72Johnny Gaudreau
Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski/USA Today Sports

Post-Game: Flames finish strong in Chicago

The Calgary Flames have had challenges this season with strong starts. But they’ve seemingly always finished strong, something evident at the United Center on Monday night. The Flames played two iffy periods, then had a strong third period en route to a 4-3 road win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Rundown

The opening period was fast-paced and neither team played a lot of defense. Johnny Gaudreau opened the scoring off a goal-mouth scramble, as Collin Delia ended up way out of his crease to cut down an angle, allowing Gaudreau to sneak in and deposit a rebound to make it 1-0 Flames.

But that lead would not last, as Patrick Kane beat David Rittich with a back-hander from a bad angle that careened in off the goaltender’s shoulder short-side to tie the game at 1-1. It was a heckuva shot and Rittich had the post sealed off down low, so it’s hard to fault him on the goal.

Shots were 16-12 Flames and scoring chances were 11-10 Flames in the first period.

Chicago took the lead early in the second period, as the Blackhawks took advantage of some scrambly Flames defensive zone coverage. Kane fed Alex DeBrincat low in the offensive zone and the one-timer beat Rittich to make it 2-1 Blackhawks.

But the Flames kept pressing. They generated three consecutive power plays (one was shortened, as it followed a Blackhawks power play) and eventually got a big goal. Off a rapid-fire bit of passing, Matthew Tkachuk fed Sean Monahan in the slot for a nifty redirect to tie the game at 2-2.

Shots were 12-9 Blackhawks and chances 10-3 Blackhawks in the second.

The Flames took the lead for good in the opening minute of the third period. Off a broken play and a line change at the benches, Mark Giordano banked the puck off the center ice boards to spring Gaudreau for a breakaway. His five-hole shot squeaked through Delia to make it 3-2 Flames.

With Mikael Backlund in the box late, Garnet Hathaway added an empty net goal to make it 4-2 Flames. That proved to be a good thing, as Brandon Saad beat Rittich over the shoulder with a quick shot that bounced out of the net to make it a 4-3 game. But that was as close as Chicago would get.

Shots were 18-11 Flames and scoring chances 16-7 Flames in the third period.

Why the Flames Won

Bill Peters has used the phrase “gave us a chance to build a game” (and various derivatives) to describe his goaltending a lot this season. The Flames were pretty porous defensively early on, being out-chanced 20-14 through two periods (and giving up some really strong chances). But Rittich was very sharp.

The Flames found their game in the third period and run roughshod over the Blackhawks for the final 20 minutes. If not for Delia’s strong play in the third, the game wouldn’t have been close.

Red Warrior

We’re splitting this one: Rittich was dynamite in the first two periods, while Gaudreau had a pair of goals. Both gentlemen were difference-makers.

The Turning Point

Let’s go with the late third period power play goal. The Flames needed a goal and they got a big one which sent them into the locker room tied rather than down a goal and needing to chase.

The Numbers

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

Player Corsi
For%
OZone
Start%
Game
Score
Lindholm 77.4 28.6 2.595
Monahan 74.3 28.6 3.860
Gaudreau 74.2 28.6 3.050
Brodie 70.8 30.0 1.575
Giordano 62.9 20.0 2.200
Bennett 56.5 85.7 0.000
Tkachuk 51.7 75.0 0.425
Jankowski 50.0 57.1 0.125
Hamonic 48.8 63.6 0.175
Backlund 46.9 85.7 -0.300
Hanifin 43.9 77.8 -0.150
Czarnik 42.9 20.0 -0.085
Frolik 34.8 66.7 -0.225
Andersson 32.1 50.0 -0.500
Neal 27.6 66.7 -0.275
Kylington 26.3 50.0 -0.600
Hathaway 23.1 28.6 0.525
Ryan 18.2 25.0 -0.295
Rittich 0.950
Smith

This and That

The Flames are now 6-0-2 when entering the third period tied. Only one other team (Winnipeg) has yet to lose in regulation in that situation.

Hathaway’s shorthanded goal was the Flames’ 14th of the season.

Up Next

The Flames (27-13-4) fly home tonight. They’ll host the Colorado Avalanche at the Saddledome on Wednesday night.

