Flames Weekly: Streaky Offence, Markstrom Shutouts & More

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

After the Flames played two of their four games this past week, I was ready to recategorize this team as world-beaters. The boys in red not only outscored the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets – they completely obliterated them by a 13-1 margin. After administering consecutive beat downs, Calgary travelled to Matthew Tkachuk’s home town for a return engagement with the Blues. This time, their opposition actually showed up but the Flames’ previously red hot offence was nowhere to be found.

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After suffering a humbling loss at the hands of St. Louis, the Flames finished up their busiest week of the 2021-22 season back at the friendly confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome. In what had to be the most boring contest of the year, the home squad showcased an elite defensive shutdown game and only needed a single goal to best the visiting Canucks.

Flames’ Offence Explodes Against the Blues and Blue Jackets

Sometimes when a team loses a game that they really should have won, their next tilt comes with a burning desire for redemption. After the Jan. 22 setback in Edmonton where the Flames lost despite peppering the Oilers’ Mikko Koskinen with 47 shots, the boys in red were bound and determined to convert on their chances when they hosted the Blues last Monday. And convert they did. Calgary threw 48 shots at St. Louis, but this time the offensive floodgates burst open to the tune of seven goals.

After St. Louis struck early in the first period to open the scoring, the home team responded 50 seconds later, and then never looked back. The Flames top line exploded with a 10-point night, with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk combining for nine of them. Aside from Calgary’s top-scoring duo putting on a passing clinic, this was a night when 12 different Flames posted points, which bodes well for a team struggling to find secondary offence. Make the final a convincing 7-1 blowout.

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Two nights later in Columbus, the Flames picked up exactly where they left off against a middling Blue Jackets team. Much like their previous game against the Blues, the Flames had 12 different players register points but the headline after this historic contest was all about the shots on net. Calgary fired a franchise-record 62 shots on goal as part of another blowout win. Not only did Gaudreau continue his outstanding play with another three-point night, but his incredible coast-to-coast run to set up Elias Lindholm’s third period goal was the stuff of legend.

Three Flames that were mired in notable scoring droughts also found the back of the twine, including Mikael Backlund with his first goal in 19 games. Andrew Mangiapane snapped a nine-game skid with his career-high 19th marker of the season and Erik Gudbranson potted a late one for his first goal in 60 games. The 6-0 pasting of Columbus on Wednesday night was Jacob Markstrom‘s first goose egg in over two months, and it extended his league-lead in shutouts to six.

St. Louis Bounceback Brings Flames Back Down to Earth

Thursday night’s tilt in St. Louis was the Flames second of a back-to-back on the road and their third game in four nights. So, despite outscoring their last two opponents 13-1 while outshooting them 110-44, I had a sinking feeling they were due for a major letdown. The Blues played like a tired team when Calgary ran over them 7-1 on Monday but in the rematch, it was the Flames’ turn to come out flat.

After the game, head coach Darryl Sutter admitted fatigue played a factor in a 5-1 loss riddled with mistakes. “We had chances on the power play, didn’t score, missed the net, made individual mistakes from veteran players that cost us goals against”, he told reporters. “It’s not just about scoring goals. That’s a veteran, good hockey team. They had a one-off in Calgary, but if you look at their record they’re on pace for 110, 115 points. If you make mistakes you’re going to get put in a cell.”

Flames End Solid Week With OT Win Over Canucks

Earlier in the week, Sutter didn’t seem overly impressed with his team’s offensive output after two blowout wins. Instead, he praised the Flames’ defensive play, which once again took center stage when Calgary hosted a much-improved Vancouver Canucks squad at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night. After the first period, the visitors were held to exactly one shot on goal – the second lowest shot total this franchise has allowed since the Atlanta days.

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While the defensive battle against the Canucks could best be described as completely boring, the home team worked extremely hard to snatch that single point after neither team found the back of the net after 60 minutes. I’ll give you one guess as to who rose to the occasion to secure the second point. OK I’ll just tell you: it was Gaudreau, of course.

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The 1-0 victory was Markstrom’s seventh shutout of the season but with only 15 shots fired his way, he admitted it wasn’t the most challenging one of his career. “It’s to stay engaged in the game,” Markstrom told the media after the game. “It’s easier to keep your focus when you get some shots from the outside. But I’m never going to complain of getting not enough shots. We’re playing really good defensively. You know, I think we needed that, and I needed to step my game up, as well, from last game in St. Louis. It’s a good bounce-back.”

The Week’s Winners and Losers

With four games on the docket, the Flames had their busiest week of the season, so there was no shortage of storylines to follow. Let’s dive in and see who made the biggest impressions, positive or negative.

  • Gaudreau already has more points this season than he had all of 2020-21 when he finished with 49 in 56 games. His current 52 points in 40 contests has him on pace for his first career 100-point campaign. That would be a pretty big deal in cowtown, as the last Flame to pull off the impressive feat was Theo Fleury in 1992-93. In fact, only eight players in the history of the franchise have reached the 100-point plateau – including Kent Nilsson, Joe Mullen, Al MacInnis, Hakan Loob, Mike Bullard, Guy Chouinard and Bob MacMillan.
  • The Flames’ head coach has been pretty measured with his player criticisms this season, but that seems to be changing. Sutter called out multiple underachievers this week, including his second line center. “Well, (Backlund) has to be better. We can’t have guys playing 15-18 minutes per game with three or four goals, especially at that position.. I’m not going to beat around about it. I mean, he’s a good player and he has to produce.” After Backlund put up two goals and one helper in four games this week, I’d say it was ‘message received’.
  • The NHL may not be participating in the 2022 Beijing Olympics, but that doesn’t mean the Flaming C won’t be well represented… in a roundabout way. While there won’t be any current roster players suiting up for team Canada, there will be four former Flames set to wear the maple leaf in the men’s hockey tournament: Corbin Knight, Ben Street, Adam Cracknell and Tyler Wotherspoon. In all, 18 former Flames will participate in the winter games, set to begin Feb. 4.
  • If you’re like me, you’ve been wondering when the heck Dan Vladar is going to get another start between the pipes. Normally, a backup netminder would see some action in a busy week where the team played four times, including a back-to-back. Instead, the young Czech rode the pine all week and when Sutter was asked about his decision, the head coach was very unapologetic with his answer: “(Markstrom) hasn’t had much work, we didn’t play for a month, we get four days off in a few days. The other guy hasn’t won for a month. Pretty easy. It wasn’t even a hard decision.” Ouch. And to make matters worse, it appears the Flames bench boss has completely forgotten Vladar’s name! The “other guy”?
  • Believe it or not, there could be a very good reason to feel optimistic about the Flames’ arena negotiations with the City of Calgary. Nearly a month after city council and Flames ownership pulled the pin on the event center deal, there is hope that another deal could be reached some time in 2022. At a meeting in mid-January, city council voted to pursue a new agreement, but with a third party brought in to oversee the construction. It’s being reported that Oak View Group, founded by former Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke could be a candidate to shepherd any future deal. It’s expected the city’s committee dedicated to the new arena project will present its findings in the spring. Fingers crossed!

Flames Week Ahead

The Flames will hit the road on Tuesday for a quick back-to-back before the NHL All-Star break gives the squad a rare breather in what will be an incredibly busy second-half schedule. First up, the boys in red will be in Dallas to take on the Stars, then they’ll be right back at it on Wednesday night to play the cellar-dwellers of the Western conference; the Arizona Coyotes.

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