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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski

Post-Game: Flames win wacky New Year’s Eve goalfest

You figured that the third and sixth highest scoring teams in the league would give us some fireworks on New Year’s Eve. 8-5, though?

The Rundown

The team came out hot, taking just 70 seconds to find the back of the net. Despite the 3M line having been dismantled for the past month or so, the chemistry had not disappeared. Michael Frolik fed it to Matthew Tkachuk below the net, who snuck it between two defenders to Mikael Backlund for the goal.

The lead didn’t last that long, however. About five minutes later, Travis Hamonic lost track of Lukas Radil, who put one past David Rittich after being left all alone in front of the net.

But the 3M line made magic happen again. Almost immediately off the faceoff, a Tkachuk blast from the point was tipped by Frolik, and then tipped by Backlund, and then into the net.

But the Flames weren’t done quite yet. A tripping penalty by Erik Karlsson put the Flames on a powerplay, and they actually scored on it. Mark Giordano blasted through traffic, and Matthew Tkachuk just got the tip of his stick on it to put the Flames up two.

Shots were 11-9 for the Sharks in the first period, but chances were 10-8 for the Flames.

The Sharks came out with a bit more bite in the second period, controlling the flow of play for the first few minutes of the period. They were eventually rewarded on the powerplay, as Brett Burns’ cannon of a slapshot beat an unscreened Rittich.

The Sharks continued to pile on the pressure, but eventually got in their own way as Melker Karlsson took a holding call. The Flames looked good for parts of the powerplay, but didn’t make it count until the very last moment, where some pretty passing from the first unit set up a beautiful Tkachuk goal, his 17th of the year.

From there on out, things just got nutty. The Flames got some momentum going after their second powerplay goal of the evening, and snakebitten Sam Bennett appeared to pick up his seventh goal of the season after a scramble near the Sharks goalmouth. The universe doesn’t let Bennett have nice things, as we all know, and Peter DeBoer successfully challenged it on the basis of goalie interference. It was a questionable decision by the review centre, to say the least.

Bill Peters was not happy.

The overturned goal killed the Flames momentum, and San Jose made good on their chance at redemption. Sean Monahan whiffed on a defensive zone pass, giving the puck directly to the Sharks, who put it directly into the net via Joonas Donskoi.

However, the Flames would not be deterred from picking up their fifth goal. A streaking Johnny Gaudreau snuck past the Sharks, zoomed into the offensive zone, held up and waited for a trailing Elias Lindholm, who made no mistake on his career high 18th goal of the season:

The second period ended 5-3. Shots and chances both went in favour of San Jose, 13-7 and 14-9 respectively.

The third began disastrously, as the Sharks brought it back to within one after the team once again forgot about the guy in front of the net. Donskoi put home his second of the night with ease.

But the goals weren’t done yet. Bennett, a little peeved after having his first goal called off, did some fancy moves and set up James Neal’s shinpads for a goal. Neal was clearly not expecting to score this way, but given the way his season has gone, he’ll take it.

Not taking any chances with a two goal lead, the Flames kept pouring it on. They quickly added another one as Gaudreau’s shot took some odd bounces and found its way past Dell, who was clearly out of ideas at this point.

Not even a minute later, an unattended Gaudreau doubled his goal total.

After goal number eight, the game started getting chippy. Somehow, Gaudreau was the one who managed to get a slashing call, and the Sharks capitalized on a Joe Thornton powerplay marker. The Flames had built up enough of a lead that it didn’t really matter, and the game ended 8-5.

But not without some rough stuff. Tkachuk punched a deserving Evander Kane in the face, earning a misconduct in the process. Bennett gave Radim Simek a hard late hit and then had to discuss the hit with Barclay Goodrow. He might face some supplemental discipline.

Shots were 11-9 for the Flames in the third period, and scoring chances also went their way at 11-7. Overall, the Sharks outshot the Flames 33-27, but the Flames won the chances battle 31-29.

Why the Flames Won

As basic as it sounds, they scored more goals than the other team. The Flames were pretty leaky defensively, no questions about it, but they made up for their defensive lapses by punishing the Sharks when they made their mistakes. They kept their foot on the pedal, which in turn kept the ever-threatening Sharks at bay.

