Flames Weekly: Blown Home Opener, Masterful Markstrom & Vladar Debut

Flames Weekly looks at how the Calgary Flames performed in the previous week. Be sure to check in every Monday for our 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 us know how you thought the team performed or to post any ideas or questions you have about the Flames.

Calgary FLAMES WEEKLY Johnny Gaudreau Matthew Tkachuk

In week one of the regular season, the Flames had the lightest schedule in the league. Last week, they hit the ice three times and secured points in all three contests. You’d think that would be impressive. However, despite picking up five of a possible six points, the last seven days served up a mixed bag of standout performances and inconsistent play.

Flames Can’t Hang On in Home Opener vs the Ducks

After dropping their regular-season opener to the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 16, the Flames were hoping their “Dome Sweet Dome” would provide the energy, emotion and inspiration needed to get the 2021-22 campaign back on track. After a slow start, Calgary got into a groove and dominated the Anaheim Ducks on the shot clock. However, it didn’t translate into goals until Johnny Gaudreau set up newcomer Blake Coleman for a beautiful breakaway goal – his first as a Flame.

The Ducks tied up the game late in the first frame after the weirdest penalty I’ve ever seen (more on that later), and despite doubling the visitors in shots, the game was square. After Elias Lindholm notched his second goal of the season early in the second period, it felt like the Flames had the game in the bag, if they could just get that third goal past a very sharp John Gibson. They kept piling on the shots but had few high-quality scoring chances, and as the game dragged on, it felt like the boys in red were simply trying to hang on. 

Related: 4 Takeaways From Flames’ Overtime Loss to Ducks

Sloppy defensive play midway through the final frame ultimately led to the Ducks tying the game at two, and after a very cautious final few minutes, this game headed to overtime. The Flames didn’t generate anything in extra time and got caught on an odd-man rush, giving Jamie Drysdale the tap-in winner. It was the second game in a row that Calgary badly outshot their opponent but simply couldn’t capitalize.

Markstrom Steals the Show in First Win of the Season

After leaving a point on the table in their home opener, the Flames kicked off a five-game Eastern Conference road trip in the Motor City and met a Detroit Red Wings team that started the season with a pep in their step with two convincing wins in their first three games. This time, the Flames flipped the script. Despite being out outshot and outplayed, the visiting squad was opportunistic and relied on stellar goaltending by Jacob Markstrom to get the win.

Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Lindholm continued his strong start by potting his third goal of the season through a sea of legs to make it 1-0 midway through the first, while Andrew Mangiapane scored his second of the year just a few minutes later, scrambling to secure a loose puck after a juicy rebound. Those two goals were all the Flames needed on a night that Markstrom earned his keep, stopping all 33 shots fired his way. In the second frame, the Red Wings pressed hard, outshooting the Flames 14-4 while generating a ton of high-quality scoring chances. Markstrom would have none of it.

The third period was more even, but the Flames held on by defending their lead and taking few chances with the puck. Matthew Tkachuk scored an empty-netter with a couple of minutes left in the game to secure the victory and record his first goal of the season. With the team’s first win of the 2021-22 campaign under their belt, the 1-1-1 Flames took their roadshow to Washington to take on a much stronger opponent in the Capitals. 

Lindholm Hat Trick Secures Victory in Washington after Blown Lead

I expected head coach Darryl Sutter to ride the hot hand and start Markstrom after his solid shutout performance in Detroit. But it was rookie netminder Daniel Vladar who got the nod in a rare 1:00 pm start. It was Vladar’s first career regular-season appearance with the Flames, and he looked good in a first period that was completely dominated by the boys in red.

Related: Flames Taking a Chance on Unproven Vladar as Markstrom’s Backup

Mangiapane opened the scoring on the power play midway through the first frame. He chipped a rebound past Vitek Vanecek after Noah Hanifin unloaded a wrister from the point. Just a minute and a half later, Lindholm kept up his torrid goal-scoring pace by potting his fourth of the year from the high slot. As pretty as that shot was, it was nothing compared to the outstanding shorthanded effort on his second goal of the afternoon.

