101Mark Giordano
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

Post-Game: Flames edge Avalanche in wild one

The Calgary Flames returned home from a successful road trip where they played some stingy, low-scoring hockey. They played similarly on Thursday night and beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-5 in a wild, high-scoring game.

The Rundown

Neither team scored in the opening frame, but aside from a few good chances from the Avalanche top line it was arguably the Flames’ best period of the season. They occasionally dominated at five-on-five, including two very long offensive zone sequences for the fourth line – one was long enough they were able to switch up both defensemen without the puck leaving the zone. Shots were 13-4 Flames and scoring chances were 8-5 Flames.

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The second frame did not go well for the Flames. On an early power play Matthew Tkachuk bobbled the puck, leading to a two-on-two rush the other way. Vladislav Kamenev decided to shoot and his shot found its way through Mike Smith to make it 1-0 Avalanche. The Avalanche struck again 1:50 later, as Sheldon Dries tipped a Tyson Barrie shot from the point. The tip ricocheted off Smith, off Rasmus Andersson’s skate and into the net to make it 2-0.

The Flames answered back, though, as a nice effort by Mark Giordano to pinch and push the puck below the goal line allowed Matthew Tkachuk to grab the puck and feed Mikael Backlund with a pass from behind the net to make it 2-1.

But Colorado struck two more times before the end of the period. Ian Cole flipped the puck into the Flames zone (over Travis Hamonic’s head) and Dries beat Hamonic to the puck. Noah Hanifin cheated in from the slot to support Hamonic, and that allowed Dries to find Colin Wilson sneaking into the slot for a tap-in into a wide-open net to make it 3-1. A neutral zone turnover late in the period led to a Carl Soderberg shot squirting through Smith’s pads to make it 4-1 Avalanche.

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Shots were 13-11 Flames and chances 10-6 Flames in the second period.

The Flames opened the third period with some urgency on their power play and were rewarded. An Elias Lindholm point shot – with Tkachuk parked in front of Varlamov – found its way in to cut things to a 4-2 deficit.

Sean Monahan won a faceoff for the fourth line and then headed to the net. He tipped Noah Hanifin’s shot and it squeaked through Varlamov to make it a 4-3 hockey game.

Juuso Valimaki stepped into Matt Calvert to dislodge the puck, which was grabbed by Johnny Gaudreau and fed to James Neal for a one-timer from the slot to make it a tied game at 4-4.

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The Flames took the lead as Giordano found himself alone in the Avalanche zone, called for the puck and beat Varlamov with a wrister to make it 5-4 Flames.

The home side extended their lead to 6-4 after Tkachuk fed Michael Frolik on a two-on-one rush to make it 6-4.

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The Avalanche answered back on a late power play (with the goalie pulled), with Gabriel Landeskog jamming in a loose puck during a goalmouth scramble to make it 6-5. But that was as close as the Avalanche got and the Flames held on for the win. Shots were 12-11 Avalanche, but scoring chances were 12-5 Flames.

Why the Flames Won

The team got themselves into trouble, and the team got themselves out of it.

They made mistakes on the first four goals and they didn’t get the goaltending to bail them out of those mistakes. But they kept playing their game, kept pressing, and eventually the dam burst in the third period.

Red Warrior

Several Flames had good games, but let’s go with the captain. Giordano was superb in the game, especially in the third period when the team began to press. He ended the night with four points.

The Turning Point

Let’s go with the Neal goal. The game was tilting towards the Flames at that point, but Valimaki’s hit was seemingly the answer to Ian Cole’s hit (see below), except clean, and it led to a huge goal. It’s rare to see rookies with the situational awareness to know when to pinch, but Valimaki played it perfectly and it swung the game.