    • The GREAT WW

      Funny how post game Gaudreau talks about team success over personal success, yet with 5 seconds left he makes a very selfish play by going for, and missing the open net for an icing.
      Should have eaten those seconds….

      WW

        • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

          “a very selfish play by going for, and missing the open net for an icing”

          GG use to coach against icing the puck with an empty net, that’s all I have say about that. So what if you ice the puck, if you hit the net THE GAME IS OVER. Worst logic ever, not icing the puck to win a game, I’ve never understood it and I never will, worse case you come back and have basically a 50-50 chance to win a faceoff and try to ice it again. He actually killed 3-4 seconds on the clock when he iced it, which was actually huge at the time at the time.

          • Hockeysense9393

            Good one Harley and a good eye on the Flames…
            Flames are one of the best face-off teams in the league…which gives confidence for players to ice it (towards the net) on circumstances that give you an open net shot at any time. It’s the confidence of your best player showing he is willing to do this….not on a desperate whim, but on a set play of sorts. He didn’t ice it out of desperation…come on.

            This is a confident team when it comes to most categories in a game. Give one of the best players in the game a little more credit then that.

      • cberg

        Oh but it was just a few games ago Monahan passed up a clear empty netter to set up another, and it back-fired later with an injury. I think the Flames have learned that lesson…. if you got a shot, take it. NO MERCY!

    • Hockeysense9393

      If anything WW…Gaudreau was going for the hat trick? I’m thinking that was one of the main focuses of that whole play? The confidence in his team that they would back his decision up 110%

      Why do you dig so low? lol

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      At some point Czar just has to bury those chances. If he finished half of the chances (grade a and otherwise) that he’s gotten over the season, he would have close to ten goals by now–very good solid depth scoring from someone in the bottom six, secondary scoring we really do need, along with contributions from Neal. I actually think Jankoski and even Bennett are doing fine, I think they will each get over 30-35 points this season, which is an okay step for me. Aside from that, Hathaway is awesome for his position and role as forth liner energy/toughness/PKer/team guy, and Ryan is looking, I must say, quite dominant out there as a forth line centre, and I like that.

      For the last 3-4 games where czar-ryan-hath have been together, I think our forth line has been our second best line almost every night. They’re not scoring, but they’ve been having their chances, and creating energy and momentum for our top line to come on and finish. They’ve helped build goals more than any other line this road trip. So, again, stats and scoring aside, this last stretch of flames hockey (last 10, 11 games) has likely been some of our worst all season (highlighting how awesome we’ve been relative to this), but one good thing to happen was hopefully the solidifcation of our forth line. I dunno about anyone else, but i would love to see czar Ryan and hath get a bunch more games together, because they are looking deadly. They don’t get all the credit they deserve, especially for the work they do building goals for the first line.

      So, for me, the major hurdles I see for the next few months are

      1) the second line has gone a bit cold, or at best has been off and on L-12 games, except when the 3M line has been together. I really don’t mind Bennett on that line, but right now the 3m is a better defensive AND scoring line. If BPs wants Bennett to score more, and still hasn’t given up on getting Benny to a higher offensive eschelon, fine, but then just keep them together for a while more. Chuck and Benny are starting to develop a lot of chemistry together. They aren’t there yet as a line, which could be on backlund for his subpar play of late, so the 3m line is maybe a better option. But either way, we need our possession line to be dominant in possession. It can’t really be a posession line if it’s scoring in the 40s and 50s for corsi. But maybe BP is trying to do something with Bennett there. But either way, second line needs to be dominant somehow.

      2) we NEED to figure out our third line. This line should be responsible for a fair share of the secondary scoring, especially if your second line is a shut down and possession type line. But even if not, we need contributions from the third line. I don’t know the stats, but I’m sure the forth line has almost scored as much as the third.

