Flames Weekly is our series on how the Calgary Flames performed the previous week. Be sure to check in every Monday for our 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 us know how you thought the team performed this past week or to post any other ideas or questions you have about the Flames.
Heading into Saturday’s 2021-22 season opener against the Edmonton Oilers, the Flames had the dubious distinction of posting 11-straight opening night losses, which is already an NHL record and is closing in on the all-time professional sports record of 13 shared by the Cleveland Browns and Memphis Grizzlies. Well, you can now make it an even dozen season-starting losses after a 5-2 setback to the Oilers.
McDavid Hat Trick Powers Oilers Victory
With a jam-packed house at Rogers Place, the Battle of Alberta finally felt like it had that jolt of emotion it sorely lacked during the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 season. With the crowd buzzing, there was plenty of hostility between the two sides, which was great to see. Former Flame Derek Ryan opened the scoring 13 minutes into the game after knocking a bouncing puck past Jacob Markstrom. Then the visiting squad ran into serious penalty trouble after Rasmus Andersson took a double minor after a major dust-up with the Oilers Kailer Yamamoto.
On Sunday, the NHL slapped Andersson with a $5000 fine after he appeared to make a headbutting motion during the scrum. But getting back to Saturday, it was Connor McDavid (on the Oilers’ ensuing power play) who made the Flames D-man pay for that costly mistake with his first of three goals on the night. The Edmonton captain would strike again with the man advantage early in the second frame and despite outshooting and outplaying the Oilers at even-strength, the boys in red found themselves down 3-0 midway through the game.
Mangiapane Sparks Short-lived Flames Comeback
The Flames finally got on the board at the nine-minute mark of the second period after Andrew Mangiapane buried a rebound past Oiler netminder Mike Smith, giving the visitors a much-needed boost. Finally, we had ourselves a game. Calgary would close the gap to a single goal early in the third period after Matthew Tkachuk set up Elias Lindoholm’s nifty power-play marker with a sweet feed from behind Edmonton’s goal.
The wind was knocked out of the Flames’ sails just 26 seconds later when the Oilers’ Jesse Puljujarvi scored on a breakaway to make it 4-2, completely derailing Calgary’s comeback chances. McDavid would close out the night’s scoring by adding a late empty netter, giving him three career hat tricks in the Battle of Alberta. Only Flames’ legend Lanny McDonald has matched that impressive accomplishment in the provincial rivalry’s long and storied history.
Yes, I know this was yet another game where the Oiler’s captain completely dominated the Flames, but that’s nothing new. McDavid now has 11 goals and 12 assists in his last 11 games against Calgary but believe it or not, there were some major positives about the Flames’ season opener. For starters, the visiting squad peppered Smith with an impressive 47 shots on goal but could only get two pucks past the very solid Edmonton netminder.
I was expecting to see a very prickly head coach after the game, but instead, Darryl Sutter actually had some good things to say about the Flames’ effort. “I thought five-on-five, we were pretty strong,” he told the media. “We did a lot of things that we wanted to do, especially in our own zone.” I fully expect Sutter’s team will play a much more disciplined game the next time these two squads face off in late December.
The Week’s Winners and Losers
The Flames were one of the last teams in the league to get their season started, so with only one contest on the docket for the first week of the 2021-22 NHL regular season, the boys in red had a particularly quiet time. But fear not! A one-game sample size is still plenty large enough for me to decide who made the biggest impression – positive or negative.
- Despite only four players in the entire league not being vaccinated, it seems COVID-19 still isn’t done messing with NHL rosters on a regular basis. Veteran Flames’ D-man Michael Stone was the latest to fall victim to the dreaded COVID protocols, missing practices leading up to the season opener. Will pro sports ever be free from the grip of this global pandemic? Yes? No? Maybe? Here’s hoping.
- There has been a lot of excitement over the addition of two-time Stanley Cup winner Blake Coleman to the Flames’ top six, and why wouldn’t there be? The gritty winger may not have been the biggest fish in the free agent pool this past summer, but he was far and away the biggest catch here in cowtown. Too bad he had to miss the season opener because of a two-game suspension that was handed down after Coleman completely laid out Winnipeg Jets’ Jansen Harkins in the second to last game of the preseason. For the record, I still don’t think the hit was suspension-worthy. A fine? Sure, why not?
- With Coleman out of the lineup, the Flames found themselves with the rare and rather odd situation of dressing seven defencemen and 11 forwards. This meant training camp standout Oliver Kylington found his way into the opening night roster, but it that certainly didn’t translate into a whole lot of playing time for the 24-year-old Swede, who finished the night at only 3:27 minutes. I’m hoping he’ll get a real opportunity to move up on the depth chart, because I wasn’t overly impressed with the play of newcomers Nikita Zadorov or Erik Gudbranson.
- Former captain Mark Giordano routinely had the most ice-time during his long tenure in Calgary, so I was very curious to see which Flame would pick up the mantle of most-utilized skater in the season opener. Would it be Hanifin? Tanev? Nope and nope. Johnny Gaudreau was the surprise winner with a hair under 24 minutes on the ice, while Andersson led all defensemen with 22:37, even after taking two penalties.
- While not officially a roster player, the longest serving member of the Flames has to be Harvey the Hound, who has been banging his drum at the Scotiabank Saddledome since 1984. The playful pooch made headlines last month for being voted the NHL’s second worst mascot in a sketchy online poll, but he now has a shot at redemption with a nomination for the Mascot Hall of Fame. Yes, that’s really a thing. Good luck Harvey!
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The Week Ahead
After having the lightest schedule in the NHL to kick off the 2021-22 season, the Flames are set for a hectic week, starting tonight with their home opener against the Anaheim Ducks at the Scotiabank Saddledome. While many pundits aren’t giving the Ducks much of a chance this season, they did beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 in their season opener. So, I wouldn’t be chalking up the “W” just yet. After that, Calgary hits the road for a grueling five-game eastern conference road trip that stops in Detroit on Thursday to battle the Red Wings and then moves to Washington, D.C. on Saturday to take on the Capitals.
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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.