The Flames would appear to be a good team, since they keep winning games and all. February is just about over. They’ll finish the month second in the NHL.
Feel of the game
While the Flames were undoubtedly the better team at the start of the game, it was kind of a sleepy first period. They got more chances than the Devils, absolutely – they’re the team that actually looked dangerous at times – but play was kind of scattered. At least, until the end of the first period, when the Flames found themselves with a 90-second five-on-three… and forgot the clock existed, killing off a chunk of time themselves by forgetting the first period was about to end.
They still had just over a minute of five-on-three time to start the second, though. While just like against the Islanders it was a lot of passing and limited shooting, they did score – just as the first penalty had expired, leaving them without further powerplay time, off of a botched Elias Lindholm pass (of course) that ended up in the back of the Devils’ net. Play picked up from there, though, mostly for the Flames, but the Devils showed moments of life here and there, as well. It seemed like that was game once Mark Giordano did his best impression of Mark Giordano-but-from-a-week-earlier-against-the-Coyotes and scored another highlight reel goal to give the Flames a multi-goal lead. Things were going great… until the Flames got another powerplay, Johnny Gaudreau coughed up the puck in his own zone, and David Rittich was left helpless as the Devils made it a one-goal game.
It could have gotten precarious to close things out. The Flames stopped playing as strongly as they had before, forcing Rittich to really be on his game and make sure the team kept its lead. Fair enough, because it was the third period on the second of a back-to-back in what’s been a weird month of travel for the Flames, and the Devils just didn’t have the talent to score again. The Flames were passive, but it worked out, a second team win in as many days.
The good news
Once again, you have to ask: who was the weak link in the lineup? Maybe Gaudreau for his giveaway resulting in the Devils’ lone goal, but he also did quite a bit to try to score himself – and got two assists – so these things balance each other out. The entire team is just a really cohesive unit at the moment, and there doesn’t seem to be any signs of them slowing down as a collective whole. It’s a likeable, well-constructed group. Oscar Fantenberg added to it, as well – he wasn’t flashy or amazing, but he’s a good additional player for the defence in what could be a gruelling postseason. There are just so many good options for this team.
Whereas Giordano is ageless, Rasmus Andersson keeps showing just how much potential he has. I keep thinking back on the first Flames powerplay, in particular, before he drew the five-on-three call. He’s got a big shot, and we’re seeing him use it more. He’s great at keeping the puck in the zone, which we’ve been seeing since October. It took Giordano years to show off how good he could be. Andersson isn’t there yet, of course – may never be – but it feels like we’re watching the beginnings of a star in the making.
Rittich didn’t have to do much in the first two periods, but he had to do a fair bit more in the third. No matter the game situation, though, he was up to the task. The Devils don’t exactly boast a strong lineup, but they did have a couple of chances here and there, and Rittich did well in thwarting them. It’s much easier when a team has two goalies it can trust. That might just be the Flames nowadays.
The bad news
I guess we can complain about the powerplay some more. Watching the Flames just pass the puck around in the dying seconds of a period when they had a five-on-three was brutal; how was there no communication there? If this game had been in Calgary there would have been a chorus of fans all yelling “shooooot” and for once, they would have been right. Spending a lot of time on the man advantage chasing and getting your pocket picked to give up a shorthanded goal was pretty brutal, too. So there’s room for improvement there. And… that’s about it?
Sincerely hoping Mirco Mueller is okay. Freak accidents will always happen – especially when it’s a sport played on ice – but that was rough to watch.
Numbers of note
59.72% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF on the night. They controlled the first period, and most of the second, as well. Their worst period was the third, in which the travel and second game in as many nights seemed to catch up to them, but they were still at 50% then. They’re a good team.
8-2 – According to Natural Stat Trick, the Flames had eight high-danger corsi events in this game at 5v5. The Devils managed all of two. Scoring chances were also registered at a 17-10 in the Flames’ favour. The Devils only managed five shots a frame in the first two periods each, but were at least able to ramp it up to 10 for the third. Kind of taking a break for one period aside, the Flames were just better.
60 – And with that goal, Giordano became the fourth ever defenceman 35 or older to score 60 points in a single season. He’s on pace for 77 points. The Flames also now have five players on their team with at least 60 points this season. No other team has more than three.
14:19 – Fantenberg played the least out of all Flames defencemen in his first game with his new team, but that’s still a pretty respectable set of minutes. He threw five hits, tied with Noah Hanifin for the most on the Flames, as well as one shot on net. Looking forward to seeing how much responsibility he’s allocated in his next game; the only bad thing, really, was the penalty he took, but these things happen.
100% – Derek Ryan’s 5v5 CF. Okay, so he only played 7:34 at 5v5 in the game, but still, that’s 11 corsi events for when he was on the ice for and absolutely nothing against. That’s… good? Let’s go with good. That’s really, really good. This really is just a well-constructed team, with everyone able to contribute.
This team responded to a four-game losing streak with a seven-game (and counting) winning streak. They’ve separated themselves from the pack of good-but-not-the-Lightning teams. Not so much so that it’s smooth sailing from here on out, but enough that if they can keep up this level of play… it might be.
There are 18 games left. Eleven are at home. The Flames survived their February travel, and have just four road trips left: Vegas and Arizona, one-offs in Winnipeg and Vancouver, and then a California swing. They might be in a really, really good position here.