Flames 7, Golden Knights 2 post-game embers: Well, they can’t all be perfect

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Final thought

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.

  • redwhiteblack

    Great win. Our young top end guys are so awesome to have. My biggest concern: “This has ended up being a very top-heavy team”. The Knights gave up and the bottom 6 had more ice time. Other than Dube they showed nothing. Once the game was put away I was hoping some of the guys not scoring, like Neil, would get going. Jankowski was just awful at times.

    • kirby

      Well that’s not a very fair circumstance to judge them in. As you said, the game was essentially over, the Knights had all but threw in the towel, we were sitting our top guys on the bench more, so you can’t expect our bottom lines to go out there like bats outta hell and try to run it up on them.

      I do agree i’d love to see more out of those guys and we will need to moving forward. But i don’t think the back end of a complete blowout is the right prism to view them through.

  • Flames fan since 83

    Lindholm and Andersson are really impressing me. Lindhom is the entire package.
    High IQ, Sick stick skills, strong shot, quick, top end fast, relentless forecheck, not afraid to take the body. Amazingly complete set of skills.
    Both Andersson and Val are better than I expected. But Andersson is solid. I didn’t know he was so powerful. Bigger stronger forwards can’t knock him off the puck. And his decision making is excellent. I think Val will get there too, but IMO, Andersson is ahead.

    • Luter 1

      Don’t forget Anderson has a couple years of pro under his belt, he’s been a nice surprise but coming straight out of Junior, Valimaki is the stud of the two long term.

      • Flames fan since 83

        I’m aware of the ages and players experience.
        I hope your right about Val. I’ll reserve judgement on being a “stud” until I see it, but the future looks bright for sure.

        • Cfan in Van

          For how he’s playing, Vali’s been way better than most would have expected at this point.
          I love Ras, been rooting for him since we drafted him, but he’s had a lot of polishing time under the Flame’s wing. Even before he spent time in Stockton, he was playing in the pre-season prospect tournament, and sent back with a list of to-do’s.

          Valimaki just showed up after turning pro, and impressed. He’s got so many years to improve, and a handful of good mentors on this team. Book that kid as pending stud.

    • MDG1600

      It appears to me that Lindholm is the best player of the 5 that got traded between Carolina and Calgary. I subscribe to the theory that whoever gets the best player wins the trade.

  • Burnward

    Can we stop this “top-heavy” stuff.

    They pumped the Western Champs like it was for fun.

    They finally have goaltending they can trust and are turning it loose.

    This is a fully functional death star.

    • Cfan in Van

      I completely understand where you’re coming from, and it’s important to celebrate a victory. It’s also important to realize that there’s room for improvement. If we were getting as many contributions by the bottom six as we expected two months ago, imagine how things would look. All it takes is a couple injuries, and we’d be relying much more heavily on those bottom 6 guys. By mid-point, I really hope they can pick it up because it would help a lot (Neal and Janko, I’m looking directly at you).

    • cberg

      The Flames have 5 players at a PPG pace or better (OK, Gio 1 pt under…), that’s 3 better than the top-heavy Penguins, 2 better than the top-heavy TML, and, actually the best in the NHL. I’ll take it.

  • His Dudeness

    Rittich needs to be playing a minimum of 4/5 games from here on out. IDGAF if we lose or he has one bad game, we need to see what we have with him and that means playing him the same way the leafs play Andersen.

    Smith has cost us too many points this year. Rittich not only gives us above average goaltending but he also has a great personality and is quickly becoming a fan favorite like Chucky.

    Maybe in the next BOA he will kick the crap out of Talbot in an old school goalie fight.

  • Burnward

    Re: Valimaki PP time

    I remember hearing something about Morgan Reilly and how Babcock handled him.

    He basically stripped the kid of all offensive opportunity in year one and told him to strictly focus on learning to play correctly at the pro level.

    Reilly, being a smart hockey kid and also having a coach he can trust bought in, and as he began to play better from his own end out he got more ice time in offensive situations.

    Now look where he is.

    I see Valimaki in much the same mold. His offensive instincts are built in and strong. But to be the player he can be, to learn the game at this pace is probably very smart.

    An added bonus: a guy like Gio to look at and learn under.

    • Luter 1

      Did you see him take on Reaves a couple times, knocked him down with a cross check clearing the crease and then drew Reaves into a retaliatory penalty? This is what ultimately will make him different than the rest, talented and tough from what I have seen from just a kid. This guy is the real deal.

    • Rudy27

      Right on about the Gio factor. I think the lack of veteran leadership over the past dozen years is why the Oilers have had so little success with so many high draft picks. With a defensive leader like Gio, I believe the Flames will have strong defense for the next decade.

    • MDG1600

      Valimaaki is surprisingly strong for a 19 yr old, as Reaves found out. Fearless, composed, skilled and thinks the game really well. I think the Flames hit it out of the park with this kid.

