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Don't Be Saad: Chicago 4, Flames 3

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The Flames couldn't extend the streak out to four, dropping a thriller to the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-3.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

I didn’t have a Flames feed, so had to listen to the Blackhawks announcers all night. Chicago has gone 3-4 on the road thus far this season, and hope the Flames are the cure to what ails them as they start this six-game, 10-night exodus. Bob Hartley and Company should have some input on that subject. Michael Ferland gets the start, and his second NHL game comes after eight games of recovering from a concussion. Quick disclaimer: I write these recaps as the game is playing, so forgive me if it seems a little "stream of consciousness."

First Period

Jonathan Toews threw a dangerous shot right at Jonas Hiller just 15 seconds into the game, and I instantly think that maybe Chicago is just as fast, maybe even faster than the Flames. TJ Brodie held Brandon Saad’s stick at the two minute mark, giving Chicago a power play pretty much right away. It was especially daunting, considering Brodie is one of the Flames best penalty killers. The Flames cleared the puck out five times in the first 1:16 of the kill, but Chicago got set up nicely, and Adam Clendening wired his first career goal home just four minutes into his first career game. An assist was awarded to Marian Hossa on the play.

Three minutes later, Daniel Carcillo beat Hiller stickside with a 10-foot snap-shot, assist to Marcus Krueger. At this point, the Flames had still not gotten a shot on goal, which wouldn't happen until a Ladislav Smid wrist shot from just inside the blueline with 7:40 gone. Sean Monahan added a shot off the rebound. The Flames followed that with a series of good chances over the next few minutes, but Corey Crawford was standing tall for the Hawks.

At the 11:51 mark, Krueger was called for interfering with Hiller. Chicago cleared it right off the faceoff, and cleared it thrice more over the first minute and a half of the man advantage before Brodie one-timed a Johnny Gaudreau drop pass at Crawford, but the Hawks goalie gloved it for his fourth save of the game. Not to worry too much, though, with just seconds left, Paul Byron dinked home a Josh Jooris rebound for his fifth goal of the season. Niklas Hjalmarsson was assessed a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct immediately following. Mark Giordano was awarded an assist on the play.

The Flames second power play started out looking a lot better than the first one did. Brodie banked one off Crawford's mask. Raphael Diaz put one on the netminder, followed by a Gaudreau pass to Dennis Wideman, who lit the lamp for his team-leading eighth marker of the season. Granlund earned the other assist on the play. For those counting, the Flames are now two-for-two on the power play against a team that had only allowed four power play goals all season coming into this contest.

The Blackhawks really started harrying Hiller after, trying to score right away and steal the Flames momentum. With about a minute and a half remaining, Jooris broke into Chicago's zone by himself during a Calgary line change, and successfully retained puck possession even though he was outnumbered in that zone four-to-one. A minute later, Monahan fed Curtis Glencross for a great looking two-on-one which was broken up by a diving Chicago defenceman. Toews was called for hooking Glencross on the play, and Hjalmarsson went to the bench after getting the puck bounced off his face with 25 seconds left in the period.

Stray Thoughts

  • Man, these guys are pretty good. How they've lost eight times in 18 games is beyond me. I'm not looking at any advanced stats right now, but Chicago seems to be holding the puck a lot more than the Flames through the first part of the period.
  • Does Calgary absolutely have to wait until the third period to wake up in every game? (Answer: no - they scored twice soon after I wrote this sentence).
  • I think Sean Monahan could handle the puck in a phone booth, and Johnny Gaudreau is simply awesome.
  • Chicago leads in the shots-on-goal category after one with a slight 12-to-11 advantage. Incredibly, 20 players combined for the 23 first period shots. Brodie had three to lead both teams, and Joakim Nordstrom had two for Chicago.
  • Chicago also holds the edge in faceoff wins, with 13 to eight for the Flames. Toews leads with six wins in eight tries, while Monahan has been uncharacteristically bad, going three-for-nine.
  • Calgary is outhitting the Blackhawks seven-to-two, with Glencross leading the way with a pair.
  • Chicago has six blocked shots to five for the Flames. Ben Smith has two for the Hawks, and nine other players are tied with one.

Second Period

The period opened with 1:34 left on the power play from the previous frame, and quickly got set up for a pair of shots on a nervous looking Crawford. The Hawks cleared it out after the ensuing faceoff, and after getting set up again, the Blackhawks prevented the Flames from getting another shot on net.Calgary got a pretty nifty looking four-on-two break a minute later, but Markus Granlund missed the net from about eight feet away.

Ferland got a point blank chance at the four minute mark, but was foiled by Crawford. Daniel Carcillo took a shot at Hiller with six minutes gone in the period with just the second shot of the period for the Blackhawks. Jooris led a breakaway a minute later, but fired it above the crossbar.

Chicago had the Flames pinned in their own zone for nearly a minute, followed by a Nordstrom near-breakaway which scared me a little. Byron followed that with a point-blank attempt on Crawford. Brent Seabrook earned the lead back for Chicago with 11 minutes gone, one-timing the puck home off a pass from Patrick Kane. Versteeg also earned an assist on the play.

