Flames Weekly: Markstrom Magnificent, Mangiapane Magic & More

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.

Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames Weekly

The recent stretch of games has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the Flames, featuring blowout wins, overtime losses and magnificent goaltending. This past week kicked off with two games where Jacob Markstrom stole the show, salvaging a point in Philadelphia and then posting his league-leading fifth shutout against the Buffalo Sabres. The week ended with back-to-back wins on Long Island and Boston, an excellent way to wrap up a season-long seven-game road trip that saw Calgary go 4-1-2.

Markstrom Steals a Point in Philly, Offence Explodes in Buffalo

When the Flames faced off against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, they were stuck in an offensive rut. If you take away the game against a COVID-19 depleted Ottawa Senators squad that was on the verge of being shut down, Calgary had only potted four goals in their last three contests. That trend continued in the City of Brotherly Love, as the smooth-skating Oliver Kylington provided the lone goal from the visiting squad on a shot from the point that took a fortunate bounce on the way in. After that, it was all up to Markstrom to try and save the day.

While clinging to a 1-0 advantage in the second period, Markstrom came up huge after Rasmus Andersson hauled down the Flyers Scott Laughton, giving the home team a rare penalty shot. The big Swede waited out Laughton, forced him left and then stacked the pads to stop the shot and preserve the lead. The Flames’ number one netminder had already made several ten bell saves earlier in the game and finished the contest with 41 stops on 43 shots to squeak out another loser point.

Related: Flames’ Markstrom Chasing Single Season Shutout Record

Markstrom started in Buffalo two nights later, but the big Swede didn’t have to be nearly as sharp in a game the Flames completely dominated right out of the gate. Calgary’s leading point producer Johnny Gaudreau set the tone with a spectacular breakaway goal set up by Matthew Tkachuk’s long stretch pass. After taking a 1-0 into the first intermission, the boys in red exploded with four second-period markers, led by the NHL’s top road warrior, Andrew Mangiapane.

By the end of the night, he potted his 11th and 12th markers of the season, which gave the 25-year-old breakout star the NHL lead in road goals with 11. In Flames’ franchise history, only one player has needed fewer games to score 10-plus on the road, and he was just inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame earlier in the week – more on that later.

Mangiapane also finished the game tied for second in overall NHL goals, which didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates. Talking to the media after the game, Tkachuk complemented the rise of the “Bread Man,” and the incredible season he’s put together so far. “He played really well tonight. Still a very humble kid and just kind of scratching the surface of what he can be. He’s starting to show the rest of the hockey world that he’s one of the best in the NHL.”

Related: Flames’ Mangiapane Making the Most of Limited 5-on-5 Minutes

And speaking of Tkachuk, the chemistry he and Gaudreau have formed playing on the first line was on full display in Buffalo. They both had very impressive three-point nights en route to a 5-0 drubbing of the Sabres. Oh, and I almost forgot – with Markstrom’s posting his league-leading fifth shutout of the season, the big Swede became just the fourth netminder in the modern era to lay five goose eggs in only 13 starts. Also, pretty darned impressive.

Mangiapane’s 2 Goals Spoil Opening of Islanders’ New Barn

If you’re getting tired of me talking about Mangiapane so much in my Flames Weekly columns, well… I have bad news for you. The speedy winger put up two more goals Saturday night in a 5-2 win at the big reveal of the UBS Center in Elmont, New York. When No. 88 notched his 14th marker of the campaign late in the second period, it set a new franchise record for the fastest 13 road goals in a season. When asked about the accomplishment after the game, the ever-humble (and red hot) sniper simply thanked his teammates. “I’m playing with good players and they’re finding me the puck right now, and I just happen to put them home.”

The Toronto native now has four game-winning goals on the year, which places him second in the NHL behind the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl. Once again, a two-goal night from Mangiapane overshadowed another marvelous performance by Markstrom, who stopped 34 of 36 shots to repel a surging Islanders squad that pressed hard in the third period to try and even the contest. By the third frame, the Flames definitely looked like a team playing their sixth road game in 10 nights, but the fatigued group held on and potted a couple of empty netters to secure the victory and spoil the Isles’ housewarming party.

Vladar Records Second Shutout of the Season Over Former Team

I bet the Flames couldn’t wait for this long roadie to finally be over, but you’d never know it by how they skated in the first period of their Sunday night tilt in Boston. Gaudreau continued his strong road trip with a nifty goal off a juicy rebound from Juuso Välimäki’s point shot to take a 1-0 lead after the first frame. Wait, what! Did I just say Välimäki? Yup, the young Finnish D-man found himself back in the land of the living after an 11 game absence from the starting lineup. The 23-year-old played a pretty solid game and even spent some time on the penalty kill. Is he finally out of head coach Darryl Sutter’s doghouse?

