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.
Even with a playoff spot already officially locked up, the Flames still had plenty to play for in a very busy week that started in Chicago on Monday and wrapped up at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night. There were personal scoring milestones to hit and a division title to be secured – and the boys in red did not disappoint in either regard.
Third Line Shines in Chicago, Flames Scratch out a Comeback Point in Nashville
Because last Monday’s game versus the Chicago Blackhawks was the only contest against a team not in the hunt for a playoff spot, I had penciled in this one as an easy win for the Flames. The Blackhawks had lost nine of 10 heading into this one, and after Dillon Dube scored just 22 seconds in, I had a feeling Calgary would be able to close it out.
The third line of Calle Jarnkrok, Blake Coleman and Dube looked sharp all night and generated two goals in the first period. After the visitors took a 3-1 lead into the second frame, Chicago closed the gap midway through the period to make a game of it but Jacob Markstrom completely shut the door in the third period to secure the win. Both Johnny Gaudreau and Oliver Kylington added empty netters to give the boys in red a 5-2 victory.
The very next night, the Flames were in Music City for a potential first-round playoff preview. The Nashville Predators are in a real dogfight with the Dallas Stars for the two wild-card spots in the Western Conference. The home team played like a team fighting for a postseason position and after a scoreless first period, the Preds’ big guns put the visitors down 2-0 before Andrew Mangiapane answered with a power-play marker late in the second frame.
The scoring play had an extra-special meaning for Matthew Tkachuk, as the top-line winger posted his 99th point of the season, moving him past his father’s career-best of 98 points. Keith Tkachuk was in the crowd to witness the milestone, but he would have to wait for another game for his son to reach the 100-point club. Meanwhile, Mangiapane knotted the game at two a piece early in the third frame to get the playoff-style contest to overtime but ultimately, the visitors fell 3-2 after losing the shootout.
Tkachuk Joins the 100-Point Club in Big Win Over Dallas
While Tkachuk failed to reach the century mark in front of his dad in Nashville, he was really hoping to seal the deal on Thursday night back at the friendly confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome. Like the Predators, the Dallas Stars are also fighting to nail down a wildcard spot and they played a tight-checking game that left the game knotted at one a piece after the first frame. However, midway through the second period, the Flames broke through on a power play with a milestone goal that brought the house down.
Tkachuk’s tally at the 10-minute mark was not only the 100th of the season, it was also his 40th goal, making him the first Flame to hit those lofty heights since Jarome Iginla did it in 2010-11. It’s also the first time the franchise had two 100-point scorers since Al MacInnis (104) and Theo Fleury (103) in 1990-91. Getting back to the game, you could really tell both of the teams involved had played three times in four nights, as the contest got sloppier as it went on. In the end, a three-goal third frame was enough for the Flames to secure the 4-2 victory and finally clinch the Pacific Division crown.
Lindholm Joins the 40-Goal Club as the Flames Bury Canucks’ Playoff Hopes
Unlike the Stars and Predators, the Vancouver Canucks are currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the Western Conference playoff picture. The visitors from the west coast played a desperate brand of hockey when they took to the ice at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night, but they fell behind early in the second period when Elias Lindholm opened the scoring with yes – yet another milestone goal.
After being completely snakebitten in recent games, the 27-year-old Swede finally found the twine for his 40th tally of the season, and the relief on his face was palpable. Lindholm joins Tkachuk in the club and it’s the first time the Flames have had multiple 40-goal scorers since Gary Roberts (41), Fleury (40) and Robert Reichel (40) in 1993-94. But wait, there’s more! When Johnny Gaudreau sealed the victory over the Canucks with his 39th of the campaign, Calgary now has the opportunity to get three guys to 40 goals.
After the game, head coach Darryl Sutter didn’t have much to say about all of the personal scoring achievements being reached in recent days, but he did compliment Dube for his two-goal performance against the Canucks, and for taking his game to the next level in recent games. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence and not just lately”, Sutter told reporters. “If you look at (his game) since the all-star break… he gives us a good, solid player who can play both sides. He’s played good for us.”
The Week’s Winners and Losers
- A lot of the focus was on Tkachuk and Lindholm hitting major scoring milestones this week, but I must also inform you about a whole bunch of pretty impressive feats from the Flames’ leading scorer. When Gaudreau scored two goals against the Blackhawks last Monday, he reached 85 even-strength points on the season. The last player to record more was Jaromir Jagr when he had 95 during the 1995-96 campaign. He also finished the week by scoring his 111th point of the campaign, which put him in second place for the most points in a single season in franchise history. Only Kent Nilsson (131) had more in 1980-81.
- Milan Lucic only has a single goal in his last 43 games, but he’s making big contributions in other facets of the game – like crashing Erik Gudbranson‘s Hockey Night in Canada After Hours interview wearing only a black cowboy hat and not much else. Earlier in the day, Lucic showed up at the Dome wearing all-black, donning a leather sports coat, a bolo tie and that sharp-looking cowboy hat. However, it was the shirtless postgame cameo that got tongues wagging on social media. Nobody said “Looch” was boring.
- Speaking of Gudbranson, the third pairing defenceman received a special honor this week when he was named the recipient of the Peter Maher Award, presented annually to the Flames player who best demonstrates the legendary Hall-of-Fame broadcaster’s qualities of sincerity, integrity, dedication, and respect. “Good-branson” met with the media on Thursday to talk about the award. “This means a lot. It’s very kind of you to award me with this”, he added. “I’ve enjoyed my time with you guys. You guys have been awesome to me all year long. I try to give you guys good content. I understand the business you’re in. It’s a tough business.”
- When Calgary clinched the Pacific Division after their 4-2 victory on Thursday night, it was the Flames eighth division title in franchise history and just their third in the last 27 years. Not to be outdone, the organization’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate also joined the party on Saturday night when the Stockton Heat clinched the top seed in the AHL Pacific division. As Pacific champs, the Heat will have a bye to the second round of the 2022 Calder Cup playoffs.
Flames’ Week Ahead
The Flames are down to their final week of the 2021-22 regular season, and the boys in red will wrap things up with a three-game road trip. On Tuesday, Calgary will be in Nashville to take on the Predators for their second meeting in two weeks. Then, they’re off to the twin cities to battle the Minnesota Wild on Thursday before finishing up in Winnipeg on Friday to face the Jets. There’s nothing really to play for, other than tuning up for the playoffs, which are set to start on May 2.