Flames Weekly looks at how the Calgary Flames performed in the previous week. Be sure to check in every Monday for my take on the week that was and to find out which storylines and players took center stage. Feel free to use the comment section below to let me know how you thought the team performed or post any ideas or questions about the Flames.
After a 19-day break – that felt like 19 months – the Flames finally returned to action on Thursday to face the Seattle Kraken (and their former captain). However, the excitement was short-lived as the NHL announced that several upcoming home dates would be postponed until capacity restrictions at the Scotiabank Saddledome are lifted. The week was capped off with a convincing win Sunday night against the Chicago Blackhawks that seemed to shake off the rust after a long layoff.
Giordano, Gaudreau Shine in Barnburner vs. the Kraken
The Flames’ season was unpaused last week, and despite looking a tad slow out of the gate, the visiting squad found their footing in a battle that saw multiple lead changes before the night was over. Former Calgary captain Mark Giordano scored three points against his old team in a feisty contest that forced the Flames to fight off multiple comeback attempts by the expansion Kraken.
It was a night when Calgary carried the play and dominated the shots and scoring chances, but Seattle kept finding a way to stay in the game. The third period was particularly wild; in 43 seconds, the Flames made it 4-3, the Kraken made it 4-4, and then the Flames made it 5-4. An empty-netter in the final minute sealed the deal in a contest that Johnny Gaudreau stole the show, potting two goals and a helper to give him 33 points in 29 games.
While the game was sloppy at times, we have to give the boys in red props for not folding. In recent seasons, giving up a late goal usually caused the team to collapse, but this time they dug deep, got the W, and moved on. The 6-4 win snapped the Flames’ four-game losing skid and ended 2021 on a much-needed high note.
NHL Postpones Multiple Flames’ Home Games
The Flames were supposed to entertain the Winnipeg Jets for their annual New Year’s Eve game, but recent attendance restrictions at the Scotiabank Saddledome (and other Canadian arenas) prompted the NHL to reschedule the Dec. 31 home game. Later in the week, the league added two more games to the growing list of postponements – Jan. 11 vs. the New York Islanders and Jan. 15 vs. the Vegas Golden Knights.
However, the Jan. 13 game vs. the Ottawa Senators remains on the docket. Perhaps the league decided it would be too difficult to reschedule Ottawa’s entire western road swing that also includes stops in Seattle, Vancouver against the Canucks, Edmonton against the Oilers, and Winnipeg. That game is expected to go on as planned, even with attendance restrictions. The league is trying not to lose millions of dollars in revenue in Canadian markets – which is understandable. However, the Flames could have a whacky schedule when provincial health authorities eventually reinstate full attendance for games.
Flames Bury Blackhawks for Second Straight Win
As in their first game back after an extended shutdown, the Flames looked shaky in the first 10 minutes of their Sunday night tilt against the Blackhawks. The home team pounced on poor defensive play and took a 1-0 lead over Calgary midway through the first period before Matthew Tkachuk squared the game with a nifty deflection. Tkachuk’s 14th marker of the season was the first of five unanswered goals for the visiting squad and the turning point of the game.
The Flames followed a solid first period with a dominant second frame when they peppered Chicago with 26 shots, tying a franchise record for shots in one period dating back to Jan. 22, 1986. Calgary scored a power-play and a shorthanded goal to take a commanding 3-1 lead into the third. After an empty-netter with a couple of minutes to go made it 4-1, Gaudreau sniped a beautiful goal past Arvid Soderblom to ice the victory.
It was another standout performance from Gaudreau, who now has three goals and three assists in the Flames’ first two games back from lockdown. Meanwhile, Tkachuk is also on fire, with five points (2 goals, 3 assists), and Jacob Markstrom had his best outing between the pipes since early December. So, any fears about the team taking a while to get back on track were unfounded. Yes, Seattle and Chicago are not world-beaters, but the boys in red took care of business and won two games they were supposed to win. Their next three contests won’t be so easy.
The Week’s Winners and Losers
Three weeks ago, I called it the “weirdest week of the Flames’ 2021-22 season.” But the next two weeks were even weirder and wilder. However, with two games played in the past seven days, it finally felt… normal. So, let’s get right to it: who made the biggest impressions, positive or negative.
- Due to border crossing issues, Dan Vladar wasn’t available to back up Markstrom against the Kraken, so Stockton Heat rookie sensation Dustin Wolf suited up for his first NHL game. It was a fitting callup; not only did the 20-year-old netminder play four Western Hockey League (WHL) seasons in nearby Everett, Washington, but his family is also from the Seattle area and came out in full force to show their support. He told the media: “I’ve been sitting in my hotel room the last couple of days, just thinking over how it’s incredible that I’m here right now… Being in the backyard of where my family lives now, it’s just something pretty surreal. “
- While we’re talking about Calgary’s return to play in Seattle, the Flames’ resident “big galoot” Milan Lucic scored another big goal. With his second-period marker, Lucic has now scored on all 32 NHL franchises; and what’s better, before the game, he promised his wife Brittany that he would find the back of the net to close out the year. “Yeah, she wanted one just before the New Year here,” Lucic told Sportsnet’s Ryan Leslie. “First game in Seattle, it’s been fun so far and pretty cool that I’ve scored a goal now against all 32 teams. That one is for her, Valentina and Nikolina watching at home.”
- On Wednesday, the NHL announced the return of the taxi squad, and the Flames promptly added Byron Froese to the reserve unit. While the league deemed it necessary, Calgary head coach Darryl Sutter is not applauding the move, who called the taxi squad a ‘pain in the ass.’ Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Sutter, as usual, didn’t mince his words: “It’s like extra practice, some guys are travelling, and some guys aren’t, and then the guys that are on the taxi squad, some of them played what, three or four games the whole year? It didn’t help their careers at all. Zero.”
- Getting back to Calgary’s first visit to Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, the Kraken honoured one of their “legendary” players, Tyler Pitlick. Pitlick was selected in Seattle’s expansion draft on July 21, but just one day later, they traded him to Cowtown for a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Despite that he was a Kraken for less than 24 hours, the team gave him the video tribute he richly deserved in his return. Well done, Seattle. Well done.
- Over the past few weeks, I’ve included updates on Flames legend Jarome Iginla‘s son as he begins his WHL career with the Seattle Thunderbirds. Tig Iginla’ was the T-birds first pick in the 2021 Prospects Draft and, on Wednesday, the 15-year-old made his much-anticipated debut against the Spokane Chiefs with an assist (and two minor penalties) in a 6-3 Seattle loss. While the future looks bright for the youngster, being the son of an NHL Hall of Famer means he has some pretty big shoes – or skates – to fill.
The Week Ahead
After wrapping up a pretty quiet week of two games, the Flames face a tough test over the next seven days with three games against three very good Eastern Conference teams. On Tuesday, the boys in red are in Sunrise, Florida, to take on the Panthers, then two days later, they face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The road trip doesn’t get any easier on Friday when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes. If Calgary can win two out of three, I’d call the week a smashing success.
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Greg Tysowski is a former broadcast journalist who chose the exciting life of a stay-at-home dad for over a decade. He’s now a published author, parenting blogger and aspiring sports writer covering the Calgary Flames for The Hockey Writers. Greg is also a regular contributor to the weekly roundtable discussion “Flames Faceoff”, now streaming on YouTube and all podcast outlets.