It’s been a maxim throughout the season, but there were plenty of moments during tonight’s game where the 2017-18 Flames would’ve certainly buckled and seen the scoreline go the opposite way. Seeing the game through to the end has been the Flames’ bread and butter this season.

Red Warrior

There’s plenty of deserving candidates. The 3M line got the game off to a great start. The Purple Reign line didn’t have a great defensive night, but they more than certainly made up for it. If this is a group award, I give it to the entire top six.

If I had to pick one individual, it was Sam Bennett. He didn’t put up the numbers other players did, but he was going at full tilt all night even when the mysterious forces of the universe and its irrational hate for Bennett kept trying to hold him down. His overzealous approach to the violence that marred the last half of the third period might earn him a call from player safety, but excluding that, he had a great game.

The Turning Point

Obviously the Sam Bennett no-goal. It was a pretty conventional hockey game up until that point, and then things just started getting wacky.

The Numbers

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

Player Corsi
For%
OZone
Start%
Game
Score
Hathaway 55.6 100 0.225
Ryan 55.0 50.0 0.245
Dube 50.0 100 0.000
Frolik 50.0 66.7 1.570
Backlund 50.0 66.7 2.070
Bennett 46.9 0.0 1.375
Brodie 46.7 22.2 0.350
Tkachuk 45.5 66.7 3.725
Kylington 44.8 42.9 -0.300
Hanifin 44.4 36.4 0.600
Andersson 44.4 42.9 -0.300
Jankowski 42.9 0.0 0.235
Giordano 42.3 25.0 1.075
Hamonic 40.5 40.0 -0.225
Neal 38.7 0.0 0.525
Lindholm 37.5 37.5 1.825
Gaudreau 34.8 37.5 2.775
Monahan 31.8 37.5 3.185
Rittich -0.950
Smith

This and That

There was a confusing moment at the end of the first period when Elias Lindholm quite clearly high-sticked Timo Meier. The refs sent Lindholm to the box, then took him out of the box as if the penalty was cancelled, and then put him back in. Not entirely sure what was going on there. They were pretty brutal tonight, missing a lot of slashing calls (but what else is new).

Michael Frolik’s Cy Young case went out the window, as he picked up his first and second assists of the year. He now stands at seven goals and two assists. His first was also his 200th of his career.

Aaron Dell was a bit upset over letting in eight goals, so he speared Bennett in an area that reduces the likelihood of Sam Bennett Jr ever playing for the Flames.

As noted on the broadcast, Rittich’s right knee appeared to be giving him problems. It doesn’t look serious, but we’ll see how they handle the goalies in the immediate future.

This win ended a six game losing streak against the Sharks.

Up Next

The Flames will presumably have a well-earned New Year’s celebration, and then it’s off to the east coast for a road trip to defend their #1 spot in the Pacific. Their first stop is in Detroit on January 2nd.

  • Alberta Ice

    Guess who sits #1 in the Pacific on the first day of 2019? With games in hand. Wacky game with some wacky moments (loved the puck falling out of the sky, Thornton swinging wildly at it, and it bouncing and rolling into the goalie’s net). Hey, we’ll take it! KIGF (Keep It Going Flames).

  • Skylardog

    The Flames won because every time the Sharks scored, the Flames quickly answered. Resiliency…

    A little shocked at the defensive breakdowns by the Sharks, not in their character normally. Gaudreau unattended in front with no Shark in sight? Unthinkable. But I like it.

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      If that is what Sam Bennett is then I’ll take it. Not sure that is what we were expecting out of a #4 pick yet here it is. Methinks the Sharks might be a bit distracted next game!

      • Albertabeef

        You are lucky to get an elite player after #1 pick even if that was his projected draft position going in the draft. How many #1’s have not made it in the league? Lots. Some draft years are just weaker than others but drafting any pick is a roll of the dice. Tkackuk would have gone #1 that year but his draft year was the deepest we had seen in ages so we got lucky with him. I think GG really hurt Benny’s development.

  • Heeeeere’s Johnny

    There was a confusing moment at the end of the first period when Elias Lindholm quite clearly high-sticked Timo Meier.