The Numbers

(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.Hockey)

Player Corsi
Jankowski 78.6 0.0 0.575
Backlund 77.3 54.6 2.580
Hanifin 75.8 25.0 1.650
Bennett 75.0 75.0 0.510
Tkachuk 73.7 50.0 3.100
Hathaway 73.3 n/a 0.325
Neal 71.4 0.0 1.325
Frolik 71.4 54.6 1.875
Hamonic 69.7 40.0 0.875
Ryan 68.0 50.0 1.125
Dube 68.0 40.0 0.450
Giordano 67.7 53.9 4.475
Brodie 62.9 50.0 1.300
Andersson 56.5 62.5 0.150
Monahan 53.3 71.4 1.770
Gaudreau 51.4 57.1 1.100
Lindholm 50.0 45.5 1.105
Valimaki 45.5 62.5 0.575
Smith -1.650

This and That

This is the Flames’ first win in their “regular” red home sweaters in four tries. Their next retro sweater game is Nov. 16 against the New York Rangers.

After a big hit on Mark Jankowski after the 4-1 goal, Sam Bennett jumped in and fought Ian Cole. Cole got tossed, Bennett got the instigator and Jankowski briefly left the game. He was on the bench but didn’t hit the ice in the third period, while Bennett came back and played one third period shift after serving his penalties.

The Flames held Colorado to just eight high-danger scoring chances – out-chancing them 19-8 in the high-danger areas. It’s the fourth consecutive game they’ve held their opponents to fewer than 10 high-danger chances (per Natural Stat Trick); they’re 3-0-1 in that span.

Up Next

The Flames (8-5-1) practice tomorrow, then are back in action in Hockey Night in Canada’s late Saturday game when they host the Chicago Blackhawks.

  • smatic10

    Bennett is showing exactly why you don’t give up on a 4th overall pick that has skill and toughness. I’ve been so impressed with his play all season. He’s been so much more consistent. If he keeps up his play, I can definitely see him having a great mid-season and going on to burst through his career highs.

    But anyways in this game, it’s nice to see this passion and emotion. He came in and probably through 100 punches on Cole with no hesitation. Glad to see Janko is ok, weirdly was happy to see him slam the glass on his way out. Not only the hit but he’s probably frustrated with how his season is going so far. Good to see him express himself. Way more passion from this team, last year under Gully, it seemed like no one cared about anything.

    Also Gio is 35. Dude is a fitness tank.

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    Sam Bennett saw a perceived injustice, made a nice tight turn to get to his man, and came out firing. He wouldn’t have cared if it was Big Buff with the hit, he had fire in his eyes.

    The kid is as tough as a coffin nail…and I especially loved the, “F-You” from Bennett to Cole at the end of the tilt as well.

    • Atomic Clown

      Bennett fights like a man with nothing to lose. It does not matter what is in his way when that fire lights up in his eyes; he’s throwing down the haymakers

      • Mickey O'Reaves

        Yep, a fired up Sam Bennett is a force that you don’t really want to be in the way of when it blasts off.
        He’s like a solar flare spewing off hot gases into space.
        Nature hates a vacuum and Bennett is there to fill it. I’ll take young Sam in my foxhole every day of the week.

  • Skylardog

    Flames find 5v5 scoring by splitting up Monahan and Gaudreau when it is 4-2 Aves. At that point they had just 1 5v5 goal for, and 3 against. Mony gets one on a shift with Ryan and Dube, then Neal pots one with Gaudreau and Lind. Gaudreau-Neal seem to have chemistry. The Backs line are then on for the last 2 for as Gio and Fro score, both at 5v5. They end the night with 5 goals at 5v5.

    Spreading around the talent makes it so hard for the opposition to know who to match. Can’t shut down 3 or 4 lines with scorers on all of them. Now, find a better linemate for Monahan than Ryan. May I suggest

    Dube-Mony-Bennett – To be honest I don’t like this but lets give it a shot and see if anything comes of it.
    Leave JG-Lind-Neal intact,
    Leave 3M alone for now (we are wasting Tkachuk’s talent, but it may save millions in cap space by having him there)
    Leaves Hath-Janko-Ryan-Czar as the options on the 4th line. I would suggest Mangi-Graovac-Hath

    But we all know Peters goes back to JG-Mony-Lind next game – right. Drives me nuts that you find 4 5v5 goals in one period and then go back to what wasn’t working in most of the 38 periods before. That was the best period of the season. All set up by….