      3) get Giordano the Norris

    • Hockeysense9393

      Ok…I’m starting to actually agree with WW here! If there is any way to trade Neal and Czarnik in a package for even a mid to high rental….you do it? A Team on the (try to) upswing that isn’t quite there yet, who needs veteran presence and top 2 line depth potential with cost certainty…(Detroit are you listening?).The Flames are pretty deep overall…we all know that. Now they need to upgrade positions to make that noise beyond the regular season. BT can keep Neal for the “real” deal…and that is to keep Younger guys feeling accountable. Also for the playoffs…which he really does have a lot of experience in. Or he can turn him over for some goaltending depth, which is a true need for this team to make a push. BSD Rittich is becoming the true product, but depth in that position is becoming apparent. This is where the Flames need to be careful though. Do you try and go for the stars and potentially derail a sea in the making, or do you go with a competent backup that will go through the wall for you? Howard seems to fit that bill….as he knows that he can go back to Detroit after the playoffs are done. Best chance in your career? So far so good…
      If you can say….turn Neal into a (pending UFA) Nyquist….this is an example of the course you take. Neal is a professional that has proven himself. Not for the Flames…but that happens. That kind of veteran presence for a team like Detroit (or comparable) is a big asset in developement. Exactly how BT looked at it, before it turned out that we didn’t exactly need him. It happens….

      Neal is still a good commodity….don’t sell him short just cuz the Flames don’t need him.

  • Off the wall

    Not to be overlooked is the chances Neal got tonight. One breakaway, several decent shots on net. Same with Czarnik, he had a really good game. Watching him up with Tkachuk again, gave me warm fuzzies.
    That’s where he’s always looked his best. I hope Peters gives him another go at that line .

    Great third period. We absolutely dominated Chicago, but hats off to Delia, he was great!

    • Hockeysense9393

      Dalia is playing great! I picked him up on waivers on a couple of my pools after his first game, and he hasn’t disappointed. Gotta love these goaltenders that teams don’t have books about. Note: Rittich isn’t unknown, but is still winning. This always excites me more…!

    • Cfan in Van

      Neal’s aim is completely shot. I have no idea what’s going on with that, but I’d be only half as worried about that contract if he was just slow or out of shape.
      It’s like he gets the puck, and shot placement is just completely random (missed net, goalie crest, etc). A goal scorer who consistently shoots 2%. Baffled.

  • Chiz

    As seen on the previous thread, I guess nobody is allowed to criticize rittich without getting called a clown. The guy has been great all year, and I hope he is the man for years to come, however, I personally think the Kane goal should have been stopped, and that third goal was terrible. The difference between him and smith, though, is a really believe BSD will learn from those goals and be even better moving forward.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      You are not a clown. You are just wrong. The first goal was a breakdown by the 2nd line and 2nd pairing. Rittich dropped his shoulder to play the lower part of the net, but Kane get it just high enough to hit BSD’s shoulder and in. The last goal wa a perfect shot, but it looked like he never saw it. May be been screened by Hamonic.

      He learns from every game he plays. He also has the skill to improve.

    • BendingCorners

      The first goal he probably should have had better positioning but he was expecting a pass. The third goal was a bullet. Rittich is a decent goalie but makes mistakes so criticism is fair. So far this year he has been very good and rescued a few games. If it continues the playoffs could be fun.

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        The thing about BSD is the timelyness of his saves, not just the amount of stops.
        With Smith, you always felt a goal coming after the Flames tie it up or go ahead.
        Momentum Killer Smith.
        With BSD, he makes enough of them to give the team a chance to score. He saves them just before we get a lead, then locks it down after. 3 GA doesn;t look great, but the saves he made prevented a loss. The Flames did everything but score to keep it close. BSD ensured the victory. He deserved better from Backlund and Bennett, who happened to be on for all but the last goal against. Tkachuk too, but I give him a pass for being awesome.

        • Mickey O'Reaves

          BSD has Grant Fuhr like qualities. The Oilers could be up 6-5 late in a contest in the regular season, and he’d make the big stop at the right time in the game. Two points in the bank, and who really cares about his stats at the time.

        • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

          When a goalie puts up a 0.914 Save Percentage in any game that is a GOOD performance (Delia put in a GREAT performance of 0.929, or else the game would have been long over by the last minute of the third).