    Not sure it was quite as clear as you say. My look at it had the stick passing harmlessly by and Meier selling the crap out of the close call.

    • BustaSmith

      I couldn’t agree more, I luv Peters, but only screw with that line if there’s an injury. I still don’t understand how you sit Frolik with his SEVEN goals over Czarnik or NEAL?! However, Walsh his agent can suck it with his silly ploy: “Head coach’s attempt to run a good player out of town?” …that’s certainly rich, considering he’s on the best team in the Western Conference; Frolik’s a Flame and should be!
      (*he’s certainly been noticeable following each scratch too)

  • freethe flames

    An interesting game to say the least. The 3 amigos had 13 points tonight but had a couple of sloppy shifts resulting in the Sharks scoring. The 3m line lead by Tkachuks best game in a while had 7 points. The Bennett line centered by Janko had a goal and one called back but looked to have some chemistry. I don’t know what the stats on Janko in the face off circle but it sure seemed like he won a lot of faceoffs tonight. I also loved that Rittich got involved in the scrum/fight to help his good buddy Tkachuk. An interesting game indeed.

  • Chiz

    Sam bennett gets speared by dell with no call, so no doubt he’s looking for a bit of revenge. What a warrior he is out there. Good for him. Play 60 minutes regardless of the score

  • KeepitReal

    Nice finish to 2018. This wasn’t just a win over the divisional rival, it was a statement. We can beat you on the score board and if you wanna play rough, well bring it on. Can we all stop bringing up Benny’s draft selection now? Adjust your expectations and savour what he brings to the team on a budget friendly salary.

  • ColdCowboy

    Can someone explain Bennett’s match penalty? It was a clean hit if maybe a touch late. But would that have been called if the score was 0-0 in the first period? Of course not.

  • Off the wall

    I just watched all the highlights of the game.
    I think Neal should just stand in front of the net and let the puck hit any part of his body. Skate works too!

    Purple Rain? Love it Christian.

    The 3M produces, guess that’s why they have a name right?

    Bennett!! Holy crap, what a hit on Simek. I watched it 10x. No head contact, ( shoulder follow through) however was it a tad late? I don’t think he will receive any further disciplinary action.
    Just my own thoughts.

    Excellent job Christian on the write up.

    Happy New Year FN!

  • The juice

    I was at the game tonight, it was such a wicked game. That being said, it was disgusting that when dell speared Bennett and not a single other teammate stuck up for
    him. Bennett would stand up to anyone in this league for this team. Awesome win don’t get me wrong but I have to shake my head.

    • Porridge Boy

      I was at the game last night sitting behind Dell for 2 periods, first off the ref was right there to the goalies left watching him spear Bennett. From that point on Dell was chirped by Tkachuk several times and was tapped on his pads or stick a few times by Flames players. Pretty sure Tkachuk even chirped the ref as he was gliding by Dell to chirp him too, Tkachuk has Bennetts back, hence Bennett answering Kane’s cowardly ambush from behind of Tkachuk. The San Jose boys better figure that out. Kane started it all with that

  • Albertabeef

    Bennett with a Nilsson-ish goal off Willie Pletts shins and in. Ask Willie he will tell you that is how he scored most his goals. Damn Nilsson was good at banking those in. That’s how he got his 82 assists and 131 points in 1980-81.

  • deantheraven

    Awesome effort throughout the line up, and all game long. The stats posted here highlight the fact that they’re irrelevant. Corsi winners played less than anyone. The top line scores a gazillion points and were miles away from 50%. Scoring chances actually outnumbered the SOG, highlighting the subjective nature of this stat in particular.
    Count the shots, the blocks, the misses- sure. Show the TOI, OZS% if you want. PIM told more of the story than Corsi did for this one.

  • oddclod

    GG had no idea how to turn on the furnace Peters flipped on the pilot and dialed the thermostat. Corsi nerd posts are dead, trade Bennett & Backlund nuts are silenced = winning.

    Wishlist: shoot the dead horse Canyon and give us a babe + get rid of all the piping on the jerseys and deliver me a minimalist 93 next xmas. The Stamps jersey designers have figured it out, now it’s time for some swagger @ the dome.

    HNY!