Can’t believe the Flames fell off from their 15-0 pace and David Rittich didn’t get a shutout. Disgraceful.
Feel of the game
The Flames actually started this one rather sloppy, flubbing passes and turning the puck over, just as they had against the Oilers. However, once Tomas Nosek tripped Rasmus Andersson in the Flames’ end, there was no looking back: the early powerplay (just over two minutes into the game) saw the Flames get on the board all of 33 seconds into it thanks to Matthew Tkachuk.
And then they were off to the races. Derek Ryan and Garnet Hathaway may have failed to capitalize on a 2-on-0, but the Flames’ top line made no mistake in quickly making it 3-0 with back-to-back goals. And then TJ Brodie made it 4-0. And Sean Monahan scored another powerplay goal, and all of a sudden, the Flames were exiting the first with a 5-0 lead and were completely dominating the Golden Knights; the game was over pretty much then and there. The Golden Knights were giving the Flames golden chance after chance, and the Flames just kept burying them.
But there was still more game to play, and in case there was any doubt of who was going to win, Tkachuk made it 6-0 just 24 seconds into the second period, and even Sam Bennett (!) got in on the fun about four minutes later. That was about when the Flames stopped scoring, though they continued to press throughout the game; Malcolm Subban just started making more saves.
By the time the third period started, the game had calmed down. Vegas got on the board with a couple of ultimately meaningless goals, lessening their sting a bit, and everything played out without incident. The Flames were the better team and everyone knew it. The end.
The good news
So, we know Tkachuk is an amazing hockey player, but he just keeps proving it. Throw in the entire top line, with a bunch of goals in their own right (and even though Elias Lindholm only walked away with one secondary assist, his holding the puck in the offensive zone so the play could develop was masterful – and early enough in the game it may very well have been crucial), and this is where we remind you the Flames have four forwards, all over a point per game, the oldest of whom is 25. Wow. Remember what life was like before Lindholm? He’s amazing. They all are.
The powerplay scored! It went 3-for-6, and honestly perhaps could have performed even better, except the Flames (understandably, the game was over) trotted out a bunch of players who never seen time on the man advantage, like Hathaway. Why not let them practice? The top unit looked amazing (Tkachuk net front presence or Tkachuk on the point? Both are really good, apparently), the second unit got a goal, might as well turn it over to the kids and unheralded guys.
For all the talk of the Flames’ third period comebacks, they didn’t need it this time: aside from a shaky first minute or so, they dominated from there on out. It was masterful. This can be a really good team; if they played a little more consistently, they could maybe challenge as one of the best in the league. Maybe. Granted this game was one isolated incident, but it did show what they can do in their best circumstances.
Rittich wasn’t too busy, but he had a decent game overall, a couple of garbage time goals cratering his numbers a little. He’s still making stops on the breakaway, and he still deserves the next start.
The bad news
Rittich didn’t get a shutout, though. Iffy goals will happen; at least they were largely meaningless. Though by getting scored on, the Flames ruined their chance to have this one completely cancel out the disastrous Pittsburgh game that left them with a -8 goal differential; so close.
The Flames let their foot off the gas towards the end. That’s technically bad, but completely understandable: it’s a long season, and there’s no need to waste energy in a game you’ve already won. You can’t play your best game the entire time 82 times a year.
This game made me feel bad for Subban and I didn’t care for that at all.
Let’s shame the Flames who didn’t get a point: Hathaway, Dillon Dube, Michael Frolik, Mark Jankowski, James Neal, Andersson, Travis Hamonic, Juuso Valimaki, Rittich, Mike Smith. Just awful. (Although, uh, Neal is one point away from 500 and has been for seven games now. That he’s almost at 500 points implies he’s good at scoring, so any time he could start contributing would probably be great.) Hathaway, Hamonic, and Noah Hanifin were the only Flames to go without a shot, as well. And Rittich and Smith.
You could easily point to caveats and/or Oilers conspiracy theories, that the Flames got a team on the second of a back-to-back and their backup goalie. That doesn’t really mean anything, though, but you could use it as an asterisk for this one if you were feeling excessively pessimistic.
Numbers of note
50.59% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF on the night. They stepped off the gas in the third period, but they also had a 7-0 lead. Nobody’s really going to fault them for that.
4 – The number of points both Johnny Gaudreau and Tkachuk scored, tying their single-game career highs. This was Gaudreau’s fifth four-point game, and Tkachuk’s second (his first came in this season’s home opener, when the Flames also had a seven-goal game, albeit with two empty netters). With 25 points, Tkachuk remains the Flames’ leading scorer. He’s still on his entry-level contract.
20+ – The Flames have five players with 20+ points: Tkachuk (25), Monahan and Gaudreau (24), Lindholm (22), and Old Man Mark Giordano (20). Via u/the_lur on Reddit, that’s the most out of every team. It’s kind of slim pickings after that, though: Mikael Backlund has 11 points, Hanifin has eight assists, Frolik has seven goals, and so forth. The rookies (Dube, Valimaki, Andersson) are all stuck at a combined five points. This has ended up being a very top-heavy team through the first quarter of the season, but what a top group: it’s literally the best in the NHL.
10, 15 – Tkachuk is tied for 10th in league scoring. Monahan and Gaudreau are tied for 15th. Granted, there are a lot of players with 25 and 24 points each.
2:24 – The amount of time Dube, Hathaway, Jankowski, and Andersson got on the powerplay. Oddly enough, Valimaki didn’t get any powerplay time. Neither did Frolik. Hanifin led the way with 3:36 on the man advantage.
20:03 – By scoring early and often, Bill Peters was able to roll his entire team throughout the game. The skater with the most ice time? Andersson. And with 17:00 played, Jankowski got the most ice out of all the forwards.
They’re probably not going to have a first period that great again. At the very least, it won’t be the norm. But keep it rolling, regardless. That was a great start to the game that carried them through, and that’s what they’ll need more of going forward. It’s a lot less exciting than making a dramatic comeback in the third period – but it’s a long season, and the safe wins are worth just as much as the bonkers ones.