          Sure, Rittich lets in one soft one and another one on a bad angle (though it is Kane we’re talking about), but he also made some extremely tough saves, stopping a very respectable 32 shots. To really give you an example of how good 0.914 a Save Percentage is…

          There are only 15 Goalies right now in the NHL who are averaging a better Save Percentage than 0.914 (in 20+ GP). Yes, Rittich is one of them, which actually creates an expectation bias.

          Anything over 0.910+ is basically NHL starter territory, anytime you average that you’re good to go and anything more is just a bonus. If you aren’t winning games when your goalie puts up a 0.910+ , it has really nothing to do with the goalie at that point because if you’re losing your offensive output is just flat out not good enough (once and awhile a team will hit a PDO good or bad luck steak, but it’s rare, one team does that once every couple of seasons).

          Basically, what I am saying is if a goalie lets in 3 Goals on 35 Shots it doesn’t really matter how they went in, because it comes back to the law of averages and to stop 32 shots he also made some impressive saves. Say he lets in that highlight reel save he had early and then saves that outside one late (the game was basically over, its highly unlikely Chicago is scoring two in less than a minute), in your mind he would have played a more worthy game, but in reality it’s exactly the same result. Weak goals only matter when you also can’t go on strong runs like Rittich has since February of last year. The weak ones really haven’t killed Smith (though there have been some back breakers), it’s the fact that Smiths averages are also much lower. Goalies are going to wiff on the odd shot, it really doesn’t matter, it’s the body of work outside of that, which matters most.

          • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

            “If you aren’t winning games when your goalie puts up a 0.910+ , it has really nothing to do with the goalie at that point because if you’re losing your offensive output is just flat out not good enough”

            Or again, your defence isn’t good enough and they’re allowing too many shots, which is the case with Edmonton the last couple of years. It’s funny, I spend a lot of time in Edmonton listening to talk radio and they will always complain that the goalies haven’t been good enough when they’re a respectable 0.900-0.910, but because they don’t score as much as us or defend as well as us to win games they need 0.920 goaltending, which really isn’t all that sustainable to ask for. It’s nice to have, but only the truly elite goalies can do that in the modern era for years on end and even they fall off. Vancouver has been the same with Markstrom playing lights out in December, once he comes back down to earth, they’ll start losing again. Once Edmonton and Vancouver can build up teams that score as much as us and defend better, those same goalies doing the same thing they’re now will be winning more games playing the exact same way. It’s not the goalies fault in these cases. Once a goalie dips below to 0.890 like Mike Smith has then it start to become there fault, but Edmonton blaming Cam Talbot all year who is a fairly respectable 0.899 right now is just misguided (Mikko Koskinen is a 0.915 which is great and they’re still not that enamoured with him because they need 0.920+ most nights to win).

    • Cfan in Van

      Yeah, I don’t fault Ritter on those. The Kane shot is crazy good, deflection of Rittich’s shoulder. If anything, the last goal was probably a more likely save, but it was an absolute laser. Not a lot of goalies are going to make that save.

  • Alberta Ice

    Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk, Lindholm. 50 points and more and counting. Royal Portrait of Hockey stars indeed. KIGF. (Keep It Going Flames.) Yeah, Baby!

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    What happened to Kylington? One shift in the 2nd. None for the rest of the night.
    Frolik with one shift in the 3rd.
    Strange because Backlund, Bennett, Tkachuk, Hamonic and Hanifin were on for the first two goals.
    Backlund’s weak penalty (CHI dive)set up the final goal against.

    Bennett is wearing thin on me. He doesn’t make Tkachuk better. Of you are going to play Tkachuk with Backlund, at least re-unite the 3M line. Currently, the Backlund line is getting owned by other teams.

  • RKD

    Not the greatest of road trips but we won 3 out of 4 games great teams find a way to win. Most road victories in the West and tied for most road victories with Tampa at 7 and leading the league with 14 short handed goals.

  • Getpucksdeep

    A game or two ago ago we were raving about Kylington and his skating. Some were really going overboard and making Coffey comparisons. Yet tonight he played 6 minutes and change. Did he get dinged or benched? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • Hockeysense9393

      That is where it is RKD….speechless!! This is the bestest team we have witnessed in a long time for the Flames..! Dare to say the ’89 dream team or the early ’90’s while everything was dismantled? This team is signed for the long core and are all are pretty young. The real potential is this most likely isn’t the the mark, but only the beginning? I think we are witnessing a start of something special as this team grows into itself. A good part of this core already went through adversity…now they are finding ways to turn that confidence into a consistent winning measure. It’s turned from a thinking you can win mentality, into a knowing you can win mentality. That leap of confidence creates a winner…. This team is confident….

