is due. That is an amazing feat. It’s a team effort but without Backlund, Smith would have had a much worse go of it.

  • Just.Visiting

    I was at the game last night, close to ice level at the top of the faceoff circle in the Flames’ end (1st and 3rd periods). I never appreciated fully how fast McDavid is until I saw him play live last night. He has a completely different gear than everyone else, and he generated excitement on numerous rushes.

    Great job by Smith to steal the win…Those were some excellent scoring opportunities he stopped.

    Thought that Stajan and Lazar looked better last night than I had expected. I also thought that Ferland did some very good defensive work when the game was in our end. Agree with the comment that Bennett had extra jump, but would have liked to have seen Janko play live.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    McD has changed his game from earlier in the season, last night he was attacking defenders instead of using his linemates as often as he did earlier in the year. He was scary fast last night.