It's already the third meeting between the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes, and the Flames entered the contest with a 2-0 series lead already. With three games still left between the two clubs - including this one - the Flames had the chance to win the season series.
And it wasn't an ordinary night in the Saddledome. Let's face it, the Coyotes can be a bit, well, boring to watch. But this was the first Flames game since the Calgary Stampeders won the Grey Cup: the city's first pro sports championship since the 2009 Roughnecks (and before them, the 2008 Stamps, in John Hufnagel's first year with the team). So puck drop was delayed as the Flames paid tribute to the Stamps, including a video recap of their dominating season, and some words from starting quarterback and Grey Cup MVP, Bo Levi Mitchell.
The Flames, along with everyone else, were looking up at the jumbotron, watching highlights of the Stamps' 15-3 season (17-3 including playoffs). It was dominating, but at the same time, it wasn't. Do you remember how many of those 17 wins were insanely close? How many times it came down to the final few plays? There was that massive, Flames-esque comeback against the Argos, when the Stamps won the game, but lost four starters at McMahon. There was the Grey Cup, which was nearly lost in the final minute. You have to be lucky to be good, and you have to be good to be lucky. The Stamps were clearly the best team in the CFL this season, all season, but there were a lot of close calls. The Flames obviously aren't the best NHL team, but they've been pretty decent, and very lucky.
So there are some parallels between Calgary's main two sports teams, although they're not quite on the same level. And Mitchell drew attention to this in his pre-game speech, noting how amazing it is to be a sports fan in Calgary right now. I especially love that coming from him, and that this kid from just outside of Houston has gone full tilt in embracing what tends to be a relatively overlooked Canadian city.
We have a championship football team that boasts not only the league's best Canadian player, but a young quarterback who embodies everything we see from the Flames: he's a humble, budding star in his league. The CFL is much smaller than the NHL, so of course, it happened to the Stamps far quicker than it's going to happen to the Flames.
The similarities are there. Mitchell is absolutely correct: right now, Calgary is one of the best cities to be a sports fan. And it'll take a bit longer, but who's to say the Flames don't follow the Stamps' lead, and soon?
You think the Flames were inspired by their fellow Calgarian athletes? Just over a minute into the game, David Jones pounced on a bouncing puck in the slot, rifling it past Mike Smith to quickly put the Flames up 1-0. Boom. Calgary's winning ways continue, as Jones got his fourth of the season in just his third game back from injury.
And then Dennis Wideman almost added to the lead. Michael Ferland, looking for his first NHL goal, nearly followed suit. The Flames were putting on the pressure.
Until the Coyotes started to pull away. And that led to the Coyotes getting on the board, as Oliver Ekman-Larsson had a great seeing eye shot to make its way through a ton of bodies and past a heavily screened Karri Ramo.
Ramo’s shutout streak ends at 142:59. #Flames— Randy Sportak (@SUNRandySportak) December 3, 2014
The Flames fought back with more attempts by Ferland, and Johnny Gaudreau doing Johnny Gaudreau things, like creating chances out of nothing, but the Coyotes were holding strong, probably riding high off beating the Edmonton Oilers yet again.
Well, until the period's end. Kris Russell brought the puck into the offensive zone and chucked it out in front, right to Josh Jooris who quickly got the Flames' lead back, making it a 2-1 game. It was nearly 3-1 thanks to Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler right after, but Smith was a bit more alert that time.
The period closed out with Mark Giordano high sticking Sam Gagner and shots tied at 10 apiece, although the Coyotes were out-corsiing the Flames 24-15 - yikes.
With Giordano's penalty at the end of the period, the Coyotes had nearly a full two minutes at the start of the second with the man advantage. While the Flames held them off, they were disastrous as the penalty neared its end. Ten seconds after Giordano stepped out of the box, his victim, Gagner, was left totally uncovered to the side of the Flames' net. Keith Yandle took his shot, and Ramo's rebound went straight to Gagner, with nary a Flame in sight. Ramo dove across, and nearly got the puck with the paddle of his stick, but it went just under to tie the game at two.
It was okay, though. Russell ensured the Coyotes' next shot wouldn't be nearly as lucrative, and Ramo had the easy save. And the Flames quickly got the hint, going back to creating their own scoring chances. Markus Granlund had a sharp angle shot just off Smith's shoulder, and the puck bounced right into the slot. If only a Flame had been there...
That was followed up by a very aggressive, combative shift from the fourth line, and man oh man, is it apparent that Sven Baertschi needs to play with more skilled guys. Lance Bouma is great heart and effort every shift, and Brandon Bollig was battling, but their skill sets just don't compliment one another.
Like Gaudreau. Gaudreau's a good guy to have on your line. Just ask Jooris, as Gaudreau made an amazing, absolutely perfect pass from the corner to him. A bit of puck handling, and Jooris had it up and past Smith, making it a 3-2 game in favour of the team from the best city.
With the Flames once again in the lead, the Coyotes really put the pressure on for an extended period of time. Fortunately, despite his earlier transgressions, Ramo is still Ramo, and he held strong to support the lead.
And then Gaudreau was nearly at it again. Russell chipped the puck up to him, who then deftly slid it over to a streaking Hudler, but Smith actually had that shot, keeping it a one-goal game. Although TJ Brodie's shot from the slot soon after nearly extended the Flames' lead, too.
The Flames got their first powerplay of the game as the second neared its end when Shane Doan was called for interference. Fortunately, Tobias Rieder didn't add to his shorthanded goals tally, but the Flames were also unable to score.
