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.
This wasn’t the best seven-day stretch for the Flames, but it showed that even without most of their top scorers producing, Calgary could hang with some pretty good teams and still scratch out a point. After losing the rubber match with the Colorado Avalanche, they also lost their former top line center for the remainder of the season. The week wrapped up with another game where the team’s usually solid defensive structure crumbled. After dropping three in a row, the boys in red need a reset… and fast.
Flames Suffer Back-to-Back Losses for the First Time Since Jan. 13
Even after scoring nine even-strength goals against the Edmonton Oilers, the Flames knew that offence would probably be a lot harder to come by when they faced off against the Colorado Avalanche at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday night. They were absolutely right. In a tight, well-played game, Calgary was first on the scoresheet after Tyler Toffoli beat Darcy Kuemper on a really nice power play marker midway through the second frame.
The Avs answered with a power-play goal just a few minutes later, setting up a winner-take-all third period. Despite outshooting the visiting squad, the hometown heroes gave up the eventual game-winner while down a man midway through the final frame. In the postgame presser, head coach Darryl Sutter was none too pleased with his penalty kill. “Sloppy… the first one tonight, the puck should go down the ice. The forwards have two cracks at it. And the second one is just a straight read by our defenceman. Just a straight read. Those are mental mistakes.” Colorado won the game 2-1.
Thursday night, the Los Angeles Kings were in town, looking to close the gap on the Pacific Division-leading Flames. The visitors did a great job of clogging up the middle and took a razor-thin 1-0 lead into the third period. Johnny Gaudreau snapped home his 31st of the season early in the final frame to knot it up, while Erik Gudbranson beat Cal Petersen with a seeing-eye shot from the point to give Calgary a 2-1 lead.
However, the Kings found a way to get the game to overtime and ultimately, a shootout. All three Flames shooters failed to score, but the Kings’ Lias Andersson managed to beat Jacob Markstrom to secure the 3-2 win.
Monahan Shut Down For Remainder of the Season
Last week saw Sean Monahan get scratched multiple games for the first time in his career. Ironically, after being reinserted back into the lineup for the week’s first two games, Monahan’s 2021-22 campaign officially ended on Saturday morning. Flames general manager Brad Treliving announced that the 27-year-old center would be shut down for season-ending hip labrum surgery on his right side. This is the same procedure that he underwent last spring on his left hip.
“(Friday) was a tough day,” Treliving said. “You find out your season is coming to an end and I think those of you that have been around, he’s battled some things. It’s unfortunate. The good news here is he has a lot of time to get this addressed. He had his other hip, his left hip, done last year and it feels great. He’s doing wonderfully with it. This is now the next challenge for him and he’s got a lot of time to get it addressed before next year.” Some very big questions remain. Has Monahan played his final game in a Flames jersey, and how does his latest injury affect his trade value? Stay tuned.
Four-Goal Effort Against St. Louis Falls Short, Extends Losing Streak
After the dust settled on Calgary’s first consecutive losses since mid-January, the Flames seemed to vent their frustrations on each other during Friday morning’s practice. During a drill, things got a little heated between Blake Coleman and Eric Gudbranson and the pair got into a feisty shoving match.
The head coach had no problem with the rough stuff and told reporters “It’s good. It’s a contact sport. Those two guys that were banging each other around? Those are two bangers, right?” Sutter said. “We need some of them guys that are pillow fighting to do a little bit of that.” Could the Flames carry this intensity into Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues? It sure looked that way early on. Calgary dominated on the shot clock and it seemed like they turned the tide on the scoreboard when Gaudreau notched his 32nd of the year midway through the first frame to put the home team up 2-1.
This was another game where the Flames’ once-solid defensive structure really let them down. Calgary ran the show with zone time, shots and chances but a couple of bad breakdowns proved costly as the Blues were very opportunistic with their scoring chances. It was also another game where Markstrom looked a bit worn down at times, which brings up the issue of how best to manage the big Swede down the stretch. While the Flames never gave up and made a game of it, in the end, they fell 6-4 to extend their losing streak to three games.
The Week’s Winners and Losers
It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago that the Flames were playing four or even five games a week. However, the boys in red only suited up three times as they entered the final month of the 2021-22 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.
- Gaudreau was named both the NHL’s second star of the week and the second star of the month. If you think this sounds all too familiar, you would be correct. This is the third time this season that the speedy winger has been named a weekly star. This time, he registered multiple points in all three of his outings, with eight assists and 10 points, including his first career five-assist game against the Edmonton Oilers on Mar. 26. If you’re tired of reading about the league recognizing Calgary’s top players – too bad. I’ll stop reporting on these NHL accolades when the Flames stop earning them.
- Staying with “Johnny Hockey”, what makes his current career year such a big deal isn’t so much the projected point total – it’s the kind of points he’s putting up. Gaudreau leads the entire NHL in even-strength (ES) points with 71. The post-lockout single-season record is 84 ES points set by Connor McDavid in the 2017-18 campaign. With 14 games left in the regular season, I think No. 13 has a real shot at breaking it.
- It’s been another week since the Flames’ head coach dropped another great quote at one of his press conferences. I’ve already written about his “greatest comedy hits” of the season, but I would have to file this one in the “painful truth” category: “You have to play Colorado as a wildcard, you get the sh*t kicked out of you. And I’m not interested in that. You want to finish as high as you can.” Well said, coach.
- Injuries are really starting to pile up for the Flames as they inch towards securing a playoff spot. First, Oliver Kylington crashed awkwardly into the boards on Tuesday, then Monahan’s latest hip injury was announced, and now Brett Richie also seems to be on the shelf after wrenching his knee on Saturday night. The only good news to come out of all of this is some added cap relief. With Monahan placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), it gave the team appropriately $6.278 million to play with and the flexibility to bring up players from the American Hockey League (AHL). That’s exactly what Treliving did by promoting Connor Mackey from the AHL’s Stockton Heat prior to Saturday’s tilt against St. Louis.
- Speaking of the Stockton Heat, I will never stop banging my drum to show support for Matthew Phillips, the best player in the Flames’ farm system. This past week, the 23-year-old firecracker became the all-time single-season scoring leader for the Heat when he notched his 58th point of the 2021-22 campaign. Phillips has nothing left to prove at the AHL level and I know I’ve said this before, but I really think he deserves a shot with the big club. With the recent injuries to Monahan and Ritchie, could this be his time?
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Flames’ Week Ahead
Calgary will kick off the next seven days with another important divisional game when they travel to southern California to meet the Los Angeles Kings on Monday. On Wednesday and Thursday, their road trip continues with back-to-back games. First up, it’s the Anaheim Ducks and then the very next night they will face the San Jose Sharks. The week wraps up in Seattle for the Flames’ second to last meeting of the season with the lowly Kraken. Maybe a road trip is just what these guys need to get their season back on track.
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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.