Flames Weekly: Toffoli Trade, Winning Streak, Giordano Returns & 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

What can I say? The Flames are on the kind of roll that we haven’t seen since the late 70s, and by pulling the trigger on one of the organization’s biggest in-season trades in decades, the team got even better this week. To cap off a pretty crazy seven days, a very familiar face returned to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night and the outpouring of love shown by fans in the C of Red proved Mark Giordano is one of the Flames’ all-time greats.

Flames Get a Whole Lot Deeper With Toffoli Trade

It’s pretty rare to see Flames general manager Brad Treliving make a big splash before the NHL trade deadline, but that all changed last Monday when he sent a first-round pick, a fifth-round pick, Tyler Pitlick, as well as prospect Emil Heineman to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for veteran winger Tyler Toffoli. The move signaled that this organization is going all in and ready to make some noise in the 2021-22 playoffs.

Tyler Toffoli Calgary Flames
Tyler Toffoli, Calgary Flames (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The speedy winger is coming off a shortened 2020-21 campaign that saw him pot 28 goals in 52 games. So the Flames are really hoping his offensive upside can make Calgary a truly dangerous, three-line scoring team. Toffoli also brings plenty of postseason swagger to his new squad. The 29-year-old has 76 playoff games under his belt, including five goals and 14 points in Montreal’s 2020-21 Cinderella Stanley Cup run. The 29-year-old also has a championship ring from 2014, when he had seven goals and 14 points while playing for coach Darryl Sutter’s Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings. His winning experience should prove invaluable to a team in desperate need of playoff confidence.

Flames on the Verge of Matching Franchise Winning Streak Record

Toffoli wasn’t the only “fresh” face in the Flames lineup when they faced the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, as backup Dan Vladar made his first start between the pipes since early January. I was seriously starting to wonder if we were going to see the young Czech’s mug on a milk carton, as Jacob Markstrom had been tapped as the starter 12 games in a row. While it was nice to see Vladar get into a game, it was even nicer to see some secondary scoring from a Flames team that has been notoriously top-heavy this season.

Related: Flames’ Toffoli & Coleman the Missing Pieces Needed for a Cup Run

The home team saw goals from Eric Gudbranson, Dillon Dube and Adam Ruzicka en route to a 6-2 thumping of the Blue Jackets, but all eyes in the building were on the newest Flame. Toffoli made his big debut playing with Sean Monahan on the third line, and the chemistry was instantaneous. That third unit created six high-danger scoring opportunities (according to Natural Stat Trick) and looked very effective all night. With the score of 5-2, Toffoli capped off the game in style with an incredible, highlight-reel goal he scored while balancing on one foot. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more successful coming-out party.

The win extended the Flames’ league-leading winning streak to seven games, but they didn’t have much time to enjoy it, as they were right back at it the very next night, hosting the Anaheim Ducks. It was just the second game into the “Tyler Toffoli era” in Calgary, but the team is already seeing his positive impact, and by team, I really mean the beleaguered third unit. In the two games with the former Montreal Canadien on the roster, the third line has suddenly come alive. Go figure. Dillon Dube and Monahan have combined for five points since their new linemate rolled into town.

It was also a night when the Flames’ big guns came to play. Calgary’s top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm combined for four goals and five assists, while Andrew Mangiapane continued his red-hot play with his team-leading 25th goal of the season. Another dominating 6-2 victory upped the team’s winning streak to eight games and set the stage for a very special homecoming on Saturday night.

Giordano Receives Warm Welcome at the Dome

COVID-19 postponements delayed the return of the Flames longtime captain by almost two months but on Saturday, fans in the C of Red got their chance to pay tribute to the undrafted blueliner who spent 15 seasons in Calgary. Giordano played 949 career games wearing the flaming C (second all-time to Jarome Iginla) and won the franchise’s only Norris Trophy. This guy gave his heart and soul to this team, and those lucky enough to attend the game showed their appreciation when the video tribute came on just before puck drop.

When the game finally got going, it seemed pretty clear that the Flames weren’t going to roll over the cellar-dwelling Seattle Kraken after trouncing the Blue Jackets and Ducks 6-2 on consecutive nights. After Tkachuk opened the scoring just three minutes into the contest, the home team found themselves all tied up after one period and in for a really tight battle. In a game where goals were hard to come by, Markstrom had another excellent game between the pipes.

Related: Flames Need To Limit Markstrom’s Starts in Second Half of Season

Starting for the 14th time in the last 15 contests, the big Swede made 22 saves, but none were bigger than the one he made four minutes into the second frame. Markstrom slid across the crease with an old school stacking of the pads to completely rob the Kraken’s Jordan Eberle after Alex Wennberg set him up on a nifty two-on-one. While the Flames outshot and out-chanced the visitors, the pesky expansion squad from the west coast simply wouldn’t go away.

Calgary finally snapped the tie midway through the third period after Lindholm pounced on a rebound off a Chris Tanev shot in the slot. It proved to be the game-winner, spoiling Giordano’s return and extending the Flames’ winning streak to nine games. That’s just one win away from the franchise record that was first set in 1978 when the team still played in Atlanta.

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.

  • Heading into the week, the Flames had the third fewest starts by backup goalies in the entire NHL with 10. Only the Winnipeg Jets (7) and Nashville Predators (8) are riding their starting netminder more than Calgary is right now. Tuesday’s win over the Blue Jackets was actually Vladar’s first start at the Scotiabank Saddledome this season. Yes, you heard that right; it was more than halfway through the 2021-22 campaign before Markstrom’s understudy finally got to experience the home crowd cheering him on. That’s crazy, and further drives home my point that the second stringer needs to play more. A lot more.
  • It seems like every week I’m congratulating another player for reaching another important milestone, and guess what? This week is no different. On Satuday night, Mikael Backlund suited up for game 792 in a Flames uniform, leapfrogging Theo Fleury for fifth on the franchise leaderboard. Only Jarome Iginla, Giordano, Robyn Regehr and Al MacInnis have played more games with the flaming C on their chest. Congrats “Backs”!
  • When Toffoli found out he was traded to Calgary, he knew he was coming into a dressing room full of former teammates and coaches – Darryl Sutter, assistant coach Kirk Muller, Chris Tanev, Markstrom, Monahan, Trevor Lewis and Brad Richardson. But the man he was most excited to see was former Los Angeles Kings teammate and best buddy Milan Lucic. The big man was the first to greet the newest Flame at the Calgary International Airport last Monday, and even offered a up his old pal a late dinner and a place to crash. Now that’s a true friend.
  • And speaking of Toffoli, I have some distressing news about his integration into the Flames’ dressing room. It’s tradition that every new addition gets a nickname and by all accounts, it usually ends in a “y”, like Chucky or Lindy or Marky – you get the picture. Well, it appears the locker room moniker for the newest player to don the flaming C is simply “Toff”. That’s it. Not Toffy or Toffifee or the Toffster. Just Toff. I could not be more disappointed.

Flames Week Ahead

The Flames have a real shot at tying the franchise record for consecutive wins when they host the Winnipeg Jets at the Scotiabank Saddledome Monday night. The Jets are having a middling season and I say they are ripe for the picking. The boys in red then hit the road for a midweek tilt against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday before returning to Dome sweet Dome on Saturday to entertain the Minnesota Wild.

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