Game six of a six game roadtrip saw the Calgary Flames taking on the Winnipeg Jets. Just one more game for the Flames to take part in before they get to lie in their own beds again, and while it had a rocky start, the ending was excellent.
The Jets were clearly the more rested team of the two, and it showed when they got out to a dominating start. Taking advantage of a tired Flames team, they began by quickly outshooting the Flames. Also, Andrew Ladd decided to be a dick and board Mark Giordano for no apparent reason on an offside call, but nothing really came of it. It was a dick move though.
Calgary's first foray in the offensive zone didn't go particularly well, with Joe Colborne taking an ill-advised hooking penalty. He has Lance Bouma to thank for bailing him out, since Bouma blocked four shots on that penalty kill alone. Colborne got the Flames' first shot on net about eight minutes into the game when he stepped out of the box.
That bad start was about to get worse. Already being outshot 7-1, the Flames' fourth line and bottom pairing got caught chasing after Jets behind the net, leaving Mark Scheifele wide open. Bouma was unable to get to him in time, as Blake Wheeler dished it over and Scheifele snapped it home for the Jets' first home ice goal of the season, putting Winnipeg up 1-0.
The Flames managed to double their shot total (to two!) before nearly getting burned again. Rafa Diaz passed the puck... to Jim Slater, right in front of the Flames' net. Jonas Hiller quickly snatched that gift away, literally - Slater's shot was snagged out of mid-air by the Flames' heroic goalie.
Things wouldn't get easier for him. Or for his Swiss teammate, for that matter: he went off for hooking, and the Jets went back on the powerplay. Fortunately, it was killed (with no additional damage to Bouma, even), and the Flames even managed to get some offensive pressure towards the period's end. They were still outshot 13-6, though.
It was more of the same to start the second, although the Flames started getting into the offensive zone much earlier on, kicking off with a Jiri Hudler breakaway. The Jets responded with a couple of chances Hiller nearly flubbed on, but fortunately, he was able to keep it a 1-0 game.
And then the Flames broke out.
First, it was Dennis Wideman, left alone in the slot after some great puck work by Kris Russell, absolutely rifling the puck past Ondrej Pavelec to tie the game at 1. Then, the Jets took a too many men penalty. The powerplay started off well, again in part thanks to Russell, before the Jets started getting shorthanded chances.
That didn't matter, though. They were denied, and the Flames got back into the offensive zone as the powerplay was nearing its end. Johnny Gaudreau ended up behind the net, and he did what he does: a quick wrap around to give him his first of the season, putting the Flames up 2-1.
Neither Wideman nor Gaudreau were done yet. Not even three minutes after Gaudreau's goal, Wideman took a huge hit from Anthony Peluso to pass the puck up to Gaudreau. Gaudreau quickly dished it to Mason Raymond, and the Flames' leading goal scorer added to his tally by rifling it past Pavelec, giving the Flames a 3-1 lead.
Things calmed down a bit after that, and the Jets, now suddenly down, really put the pressure on as the period wound down. Hiller was excellent to preserve the two goal lead, and most likely thankful for finally getting some help from his team, with the Flames outshooting the Jets 24-23.
After a great first, things really just were not working out for the Jets. A couple minutes into the frame, all of Raymond, Mikael Backlund, and TJ Brodie were advancing on the net. With the Jets and Flames alike fumbling it after a Backlund shot, Brodie was the first to really get ahold of it and snipe it home, putting the Flames up 4-1.
Give that man his contract extension. That's a six game point streak.
Wheeler boarded Russell, sending him down to the ice and initiating an angry scrum. Already 1 for 1 on the powerplay, the Flames started well, until Wideman couldn't keep the puck in, giving the Jets a 2 on 1. It didn't really work out, though, with Andrew Ladd completely fanning on the shot.
