There’s one thing that can be said about the Calgary Flames: they may be one of the worst teams in the league at the moment, but it’s not from a lack of effort. They’ve got the grit and they put in the work, they simply don’t have the star power…yet.
That’s to be expected in the early stages of a rebuild, but it became more apparent during Week Ten of the Flames’ regular season, against teams stacked high with budding superstars.
The Flames’ blue collar work ethic begins with their captain. After missing 18 games due to injury, Mark Giordano stepped onto the ice on Wednesday, December 4 and suddenly the entire team was playing better. Giordano himself didn’t seem to have missed a beat despite his extended absence from play, and was a crucial part in the Flames’ big win against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Although it was the Coyotes’ Keith Yandle who opened up the scoring and Calgary only recorded three shots in the first period, TJ Brodie’s late shot on net resulted in a tying goal. And from the second period on, Calgary sucked the life out of Phoenix. Mikael Backlund sparked the Flames’ onslaught of offense, scoring his first goal since October 19. And then it was the captain, who took advantage of a Flames’ powerplay and ripped a slapshot past Coyotes’ goaltender Thomas Greiss.
A few minutes into the final frame, Giordano got the secondary assist on a shorthanded goal by Lee Stempniak, which put Calgary up by three.
Solid in his crease (although oddly enough he was the reason for two of the Flames’ penalties in the third), Karri Ramo stopped all 19 shots he faced in the last 40 minutes of the game.
A two-point night in Giordano’s return, and a big two points for the Calgary Flames was just the boost of confidence the team needed after a disappointing previous week, as the Flames topped the Coyotes 4-1.
With Sean Monahan out of the lineup, the rookie to watch for on Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche was number one draft pick Nathan Mackinnon. And the highly-touted young forward did not disappoint, but it came at the expense of a Calgary Flames victory.
It was Kris Russell who lit the goal lamp first, just under the halfway mark of the opening period, and the Flames held the lead for the remainder of the frame. But two unanswered goals by Maxime Talbot and PA Parenteau, respectively, (less than a minute apart) late in the second quickly dampened the mood in the ‘Dome.
Mackinnon appeared to have sealed the Flames’ fate at 2:28 of the third period, taking a feed from Gabriel Landeskog and whipping a snapshot past Karri Ramo.
But with only a minute and 55 seconds to go in the game, Matt Stajan managed to tip in a shot to beat J.S. Giguere, and bring the home team to within one.
Unfortunately, with less than a minute left in the game, the Flames failed to notch an equalizer and the Avalanche escaped in regulation with the win. Despite playing a mediocre first period, the Avs shook off their 8-2 beating from the Edmonton Oilers the night before with a 3-2 victory in Calgary.
The Battle of Alberta is always a storied battle, despite both team’s lowly ranks in the standings.
With the Edmonton’s top line of superstars finally getting their gears going (Taylor Hall nabbed a hat trick and one assist against the Avalanche several nights earlier), and the Flames seeking redemption for a tight loss at home, the game was slated to be an intense one.
But for the first 59 minutes of the matchup, it wasn’t.
For much of the game the Calgary Flames held the lead, from a goal by Lee Stempniak, despite the Oilers doubling up on shots on the Flames. Stempniak’s goal came at the 16:00 mark of the first, and from then on Reto Berra set to deny the likes of Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins.
Or at least, so he thought. Hall would not be denied, and sought extend his point streak to three games.
With only 10 seconds to go, Hall took advantage of a messy scramble in front of the Flames’ crease, and managed to sneak the puck into the net.
For both teams, even one point would have been good enough but two points would have been huge. Suddenly, it was a brand new game, and the extra frame provided a lot of motivation and a sudden jolt of energy from the division rivals.
Calgary’s top point-getter Jiri Hudler had been quiet all game while suffering the effects of the stomach flu, but in a clutch moment less five minutes into overtime, he sent a bouncing puck flying by Devan Dubnyk to claim the coveted two points.
Perhaps the most exciting game of the season looms for the Flames as Jarome Iginla returns to Calgary for the first time since leaving the franchise in late March. The former Flames captain visit the ‘Dome with the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, December 10.