Sometimes, there are games in which one team is simply better than the other, and there isn’t much to be done about that. It seemed like the Flames were always the worse team. Now, more often than not, they’re the superior one, forcing other teams to admit defeat. What a difference.
Feel of the game
You’d have forgiven the Flames for coming out to a poor start – back-to-back matinees are definitely not particularly common – but instead the Flames completely dominated the first, and it won them the game. Three quick special teams goals, all about five or six minutes apart, were the result of consistently strong, relentless play; Alan Quine’s goal to make it 4-0 at the end of the first was pretty much a dagger, and the Blues didn’t have much hope for recovery after that.
Not to say they didn’t try, getting off to strong starts in both the second and third periods. David Rittich made some big saves for the Flames when he had to, and it cooled off the Blues. They did score twice, largely due to sloppiness from the Flames due to their being up four goals, but it never really gave the Blues any sustainable momentum, and eventually, the game just played out: a safe win that saw the Flames net a couple more for good measure.
The Flames came ready to play. The Blues did not. And that was pretty much the game.
The good news
Seriously, gutsy effort for a weird schedule start. Don’t forget it very easily could have been 5-0 after the first period – this roster does have a history of scoring five goals in one period – but for Jake Allen’s stop on Matthew Tkachuk early on. Their start won them the game.
You gotta love the special teams in this one. The powerplay isn’t going to score every game, no matter how good it looks; two quick goals resulting from Mark Giordano blasts early in the man advantage and another Quine goal for good measure had them go three-for-four, though. The penalty kill was perfect, as well – and it was probably absolutely devastating for the Blues to see an opportunity for them to tie the game immediately go the other way and double the Flames’ lead with Elias Lindholm’s shorthanded goal. Their special teams were a clinic, and really highlighted just how important Giordano is for the powerplay.
In addition to Giordano’s typical amazingness, the rest of the Flames’ big five – all of their 35+ point getters – were on throughout the afternoon. The top line exhibited its typical chemistry, even though the only even strength goal they scored was an empty netter; they exhausted the Blues with some of their offensive zone time. And Tkachuk was feeling it in his hometown with six shots, leading the team.
Quine is becoming quite the story in his own right, not getting big minutes but not looking out of place, either – and that goes for all five games he’s played for the Flames. Obviously he’s not going to be a point-per-game player, but his performance would be considered pretty solid even if he hadn’t been scoring. A counterpoint to that: Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane looked pretty good in their first few games, as well, but eventually teetered off; a counterpoint to that, though, is that Quine has actually been getting tangible numbers on the board where those two couldn’t. It’s gonna be interesting to see who stays when Michael Frolik is healthy, but Quine’s making his case.
Starting the same goalie twice in two days can be a risky move, but it paid off for the Flames with Rittich. The Blues had a lot of life to start the second and third periods, and that’s when Rittich made some of his best saves of the game. If he hadn’t made those, this one could have ended up a lot closer.
The bad news
The Flames did rest on their laurels after taking a 4-0 lead to the locker room. The first period was their only really great period – but then again, it’s a long season and that’s a pretty substantial lead, so it’s understandable. And it’s probably actually good news that Bill Peters likely wasn’t happy with that. I’d bet it’s a lot easier to accept your coach telling you not to be complacent when you’re seeing success every day; you’re probably a lot more motivated to keep it going.
As good as the powerplay was, that’s two games in a row the Flames gave up a goal almost immediately after having their man advantage killed off.
Numbers of note
47.5% – The Flames’ 5v5 corsi. They had a 75% in the first period, and a 16.67% in the third. That’s what happens when you have such a massive lead and the other team isn’t talented enough to come back from it.
17 – Lindholm has tied his career high in goals during a season. It took him all of 34 games. His career high in points is 45 in 72 games (prorates to 51 in an 82-game season). He sure looks like a 50-point player this year.
9 – The number of shorthanded goals the Flames have this season, second in the league. Marks Giordano and Jankowski each have two; Backlund, Frolik, Lindholm, TJ Brodie, and Noah Hanifin each have one. Derek Ryan and Travis Hamonic both have shorthanded points, but no goals. Garnet Hathaway is the only regular penalty killer missing from this list, though certainly not for lack of trying.
9, 16 – The Flames’ league rankings in both the powerplay and penalty kill, respectively. Good special teams help teams win, as was particularly shown Sunday. The Flames have turned their powerplay around from last season, and their penalty kill has improved as this season has gone on. They’re a good team, and they’re winning.
0.925% – Rittich is sixth in the NHL in save percentage when it comes to goalies with at least 900 minutes played. The Lightning are one of the few teams above the Flames in the standings and they play each other Thursday; you’ve gotta think it’ll be Rittich starting that one. He’s earned a true test, and the Flames need to see how he handles an opponent of that caliber – to say nothing of how he probably gives them the best chance to win.
4 – It’s the fourth time this season the Flames have scored seven or more goals in a game, and the 11th time they’ve scored five or more goals in a game. With 122 goals, they’re tied for second in the NHL in terms of goals scored. With 3.59 goals per game, they’re fifth in the NHL. Colorado has its two 50-point players, but the Flames now have two 40-point players and five 35-point guys. The big five are absolutely crushing it. And no other team has a big five.
1 – With 35 points in 32 games, Giordano is finally tied for first in defencemen scoring. If this keeps up: Norris. Norris Norris Norris Norris Norris. He’s doing absolutely everything for one of the best teams in the NHL. Norris.
Scoreboard watching is fun when the team is winning. I’ve gone from Pacific Division scoreboard watching to Western Conference scoreboard watching to entire NHL standings scoreboard watching. They can’t actually be this good, can they? The Blues certainly aren’t a top level test this year. It definitely feels like something is going to fall off at some point, but we’re approaching the halfway mark of the season, and there aren’t really any major red flags. It’s absolutely wild to think about.