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.
The Flames kicked off the month of March the same way they started February: with a big win on the road. After dismantling a very good Minnesota Wild team, the boys in red let their guard down at home against a pesky Montreal Canadiens squad that is on its own mini-hot streak. However, the game on the docket that everyone had circled on the calendar was a true litmus test — a battle against the best team in the NHL. It did not disappoint.
Flames Follow Impressive Win Over Wild With Sloppy Effort vs. Canadiens
Wild head coach Dean Evason called out his team after the Flames embarrassed them 7-3 at the Saddledome on Feb. 26, but the Wild fared no better in the return engagement at the Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday night, falling 5-1 to a Calgary squad still very much on a heater.
A little over a minute into the game, Matthew Tkachuk‘s power-play marker gave the visitors the go-ahead goal. Leading 2-0 midway through the second frame, the Wild thought they had crawled back into this contest after Marcus Foligno cut the lead in half, but they thought wrong. Just 21 seconds later, the white hot Elias Lindholm blasted a one-timer past Cam Talbot and the Flames never looked back.
Fresh off outscoring Minnesota 12-4 in their home and home series, I had a feeling the Flames were due for a letdown against a surging Canadiens squad Thursday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Besides, Calgary had a chance to set the all-time record for consecutive home wins, so I think that probably cursed them from the get-go. However, despite being outplayed by Montreal, taking a boatload of penalties and committing far too many turnovers, the home team still actually found themselves up 3-1 – thanks to Andrew Mangiapane.
Late in the second frame, Mangiapane roofed a beautiful shorthanded marker to give the Flames a short-lived two-goal cushion. In fact, the “Bread Man” had himself a whale of a game, notching three points on the night and setting up the game-tying goal with just 28 second left in regulation to send the contest to overtime. The Canadiens’ Ben Chiarot spoiled the comeback after a bad giveaway by Mikael Backlund led to a 2-on-1 the other way. Game over. The 5-4 loss also ended Calgary’s bid for a record-breaking 12th straight home win.
Flames Prevail in Playoff Style Battle in Colorado
For the past couple of months, the Flames have saved their best efforts for the NHL’s better opponents, so that’s why I was so excited for Saturday’s battle of the “best in the west”. The Central Division-leading Colorado Avalanche have been almost unbeatable on home ice, so Calgary was in for a really tough test. Just 42 seconds into the measuring stick game, a flurry of shots and and mad a scramble in front of surprise starter Dan Vladar led to an early 1-0 lead for the Avs.
When Lindholm answered for the Flames less than two minutes later on the power play, I had a feeling we were in for a very entertaining evening. The back and forth tilt had a real playoff feel to it as both teams battled hard, showed resilience and showcased their best players – being their best players. Calgary’s top line combined for nine points, but none of them were sweeter than the game winner scored just 37 seconds into overtime.
As exciting as Johnny Gaudreau‘s breakaway goal was to secure the 4-3 victory, it was a great defensive play by Lindholm that really sealed the deal. The Flames’ top centerman stole the puck from Mikko Rantanen and bounced a perfect pass to a streaking Gaudreau, who then quickly found the back of the net. The wildly entertaining contest proved that Calgary can hang with the league’s best and if both squads can keep up their stellar play, this matchup could be a preview of the Western conference final.
The Week’s Winners and Losers
With three games this past week, the Flames continue 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.
- Gaudreau’s OT goal on Saturday was his 565th career point, which moved him past Gary Suter and into sole possession of fifth place on the Flames’ all-time points list. Only Jarome Iginla (1,095), Theo Fleury (830), Al MacInnis (822) and Joe Nieuwendyk (616) have more points wearing the Flaming C. That game-winning goal also tied Sean Monahan for the most overtime tallies in franchise history. Well done, “Johnny Hockey”.
- Lindholm has been simply otherworldly in the last few weeks. In fact, the super-Swede leads the league with 13 goals since Feb. 1, and scored his 100th goal in a Flames uniform in the 5-4 OT loss to Montreal. Congratulations, “Lindy.” The fist line center now has 166 career NHL goals and is forcing an oblivious hockey world to finally take notice of his excellent 2021-22 campaign. Could a nomination for the Selke be in the cards? Maybe.
- Speaking of major accomplishments, his week former Flames captain Mark Giordano reached the 1,000 NHL game plateau, and because 949 of those contests were in a Flames jersey, a whole whack of his former teammates posted their best wishes on twitter. Those names included Rasmus Andersson, Milan Lucic and Noah Hanifi, though the best of the bunch had to be from Iginla. The Flames legend appeared to record his message for Giordano from… heaven? Congrats “Gio”, from the rest of us that still walk this earth.
- Jacob Markstrom, along with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine have been named the NHL’s Three Stars for February. This was a real no-brainer, as Markstrom led all goalies with eight wins in 10 starts, going 8-1-0 with a 2.04 goals against average, a save percentage of .929 and one shutout. The Flames rode the big Swede to the Pacific Division lead on the back of a 10-1-0 month. Thumbs up, “Marky”.
- Last but not least, I have to acknowledge the one year anniversary of the hiring of Darryl Sutter as head coach of the Flames. While the veteran bench boss could only muster a middling 15-15-0 record to finish up his first season, his second has been a resounding success. Sutter has his team firing on all cylinders, leading the Pacific division and sitting second in the Western conference with a 33-14-7 record. Great job, “Jolly Rancher”.
Flames Week Ahead
We’ve been hearing about this dreaded week for quite a while and it’s finally here — five games in seven days. The Flames host the Battle of Alberta on Monday, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals Tuesday, the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, and the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, before hopping on a plane to Denver to meet the Avalanche again on Sunday. Whoa, I’m out of breath just writing that sentence out. All I can say to the boys in red is; try to get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water and good luck surviving the busiest week of the 2021-22 season.
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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.