    Benny – that was a game changer.

    Smith looked so bad, and as for the saves in the last few minutes, they were all right at him in his chest. Hrudey seemed impressed with how he was regaining his confidence. Bull. He looked shaky even at the end. I said 20 more starts max a few games ago, that is now down to 18. Rittich please.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      Hey, to be fair, there’s been quite a few times this season where we said “we SHOULD do X but no way it’ll happen” (i.e. scratch Stone). You never know with a competent coach.

    • CowTownHiccup

      I would say the biggest thing I took away from this game was how the team rallied around Smith when he let in a few weak goals…… There seems to be a pretty strong by in with this year’s group.

    • Getpucksdeep

      There was a shoulder to the head in that one which is why the concussion spotters called him in. I also thought Hanafin made a rare mistake with a so called “suicide pass” to Janko in the first place. Still the event sparked the comeback and coupled with Valimaki’s hit showed us theres hope for the team in a physical contest.

  • The Doctor

    Really glad to see Neal playing with some speed and passion. And Giordano is a beast! Such a great all around player and arguably one of the smartest players in the game. Deserves to be in the Norris conversation.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      Well, since he’s essentially a PPG player right now, which I don’t think will change much (career year in points?), if the flames can get better defense overall (and start Ritty more), Gio will definitely be in the Norris convo. Especially with plays like he made in this game, and that sweet play at the end of last game.

      He’s incredible, and a wonder to watch. He is the living embodiment of the value and necessity of hard work.

    • Rudy27

      Gio reminds me of the old days in Winnipeg with Randy Carlyle. Hi hockey IQ with excellent timing and gap control. Only won one Norris trophy (because he was playing in the East at the time), but should have had several. As with Gio, not playing in a big media center plays against you when it comes to the voting.

  • FlamesFan27

    I’m glad they won, but man when are they going to play Rittich more? Smith has a GAA of 3.71 (36/39 goalies in the league), Rittich has a 2.08 (4/39 goalies in the league). Those 2 brutal goals would have made the difference between winning and losing on most nights.

    • SGRietzey

      The more alarming stat is Rittich’s 0.939 save percentage vs. Smith’s 0.871. Small sample sizes, and it’s early enough in the season to Smith to put things together (or Rittich to come back down to Earth), but your starter needs to be able to stop greater than 87% of the shots he’s facing. Hell, even Craig Anderson and Jimmy Howard on what should be very bad teams are putting up a 0.914 & 0.912 respectively, both with GAAs over 3 (though I’d caution GAA as a metric to measure goaltending performance).

    • Justthateasy

      Yes they will play him more but he’s not the number one, get that straight. Rittich is still in training. You can’t be a hero after a couple of good games. Even though he is level-headed you don’t want him relapsing into last year’s fiasco.

      • FlamesFan27

        You make a good point – you can’t just give Rittich most of the starts right now because if he regressed, then what? I’m talking about 50/50 for the next 15-20 games and if Rittich is still good ramp that up a little more. Smith is playing absolutely awful – every game there are 1-2 “routine saves” that somehow get into the back of the net. And, that doesn’t even count a number of “questionable” goals. He is constantly guessing and way out of position.

        • SGRietzey

          I agree with the idea of splitting 50/50, and I think November would present an interesting opportunity to study what they have. 12 games left including this Saturday and only one back to back on the California road trip.

          Break it down into three-game segments, have each play three straight through the first half of the month (not set in stone, but would help develop at least a modicum of consistency to evaluate on). Based on that, start whoever the preference is vs. Vegas on the 19th. Keep a similar pattern based on play through the next 6 games, leaving you a chance to evaluate again where things are at before heading into December. If one of them has been clearly superior, they go into December with the reins. It’s a packed start with 5 games in 8 nights to start, and another 5 in 8 a week after, so both guys will get the chance to play plenty. By January, I feel like this will be a much clearer picture.