Glencross found Monahan after skating around Duncan Keith with 12 and a half minutes gone in the period for a picture-perfect equalizer into a wide-open cage. It was Monahan's ninth goal of the season. Michal Rozsival was called for slashing at 13:11 when he knocked the stick out of one of the Flames' forwards hands. Calgary's fourth power play of the night would see the Flames put a lot of pressure on Crawford, including a great looking Brodie to Gio one-timer and a delayed Diaz slapshot from the top of the right faceoff circle. It expired with the score still knotted at three.

Johnny Oduya (ripe for the headline pun, right? - but that's too easy) directed the puck over the glass when trying to clear it out at the 18:22 mark. The Flames didn't really get set up very good, and Hudler was called for tripping with 12 seconds left in the period.

Stray Thoughts

  • Mark Giordano took a two-minute shift to start the period, showing why some of us consider him an "iron man."
  • The Blackhawks announcers, while doing a generally good job, referred to Granlund as Backlund. To their credit, they got just as excited for Flames chances as they did for the Blackhawks.
  • Kris Versteeg was belatedly awarded an assist on the first goal of the night.
  • I'm tired of the NHL-covering media referring to Johnny Gaudreau as "the little guy." He doesn't play little. Speaking of Gaudreau, he's got some pretty good chemistry going with just about everyone on the Flames, but especially with Jiri Hudler. Watch out for that.
  • On further review, the Blackhawks were clearly offsides on their second period goal. Totally should not have counted.
  • The Flames have directed 13 shots on goal in eight minutes of power play time, but only have seven in the other 32 minutes.
  • Calgary is outshooting the Blackhawks 20 to 18. Monahan has four, Brodie has three, and four Blackhawks and three Flames have two each.
  • Chicago leads faceoffs 22 to 18, Jooris leads the Flames with four wins in seven tries. Toews has seven wins to four losses.
  • Calgary has 11 hits to only three for Chicago. Lance Bouma and Glencross lead the way with a pair each.
  • The Blackhawks have 13 blocked shots to 12 for the Flames. Oduya, Smith, Brodie and Smid each have three to their credit.

Third Period

After a minute of four-on-four, the Flames killed off Chicago’s abbreviated power play pretty easily, followed by a few minutes of pretty good chances traded off by each team. Gaudreau led a rush into Chicago’s zone with five minutes gone, dishing to Hudler for a golden opportunity, but the puck skipped under his stick, and the game played on.

Saad camped behind Hiller’s net for what seemed like a full minute with the puck with seven minutes gone, and carefully fed out the puck three times to assorted line mates, none of whom could get a good read on Jonas. Smid directed one on Crawford a moment later, but he gloved it and froze play for a face-off in the Chicago zone.

After the possession arrow switched back and forth a bit, Hiller tried to clear the puck from behind the crease, but Kane intercepted it and beat the Swiss stick side for a 4-3 Chicago lead. Kane scored his goal without the benefit of an assist on the play.

Granlund and Gaudreau had a really sweet looking give-and-go at 12:30, but Johnny couldn’t control the puck. A moment later, Versteeg sent one directly at Hiller, who looked slightly handcuffed by the shot but stopped it anyway.

The Flames started sniffing blood with about five minutes left in the game. Bouma barely missed as his shot was tipped wide, and Jooris sent a sweet centering pass a moment later, but there was nobody there. Byron absolutely killed a Blackhawk in Calgary’s zone, then Gaudreau was dancing with the puck behind Crawford when he was tripped by Hjalmarsson with under four minutes to go.

The man-advantage was characterized by Blackhawks clearing the heck out of the biscuit, and Hiller leaving the ice with 15 seconds left on it. The six-on-four ended with Crawford laying down on the puck.

Gio smashed the puck on net after a timeout, but Jooris’ redirect failed to fool Crawford. With 10 seconds remaining, Wideman wristed one on net, but was gloved. The Flames continued to pressure the beleaguered goaltender, but he stood tall and denied the Flames another third period comeback.

Stray Thoughts

  • Ferland was really digging in, you can tell he really wants to capitalize on this opportunity to latch on at the top level.
  • What’s happened to Curtis Glencross? He’s like the seventh best forward on this AHL-heavy roster.
  • Lance Bouma looked like he was in some pain after blocking a shot with 11 minutes gone in the period.
  • The Flames ended the contest with a 27-to-22 edge in shots-on-goal, led by four from Monahan. Kane and Nordstrom had three for Chicago.
  • Chicago closed the game with a 33-26 edge in faceoffs, as Marcus Krueger won 11-of-17. Jooris led the Flames with six-for-11.
  • The Flames destroyed the Blackhawks 15-to-4 in hits, led by three from Bouma.
  • Chicago blocked 20 shots to 14 for Calgary. Oduya and Hjalmarsson had four to lead both teams, Brodie led the Flames with three.

Flame of the Game

I know we're all about Brodie and Giordano around here, but my pick is the Flames' third best defender, Dennis Wideman. He had an absolute laser tie the game at two in the first period, lead all Flames in ice time with 26:29, block two shots, earn three takeaways, and a total of three shots on net, including two in the last four minutes as the Flames tried to get an equalizer past Crawford. Hey, there's always tomorrow.

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