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Flames at Predators recap: Go team go

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The Flames played their best game so far, and when they had to go past regulation for the first time of this young season, they stood up to the task.

That's a very serious-looking bench for a team that just took the lead.
That's a very serious-looking bench for a team that just took the lead.
Frederick Breedon

Looking to rebound from a disastrous effort against the Blues, the Flames had two days off to recuperate, lick their wounds, and attempt to recover from the flu going through the team before facing off in their first meeting against the Nashville Predators. The time off must have helped, because Calgary came out with a much better effort, looking far more like the cohesive, hard working team we expected of them this season.

First period

Well, this is already significantly better! The Flames opened up in Nashville far better than they did in St. Louis. Some good, clean back and forth action from both teams kicked off the game, and while the Predators did have a good scoring chance early on - in part due to Ladislav Smid's inability to tie up his man - Karri Ramo was strong.

The Flames started to get some scoring chances as well, but the smooth back-and-forth action finally came to an end when Matt Stajan cross checked Calle Jarnkrok in the Flames' end. Despite a quick chance by the Predators, the Flames had no problem killing the penalty, dumping it down the ice with ease - and even controlling the puck a bit in the offensive zone, courtesy of Lance Bouma, Smid, and Mikael Backlund, who got a shot on net.

With the penalty killed - it essentially ended on an icing call, and Mark Giordano got one last shorthanded attempt off - the Flames immediately went back on the attack. However, it was the Preds who would draw first blood, when Derek Roy slid the puck to a wide open Filip Forsberg, who rifled it five hole through Ramo.

The Flames had no problem quickly striking back, though. Just over a minute later, TJ Brodie carried the puck from his own zone, danced through/around four different Predators, and when simply trying to throw it on net, the puck bounced off of Anton Volchenkov's stick, and in.

TJ Brodie is so good and don't you ever forget it.

The Flames had another golden scoring chance right after when a Joe Colborne shot bounced right into the slot, with nobody around; however, Johnny Gaudreau, the first Flame to get there, fell. He reached out with his stick, but was unable to get a real shot off, and the great back and forth action resumed, with the Flames really pressing.

Things once again came to a halt, this time courtesy of Curtis Glencross being called for interference. The Predators opened with a much better effort, including what damn well should have been James Neal's first goal as a Predator, but Ramo came across to somehow deny him. That was the most dangerous Nashville was throughout the powerplay, as the Flames went 2 for 2 on the kill.

The period closed out with a bunch of chances for both teams, including Brandon Bollig nearly beating Volchenkov outside and driving to the net and some great work by the Glencross - Backlund - Paul Byron line, while the Predators made Ramo stay sharp.

Second period

The second opened with the same excellent back-and-forth action that was featured in the first. Neal, determined to get his first point as a Predator, had a quick redirect on the Flames' net that Ramo, once again, was somehow just able to stop. The Flames countered with... Bollig? Bollig. He came off the boards to get a quick shot on net, but Pekka Rinne had no problems stoning him.

Both Gaudreau and Dennis Wideman were hit on the ice - Gaudreau was a bit slow to get up, but returned to the bench. Wideman, however, took a tumble and was cut by Paul Gaustad's skate, leaving a trail of blood on the ice. He returned - he didn't even realize he'd been cut at first.

Back and forth action resumed, until the Flames got the chance for their first powerplay when Colin Wilson took an interference call against Giordano in the Flames' zone. Calgary wasted no time, and with a bit of smooth passing between Brodie and Jiri Hudler, the puck - originally meant for Devin Setoguchi - went through him and straight to Giordano, who blasted it to put the Flames up 2-1.

At one point Stajan ignored the refs screaming "OFFSIDE!" and continued pursuing the puck in the Predators' zone. This didn't really have any impact on the game, I just wanted to mention it because it was weird.