      • Mickey O'Reaves

        The winning window is open for a long time as well. I trust the duo of Tree-Peet won’t get greedy and make a massive splash to try and win just the one cup this season. Stay the course, Mr. Treliving.

        • Albertabeef

          The window is probably closer than anyone wants to admit. The window is 4 playoffs. Because 3 more season’s after this and Johnny becomes an UNRESTRICTED free agent. Personally I hope he signs an extension as soon as that becomes and option. But we need to start preparing our minds for the possible. Also I’m willing to ride these hot forwards and hot goalie as far as they can take us THIS year. If we can make some adjustments along the way(move Smith and Neal) I’m all for it. As long as BSD stays healthy the world is our oyster lol.

  • Garry T

    Don’t look now but our first line is trending towards 328 points for this season and with luck Chucky and the 1st line could all finish with 100 points each or close to that. Johnny is a lock if he does not get hurt or be worn out by seasons end.

    Another great game. Frolik was a beast fore and back checking. 6 out of 8 possible points as a team.

    Signs in this game that we are going to need a good skating big defence man as our guys are being hit hard in the corners.

    Ritter is starting to look like Mika 2.0. If he is standing up protecting shots from players almost through the offensive circle for them and those two over the shoulder goals he had on him do not go in.

    Regardless, 58 points and a little breathing room on some teams.

      • Hockeysense9393

        Agree again! You are on a roll WW!
        Tkachuk is the pinnacle of an over-all player! You can put him with anyone through your lineup and he will make anybody he is with look good. You truly sign him as a core for sure. What’s BT’s definition as a core? 5-6 years and we’ll see where you fit. BT hasn’t really experienced the true signing prowess that comes with making a statement on your team for the long-long term, which is totally ok with me. Until now… This kid is good!! Like really good!! This summer should be interesting for sure.

        BT has a plan in site for a Stanley Cup championship team…and I can see his medicine. Now it comes down to how much you deviate from that thought process, and how much it will cost you.
        Do you break the mold and sign 8 years to a potential that can boost your team for that duration….but for one player? Or do you stand status quo and sign him for 5-6 years for budget values?
        It’s not a question on how much salary he is willing to sign for. It’s a question on ho long you want to sign him for. Your budget dictates 5.75 a year, well that may get you 5 years of service from Tkachuk. If you want 8 years….well he will set a new precedence for the Flames. This is where we have confidence in BT!!

  • Derzie

    Game Scores again show top line/top pairing carrying ALL the mail. A coach using his assets, but the old refrain is the depth is our weak spot. Restore 3M, give James Neal the wrong schedule and replace him with anyone and pick up an under 30 contributor at the deadline.

  • flames2015

    Does anyone know where I can find stats on the % of a player involved in the teams overall offense? I’ve seen the stats during broadcasts about a month ago, but curious to see where Johnny and some other players fair for their teams.

  • KootenayFlamesFan

    There were a few players tonight that were absolutely painful to watch: Bennett and Backlund top my list. Neal seemed to play ok but his run of bad luck is just comical. I think hes given up at this point – he knows it’s not going in so he just fires it right into the goalie – over and over again.

    Having said that, the game should never have been that close. Chicago’s ‘tender almost beat us.

  • Albertabeef

    From nhl.com
    “Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Monahan and Lindholm all have at least 50 points this season after 44 games. The Flames are the first team to feature four players with 50 or more points within the first 45 games of a season since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96 (Ron Francis, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Tomas Sandstrom). ”

    Wow. I am so impressed with this team. 🙂

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    Glad we got a win. Couple of things I noticed. Second line especially Tkachuk and Bannet are guilty of over passing in first period. Secondly, in second period it felt like that Bob Hartley was coaching the team too many failed tries for stratch passes . But hey we got the win.