Calgary Flames Post-Game: Goaltending immaculate as Flames steal one from the Jets
Photo credit:Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
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The Calgary Flames, as a group, did not look particularly impressive in their season-opening game on Wednesday night against the Winnipeg Jets. They were out-shot. They were out-chanced. They were generally out-played. There weren’t many stretches where the Flames imposed their will on this hockey game.
But the Flames managed to scrape and grind their way to a 5-3 victory over the Jets, getting their first win of the 2023-24 season in their first game of the season.
The Jets had a great amount of jump and speed early in this game. The Flames had trouble defending them at times, and Jacob Markstrom was called upon often in the early moments of this game to hold things together.
The Flames drew a couple power plays in rapid succession, though, and they capitalized on their second man advantage. Adam Ruzicka fired the puck from the high slot towards a crowd of bodies in front of the Winnipeg net. His shot bonked off Neal Pionk’s skate, but Andrew Mangiapane jumped on the loose rebound and fired it past Connor Hellebuyck to give the Flames a 1-0 edge.
But just 2:19 later, the Jets got that one back. Kyle Connor got the puck inside the Flames’ blueline, backed the defenders in ever-so-slightly, and his shot from the very high slot went through Jordan Oesterle’s legs and seemed to elude Jacob Markstrom, just finding a way between his legs and into the net to tie the game up at 1-1.
But the Flames got their lead back late in the period off a really nice sequence where some small, good things they did piled up. The fourth line won an offensive-zone draw, and then Walker Duehr won a puck battle to maintain possession and fed the puck up to the point. As he was doing that, the Flames sent bodies to the net, and when MacKenzie Weegar unleashed a wrister from the point there were many bodies between him and Hellebuyck. That obstructed view shot found a way through and into the net, giving the Flames a 2-1 edge.
First period shots were 15-8 Winnipeg (9-5 Winnipeg at five-on-five). Five-on-five scoring chances were 17-5 Winnipeg (and high-dangers were 7-3 Winnipeg).
The Jets were all over the Flames in the second period, and they took advantage of some Flames’ defensive sloppiness to tie the game once more. The Jets got an extended sequence of puck possession in the Flames’ zone midway through the period. The Jets cycled the puck, the Flames ran around trying to block passes, and eventually Alex Iafallo made a nifty redirect in the slot area of a Dylan DeMelo low shot from the point. That redirect tied the game up at 2-2.
With Dillon Dube in the penalty box, the Flames retook the lead later in the second period. Markstrom made several strong saves, and then Rasmus Andersson knocked down the puck and Elias Lindholm grabbed it and skated up ice. Lindholm waited out the Jets power play unit, then found Andersson skating into the offensive zone with a pass. Andersson’s shot beat Hellebuyck high for a shorthanded marker that give the Flames a 3-2 lead.
Second period shots were 13-6 Winnipeg (6-2 Winnipeg at five-on-five). Five-on-five scoring chances were 10-0 Winnipeg (and high-dangers were 5-0 Winnipeg).
The Flames tried to play a patient game and run out the clock for the most part in the third period. That approach almost worked, but the Jets used their forecheck with five minutes left to pressure the Flames as they attempted a breakout from their own zone. The pressure led to a turnover, a couple quick passes, and Mark Schiefele chipping the puck over Markstrom’s shoulder short-side to tie the game up at 3-3.
But the Flames took advantage of a late Jets icing to retake the lead. They won the offensive zone draw, chased down the loose puck after the initial scoring chance was stopped, and then Andrew Mangiapane fed Lindholm with a gorgeous backhanded pass from behind the net. Lindholm drove the net and chipped Mangiapane’s feed past Hellebuyck to make it 4-3 Flames.
Mangiapane added an empty-netter with 6.1 seconds remaining to give the Flames a 5-3 victory.
Third period shots were 9-8 Winnipeg (9-6 Winnipeg at five-on-five). Five-on-five scoring chances were 5-5 Winnipeg (high-dangers were 3-2 Winnipeg).
Why the Flames won
The Flames were the second-best team in a lot of metrics. They took too many penalties. They gave up a lot of shots, a lot of chances, and a lot of good chances. Their transition game was clunky and their defensive zone play was shaky.
So how the heck did the Flames win this hockey game?!
Well, their goaltending was very sharp and helped cover up a lot of miscues. And the Flames’ special teams units – their power play and penalty kill – were equal parts sharp and opportunistic. The Jets scored zero times on special teams, the Flames twice. That’s the game right there.
This was the type of outing where the Flames’ video and coaching staff will have tons of suggestions for potential improvements. And it’s the type of game where the group will probably be receptive given the positives they’ll have to build upon.
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It’s gotta be Markstrom. But give stick-taps to Lindholm and Mangiapane, too.
Lindholm’s game-winner, of course.
This and that
This was the Flames debuts for Yegor Sharangovich, A.J. Greer and Jordan Oesterle. It was also Ryan Huska’s first game as a fully-fledged NHL head coach and Craig Conroy’s first game as general manager. And Mikael Backlund’s first game as captain.
The ceremonial opening face-off was conducted by the family of late Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow; his wife Kelsie and their children Cohen and Willa. Kelsie joined Sportsnet’s Ryan Leslie for a chat during the first intermission.
Adam Lowry played his first game as captain of the Jets. His father, Dave, served as captain for the Flames for a couple seasons.
Huska swapped Dube and Mangiapane in the third period; Dube was placed with Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman, while Mangiapane played with Lindholm and Jonathan Huberdeau.
The Flames (1-0-0) are headed on the road for their next five games. Up first, an early game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night. (It’s a 5 p.m. MT start.)
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