The Flames had a great burst of offensive pressure when the 2013 fourth overall pick, Seth Jones, gave the puck away to the 2013 sixth overall pick, Sean Monahan. Monahan - flanked by Setoguchi and Hudler (22 - 23 - 24 line!), and with assistance from Wideman, kicked off a flurry of chances that nearly resulted in a Seto goal, had it not been for Roy's smart stick juuuuuust preventing the puck from completely crossing the line. It was insanely close, though.

Battling with Mason Raymond in the Preds' corner, Ryan Ellis high-sticked him. This powerplay didn't go as smoothly as the first, though, when Giordano gave the puck away, nearly putting Gaustad on a breakaway. Gio and Brodie were immediately racing back, but fortunately for the captain, he was able to retrieve the puck and resume offensive play, including another great shot that just missed the net.

The Preds, however, were able to kill the penalty, and soon tie up the game. With the Flames continuing to press - including a great stretch pass attempt from Setoguchi to Hudler - the Preds returned, and caught the fourth line and bottom D-pairing. Mike Ribeiro was left alone in front of the net, and the puck, bouncing off of Wilson and to him, ended up in the back of the net, tying the game at 2.

The period closed out with the Flames mostly just hanging in the Preds' zone, dishing off one timers, courtesy mostly of Deryk Engelland. The Preds got down the ice via an excellent Gabriel Bourque chance, and the period ended with one last Glencross shot.

Third period

The period kicked off with both Bouma and Gaudstad racing for the puck in the Preds' corner, and Bouma got the worst of the hit. Bollig was ready to jump in and start a scrum, but cooler heads immediately prevailed, as it was pretty clearly an accident. Bouma stayed down for a bit, but was able to get up and skate off and down the tunnel on his own. He did not return.

Neal, STILL determined to get a goal, was nearly sprung on a breakaway, were it not for Brodie's stick slowing the puck up and forcing Neal offside.

Then Craig Smith put the Flames on their third powerplay of the game when he high sticked Colborne, which is something you really have to try to do. Because he's tall. The Preds' penalty kill was much better this time around, and limited the Flames' chances (Wideman got a pretty good shot off towards the end, though). With Smith out of the box the Predators came racing down the ice, and Ramo reacted with an outstanding stop.

Then, somehow, Monahan was unable to knock the puck past an unaware Rinne. The puck bounced around his crease for a bit, but to no avail; it was then the Preds' turn, as Smith dished the puck off to Forsberg on what was a sure goal, until Ramo submitted a candidate for save of the year to completley deny them. And then Backlund sprung Byron on a breakaway, but Byron shot it wide.

Raise your hand if you expected a Flames/Predators game to be this exciting. Put your hand back down, you liar.

The game switched to 4 on 4 action, as Engelland was called for interference, and Forsberg picked up a diving call on the same play. The Predators probably had the better chances with the bigger ice, but the Flames didn't give in, and with the penalties expired, Ramo kicked off the Flames' next scoring chance, which was a great Monahan shot and an even greater Rinne save.

The game played out as it did: back and forth chances for both teams, and generally entertaining, aggressive hockey. The Flames iced the puck at the end of the period with the game still tied, and Backlund won the faceoff against Gaustad, and we were treated to our first bonus hockey of the season.

Overtime

Overtime kicked off with the Flames sending out Monahan, Hudler, Brodie, and Giordano, and all four of them started getting chances immediately. Backlund and Byron were then sent out to patrol the offensive zone, but the Predators were soon able to generate chances and, once again. Ramo was stellar in turning everything away.

Hudler combined with Raymond to generate a scoring chance; the Predators ended up with a 2 on 1 that Kris Russell broke up before a shot attempt could happen.

Backlund dazzled in the dying seconds to set the puck up in the offensive zone, and Russell had a perfect shot available to him, but was unable to get a handle on it. Backlund brought the puck back in the zone, but a good OT period came to an end without a goal.

Shootout

The Preds kicked off the shootout with some fancy moves by Roy, and Ramo stayed with him to stone him.

