Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Flames 4, Blue Jackets 2 post-game embers: A win’s a win

The Flames put in just as much effort as they needed in order to win. It’s maybe not the greatest strategy going forward, but the stakes aren’t so high right now – and it worked out just fine.

Feel of the game

This was an odd one: it’s probably fair to say the Blue Jackets were the better team through 60 minutes, but the Flames were clearly the better team overall. By that I mean, the Jackets played a stronger game – in part due to having to chase for most of it – but when the Flames decided to actually play instead of just defending, it was obvious that they were the superior team. And, in fairness to the Flames, they did hold a multi-goal lead for most of the game; they didn’t have as much to worry about. Especially with a playoff spot clinched and the Jackets in the precarious position of missing out, despite being one of the biggest buyers at the deadline.

The Jackets had the stronger start to the game, but the Flames seemed to wake up once they got scored on (and especially after they almost got scored on again, but for the net being forced off its moorings). Throw in a late first period goal and a beautiful early second period one and the Flames didn’t seem inclined to look back.

That almost came to bite them in the third period, as the Jackets put the pressure on and the Flames barely got any shots of their own, but a powerplay goal aside, David Rittich didn’t yield. It wasn’t the prettiest effort, but it was just the right amount the Flames needed.

The good news

When they’re on, the Flames are so good – and that’s even with missing three top nine forwards, including a surefire first liner. They didn’t do it too often, but when they took control the Jackets had a much more difficult time keeping up. It was far from a perfect game, but there were still those flashes in which you remembered just how the Flames got to the position to be gunning for a first place division finish to begin with.

You’ve gotta give it up to the depth the team has built up. Tripping penalties aside, Andrew Mangiapane looked really good, and Mark Jankowski and Austin Czarnik were feeling it to play with hustle and occasionally get fancy in their passing. That trio was great. The Flames have options. And while Jankowski is already an established NHLer, it’s nice to see Czarnik still doing mostly well with the opportunities he’s gotten over the past month since James Neal was injured – and it’s especially nice to see Mangiapane look like he’s turning the corner on being a regular NHLer, too. It also begs a good question to have: when Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, and Neal all come back (presuming they all do), who comes out of the lineup? They’ve got a lot of forward options.

Rittich was great, ready for the Jackets’ attack, and looking every bit like a starting goalie. The Jackets were one of the few playoff-caliber opponents the Flames had left; that Rittich got the start against them probably isn’t much of a surprise, but seeing him turn in such a good performance was great. He had his struggles just over a month ago; he’s earned confidence and trust right back, though. And though the circumstances surrounding it were terrifying, it was nice to see him down on the ice with Noah Hanifin almost immediately after the latter unfortunately took a puck to the head (and very, very fortunate that he was able to return within that period).

What can’t Mark Giordano do? Talk about going above and beyond as a defenceman, with a key save of his own (and it should still be mentioned that Rittich did a great job on the play, in all its scrambly moments, as well) – and he’s almost certainly going to reach 70 points this season, on top of all that. He’s amazing.

The bad news

It was a little uncomfortable, seeing how much better prepared the Jackets were to start the game, and seeing the Flames just kind of hang on through most of the third period. There’s something to be said for resting up before the playoffs, even mid-game if the opportunities are there – a two-goal lead does add a fair degree of insurance – but you’d still expect a little more from the Flames. Taking nearly 13 minutes of a period in a one-goal game to get a shot on net? That’s dramatic. It all worked out in the end, of course, but it certainly wasn’t a banner game.

Luck had its part to play in things as well, especially favouring the Flames. The Jackets hit a lot of posts – too many for comfort. If things had been marginally different, they could have been the ones with the multi-goal lead. It’s less “the Flames held them to just two goals” and more “the Flames are at least a little lucky only two goals were scored on them”. Though I suppose it’s fair enough turnaround from the number of posts the Flames hit when playing the Jets in the previous game – but still, this one was more precarious than the score made it look.

Numbers of note

46.94% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF, including a 36% third period. They had a two-goal (then one-goal) lead and the Jackets were the more desperate team.

5 – Mangiapane is up to five goals this season. He’s only shooting at 10%, too – not an outrageous number at all. This doesn’t have the obvious signs of being a flash in the pan, at least.

68 – Giordano is now tied for second overall in league-wide defensive scoring with 68 points. He’s now the fifth 35-year-old and older defenceman to ever register that total in the NHL’s history.

4:29, 4:48 – Alan Quine and Curtis Lazar, respectively, did not see that much ice time. It’s evident they’re only in the lineup out of sheer necessity, though Quine did have two shots and Lazar had one very notable block.

13:44 – Someone’s gotta benefit from someone else’s reduced minutes. Mangiapane had the fourth highest ice time he’s had all season.

.939% – Rittich had a good showing. In five of his past eight games – since he seemed to start winning the net back in late February – he’s had a save percentage well enough over .930%.

