Just a couple of days ago, I wrote in my weekly column that the Calgary Flames’ next game against the Florida Panthers “scared the bejeezus out of me”… and for good reason. Heading into Tuesday night’s tilt at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the big cats were the NHL’s hottest team; riding a nine-game point streak and averaging six goals a game since the start of the New Year. That’s an astounding 42 goals in seven games, including nine against the Columbus Blue Jackets a few nights ago.
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And the Flames? Well, they were spinning their tires, mired in their worst losing streak of the season; giving up way too many goals against while scoring precious few. Throw into the mix the fact they hadn’t won on home ice since late November, and that they just lost to one of the worst teams in the league, and this game looked like a recipe for disaster. Instead, the boys in red finally returned to the top form they showed in the first two months of the season, beating the Panthers 5-1 in convincing fashion. So, what was I so scared of?
‘Johnny Hockey’ Continues to Carry the Flames Offence
Fresh from his sixth All-Star game selection, Johnny Gaudreau continues to show the league why he should be in the conversation for the Hart trophy. The 5-foot-9 dynamo had a four-point night and drove the bus for a team that had been sliding off the road and out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Gaudreau’s strong play also propelled the struggling power play to a two-goal outing, including the Flames’ first goal of the night just four minutes into the game.
With his four-assist night, the playmaking forward now has 43 points in 35 games, putting him squarely in the Top 10 in NHL scoring and on pace for his first career 100 point season. He’s also helping fuel a resurgent Matthew Tkachuk, who has become a point-per-game player playing alongside Gaudreau. Tkachuk had a three-point night, including an otherworldly tip-in goal in the third period that had everyone scratching their heads and saying: “how’d he do that?”
Flames Finally Get Some Much Needed Secondary Scoring
When Rasmus Andersson potted his own rebound on the Flames’ first goal of the night, his emotional first-pump told the story. Expected to pick up the offensive slack in the absence of former captain Mark Giordano, that goal was Andersson’s first of the campaign and just the 11th from the entire D-core. While Calgary’s first line has been producing offence at an elite level all season, the rest of the lineup has been struggling to add depth scoring. A lot of focus has been directed at the team’s former sniper Sean Monahan, who probably had his best outing of the season on Tuesday night.
Monahan, who has been in a slump the entire season, scored twice and finally showed flashes of the player who strung together seven consecutive 20+ goal campaigns to start his tenure with the Flames. The 27-year-old center made several nice plays throughout the game but he saved his best for last; a beautiful goal that finished a three-way passing play with Gaudreau and Tkachuk. Blake Coleman, who also lit the lamp with his seventh of the year, is finally showing signs of breaking out of his slow offensive start and low shooting percentage. The extra scoring couldn’t have come at a better time.
Jacob Markstrom Pulls Out of Slump With Solid Effort
Jacob Markstrom had such a strong start to the season that he became an early favorite in the Vezina Trophy sweepstakes. But in his last five starts before Tuesday night’s tilt against the Panthers, he slid to a 2-3 record, allowed 19 goals against – that’s a 3.80 goals-against average (GAA) and posted an .880 save percentage (SV%). Not great. He’s also been battling a mystery injury/illness that he simply refuses to divulge. That made his effort against Florida all the more satisfying.
The big Swede was near perfect, making 28 saves on 29 shots and looking sharp right from the drop of the puck. Markstrom definitely appeared comfortable Tuesday night and made a couple of key stops to keep the Flames’ momentum going strong, including a nice glove save on a short-handed Aaron Ekblad breakaway. After the game, head coach Darryl Sutter’s assessment was short and sweet.
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“I thought Marky (Markstrom) was really solid for us,” Sutter told reporters. “He needed that, too.”
I’m pretty sure the entire team really needed the 6-foot-6 netminder to bounce back and show his teammates they can trust him to keep them in tight games – something he failed to do during the Flames’ four-game slide down the Pacific division standings.
Flames Can’t Take Foot Off the Gas Against the Oilers
In a well-played game that spoiled Sam Bennett‘s much-hyped return to the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames proved that they can still play the type of structured, “Sutter-style” hockey that led them to the top of the Western Conference to start the 2021-22 season. The win against the Panthers was a complete team effort that saw the boys in red take down the No. 1 team in the entire NHL.
Calgary’s next game is against an Oilers squad that is in complete free fall, so the last thing they need is another flat effort that saw them lose to the No. 30 team just six days ago. Are the Flames really back? We’ll find out on Saturday night in Edmonton.