Up 3-0 after 20 min against a quality opponent is exceptional, but I had a sneaking feeling we were about to see another mid-game letdown. The Flames have not been sharp in the second stanza, even dating back to last season. Just three minutes in, a sloppy giveaway by Gaudreau on the power play led to the Capitals’ first goal, and the momentum shifted Washington’s way for the rest of the period. When Alex Ovechkin knotted the score at three apiece with two minutes left, fans of the C of Red likely groaned, thinking, “here we go again.”

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While the Flames spent the second period on their heels, they pushed back in the third and forced overtime. Vladar helped his cause by making a breakout pass to Gaudreau, who then fed Lindholm for the game-winner, completing the hat trick and salvaging a contest Calgary almost let slip through their fingers. While Vladar wasn’t spectacular in his first win as a Flame, he turned aside 22 of 25 shots and made the saves needed to secure the two points.

Related: Flames’ Goaltending Stable for First Time in Decades

Snagging five of a possible six points last week was great, but it wasn’t a dominating performance. Calgary blew a late lead in the home opener, was bailed out by a hot goaltender in Detroit and showed resilience to scratch out a 4-3 OT win in Washington after being up 3-0. That being said, they’ll gladly take it and move on.

The Week’s Winners and Losers

The Flames were one of the last teams to get their season started last week, but after three games in seven days, we’ve got a lot more to unpack. It’s time to decide who made the biggest impression – positive or negative.

  • Milan Lucic only has one point after four games, but he has already dropped the gloves twice this season after recording only four fighting majors in 2020-21. His first tilt energized the home crowd on Monday, but it was his second bout that snapped the team out of a listless start in the Motor City. Talking to the media after the game, the Flames goaltender and the game’s first star gave the hulking forward serious props for stepping up. After Looch’s fight, I thought we really woke up, so good job by him,” said Markstrom.
  • Sean Monahan battled injury through most of 2020-21, so I was curious to see how he’d fare this season with a 100% healthy hip. So far, not good. After four games, the former top-line center is pointless and playing on the fourth line with Lucic and Trevor Lewis. Many hockey pundits had him reunited with “Johnny Hockey,” but with the Lindholm, Tkachuk and Gaudreau firing on all cylinders as the team’s top line, that reunion will have to wait. Can the former sniper regain his form this season? Not if he keeps playing with grinders.
  • Tkachuk is famous for his incredible hand-eye coordination and is known for working on tipping shots on net long after everyone has left the ice after practice. He took that ability to a new level during the first period of the Flames’ home opener after jumping out of his seat and swatting down a puck destined to go over the glass. It was an awesome display of stick work, but you know who wasn’t impressed? The refs. Instead of giving him kudos for his acrobatic feat, he got two minutes in the box.
  • Gaudreau reached a milestone this week, scoring his 500th career point on Lindholm’s OT-winning goal on Saturday afternoon. It only took “Johnny Hockey” 524 NHL games to reach 500, but here’s another interesting tidbit for you: the shifty winger needed 115 games to hit his first 100, and it took him exactly 115 games to register his most recent 100. Does this mean anything? I don’t know, but I offer my congratulations to No. 13 on an impressive accomplishment.
  • Last week, the Flames’ special teams were ordinary and not very special at all. Their power play went 1-for-7 and gave up a shorthanded goal, so you might say it ended the week at par. The same can be said of the penalty kill, which gave up a single goal in seven shorthanded situations before Lindholm’s shorty on Saturday afternoon cancelled out the one goal against. Let’s call it all a draw and move on.
  • Last week I wanted Calgary to sit struggling blueliner Nikita Zadorov and play the much-improved Oliver Kylington instead. The coaching staff must be big fans of Flames Weekly because they took my advice and benched the big Russian for the last two games while promoting the young Swede. I must be a roster savant. If any coaches are reading this week’s installment, I’d appreciate payment for services rendered. I’m kidding! (or am I?)

The Week Ahead

The Flames are set for another busy week. They play the final three games of their five-game road trip before flying home to the ‘Dome on the weekend for just their second home game of the season. On Monday, the boys in red are in The Big Apple to battle the New York Rangers and will then hop across the Hudson River to take on the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. They face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday to wrap up their eastern swing before hosting the Philadelphia Flyers at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night. None of these Metropolitan Division clubs are pushovers, so the Flames will have an uphill climb to keep their three-game point streak alive.

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