The Flames then sent out last year's shootout hero, Colborne, and in his 100th game, he used his great frame and reach to put the Flames up 1-0, dekeing out Rinne.

Neal was out for Nashville's second attempt, and Ramo had no problems whatsoever stopping him, par for the night's course.

Hudler had the chance to close it out for the Flames, but Rinne stayed with him and stopped his attempt with the toe of his pad.

The Preds sent out our old friend Olli Jokinen to try to salvage a chance at victory, but Ramo stayed right with him to win it for the Flames, 3-2.

Flame of the game

This is a hard one. Almost all of the Flames had really, really good games. That said, he was the best Flame in his first start, and after stoning everyone in the shootout, gets to repeat that honour: Karri Ramo. The Flames ultimately had the better game and created more work for the other Finnish goalie, but Ramo dazzled with a number of saves he had no business making. Remember our last Finnish starter? Because yeah - Ramo has absolutely earned the starting position early into this season.

Stray observations

  • This is a lineup I can totally get behind. All the lines seemed to work well together, every player was sharp, and it was just plain entertaining to watch. Even some of our usual "get off my team!!" suspects like Setoguchi, Wideman, and Bollig were noticeably better (Seto in particular). If this keeps up, then even if they lose more than they win, the Flames will still be pretty fun to watch.
  • After the last game, we noticed Backlund worked much better with Byron on his wing than Bouma. It was great to see that combination stick, and Glencross was an excellent complimentary element. And Bouma looked much more at home on the fourth line.
  • Raymond, Colborne, and Gaudreau were the ONLY negative possession players on the Flames (seriously - the only ones!). The trio received favourable zone starts last game, but spent most of this game getting buried. That said, Raymond is continuing to prove himself an excellent pickup.
  • Bollig looked like a real hockey player tonight. Thank goodness - with Bouma possibly out, he'll need to keep it up. He was still trending towards having the least amount of ice time, but he created some chances with it, and finally did some good work in place of the helpless floundering he exhibited in St. Louis.
  • Brodie will be a restricted free agent after this season. Brodie is going to get a giant raise. The uneducated will say, "Who the hell is TJ Brodie?" and you can just shake your head sadly that they've never had the chance to watch an absolute treat of a young defenceman. He played 27:05, and had a 59% CF rating while only starting 21% of his shifts in the offensive zone. He also finally made it to the top powerplay unit! He's one of the biggest hopes the Flames have to make it out of the basement sooner rather than later.
  • The only D-man to top Brodie was, of course, his partner. Giordano played 28:09, and also managed a 59% CF rating with a 20% offensive zone start ratio. Brodie and Giordano were buried, and did the most with their ice time. They're an elite defence pairing.
  • Russell was the only other Flame to get more than 20 minutes of ice time. Engelland was just under, though I'm not sure why; he was the worst of the group. Smid, for his part, looked better in a limited role: he only played 13:05 (Wideman was just over 18 minutes).

Wishes for next game

Unrealistic: I don't think this should be too unrealistic, but for whatever reason, it's just not happening... Dress Rafa Diaz. Scratch Engelland. Engelland was one of the few Flames who didn't look particularly great tonight, and Diaz is better than him anyway. Come on.

Realistic: Apparently this isn't as realistic as I thought, but I'm going to ask for it again. Gaudreau received the least amount of time out of all non-fourth line forwards. He only had 37 seconds of powerplay time, while other forwards got upwards of two minutes over three powerplays. What's the plan with him, exactly? He's getting Baertschi'd. Then again, the AHL has, well, more guys like Trevor Gillies than the NHL does. Still. Come on. You're easing him into the NHL, fine, but put him on the powerplay.

Hopefully  the Flames will be able to keep up this sort of effort against-- who are they playing next? Oh god. Welp, tomorrow at 6 p.m. MT the Flames are in Chicago to take on the Blackhawks. They'll, uh, definitely need this sort of effort again.