Final thought

The Flames continue to put themselves in a good position to close out the regular season. They only have two games left against playoff-caliber opponents: the Stars and the Sharks. In the meantime, the team is playing well, most everyone is contributing in one way or another, and they seem to be finding a healthy balance of not overexerting themselves, while still playing hard enough to get a win.

In all likelihood, the race to the Pacific Division crown will continue to go right down to the wire, but getting some breathing room back in the form of a three-point lead does feel nice.

  • Skylardog

    With just 9 games left and a 3 point lead, the Flames are now listed as an 85% chance to finish first in the Pacific according to sportsclubstats.com. We have just 2 games left against teams currently in the playoffs, games against Dallas and SJ.

    If we go 6-3 in the final 9, SJ would have to go 8-1 to catch us. Think about this as well, if one of our 6 wins is against SJ on March 31, then SJ must go 8-0 in the other games they have remaining.

    Even if we go 6-3, including a loss to SJ, they still have to go 7-1 in their remaining other 8 games.

    Beat LA twice, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Anaheim just once, in other words take care of our own business, and there is little SJ can do to catch us.

    However moral victories against SJ and Dallas would feel really good.

  • TKO

    the Flames have a 3 pt lead over San Jose,
    San Jose & Calgary both have 9 games left,
    if Calgary wins 5 of 9, San Jose would have to win 7 of 9 to overtake us.
    outside of a collapse, I think the top 7 are set in the west

  • everton fc

    I didn’t get to see the game, but I did check out “Hathaway/McQuaid 2”. Hathaway may be out of McQuaid’s league, but he isn’t afraid, and he didn’t get exactly pummelled. He did his job. He’s the only guy on this team right now, outside Prout and Hamonic – who probably can’t anymore, due to the facial surgery – that will do this. I scour my mind, as I type, thinking of who’d step up to a guy like McQuaid. Not Tkachuk. Not Neal. Not Gio. Lazar, maybe, to keep a roster spot.

    Just sayin’.

    It was a good win. The fact we have both forward and defencive depth is fantastic. That Mangiapane seems to be finding himself as a regular NHLr… Also good news. Mangiapane needs to be on that 3rd line. Somehow. Log-jam cometh, when the injured guys return.

  • Vinnsanity0412

    Fantenberg has been solid. He is calm, smart, makes the simple play, I’m not sure how they take him out of the lineup. A player many other teams would love to have. Obviously no-one keeps such stats, but would Johnny’s goal have been the ‘shortest’ in history? Czarnik and Ryan had the assists…the three of them combined come in at under 17 feet, no?

  • Sven

    Ryan 5 points in his last five games and a +6
    Fantenberg is a +5 over his last five

    but what about Hamonic and his + 13 over his last five?

    thats just crazy

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    You know, I was thinkin’…it’s not just the team that took a step up, it’s the whole franchise! They started giving Rick Ball Pens playoff games last year, he’s on the up(and he’s also just plain good). Ryan Leslie made the big show. We have incredible reporting on the website from the Flames’ two new reporters. Here at FN Pike made the PWHA and Ari is developing like Ras.

    This truly is a good time to back the C.

    • Cfan in Van

      I like that take BTF. And interesting about Ball and the Pens last season, I didn’t realize that. Admittedly, last year was probably my least interested playoff year in quite a while. I was still too bitter over the Flames season.

  • Off the wall

    Giordano is so good, he can even play goalie!

    Lazar – 4 minutes and he blocks a shot that would have been a for sure goal. Limps back to the bench.
    Hanifin blocks a shot with his face! Ouch.
    The boys sacrificed their bodies to win.
    Hathaway fights tough guy McQuaid. The boys sacrificed their bodies to win. That’s why we won.

    Mangiapane and Frolik both have nice goals, let alone Ryan’s setup for Gaudreau.

    Depth is another reason we won. It’s nice to have our players moving around and contributing.

    You gotta like the way Peters handles the bench…🔥

  • Temple

    Was at the game (lower bowl seats – first time since childhood that I’ve been that close). Game goes fast close to the ice. BJ’s looked good and deserved better. Then again, how many games have we done the same and lost?

    Thought Janko wasn’t that strong – saw more that I didn’t like (giveaways, odd positioning) than I liked.

    First line w/Ryan is small height wise, but so is Tampa’s scoring second line (all under 6ft). Are we firmly in the age of the small scoring forward?

    Officiating was a wee bit atrocious. Lots of missed calls, a few phantom calls. They almost let it get away from them at the end of the game there – that’s all on the refs.

    • calgaryfan

      agree Temple, I thought Jankowski was weak on the puck. He got caught from behind and stripped of the puck at few times. He had a simple give and go with I think Mangiapane in the slot and the pass was way behind the Flame in the slot. I would like to see Jankowski win a few more puck battles.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I have to agree on the assessment of Janko, defensively he looked weak outside of the PK. He needs to pack on some more muscle. I liked the way their number 77 played much more.

  • Off the wall

    I think Ari needs a new jersey.
    We can’t have her parading around with that #27 Hamilton one before the playoffs.

