Flames Weekly offers a look 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.
It was an eventful week for the boys in red, as they officially entered the final quarter of the 2021-22 season. The Flames welcomed a new addition to to the forward ranks that adds yet another member to the “Swedish mafia,” they managed to squeeze out a point against the Buffalo Sabres without scoring a single goal, and they wrapped it all up with some sweet revenge on the west coast.
Flames’ Balanced Attack Doubles up Devils 6-3
News of a trade between the Flames and the Seattle Kraken broke a couple hours before Wednesday’s home game against the New Jersey Devils. But first, let’s recap another convincing home win before we dive into the details of the deal. The game was a rather sloppy affair that head coach Darryl Sutter wasn’t particularly happy with after all was said and done. “We outscored our mistakes tonight,” Sutter said.
However, how could you not be pleased to see six different skaters find the back of the net, including a player who was desperately looking for his first point of the season? Brett Ritchie was the only forward in the entire NHL who had played at least 25 games, but had yet to register a single point. Well guess what? Not anymore! The sheer joy and utter relief seen on Ritchie’s face after potting the Flames’ first goal of the game was palpable, so it was great to see the hard-working winger finally find the twine.
Other notable goals on the night included Andrew Mangiapane‘s 30th of the season, and Milan Lucic’s 10th, which was his first marker since Jan. 22. While the offensive explosion over the Devils was nice to see just one game after getting blanked 3-0 by the Colorado Avalanche, the Flames’ loosey-goosey style wasn’t exactly textbook “Sutter-style” hockey.
Kraken Trade Jarnkrok to Flames for Draft Picks
I had a feeling Flames general manager (GM) Brad Treliving still had a trick or two up his sleeve after bringing in Tyler Toffoli last month. On Wednesday afternoon, the Calgary GM pulled the trigger on his second significant trade, securing the services of veteran forward Calle Jarnkrok.
The Kraken traded the 30-year-old Swede to the Flames in exchange for the Florida Panthers’ 2022 second-round pick, a 2023 third-round pick and a 2024 seventh-round pick. Seattle will also be retaining 50 percent of his salary in the deal. In Jarnkrok, Calgary gets a versatile player that can slot anywhere in the Flames’ middle six. He can play center, the wing and can also contribute on special teams.
Here’s the added bonus. Much like Toffoli had his good buddy Lucic pick him up at the airport when he arrived in Cowtown, Jarnkrok is coming to Calgary with a couple of very friendly faces already in the locker room — his cousin Elias Lindholm and one of his best friends in Jacob Markstrom. The three Swedes are all from the same hometown and have been close since their childhood days. This can only be a good thing as the Flames’ newest addition adjusts to a new team and settles in for the stretch drive.
Markstrom Both Hero and Goat in OT Loss, Sutter Juggles Lines in Vancouver
Jarnkrok made his debut playing before the C of Red Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres starting on the third line, slotting in at center between Toffoli and Mangiapane. The newcomer looked out of sorts in the first period but found his rhythm in the second period, where it looked like he was about to score his first goal as a Flame. That’s when Buffalo netminder Dustin Tokarski made a mind-blowing stop to deny what looked like a sure thing.
Speaking of great goaltending, Markstrom had himself a whale of a game, stopping 33 of 34 Sabres shots in a contest where a stingy Buffalo squad (fresh off a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers) outplayed the Flames. The 6-foot-6 Swede made several great stops in regulation to secure the single point for Calgary, but it was his major gaffe in overtime that spoiled what could have been his franchise-tying 10th shutout of the season.
With less than two minutes left in extra time, Markstrom left his net to play a dump-in, but completely whiffed on the puck, giving Buffalo’s Tage Thompson a wide open net to secure the Sabre’s victory, leaving the big guy holding the bag. It was a tough way to end the game for the Flames’ best player of the night but after the contest, Sutter was actually happy to get the single point. “That’s a good point for us,” he said. “We didn’t score. Got a point.”
After not being shutout for their first 58 contests of the season, the Flames were blanked in two of their last three games leading into Saturday night’s tilt against the Vancouver Canucks. So, Sutter decided to shake things up by breaking up his top unit, swapping out Matthew Tkachuk and slotting in Toffoli. The bold move dropped Tkachuk to the second line with Mikael Backlund and Dillon Dube and by golly, the tactic actually worked.
Tkachuk finished the night with a goal and two helpers, while Toffoli set up Elias Lindholm with a nifty pass from his knees for the Flames’ fourth goal of the night. After the game, Sutter seemed pleased with his new-look forward lines. “Haven’t had much scoring lately at five-on-five from our goal scorers. Not a lot of good chances,” Sutter explained. “Mikael and Matthew and Dillon have played together before. Trying to get Tyler going again and Lindy going again. I think sometimes you’ve just got to freshen it up a little bit. It gets a little stale.”
The Week’s Winners and Losers
Unlike last week’s incredibly busy week where they played five games, the Flames only suited up three times in what was a much more traditional schedule. Regardless, there was no shortage of storylines to follow, so let’s dive in and see who made the biggest impressions, positive or negative.
- I’m honestly getting a little tired of reporting this repetitive stuff, but the Flames had yet another NHL star of the week. Last Monday, Markstrom got the nod (again) as the league’s second star. The big Swede had one shutout, stopped 76 of 78 shots fired his way, went 3-0-0 and posted a 0.67 goals-against average. How about you call me when Calgary doesn’t get a star of the week? That will really be news.
- On Wednesday, Backlund marked a pretty significant milestone when he played in his 804th game and became the Flames all-time leader in games played by a player drafted by the organization. The 33-year-old native of Vasteras, Sweden was selected 24th overall in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The game also moved him into fourth place in all-time games played in franchise history, trailing only Jarome Iginla (1,219), Mark Giordano (949) and Robyn Regehr (826). Well done, ‘Backs’!
- The Flames’ head coach can be a bit surly at his post-game press conferences, but after Calgary’s 1-0 loss to Buffalo on Friday night, Sutter seemed downright annoyed with the team’s medical staff for taking 33 minutes to stitch up defenceman Erik Gudbranson after he got cut in the first period. The rancher from Viking, Alberta told reporters after the game that his extensive experience dealing with injured farm animals would have sped up the process immensely. “I could have done it in five minutes, sewed horses and cows up in 10 minutes.” I actually believe him.
- The Flames made a few roster moves this week after the trade to bring in Jarnkrok, starting with sending centerman Adam Ruzicka back to the Stockton Heat to make more room under the salary cap. On Sunday, Calgary placed forward Brad Richardson on waivers and if he clears, the team will to assign him to the American Hockey League (AHL) ahead of Monday’s trade deadline. The move will definitely increase the Flames’ ability to add another piece for the stretch run. In 27 games played in 2021-22, Richardson has two goals and four points.
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- While the Flames have been enjoying one of their best seasons in recent years, their American Hockey League affiliate Stockton Heat have been even better in their 2021-22 campaign. Stockton has been leading the Pacific division from the get-go, and the ‘other’ boys in red have already punched their ticket for the Calder Cup playoffs. In a dominating performance on Saturday night, the Heat downed the Colorado Eagles 10-3 to become the first team in the league to clinch a postseason berth.
Flames Week Ahead
The Flames start next week with a couple of very winnable games. Calgary welcomes the sliding San Jose Sharks to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday, while Friday’s matchup at the Dome features the slightly improved Arizona Coyotes. The homestand continues the very next night with the latest installment of the Battle of Alberta. The boys in red are well ahead of all three of these opponents in the Western conference standings, so just between you and me; I’m looking for a sweep.
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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.