Even though the penalty was killed, Wheeler was proving himself to not be having a smart game. At all. He launched himself into Curtis Glencross, who deftly avoided the hit, and was called for charging; meanwhile, Mark Stuart and Colborne traded roughing minors. The end result was a Flames powerplay, during which the Jets actually had the best scoring chance. Bryan Little was nearly on a 2 on 1 with Ladd, but a subtle interference effort by Brodie - so subtle it wasn't called - halted that, and Hiller had no trouble dealing with the shot Little was forced to take.
With the penalty killed, the Jets' lone goal scorer, Scheifele, came in with a great shot attempt, but Hiller again had no problems stopping the puck, and the rebound was quickly cleared. Hiller held strong to close out the game, foiling the Jets on all their final attempts. The Jets may have outshot the Flames 35-29, but the Flames won 4-1.
Flame of the game
There are a lot of worthy candidates for this one. Johnny Gaudreau, Mason Raymond... but I'm going to go with TJ Brodie. He's in line for a contract extension, and it's going to be a big one, and he's really earned it. Brodie led all parties in ice time with 27:11, and had the second worst zone starts out of everybody at 15%. His CF was just 30%, but considering the final score, and the heavy, hard minutes he had, he did pretty well. Oh yeah and the goal. The goal was good.
- An early candidate for Flame of the game was Bouma. The Flames had a dismal first, but Bouma stood out with five shot blocks. He's hard working and super gritty and the perfect fourth liner. Gotta love him.
- And then there's Gaudreau, because of course there's Gaudreau. He responded well from being a healthy scratch last game, admitting it helped him, and it sure looked like it did. His first of the season was a beauty from behind the net, just like he did throughout college, and immediately following it up with an assist wasn't bad. Gaudreau was finally one of the Flames' top forwards on the powerplay, too, playing 2:51 - tied for third out of all the forwards.
- Wideman gets ragged on a lot, and rightfully so, but credit where credit is due. He was key on two of the Flames' goals, by benefit of having an excellent shot, and taking a huge hit to make the play that directly led to a Flames insurance goal. He broke relatively even, too: 50% zone start, 51% CF.
- Russell is someone else who deserves a bit more good press. He got an assist, and was the Flames' CF leader at 62% - with a 42% offensive zone start. He played just a little less than Giordano and Wideman, but the top four had a good game.
- Then there was Diaz, who had a pretty terrible first period, and didn't see much ice time after that. He played the least out of all Flames with just 8:50, and has definitely seen better nights.
- Devin Setoguchi's return to Winnipeg: just 10 minutes, somehow less than Brandon Bollig. Both were held off the scoreboard, but Seto got buried zone start-wise and was able to mostly overcome it while Bollig was sheltered and had the worst corsi on the team. Um.
- Praise be to Hiller. He kept the Flames in the game through a dismal first, and ensured the win when the Jets were pressing to get back. Definitely the better goalie of the night, and an excellent off-season pickup.
- Speaking of excellent off-season pickups: Raymond. Three points. He shares the team's scoring lead... with Brodie. Who saw that coming?
Next game wishes
Unrealistic: I mean, I dunno what to even ask for here. Maybe Gaudreau can score his *third* first ever NHL goal? Sportsnet was screwing up all night and were repeatedly completely unaware Gaudreau scored last season. Just embarrassing. Also they thought Reto Berra was still the Flames' backup goalie for whatever reason. I guess that's my unrealistic next game wish: for Sportsnet to not suck. We're in year one of 12, people!
Realistic: If Josh Jooris can come back, would love to see him swapped with Bollig. Kinda feel that's how it would've been tonight if he hadn't suffered a surprise injury in his NHL debut.
The road trip is DONE! And somehow, the Flames came out of it with a 4-2 record. They haven't played great the whole time, and got a lot of help from their goaltending along the way, but man, that's impressive, and has to feel good. The Flames finally return to Calgary for their second home game of the season: Tuesday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. MT against the Tampa Bay Lightning to kick off a five game homestand. Hopefully it'll be good!