Flames Weekly: Solid 3-2 Record After Hectic 5 Games in 7 Nights

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

Head coach Darryl Sutter has complained multiple times about how the 2021-22 NHL schedule has been turned upside down by COVID-19 protocols and arena capacity restrictions, but last week’s comments featured his strongest language used to date. Sutter described the Flames stretch of five games in seven nights as “borderline legal”, telling reporters he had never seen anything quite like it in the regular season during his 43 years in the league. However, after wrapping up a historically busy week, the boys in red not only survived…they posted a winning record.

Fatigued Flames go 1-1 in First Back-to-Back of the Week

There were sky-high expectations last Monday for the first Battle of Alberta in front of a full Scotiabank Saddledome since the 2019-20 season. While the game itself was kind of low-energy and a bit of a dud, the Flames ground out a 3-1 victory over their arch-rivals to stay atop the Pacific Division and distance themselves from the rest of the pack.

Related: Flames Succeeding Under Sutter’s Tough Love Coaching Style

Calgary did a great job keeping perennial Flames-killer Connor McDavid and his sidekick Leon Draisaitl off the scoresheet, but the hero of the game was newcomer Tyler Toffoli, who potted two goals and earned the praise of his hard-to-please head coach: “He’s a goal scorer,” said Sutter, “Look at both teams, who is the natural goal scorer? There is one guy on both teams who is a natural goal scorer. He only needs one chance.”

The Flames were right back at it the very next night to host Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. The Russian winger has been criticized for his past support of Vladimir Putin, and the crowd at the Dome gave him a rough ride at times. However, the 36-year-old sniper silenced the C of Red midway through the second period after he capitalized on a bad Flames’ giveaway, and then capped off his night with an empty netter that tied him for third with Jaromir Jagr on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list.

Related: Flames Depth Blue Line Options Ahead of the Trade Deadline

This was a game that the Flames could have won, as they enjoyed a 2-0 and a 3-2 lead, but they seemed to run low on gas the longer the game dragged on. Sutter also wasn’t crazy about the performance of his backup netminder Dan Vladar. “I didn’t like a couple of goals,” said Sutter. “When you’re playing back-to-backs and playing three in four, things like that, you need some big saves. That’s going to happen against a team that’s got a lot of ammo.” In the end, Calgary dropped the contest 5-4.

Flames Come Up Big in Tough Test vs. Lightning

After a much-needed day off, the boys in red hosted the Eastern Conference heavyweight Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. The last time these two teams met was Jan. 6 in the Sunshine State, where the Bolts outclassed the visiting Flames in a convincing 4-1 victory. This time, the home squad was rested and ready for the rematch.

The Flames penalty kill had to work overtime to kill off six minutes of Nakita Zadorov penalties while Jacob Markstrom put on a goaltending clinic in what was shaping up to be a real netminders duel. But, there was one player in particular that put on a terrific show for the boisterous crowd at the Dome. Johnny Gaudreau‘s hat trick had to be one of the most peculiar you’ll ever see.

The first two of Gaudreau’s three goals on the night were scored off the backside of Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Flames’ leading scorer admitted he got a little bit lucky on the second tally.

“The first goal he was kind of out of his net, and wasn’t on the post, so I tried to bank it off his butt there. The second one was pure luck,” Gaudreau said. “I just threw it right back in front of the net and it hit his hip or something and bounced in.” No matter how Calgary pulled it off, this was another impressive win over one of the NHL’s elite teams.

Markstrom & Vladar Solid in Weekend Back-to-Back Games

All season long, Sutter has conditioned his team to never take an opponent lightly, and that mantra paid off on Saturday when the Flames hosted a plucky Detroit Red Wings squad that never seemed to go away, regardless of how many shots they directed towards them. After two periods, the home team was absolutely dominating the Red Wings: shots were 31-5, 5-on-5 scoring chances were 27-8 and high danger chances were 8-2, and yet the score was only 1-0. Detroit pressed in the third period, but Markstrom was equal to the task, turning aside all 19 shots fired his way to secure the 3-0 win.

Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Markstrom’s latest goose egg was his ninth of the year, moving him to within one of Miikka Kiprusoff’s single-season mark, set in the 2005-06 season. It was also the Flames’ 11th team shutout of the 2021-22 campaign, which ties the franchise record set in 2003-04. Elias Lindholm‘s 30th goal of the season proved to be the game-winner. The first-period marker was also notable because it snatched the team lead in goals from Andrew Mangiapane, who is still stuck at 29.

Related: Flames’ Sutter Scolds Media Over Past Treatment of Gaudreau

After the game, the Flames hopped on a plane bound for Denver to finish up their exhausting week against the best team in the Western Conference. They performed admirably against the Colorado Avalanche in a 4-3 OT victory on March 5, but would they have any gas left in the tank playing their fifth game in seven nights? Yes, they did, but it wasn’t enough against a well-rested Avalanche team that was still grouchy about losing eight days ago.

Vladar got the start between the pipes and was much sharper than his previous effort against the Caps. The young Czech kept his team in the contest with some timely saves but Calgary simply could not solve Darcy Kuemper, who stopped all 46 shots he faced. Nathan MacKinnon scored twice, while Mikko Rantanen added an empty netter to blank the visitors 3-0. In the end, I think Sutter and his coaching staff would have gladly taken a 3-2 record at the start of this gruelling week.

The Week’s Winners and Losers

With five, count ’em five, games this past week, the Flames continued their very busy second-half schedule. As always, there was no shortage of storylines to follow, so let’s dive in and see who made the biggest impressions, positive or negative.

  • It was a very big week for Calgary’s longest-tenured player. On Tuesday, Mikael Backlund suited up for his 800th game wearing the flaming C, which is a real accomplishment in this day and age when NHL players tend to bounce around the league. On Sunday, he played in his 803rd game and tied Flames’ legend Al MacInnis for fourth place on the all-time franchise games played list. When he moves past MacInnis for solo fourth, “Backs” will be the outright leader in games played by a player the Flames drafted. That’s a pretty big deal.
  • Flames’ legend Lanny McDonald will be receiving the highest honor given by Hockey Canada this summer. Along with Guy Lafleur and Kim St-Pierre, the man with the best moustache in the game will receive the Order of Hockey in Canada. The Order is a Hockey Canada initiative to celebrate individuals for their outstanding contributions or service to the growth and development of the sport of hockey. A total of 36 men and women have now been named to the Order of Hockey in Canada since it was first introduced in 2012. Congrats Lanny!
  • Staying with the theme of awards and honors, Flames’ prospect Matt Coronato got some very good news this past week. Not only was Calgary’s 2021 first round draft pick named to the Eastern College Athletic Conference All-Rookie Team, but he is was also named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year. In 29 games played at Harvard University, Coronato has 14 goals and 12 assists for 26 points. Well done, Matt!
  • Speaking of youngsters and top prospects, Jakob Pelletier had a whale of a week, scoring his first professional hat trick. The Stockton Heat’s second-leading scorer (behind Matthew Phillips) is on pace to break the Heat’s rookie scoring record of 56 points, currently held by Mark Jankowski. Pelletier is on track for 66 points, which would obliterate the current franchise high. Will we see Stockton’s rookie sensation in a Flames uniform any time soon? Don’t hold your breath.
  • The City of Calgary looks like it’s ready to get down to business and strike a new deal with the Flames to build a new downtown arena. On Tuesday, council voted to re-form a committee to advance the project. This new crew will focus on the event center as an investment opportunity for public funds and it’s being reported there’s already been very broad discussions with the Flames on how they want to proceed. This time around, there will be a third-party “deal-finder” to shepherd any future negotiations. However, the identity of this “buffer” individual hasn’t been publicly announced.

Flames Week Ahead

After the historically busy week the Flames just experienced, having only three games on the docket in the coming seven days should feel like a breeze. On Wednesday, the boys in red welcome the New Jersey Devils to the Scotiabank Saddledome, then two nights later they’ll entertain the Buffalo Sabres. Calgary then hits the road to finish up their week in Vancouver on Saturday to take on the Canucks.

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