Actually, Doan nearly got a chance stepping out of the box, but smooth Flames skating allowed them to strip the puck right from him, no harm, no foul. Martin Erat in particular was pushing to tie the game in the period's final minute, but once again: Ramo.
Seriously, Ramo. Because after two the Flames were outshot 21-19, and out-corsied 49-29.
The third period kicked off with a Joe Vitale interference infraction, and man, you know something? Brodie, Giordano, Hudler, Gaudreau, and Sean Monahan can seriously control a powerplay. They didn't score, and didn't even get a ton of shots off, but the Coyotes never seemed to be a threat to take it away from them, and it's just fun to watch a Flames team so in control.
This is Jooris' second two-goal game, and aiming for the hat trick, he released an absolutely booming slap shot from far out, but it just wasn't to be at that moment.
The extended lead was to be, however. Wideman couldn't quite receive Curtis Glencross' pass, but the puck did bounce over to Monahan, who absolutely ripped it past Smith to put the Flames up 4-2.
It was the Coyotes mostly in control for the third period, and that didn't change, especially with them down two goals. While there were still a handful of Flames chances generated (mostly from, well, you know, Gaudreau), the Coyotes were really, really pressing. Ramo was Ramo, and the Flames were able to keep their two goal lead.
Desperate, the Yotes pulled Smith with about 90 seconds to go, but their time with the extra man didn't last long. Martin Hanzal hit Wideman as the Flames' defenceman was going down, smacking him into the boards, and raising an immediate scrum and concern (Ramo came way out of his net to see what was going on). It wasn't dirty, and fortunately Wideman was okay, but Hanzal took a charging call on the play.
One minute to go, a two-goal lead for the Flames, and they're on the powerplay. There was just one order of business left, and they got it for him: a pulled Smith, Gaudreau retrieving the puck, passing it over to Jooris, and there's the rookie's first NHL hat trick.
The Grey Cup on the ice, and then a bunch of hats. What a night in Calgary.
(ALTHOUGH, they were outshot 29-24 and out-corsied 67-46, so... that was a bit lucky. Horseshoes, anyone?)
Flame of the game
You gotta like what a lot of the top four did. You gotta LOVE how incredible Johnny Gaudreau really is. And that's without even mentioning Karri Ramo. But come on. A kid's first hat trick is a kid's first hat trick. Nobody saw this coming from Josh Jooris. Sure, he had a surprise pre-season, and we were all disappointed when he was ultimately cut and started the year in the AHL. But. Eight goals in 18 games. He's tied with Wideman for third in team goals. You didn't even know who he was two years ago. That's amazing.
- This has nothing to do with anything, really, but Josh Jooris and Bo Levi Mitchell are both 24-year-old rookies. What a season Mitchell had. What a season Jooris is currently in the process of.
- Because poking fun at Edmonton should never, ever end:
Since 2009 #Oilers have had 43 draft picks in 2nd round or later. They have scored 7 NHL goals. Tobias Rieder has 4, others combined have 3.— Bruce McCurdy (@BruceMcCurdy) December 2, 2014
- (Rieder is the guy who scored two shorties on the Oilers in the same penalty kill last night. He was traded for Kale Kessy. Who is Kale Kessy, you ask? Exactly.)
- To recap: over the past five years, non-first rounder Oiler draft picks have scored seven NHL goals. Josh Jooris, some undrafted kid who left Union College after his junior year, has eight NHL goals this season. Yes, there's the goalie tandem, the centre depth, Brodano. But if that doesn't highlight the difference between the Flames and Oilers, I don't know what will.
- While we're on the subject of acquiring players outside the first round of the draft: I think we're getting to the point where other teams are starting to get fucking terrified of Johnny Gaudreau every time he's on the ice. The kid can create scoring chances out of absolutely nothing. His hands, poise, and intelligence are ridiculous. He may not be racking up the points at the rate fellow rookie Filip Forsberg is (YET), but every single time he steps on the ice, the Flames become an immediate threat to score.
- With the injured reserve guys starting to get healthy and resuming skating, Baertschi's time up in the big club may be coming to an end soon. There's been definite progress over his time up, though. Hartley never used to play him in the third period; while Sven is still on the lower end of ice time, the coach is much more willing to send him out as games wind down. But man. He could really stand to play with guys who aren't fourth liners. I'm not necessarily saying Gaudreau, but he should definitely be bumped up a line. He shouldn't be last in ice time.
- Monahan continues to lead Flames forwards in ice time. Does he get a bit of relief when someone like Matt Stajan comes back, or is Monahan playing more than 20 minutes a night the new normal? In 26 games this season, he's played more than 20 minutes in 13 of them.
- Your Flames even strength corsi winner of the night was Brodie, at 48%. So nobody managed to break even. In the words of the Grey Cup MVP, and his sideline interview upon winning the Grey Cup: "Gotta be better than that." Don't let the good times have you forget there's always room for improvement.
... the Flames utilized Sven Baertschi to the best of his abilities? Seriously, gonna keep complaining about how Baertschi is used until it's fixed or he's sent down. I guarantee you he has more to offer than Bollig.
The Flames didn't have the best game - they were actually out-possessed almost the entire time - but a win's a win, and it's hard not to feel good about Calgary sports right now. Let's keep that feeling rolling when the Colorado Avalanche drop by on Thursday, Dec. 4 for a 7 p.m. game. It'll be Jarome Iginla's second time in the Saddledome's visitor's locker room. Wow.