Flames Weekly offers a look at how the Calgary Flames performed in the previous week. It has been my pleasure to write about the boys in red during the 2021-22 season, give my take on the week that was and report which storylines and players took center stage.
This column will be back for the start of Calgary’s 2022-23 regular season, but until then, feel free to use the comment section below to let me know how you thought the team performed or post your questions.
This past week featured two critical games in the Battle of Alberta, and both went wrong for Calgary, frustrating a fanbase who will surely be asking themselves “what if?” for years to come. I’m not kidding around – just ask any diehard Flames fan about Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, and they’ll tell you it’s like a bad deja vu. A tough loss in Game 4 in Edmonton on Tuesday set up a do-or-die situation on Thursday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, and the final result was a really hard pill to swallow.
Flames Comeback Comes up Short in Pivotal Game 4 Setback
Technically, Tuesday’s Game 4 of Calgary’s second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers wasn’t a must-win game, but it sure felt like one. Going down 3-1 would be a tough hole to dig out of, and the Flames didn’t do themselves any favours by giving up a goal just 21 seconds into the contest on a terrible giveaway by goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
The Oilers followed that up with two more goals in the first frame, from Zach Hyman and Evander Kane, to make it look like they would cruise to an easy victory in front of a boisterous crowd at a packed Rogers Centre. Then, a funny thing happened midway through the second period; the Flames decided to make it interesting with two goals in just 36 seconds. First, Elias Lindholm scored on the power play to get the visitors on the board, then Mikael Backlund went hard to the net to pot his fourth of the playoffs, setting up a wild final frame.
Still down 3-2 halfway through the third period, the Flames got an absolute gift from the hockey gods after Rasmus Andersson scored a crazy one from a whopping 132 feet. The shorthanded snipe shocked everyone in the building and knotted the contest at 3-3 with nine minutes to go in regulation.
At this point, I was fairly certain the Flames had all of the momentum and would complete the comeback, but the Oilers showed some true grit by moving past the spectacular miscue and taking the lead with less than four minutes left on the clock. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his second of the game to take the lead, while Kane iced it with an empty-netter. The 5-3 win gave Edmonton a commanding 3-1 series lead and set up an all-or-nothing Game 5 in Calgary on Thursday.
Wildly Entertaining Game 5 Loss Ends the Flames’ Season in Controversy
Heading into the elimination game, the Flames seemed surprisingly upbeat and confident they could extent the series and get it back to Edmonton for Game 6. After Andrew Mangiapane scored his third of the playoffs to give the home squad a 1-0 lead after the first period, Backlund continued his strong postseason performance with a beautiful tip-in to extend the lead early in the second frame.
That goal kicked off a bananas second period that saw six goals scored in under eight-and-a-half minutes. In fact, the two teams set an NHL playoff record for the fastest four goals scored, finding the twine four times in an incredible 1:11. The see-saw battle featured three straight goals from the Oilers before Johnny Gaudreau tied it up at 3-3, and Calle Jarnkrok finally notched his first marker as Flame just 16 seconds later to restore the one-goal advantage.
Related: The Failed Calle Jarnkrok Experiment
That lead lasted all of 40 seconds, as the Oilers’ Evan Bouchard tied up the back-and-forth contest at four a side with four minutes left in the second period, setting up a memorable final 20 minutes that will forever be etched in Flames fans’ minds – but for all of the wrong reasons. Late in the third period, Backlund charged the net, trying to beat Mike Smith, but as his shot trickled past the Edmonton netminder, Blake Coleman crashed the crease, hoping to direct the fluttering puck into the cage with his skate. The play sure looked like it gave the Flames a crucial 5-4 lead, but looks can be deceiving.
After review, the goal was called back, citing a “distinct kicking motion.” While everyone has his or her own opinion on the controversial no-goal, it seemed like there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the call on the ice. I didn’t see anything deliberate in Coleman’s actions, and the ruling added fuel to the claim that the NHL “has it out” for the Flames, who had a potential Stanley Cup-winning goal by Martin Gélinas overlooked by the league in Game 6 of the 2004 Final.