    • flames2015

      It’s nice to see our 2017 16th overall Finn doing so well at the NHL level, mean while the Canucks 2016 5th overall Finn picked before our beloved Tkachuk has yet to make his NHL debut. Love it

        • kirby

          Yeah we could play that game all the way back to the 90’s. Trading up in the draft with New Jersey so we could take Trevor Kidd, then NJ ends up using ours to draft a guy named Marty Brodeur. Or when we bought out Marty St Louis so he could go sign with the Lightning, i feel like that may have come back to bite us about 4-5 years later. Or when we traded Brett Hull right before he achieved legend status.

          Just think of how close this franchise was from transitioning a 90’s era of Theo Fleury / Brett Hull / Marty Brodeur to a 2000’s era of Iggy / Marty St Louis / Kipper (or i guess, maybe still Brodeur? Either way)

          Now there’s a painful thought to process.

      • kirby

        I remember watching the draft that year, not thinking there was a chance Tkachuk would fall to us. When Vancouver got up on the podium, and announced “Olli Juolevi” i literally jumped out of my seat like “holy s*** we’re gonna get him!”

        I still can’t thank Mr Benning enough for that one. What a gift that was.

        • flames2015

          I’m a fan living in Vancouver, I remember that draft day vividly. My vancouver buddies were at the draft party and as soon as benning said Juolevi, a collective no was yelled across the room lol. I meanwhile, texted every calgary fan I knew in excitement. Gloated around the office the next day too.

    • TheDallyLama

      Lol same.. I work in the oilfield north of Edmonton and live in the vicinity. Surrounded by dbag oil fans every day. I usually don’t brag or pick arguments but it’s nice to sit back and listen to them try decipher what’s wrong with their squad. ?? I see Todd Maclellan is out the door this morning too ??

  • CalgaryBornandRaised

    What a first period!

    So nice to see a powerplay goal for the Flames in the first 2 minutes of a game, and then from there to see pure dominance. This team has potential if they remain consistent

  • Heeeeere’s Johnny

    It’s a lot less exciting than making a dramatic comeback in the third period

    Personally I thought that 1st period or 25 minutes was pretty dang exciting! I’d give up third period comebacks in a heartbeat for a continuing dose of this action! The Flames got it going, ran the Knights over and then stepped on their throats. I’ve been waiting for that.

  • His Dudeness

    The play by Lindholm on JG goal really shows his offensive prowness. I like Backlund and his game for the most part but he would have just thrown the puck into Subban chest. Lindholm held up and made a great pass. He really impresses me more and more every game.

    • Cfan in Van

      Me too. It pained me to see him falter over the last couple of seasons. His lighter-duty game doesn’t suit some people, but when he’s on it, he can be just plain effective.

    • deantheraven

      I’m now on a totally flipped schedule because I started watching games during this win streak. It’s 8 hours ahead of MST here which means games start at 3 or 4 am. But I’m staying up late and watching them (nearly ) live. (Truthfully, I usually wait a few minutes so that I can FFWD through the commercial breaks).
      I saw it, OTW, with my own eyes. I told my son about it today when giving him the summary. You should’ve seen the surprise in his eyes.
      He had given up on Brodie, just like his dad. I’m starting to believe again…

    • Redleader

      Nice to see him smiling again too , go Brodie,keep playing like this and they will be putting him in the Norris conversation by the end of the year ,him and Gio…..again !! Go Flames , now feast on Winnipeg next ,

  • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

    Bare with me…. i know that the bottom six isn’t scoring….. but i think they are playing well. My theory is that top six are lighting it up in part because our bottom six is wearing teams out. Other teams will start really queuing on our top six (even more than now) and the bottom six will start to pot more. Neal, Dube, Czarnik, Frolik, Janko even Bennett, these guys have goals in them, come playoff time we are going to be a REALLY tough out.

        • cberg

          I can’t even think of a handful of times that has happened all season. Just the opposite where the 4th line has hemmed in the opposition for a full shift. Playing physical, getting offensive zone time, battling opposition’s top lines to near even wears them down (on the road).

        • Skylardog

          Such a false view of what is actually happening Kevin. While I harp on the lack of production from the bottom 6, they have been solid defensively.

          Ranked by GA/60, best to worst, of the forwards.


          Great defensive play from the guys that play in the bottom 6.

          And the list is fairly similar in HDCA/60 and SCA/60, although Backs line has been slightly better in preventing SCA/60.

      • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

        By forcing other teams to at least match them to a degree. Neal does force teams to react and game plan. The bottom six has been generating chances more often than not this year, this forces opposing coaches to line match somewhat, they cant just ignore them and ice whoever they want to as in years past….

      • deantheraven

        Only in third, if we’re behind. You’ve seen them having long shifts in the O-zone. Maybe not capitalizing a lot but they’re definitely wearing down the opponent.

    • Kevin R

      One thing I hope you are wrong in your post is that the Bennett/Backlund/Tkachuk remain the #2 line for the next long while. Bennett & Tkachuk have the potential of getting a chemistry like Johny & Monny have. Lindholm is the 3rd piece on the top line & it’s starting to look amazing. Neal should get some more PP time but Im afraid he is 3rd line, which means numbers will regress but his role will become vital as this season unravels.

      • Off the wall

        Hitchcock with GG? Yikes!
        Polar opposites.
        One loves the trap, the other wants to be the Corsi King.
        GG’s hair gunna fall out soon.

