It’s a good time to be a Flames fan. With three games played at home and three games played on the road, the Flames came out of the last two weeks of November with a slight edge over their opponents. Consistently sitting within the top ten overall in standings in the past month, the Flames are establishing their very own Cinderella story and after a very bleak last decade, a happy ever after might even be in sight.
The Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils all made pit stops at the Saddledome, looking to climb their way up a few notches in their respective conferences. Jonas Hiller was tasked with denying the Ducks and the Hawks, and against his former team, the Swiss goalie succeeded (with a little help from a couple of the kids on his team).
The Ducks came out strong to start the game, scoring two unanswered goals in the first and second periods. It wasn’t until early in the third that Jiri Hudler was able to get the home team on the board, with assists from Markus Granlund and TJ Brodie. Granlund added another helper to his personal scoresheet shortly after, feeding Dennis Wideman the puck to tie the game at two. The Flames’ veteran defenseman struck again just four minutes later, although the 3-2 lead didn’t last too long. A powerplay goal from Kyle Palmieri, from a tripping call to Josh Jooris, had the game all tied up at three at the end of regulation. A shootout was needed after the extra five-minute frame solved nothing for either team, but the shootout only lasted one round, thanks to Hiller’s solid performance (only Ryan Kesler managed to get the puck past the Flames goaltender). Although Jiri Hudler was stopped, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan were able to beat Fredrik Andersen, and with two points in tow, the Flames looked onwards to the next game against the mighty Chicago Blackhawks.
However, the Blackhawks were not so accommodating in giving the Flames a point or two. While the boys in red put up a good fight, it was one of Chicago’s flashiest stars who dampened the Flames’ night with a snappy game-winning wrister.
The Blackhawks drew first blood, and then helped themselves to another, all before the halfway point of the first. But a couple of costly penalties to the visiting team gave the Flames the opportunity to even things up, and the tying powerplay goals came courtesy of Paul Byron and Dennis Wideman.
The second period saw the teams trade a pair of goals, the first from Brent Seabrook and the second from Sean Monahan, whose goal came just a minute and thirty seconds after Seabrook’s. Unfortunately, the Flames could not beat Corey Crawford in the final twenty minutes of the game, despite outshooting the Blackhawks 7-4. It only took one shot (and subsequent goal) by Patrick Kane to seal the deal and the Flames fell to the Hawks 4-3.
Hoping to redeem themselves with at least one more win at home before heading off to warmer climates, the Flames faced the New Jersey Devils for a late Saturday night game. It didn’t look good for the home team to start, with Adam Henrique and former Flame Mike Cammalleri giving the Devils an early 2-0 lead. Although Curtis Glencross cut the lead in half in the second, a penalty to Dennis Wideman allowed Travis Zajac to bring in right back up, with only seconds to go in the period. Of course, the Flames didn’t give up (easily one of their MO’s this season). Josh Jooris got the Flames’ offense rolling early in the third. The goal was answered back by Tuomo Ruutu, and with less than three minutes left in the game it looked as if the Devils were about to hand the Flames their second loss in a row. But in typical, dramatic, comeback-kid fashion, the Flames had things all tied up before the buzzer sounded, with Curtis Glencross’s equalizing goal coming with just five seconds left in regulation. In their second shootout in three games, the Flames brought out their old (or should we say young) faithfuls against Devils’ goalie Scott Clemmensen. This time, Gaudreau was stopped and Hudler scored, and once again Sean Monahan couldn’t be denied. The Flames took the victory, 5-4.
Revenge was definitely on the Ducks’ itinerary when they hosted the Flames in Anaheim one week after their loss in Calgary. And they got it, rather cruelly, spoiling their former goalie Jonas Hiller’s return to the Heart of Orange County. The first forty minutes were dominated by the Ducks, who scored three unanswered goals courtesy of Matt Beleskey, Corey Perry and Kyle Palmieri. Down 3-0 to start the final frame, the Flames did their best to attempt another come-from-behind win, and came oh-so-close thanks to a couple of slappers from TJ Brodie and Jiri Hudler. However it was too little, two (goals) late, and the Ducks took the second of their matchups against the Flames, 3-2.
There’s no doubt the confidence is there with Hiller in net as the Flames’ official starting goalie. But to give him a break, Karri Ramo was given the start against the San Jose Sharks the following day, and again against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night. And Ramo was sure to use these two games to assure both the Flames’ management and the fans that, if anything were to sideline Hiller throughout the upcoming season, you could put your faith in him.
Conversely, the Sharks tried to put some pucks past Ramo on Wednesday night, bombarding the Finnish goaltender with 32 shots on goal. And 32 times, Ramo said no. After almost 40 minutes of play, the goal lamp was finally lit, with TJ Brodie finding Jiri Hudler for the first goal of the game. For good measure, Hudler added an empty-netter to his scoresheet, and Ramo picked up his first shutout of the season.
In sunny Arizona, the Flames continued to heat up as they faced off against the Coyotes. Once again, Karri Ramo was on a mission to prove he isn’t just any old back-up. In fact, hey may as well be a full starter. While Ramo was denying all 29 attempts at a goal by a slew of Coyotes, TJ Brodie, Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler were busy scoring goals. Defenseman Brodie, who now has six goals and 15 assists on the season, is earning his five-year keep with the Flames and earned an even bigger compliment when captain Mark Giordano called him the best player on the team this season.
With a 3-0 victory over the Coyotes, Karri Ramo’s second shutout in as many games got him the honour of being the NHL’s Third Star of the Week.
Stay tuned for Week Nine of The Flames Files and follow the Calgary Flames’ progress in the 2014-2015 season.
Graduate of Mount Royal University’s Journalism program and a freelance sports writer from Calgary, Alberta.