When Conner McDavid scored five minutes into overtime, it closed the book on the Flames’ 2021-22 season. Coleman’s disallowed goal wasn’t the main reason Calgary lost the series, but it would have been great to see the Battle of Alberta extended to at least one more game. It was a memorable tilt that ultimately saw the Oilers’ best players outperform the Flames’ best players, leaving some very big questions to be answered in the offseason.
Gaudreau and Tkachuk’s Season-Ending Press Conferences Offer Flames’ Fans Hope They’ll Re-sign
Saturday was the Flames’ locker clean-out day, a time for the players to reflect on the season and look ahead to next year. At the media availability, all eyes were on two players who may or may not suit up for Calgary in 2022-23: Matthew Tkachuk and Gaudreau. The Flames’ leading scorer in both the regular season and the playoffs told reporters that he would love to remain with the team.
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“That would be pretty special, to win a Cup here. Calgary is a special place for me, and I do really, really love it,” Gaudreau said. “Obviously, Calgary has a special place in my heart. I’ve been a part of this organization for 11 years now. Everything about this city I love. Obviously, we’ll see what happens.”
Meanwhile, Tkachuk also weighed in on the possibility of re-signing a long-term deal with the Flames: “Absolutely. I’d love to. I love it here. I love the people here. I would be very open to that.” I don’t know if one or both of these cornerstone players will be back, but I do know it will be a very interesting offseason in Cowtown.
The Week’s Winners and Losers
- When you have a section called “Winners and Losers”, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Flames were indeed the biggest losers of the week. However, after the stunning Game 5 loss, the head coach famous for being stingy with his compliments gave his team some well-deserved kudos for never giving up during the hard-fought second round series. “Get your chin up and your chest out and walk out proud,” Darryl Sutter said. “They did a hell of a lot more than anyone said they’d do, quite honest.” Sutter has one more year on his contract, and I’m curious to see if the organization gives the 63-year-old bench boss an extension.
- While the Flames’ season is officially over, the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate is still going strong in the Calder Cup playoffs. The Stockton Heat beat the Colorado Eagles 1-0 on Sunday night to win the best-of-five series 3-1 and now play the Chicago Wolves in a seven-game series in the AHL Western Conference Final. It was also announced that the Heat will be relocating to the Calgary area for the start of the 2022-23 season. The AHL Board of Governors approved the relocation from Stockton, California, but there is no word yet which arena the Heat will play in.
- Speaking of arenas, I finally have an update on the City of Calgary’s plan to revive the event center deal with the Flames. The committee tasked with building a modern arena to replace the aging Scotiabank Saddledome finally announced this week who they had hired to act as a third party to help push the deal forward. The three-man team consists of John Fisher, executive vice-president at CBRE, Guy Huntingford, director of strategic initiatives with NAIOP Calgary and Phil Swift, executive chairman at Ayrshire Group. Here’s hoping they can hammer out a new agreement and get the ball rolling again.
- When the Flames’ Chris Tanev was injured in the late stages of the Dallas series, it sure looked like the team’s best shutdown defenceman was done for the season. However, Tanev gutted it out and returned to the lineup for Games 4 and 5, and it’s been revealed that he was playing through incredible pain and is scheduled for surgery this week. The warrior suffered both a torn labrum and a dislocated shoulder, but that didn’t stop him from coming back to try and will his team into the third round. If you ask me, that’s the kind of dedication that could earn Tanev the captaincy for the 2022-23 season.
Flames Week Ahead
This is the section of Flames Weekly where I usually preview the team’s upcoming games. But, alas, they won’t be seeing any action until the next NHL season kicks off in October 2023. The Flames could have been suiting up for Game 7 of the Battle of Alberta Monday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, but the boys in red couldn’t even force a Game 6 that was scheduled for Saturday. So, instead of looking ahead to more postseason contests, fans in the C of Red will now be laser-focused on a critical offseason as general manager Brad Treliving tries to find a way to re-sign his top two scorers and keep the core group together for another run at the Stanley Cup next year.