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.
My last column after the first three games of a playoff battle was exactly two weeks ago when the Flames were down 2-1 in their first-round series against the Dallas Stars. The boys in red had a heck of a time getting the puck past the Stars’ Jake Oettinger, only scoring three goals in three games. Well, after the opening trio of games in the second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers, scoring goals has been less of an issue – especially for one particular team.
Flames Score 9 Goals in Wild Game 1 Victory After Blowing 5-1 Lead
Fans in Alberta had waited 31 long years for these two teams to finally hook up again in a Stanley Cup Playoff series, and Game 1 of this classic rivalry was one for the ages and well worth the wait. The tilt had a bit of everything – loads of goals, huge hits, and a crazy intense atmosphere in the Scotiabank Saddledome. There was only one thing missing: any semblance of good goaltending. The Oilers’ Mike Smith was yanked just six minutes after the Flames pumped three quick goals past the veteran netminder.
After Smith let in three on 10 shots, Mikko Koskinen entered the game, but the veteran backup didn’t fare much better. In the end, all three goaltenders featured in this contest had pretty terrible outings. Jacob Markstrom didn’t get a whole lot of action and still looked pretty solid early in the second period after a couple of quick goals (courtesy of Blake Coleman) made it 5-1 for the home team. Surely the Flames could steer home a four-goal lead with relative ease? Nope.
That’s precisely when the wheels fell off the Flames’ defensive game, and Markstrom somehow lost his ability to bail his team out. Four second-period goals by the Oilers closed the gap to 6-5, and Calgary’s usually dependable netminder let in a very uncharacteristic five goals on 18 shots. When the Oilers tied it 6-6 early in the third, I was wondering if head coach Darryl Sutter should insert Dan Vladar to stop the bleeding. But, to Markstrom’s credit, the big Swede shut the door after Matthew Tkachuk scored two of Calgary’s three unanswered goals to close out the 9-6 barnburner victory.
Oilers Erase Early 2-Goal Deficit to Win in Game 2
I predicted a much tighter game on Friday night, and while the two combatants didn’t pile up 15 goals, the contest was still more wide-open than expected. Once again, the Flames got off to a hot start with “part-time” players Michael Stone and Brett Richie scoring by the six-minute mark. The Oilers closed the gap by end of the first period to 2-1, and while it became pretty clear that this game wouldn’t be another wild west shootout, it would be decided by Edmonton’s top guns – especially Connor McDavid.
Shortly after Tyler Toffoli gave the Flames a 3-1 lead, the Oilers charged right back 32 seconds later with a Leon Draisaitl goal that was disallowed due to goaltender interference by McDavid. Undeterred, the NHL’s leading scorer simply took matters into his own hands and got that tally right back by completely undressing a sprawling Markstrom. The highlight-reel goal sparked the visitors to tie up the contest 3-3 before the end of the second period to set up a winner take all final frame.
By the time they dropped the puck in the third period, the tide had already turned, and momentum was in the Oilers’ favor. Two defensive gaffes by the Flames led to two breakaway goals by Edmonton just two minutes apart. Game, set, and match. In a contest that saw multiple goals disallowed, Calgary could have lost this tilt by an even wider margin, and while Markstrom played better than he did in Game 1, he still gave up a whopping five goals.
In just two games, the Oilers put 11 goals past the big Swede, which matched Markstrom’s total goals against for the entire seven-game Dallas series. It wasn’t the way the boys in red wanted to go into Game 3 at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
McDavid Dominates the Flames Again in Game 3 to Secure Series Lead
Heading into the pivotal Game 3, there was a lot of chatter about how the Flames could contain a surging McDavid. The Oilers’ captain has taken his game to another level in recent days, and that trend continued on Sunday night as he showed exactly why he’s still the frontrunner for league MVP.
McDavid and the Oilers were all over the Flames in the first period, outplaying, out-chancing, and outshooting the visitors 21-7 in the first period. Markstrom was the only reason Calgary was still hanging around in this contest, but the 6-foot-6 netminder couldn’t stop Edmonton’s top guns in a four-goal second period that included a natural hat trick by Evander Kane that only took six minutes to complete.
While Kane led the way with three goals and Draisaitl had four assists, McDavid was the straw that stirred the drink for an Oilers squad that dominated this game from start to finish. McDavid leads the Stanley Cup Playoffs with an incredible 23 points in just 10 games and is giving fans in the C of Red flashbacks to the 1980s when Wayne Gretzky ran roughshod over Calgary during their multiple playoff meetings. After the game, all the Flames could talk about was how they had to contain No. 97.
“We’ve let one guy beat us a few nights now,” Tkachuk told reporters. “They’ve got one player that plays half the game and is playing some great hockey right now… We’ve got to find a way to stop that. When we get in their zone, we’ve got to hold pucks, nothing blind, and get shots to the goalie. That’s where they can have some trouble with rebounds and lose coverage with that. Just have to have consistent O-zone shifts and not throw anything blind where they can feed their transition.”
Now down 2-1 in the series after a 4-1 loss on Sunday night, the Flames still have time to figure out how to push back and get back into this series. They did it after losing Game 3 against Dallas in the first round, but this time it feels like a much taller order.
The Week’s Winners and Losers
- While the Flames are laser-focused on trying the get back into the series, the regular season accolades just keep pouring in. On Tuesday, the team announced that Elias Lindholm was one of the three finalists for the Selke Trophy, alongside Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. This nomination was a long time coming for the dependable two-way center.
- The Flames could be without the services of Milan Lucic for Game 4 after the big man was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for charging midway through the final period. The collision caused a major dustup after Lucic ran Oilers goalie Mike Smith in the third period while the score was 4-0 for Edmonton. While Smith left the ice briefly, he did return to finish the game, but the big question remains: will there be supplemental discipline? We should find out his fate on Monday.
- Meanwhile, Calgary’s bench boss was also honored with a nod for the Jack Adams Award, but Sutter had no interest in talking about his chances and instead campaigned for the other nominees – Gerard Gallant of the New York Rangers and Andrew Brunette of the Florida Panthers. “The way I look at it, I don’t need that on my resume,” Sutter said. “Some guys do. So, I’d rather see young guys win it, or guys that maybe got a raw deal somewhere, a guy like Gerard. He got a raw deal in Florida. He got a raw deal in Vegas. If I had a vote, I know who I’d vote for.”
- On the lighter side of the Flames-Oilers series, it appears that a new folk hero and fan favorite has emerged in the C of Red – from a very unlikely source. Ottawa Senators captain Brady Tkachuk has become a Calgary superfan during the playoffs and has been engaging with the Flames’ faithful at the Scotiabank Saddledome (all while double-fisting king cans of sudsy brew). When asked about his newfound celebrity status in cowtown, Matthew’s brother simply said, “I guess the fans have been liking the energy I’m bringing.” That would be an understatement.
Flames Week Ahead
The Flames are set for another busy week, as they get right back at it on Tuesday night in Edmonton for Game 4. The series shifts back to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday night for Game 5 and, if necessary, the Battle of Alberta will once again head north on Saturday for Game 6 at Rogers Place. I don’t think anyone thought this second-round tilt would be an easy out for either squad, so I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the boys in red will get back on track, and we will see a Game 7 in cowtown on Monday, May 30.
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.