Meanwhile, Calgary’s backup netminder faced off for the first time against the team that drafted him in 2015 and played another stellar game between the pipes. How stellar? Daniel Vladar stopped all 27 shots fired his way and posted his second consecutive shutout, giving Calgary seven goose eggs in their first 19 games of the season – a feat that hadn’t happened in the NHL since 1929, when the league first implemented the forward pass (I’m not kidding). Granted, the team in front of him did a great job limiting the Bruins’ scoring chances, but recording back-to-back shutouts wasn’t something Vladar expected to happen after a weeklong layoff.

“It’s kind of hard when you don’t play for a week and jump right into it on a back-to-back… I really wanted to show off tonight and I’m pleased it worked out and we grabbed the W. But if you were to tell me yesterday I’d get a shutout, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

Dan Vladar, speaking to Sportsnet’s Ryan Leslie after the game

Vladar also got a lot of run support on Sunday night – four goals in all, including Mangiapane’s 15th of the year. With his shorthanded marker early in the third period, No. 88 made more history. He tied Gary Roberts for the third-most goals in the first 19 games of a season in franchise history. Only Lanny McDonald and Jarome Iginla had more goals, with 16 each. Maybe I should change the name of this column to “Mangiapane Weekly,” as the 25-year-old keeps making headlines every time he laces them up.

The Week’s Winners and Losers

It was yet another busy week where the Flames played four times in seven days, so there’s no shortage of storylines as the team finally completed their epic eastern road trip. There is a lot to unpack, so let’s get to it and decide who made the biggest impressions – positive or negative.

  • Flames’ legend Jarome Iginla had to wait over a year for the pomp and ceremony of the the Hockey Hall of Fame induction festivities, but the head of the 2020 class finally got his day in the sun last Monday. The former Calgary captain potted 625 goals and 1300 points in 1,554 career NHL games, and during a heartfelt acceptance speech, Iginla reflected on how his love affair with the game began. “My dad immigrated to Canada from Nigeria and my mom came from Oregon,” he explained. “But I once I started with St. Albert Minor Hockey, I was hooked and I wanted to be a hockey player and dreamed of being in the NHL.” Congratulations Iggy!
  • In Thursday’s win over the Sabres, Gaudreau’s second period assist was actually quite noteworthy. No. 13 continues to climb the Flames’ all-time assists chart, and now holds down sixth spot all by himself. With 337 career helpers, only Al MacInnis (609), Iginla (570), Theoren Fleury (466), Gary Suter (436) and Mark Giordano (366) have recorded more assists in cowtown. Congratulations Johnny Hockey!
  • Last week I wrote about how the Flames have the best goaltending tandem in the NHL, and with Markstrom pitching another shutout this past week, the dynamic duo broke a long-standing record. Calgary is the first team in modern NHL history (since 1943) to record six shutouts through their first 17 games. The last team to pull this off was the 1938-39 Boston Bruins. Whoa, that’s 83 years ago! Congratulations Markstrom and Vladar!
  • On Thursday night, a major administrative hurdle was finally cleared for the new home of the Flames. The arena project had its development permit approved by the Calgary Planning Commission by a unanimous 8-0 vote after five hours of questions and debate. However, nobody should pop the champagne just yet because before the actual building permit is issued and shovels are in the ground, there’s a 21-day period in which appeals can be made. Regardless, we’re one step closer to construction beginning, so… congratulations City of Calgary and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation? (OK, I get it. I’ll ease up on all of the congrats now.)
  • All right, enough with all of the good news in cowtown. I’ve got some troubling numbers that should wipe the smiles off the faces of fans in the C of Red. While it’s been wonderful to see the Scotiabank Saddledome full of Flames faithful for the first time since the 2019-20 season, the building hasn’t exactly been… full. The opening month of the 2021-22 campaign has seen 18,800 fewer fans march through the doors of the dome. That’s an average of 3,133 through the first six games of the season. This is despite the boys in red sitting at the top of the Western conference and recording only three regulation losses in 19 games. 

The Week Ahead

After suiting up for seven grueling road games in 11 nights, the Flames get a much-needed lighter schedule for the coming week with only two contests on the docket. Calgary returns to “dome sweet dome” on Tuesday to host the Chicago Blackhawks, then has to wait until Saturday night to entertain the Winnipeg Jets. I really hope the coaching staff gives the boys in red a day off (or two) this week because I’m pretty sure they’ve earned it.

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