Flames Weekly: Markstrom, Monahan Benched, Battle of Alberta

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.

Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames Weekly

The last seven days had a little bit of everything for the Flames – they added another depth piece at the trade deadline, benched a $6 million center and produced a real mixed bag of results on the ice. Meanwhile, the head coach told reporters before Saturday’s epically entertaining installment of the Battle of Alberta that his current squad didn’t possess any qualities that reminded him of his championship teams in Los Angeles. Ouch.

Flames Acquire Ryan Carpenter at the Trade Deadline

All everyone could talk about leading into last Monday’s trade deadline was how the Flames needed to add some depth to the back end. Instead, general manager Brad Treliving opted to bolster the forward group by snapping up Ryan Carpenter from the Chicago Blackhawks, sending a 2024 fifth-round draft pick the other way.

Ryan Carpenter Chicago Blackhawks
Ryan Carpenter, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The 31-year-old, right-shot center is listed at 6-feet tall and posted 11 points in 59 games playing for Chicago this season. We know Carpenter won’t be relied on to provide a whole lot of offence, but he can offer up a responsible defensive game, win some faceoffs and bring veteran experience to the bottom six. He’s also another player who has a pretty good postseason resume, as he made it to the Stanley Cup Final with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018.

The Flames also made another minor deal last Monday, trading American Hockey League (AHL) goaltender Michael McNiven to the Ottawa Senators for future considerations. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks picked up Brad Richardson off waivers.

Markstrom Disappoints in 4-3 Loss to Sharks, Monahan Scratched vs Coyotes

With the trade deadline behind them, Calgary’s roster is finally set for the stretch drive to the playoffs. On Wednesday, the Flames hosted the San Jose Sharks, a team that had only won five games since mid-January, so I had preemptively penciled in this contest as a W for the home squad. However, for whatever reason, the Sharks have given the Flames major fits this season, beating them 4-1 and 5-3 in their first two meetings.

Related: Flames Acquire Ryan Carpenter: Everything You Need to Know

That inexplicable trend continued, as the visitors overcame a 3-1 deficit, scoring twice in 28 seconds midway through the final frame to secure the win. Jacob Markstrom had a rare off night, giving up a couple of real stinkers that ultimately tipped the game in San Jose’s favor. After the game, head coach Darryl Sutter trotted out his goaltending coach to explain what the heck happened. A befuddled Jason LaBarbera promised reporters that his number-one guy would quickly move past the debacle.

Hoping to bounce back on Friday night against the Arizona Coyotes, Sutter shook up his bottom-six by making current fourth-liner Sean Monahan a healthy scratch – a rarity for the former 30-goal scorer. Trevor Lewis played up the middle and Brett Ritchie drew back into the lineup. While it was weird to see a $6 million player watch from the press box, the boys in red didn’t have much trouble with the Western Conference bottom-feeders Friday night, knocking them off 4-2. I’ll be curious to see when Monahan makes it back into the lineup.

14 Goals Scored in Barnburner Battle of Alberta

I didn’t know exactly what to expect when the Flames and Edmonton Oilers faced off for the final chapter of this season’s Battle of Alberta, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d witness a wild west shootout. By the middle of the second frame, the score was 6-5 for Calgary, putting the two provincial rivals on pace for a jaw-dropping 22 goals.

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While the offensive bonanza did slow down after that, the atmosphere remained electric in the Scotiabank Saddledome in the first full sellout since the 2019-20 season. Johnny Gaudreau was an absolute wizard with the puck on Saturday night, notching a career-high five assists. That included a highlight-reel play where he slammed on the breaks on a partial breakaway, spun around and set up a streaking Oliver Kylington for his eighth goal of the year.

The Flames chased the Oilers’ Mikko Koskinen out of the net after he let in five goals on 12 shots, but Mike Smith wasn’t overly effective in relief, letting in another four. While the Oilers managed to keep this contest close for a couple of periods on the strength of three power-play goals, the 5-on-5 game wasn’t even close. Calgary’s 9-5 victory was reminiscent of a classic Battle of Alberta from the 1980s – in fact, these two teams combined for 15 goals twice during the 1983-84 season.

Related: Flames’ Deep Roster Matched By Few in West Playoff Picture

The head coach was asked if he thought the night reminded him of a Calgary-Edmonton tilt from the 1980s, but he didn’t see the comparison. “Nah,” said Sutter. “There would have been fights and a lot more hits, for sure.” After Gaudreau’s five points, Matthew Tkachuk was the next most prolific scorer with two goals and two helpers. In all, eight skaters posted multiple points in a contest where defensive hockey was nowhere to be found, but the entertainment value was off the charts. In the end, this was a true “Dolly Parton special” (you young people can Google that, as I’m not explaining it).

The Week’s Winners and Losers

Now that all of the rescheduling shenanigans are behind them, the Flames once again 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.

  • The Flames are without a doubt one of the best teams in the NHL right now and are heavily favored to win the Pacific Division, setting up a potential Western Conference playoff showdown with the league-leading Colorado Avalanche. Just don’t ask the head coach to pump up his team’s postseason chances. Sutter was asked before Saturday’s Battle of Alberta if his current squad had any qualities that reminded him of his championship teams in Los Angeles. His reply? “None.” That one-word answer tells me he’s still not satisfied with his team, and he won’t be until they win it all.
  • It wouldn’t be a Flames Weekly without me recognizing a couple of major milestones set during the past seven days. During Friday’s game against Arizona, Gaudreau scored his 30th goal of the season, which is impressive in its own right but it was also the 200th tally of his eight-year NHL career. He’s just the 10th Calgary player to score 200 and now trails Eric Vail (206) for ninth-most in franchise history.
  • Speaking of Flames’ 30-goal scorers, this week Tkachuk also joined that exclusive club and now the team boasts four players who have lit the lamp at least 30 times. Elias Lindholm has 34, Tkachuk has 32, Gaudreau has 30 and Andrew Mangiapane rounds out the group with 30 as well. It’s the first time since 1993-94 that Calgary has pulled off this impressive feat. The talented foursome from 28 years ago featured Gary Roberts (41G), Theo Fleury (40G), Robert Reichel (40G) and Joe Nieuwendyk (36G).
  • In 1972, the Atlanta Flames were born and on Saturday night, the organization paid homage to its roots with a set of warm-up jerseys that were pure fire. With the original flaming A as the centrepiece, these snazzy silks looked super-sharp when the boys in red took to the ice for the pregame skate. I like this look so much, I feel Calgary could actually utilize these as their official third jerseys.
  • I’ve mentioned multiple times how the Flames have been honored with an NHL player of the week or month, but now it’s time to give a shout-out to the Stockton Heat. Rookie forward Jakob Pelletier was named the AHL Player of the Week after a tremendous four games that saw the 21-year-old score five goals and two assists, including his first-career shorthanded goal and team-leading eighth game-winning goal of the season. Congrats Jakob!

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Flames’ Week Ahead

Calgary will face another measuring stick game to kick off the week when they host the Western Conference-leading Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night. On Thursday the Los Angeles Kings are in town, and they’ll be looking to make up some ground on the Pacific Division-leading Flames. The week wraps up on Saturday when the St. Louis Blues grace the Scotiabank Saddledome with their presence. It all adds up to a really tough week ahead for the boys in red.