  • cberg

    Wow! What a “glass half full, glass half empty” kind of game, I can easily imagine just about every type of comment possible, and they’d all be valid depending on what you want o focus on.

    My primary takeaways from this game, and so far…….

    1. This collection of players is extremely talented and when they decide to play fast, together and are fully committed they dominate. To lead the NHL, by a substantial margin, in both 3rd Period goals as well as wins when trailing after 2 Periods is a testament to this. The 3rd Period comebacks are exciting and like last night the Flames can dominate even top tier teams in the league, and top goalies, massively. The 5 unanswered goals is pretty much how I’d dreamt a perfect end of game, after that 2nd Period, and they went out and executed in every detail.

    2. How much of the above is assisted by coaching adjustments still remains to be seen but it is also very true that Bill Peters is not afraid to make mid-game adjustments and they often work. The PP also came through in the clutch so props there too.

    3. This group is coming together as a team and the leadership is sorting itself out before our very eyes. Seeing the whoops and hollers these past two games was really great to see, as are the goal celebrations and clearly these guys are motivated. Even Smith is there as we’ve seen his last two games after he lets in a couple shots that perhaps he should have had, it seems to kill him and its great to see the team rally as a team.

    4. The emergence of the young players is exciting to see. This is true with Jankowski and Hathaway, but especially with Bennett. The points are still coming slowly but Bennett has grown as an effective player by leaps and bounds over last year and that line of Bennett-Jankowski-Neal is dangerous almost every game.

    5. The emergence of the rookies is spectacular. The additions of Dube, Valimaki and Anderson has been tremendous and they have added well above replacement level, and they seem to get better and more poised with every game. Also exciting to see is that the coach trusts them and isn’t afraid to use them in all situations and play them ahead of older vets. The late-game open ice hits by first Anderson and then Valimaki were outstanding and crucial plays leading directly to goals. Let’s see more of that.

    6. Along with all these positives, there were also negatives, but I think I’ll leave those to FN because so many are want to criticize. Personally, bottom line, it’s 2 points. We lead the Pacific Division after a very tough stretch of top-tier opponents. I’ll take it.

  • CowTownHiccup

    I am going to preface this comment with a disclaimer; I generally don’t believe in negative comments, however constructive criticism has a place when delivered properly. I read everyday but post very rarely, mostly because I am too lazy.
    That being said, I really enjoy watching the boys win, obviously, but can’t help feel like they have so much more to offer. Goaltending aside, I think this team has the horses to do some serious damage when they are deployed properly. A win is a win, no matter how you get there when it counts, and this current group has shown a great deal of character and fight, which is appreciated and necessary if they want to be a contender. I just can’t help thinking though, to get to the next level they need to learn how to dominate teams and play with the lead. A trade mark characteristic shown by all true championship teams. Skill and heart will take this team far, however I am hoping they develop the confidence and will of a true contender because no matter how much determination a team possesses, and this group is showing more than we have seen in a while, a methodical, killer approach to their game will be necessary to get them over the top. This mentality is only found in teams with experience and great skill, which I deem a fundamental requirement in championship teams.

    Again, sorry to sound so negative when everyone is riding high after a HUGE win, and that was a huge win, I just can’t help disect their game and expect more, because no one here will say that was a pretty game, or most games so far this season. I think it is pretty obvious to most hockey mins that this team still has a lot more to give and if they can find the right gear, consistently, the goaltending will sort it’s self out. Amazing how most Vezina seasons are backed by good teams with solid commitment to team defence…. All we need is a 0.915 (average) and they will win more than they lose. I believe in this team, because they have shown they believe in them selves, I just want to see another gear.

  • What a crazy week since the Penguins game but in that span the Flames took 7 out of a possible 10 points. It’s almost tempting to swap Riitich and Smith’s roles but I just do not see it happening as long as Smith is healthy.