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
For%
OZone
Start%
Game
Score
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
Rittich

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.


  • The GREAT WW

    I wonder what Neal was giving Smith grief about when it was 6-4?

    Neal FINALLY has a decent game and thinks he is a leader on this team now?!
    Hilarious…

    WW

    • withachance

      you’d rather Neal not be vocal and lead the team as a veteran? why does his goal totals matter in terms of his leadership qualities? Would you rather he go visit some museums until he scores 20 goals this season?

    • Lazarus

      He wasn’t giving him grief. I watched it a few times as I enjoyed it. Smith grins as the real deal skates up, when neal is done Rittich is smiling and Smith is focused but amused. All good there

  • Luter 1

    Now that’s how you stand up for a teammate not hitting your face against someone’s fist like Hamonic. Bennett’s a warrior, Smith Is washed up and no matter how much PP time Peters gives Ryan he still is a waste of 3 mill. We still are getting smacked around a little too much without having the personnel to do much about it. I guess everybody will have to play tougher much like the 3rd.

    • C-of-Dread

      You must have missed the last 3 games and how effective the Ryan, Dubé, Hathaway line has been at hemming teams in, in their own end, shift after shift!

    • Korcan

      From my vantage point, Ryan had himself a very effective game. He may not be an offensive force, but he is very smart away from the puck and does a lot of the little things well. Teams need players like that.

    • Hackin Lube

      Bennett’s a bantam weight in the NHL fight class….we will be seeing another headline like “Brown makes Stew out of Grimmson” if he keeps it up. Ryan is a smart player out there…good pick up. Hopefully Janko gets the wake up call he needs, otherwise he needs some time in the minors…plays waaaay too soft

  • redhot1

    Hit on Janko was clean. Smith is a disaster, like not even NHL calibre. Rittich should be given the same rope Smith has, he should be our number one until proven otherwise

  • 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.

    • Greg

      Not often a goalie gives up 5 goals, has an .808 SV%, and still comes away with the win. At least 2 of those goals are pucks he should have had.

      Until, and unless, Smith’s SV% starts moving waaaay up or Rittich’s starts trending back down, they need to start giving Rittich at least half the starts.

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        I honestly think Smith blundered on all of those goals, or at least 4 of them. Somethings not right with him. He is just making too many mistakes, even when he makes the saves.

        • SGRietzey

          Accurate. Goals 1, 3, and 4 for sure I’d fault Smith. Goal 2 was tough as a deflection, and goal 5 I think he actually made a few saves in that scramble before it got pushed in.

          That said, goals 1 & 4 were just bad. Goal 3 was a tough play with Dries beating Hamonic and nobody picking up Wilson, but Smith took himself out of the play by being down on his post early. Probably not a shot he stops even if he’s properly positioned, but he never gave himself the chance to be in position to make a save to begin with. Have to play the shooter but need to anticipate that pass. Unfortunately, misreading the play and suspect reactions/positioning seem to be a pretty common occurrence for Smith at the moment.

          • Rudy27

            I was surprised the refs counted the 5th goal. His pad was pushed back by the Colorado player’s stick opening up the puck and preventing Smith from making the save on the next player.

        • Rudy27

          To me the first goal was the worst. He seemed to totally lose his net. It looks like a trend. Smith appears to always cheat toward the non-puck carrier on a two on one. He’s let in at least 4 this season doing that.

    • 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.

  • 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.