    We should chip in and buy her a new one so we don’t have to look at Hamilton’s at the end of her blog. 😉

  • Brian McGrattan's Salute

    So that third line eh??

    I’ve been trying to figure out what the coaching staff will do when Neal (and Mony and Benny) gets back. Who will he take out?

    I suppose we could say it would be Czarnik, but he’s played well since Neal went down, and has really made that third line look arguably a bit more dangerous than Neal made it look. Especially with Mangiapane-Janko-Czar playing so well, I think it will be tough decisions from here on out for BP and co.

    I really do love Hathaway, and love what he brings to this team, but maybe we could sit him for a bit?

    Purple Gatorade

    I think we got the top two lines figured out, no? Frolik had a great game last night, and not just because of his beauty goal; and the top line is the top line.

    I feel like if Mang-Janks-Czar keep it up, then that is a really great forth line.

    Benny and Neal play a very similar style I think, and Ryan can make those great passes. Both Ryan and Bennett are great at puck retrieval, and Ryan and Neal have looked good together before.

    It means no Hathaway, but if we get Neal and Benny back, I think that’s enough toughness to replace Hath; we also know we got Backs who can play PK.

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        I wouldn’t be opposed to that, but personally I would just like to see Czarnik up here for a bit. Like I said, I love what Hathaway brings, but Czarnik injects some great speed into the lineup, as well as pretty good possession
        numbers, and secondary scoring–and if not scoring, then at least very good zone time. He makes this lineup more dangerous, and that is a good thing. Since Neal has been out, I’ve rarely seen him play an ‘invisible’ game, and his work ethic and hustle is to be admired.

        The big caveat, of course, is what Hath does bring: toughness, penalty-killing, and a heart and soul playing style. But, to me at least, the lineup above is the best all around.

        • Cfan in Van

          They could try to swap Hath and Czar, one game in, on game out. They might prefer Hath for toughness and PK though, so might see him get the edge. I agree it’s tough to break up what’s working in the lower half of the forward lines, but I guess it’s a great problem to have.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          I think Hath has more of the grit we need in the playoffs. He takes a lot of players of their game that go unnoticed. I know people won’t like this but Ryan’s speed was the first time I saw Johnny have a center with him on the rushes. I would like to see more of that.

    • everton fc

      They won’t sit Hathaway. Good on the PK, draws penalties, creates space for his linemates… Chippy players like Hathaway are valuable, in the playoffs.

  • The Beej

    3 points up now.

    To all the negative clowns who post here and who cant just enjoy the ride:

    Eat it!
    “BT didnt get Stone and ruined the season”.

    Eat it!

    After we had a little slump and lost 4 you were saying: “we are not competing with San Jose for first, we are competing with Vegas for home ice”

    Eat it!

    To all the whiners and complainers:

    Eat it! Eat your words and your negative whining every time this team has a bad game or bad luck even.

    Eat it! Now you can all shut up.

    The rebuild has produced a successful team in about the time the knowledgeable fan would have predicted.

    Now shut up. Stop whining and enjoy the ride.

  • Garry T

    I would like to provide my thoughts on Jankowski and receive yours.
    My opinion is that he could be Cory Perry 2.0. He is not and is not even close to that caliber of a player. Where he is good is on the kill and is great in terms of short handed goals. The rest of his game is less than desirable.
    He ambles up the ice and often is the last man to get back on the back check, often resulting in his checking charge having scored on us. His nature is amicable off the ice and that is fine. But, he should be a hard skating hard hitting and hard to play against type of player with that size and under-utilized skill factor for the rest of his ice time. He actually should be taken aside at an opportune time and be told, this is how you project and
    We would like you to project much differently and see how he reacts. I think the young man’s perspective of who he is, is out of line as to who I think he could be with a much stronger effort. Do not get me wrong, I value this kid but I think he needs the reset button being pushed on him. Otherwise, he is going to lose his job to a much more aggressive soul. Sooner rather than later. There are too many players out there hungrier for his job than he is.

    • Albertabeef

      Lol wow, what an outrageous comparison. Jankowski never projected anywhere near Corey Perry at any point in his existence. Corey Perry was a dominant jr. player, a proven champion and leader before he stepped one skate on NHL ice. I remember watching him in awe when he won the Memorial cup wishing we had drafted him, instead of Brandon Prust lol.

      You can improve a players skill but you almost can never change their character. Asking a player to play outside of their character can have major downfalls, and potentially ruin a players career. Like asking a “Mark Hunter” to play like a “Tim Hunter”. Like asking Valeri Bure to play like Iggy, or asking Mony to play like Chucky, Jankowski will never be a Perry. Nobody trades down in a draft to take a “Perry” type player, you trade up in a draft for that lol.

  • We really got pushed around this game. I can’t imagine 7 game series with this team. They punish you every pass. We didn’t get pulled into their game and that is a good thing as I don’t see us keeping up with that hit for hit. It was 24-14 last night but CBJ hits were usually big. I don’t have a solution but it will be tough playoff hockey where the refs keep the whistle in the pocket like last night.