        They’ll probably settle for a tie?!

      • withachance

        I mean Hitch couldnt get the Stars over the hump, which is basically a better Oilers team with better goaltending. We’ll see though, hoping for a BoA series in the playoffs!

      • Flint

        Oilers should be boring with Hitch at the helm. Also, I don’t see them scoring more under Hitch’s system… so if they don’t tighten up the D big time, they’ll likely just lose 3-2 and 2-1 vs losing 6-2 and 5-1

        • Flint

          “It’s a hard lesson, but it’s worth it, and I think the players there will learn that,” Modano said. “You sacrifice scoring, but you also do a lot of winning, and that’s a pretty good trade.”

          “He stressed details every single day,” Ludwig said. “Those players will know where they are supposed to be at all times in all three zones. We did the same drills over and over and over until you were sick of them.”

          The problem in Edmonton isn’t discipline… sure they attempted to play a fast transition game that caused problems, but the real problem is behind the top three they have three fourth lines and they’re actually a pretty slow, uncreative team… Hitch is just going to slow them down and clamp them up. Who knows, they may win more, but the playoffs? Doubtful.

          Their roster is a mess and they are handcuffed to it. Lucic, who brings what a fourth liner brings at the moment, is untradeable, and buy-out-proof, and he’s the same cap hit as RNH, and 375k less than Monahan, and 1.2mil MORE than Lindholm.

          Hitchcock can’t fix the roster.

        • HOCKEY83

          Agree cberg. They have Mcdavid and they have Draisaitl who refuses to play unless he’s playing with Mcdavid. Nuge is just a good soldier who plays wherever they tell him to. Beyond these 3 player they have worse than nothing including bad goaltending. A new coach ain’t gonna fix that. The only time they win is when Mcdavid is playing out of his mind and he can’t do that all season.

          • cberg

            Its not quite that bad, but they have some serious holes, and their near-total dependence on McDavid makes them easier to shut down.

            Personally I think Draisaitl is a big part of the problem. He is definitely talented, but the issues with Nurse last year still linger, imo, and I think its poisoning the dressing room. Hitchcock will be a plus but they seem to suffer from misplaced identity so realigning their roster and implementing a specific structure will be critical.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        No, McLennan is not a very good coach. Stop listening to the likes of John Shannon, Nick Kypreos and other Ontario-based so-called hockey experts. McLennan made the Sharks a worse team during his time there as they were just as ineffective in the playoffs under him as they were under the coach he replaced. He is the product of pure media hype.

        Hitch, on the other hand, is a good coach and he will make the Oilers a better club. He might even be able to get the team in the playoffs this season. However, and it’s a big one, Hitchcock is not a playoff-winning coach. He can get a club into the playoffs but once there, he cannot lead his troops to the prize. Hitchcock is a lot like Brian Murray–brilliant regular seasons and playoff busts.

        Where the Oilers are now, Hitch is the right man for the job. However, he is not the coach they need if McDavid is serious about wanting to win a cup.

  • Alberta Ice

    Coaching change in Edmonton and it’s not GG. Meanwhile, that Jets game coming up Wednesday should be another monster game perhaps on the scale of the BOA this Saturday. Start Rittich.

  • Off the wall

    #5 Giordano is currently 5thD in the NHL for points. (20)

    There was a lot of fuss over losing Hamilton, yet isn’t it odd that Gio’s having his best season ever! Love our captain

    • Cfan in Van

      And Hamilton is having an “off year” so far, away from the Gio-Bump. Trade looks better and better by the day. Definitely miss Ferly though, hope he can come back here one day.

    • Kevin R

      Also note that Hanifin has more points than Hamilton is maybe another testament that maybe our Captain got us an extra good return on a player he bumped up statistically. Love it. I still cant get over the fact any team gave up two 5th overalls that were 23 & 21 years old in one deal is nothing short of miraculous. I realize draft position doesnt mean everything but any player drafted in top 5 has a very high ceiling. This trade alone in my mind gives Tre a pass for his goofy 30+ UFA signings. He needs to go fishing on Free Agent Frenzy with no cell reception.

  • Sven

    Observations on the season to date:

    If elite skaters are defined as having an all situation game score >25
    the Flames are the only team with 3 of the 11 players in the league that fit this definition
    (Gaudreau at #8, Monahan at #10 and Tkachuk at #11)
    Boston and Toronto each have 2
    and Lindholm and Giordano each fall into the top 25 – giving Calgary 5 of the top performing 25 skaters year to date
    (Toronto draws up second with 3 – and Boston, Buffalo, Colorado, Tampa and San Jose are the only sides with more than one skater in the top 25)
    The Flames blue line boasts two of the top 14 highest ranking defense men – and four of the leagues top 27
    and David Rittich ranks

    5th in NHL save percentage
    3rd in goals saved against league average goal tending (GSAA)
    2nd in NHL goals against average
    and the mayor of Shelbyville was just canned-

    green grass and high tides brothers

  • Cfan in Van

    Anyone notice that in the image used for this post, it looks like a bunch of sloshed dudes belting out drinking songs? Quite the timing on that photograph.