The Calgary Flames were on a seven-game losing streak. The Vancouver Canucks, five games. Someone was going to have to finally win, although both teams seemed rather eager to give the other a chance. And while it's probably not going to do much good, both psychologically and in the long run of the season, a point is a point, is it not?
I think there's only one thing you can really say about the way the game's start. It was pretty much exactly what you'd expect to happen to a team in the midst of a seven-game tailspin.
That's not to say things were all bad! The Flames kicked off the game by trading chances with the Canucks. It was a brief stretch of good, back and forth, entertaining hockey. Deryk Engelland and Derek Dorsett had a fight early on - presumably about the proper spelling of "Derek" (I'm sorry Deryk, you're my preferred one by default but I gotta side with Derek on this one) - and went to sit for five while everyone else got back to the game.
That would be about when disaster struck.
Luca Sbisa was called for tripping Joe Colborne, thus giving the Flames the first powerplay of the game. The Canucks failed to touch the puck, so Jonas Hiller quickly went skating off, while the rest of the visitors worked to get themselves set up.
Part of that setup involved Dennis Wideman passing the puck to Mason Raymond at the point.
The puck missed Raymond and bounced off the boards.
Towards the empty net.
Where nobody else was.
A very special shoutout to the group of Flames who didn't even attempt to rush back and stop disaster from occurring, instead just gliding back, fate apparently already accepted.
They were pretty much dead on their skates when the Canucks took the 1-0 lead off an empty net own-goal (credited to Yannick Weber):
So, even with the powerplay, the Flames were officially mentally out of the rest of the period. The Canucks killed the actual powerplay with ease, and actually had more scoring chances themselves.
And then things just got worse. Josh Jooris went off for boarding Weber, and it didn't take the Canucks long to capitalize. Just 23 seconds into their own powerplay, with a mass of bodies around the Flames' net, apparent-fourth-liner Alex Burrows got the puck into open space in the crease. Radim Vrbata, hanging just back of Paul Byron, reached in to grab it and slide it past Hiller.
Suddenly down by two, the Flames new first line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Jiri Hudler followed up with an excellent rush and scoring chance, but Ryan Miller had it.
With the period ticking down and the Flames not generating a whole lot, though, they got another chance. The Canucks nearly made it 3-0, but it would've been completely wrong if they had: Vrbata had an excellent wraparound chance, but it was largely thanks to Henrik Sedin falling on Mark Giordano, and pinning him to the ice for some reason. Of course, he was called for interference, with just over two minutes left in the period.
And of course, the Flames didn't have a strong powerplay to close it out. They ended up leaving the first looking rather demoralized, outshot 13-7, and out-corsied 25-16.
Very scary start to the second. Wideman checked Jannik Hansen, shoulder to chest, up into the glass. It looked like an innocuous hit, but Hansen skated off bent over. He made it back to his bench, where he briefly collapsed, forcing play to quickly stop as the Canucks immediately called for the doctor to come. Hansen was righted and conscious, and walked down the tunnel with help, but he was removed from the game for precautionary reasons. Hopefully everything is okay with him - it's always horrifying to see something like that, but at least he was up and walking.
With all best wishes to Hansen, who it sounds like is going to be okay, back to the game: the Flames took their first too many men penalty of the year. Colborne seemed to take his time getting off the ice, and so the Flames, already in a rather precarious position - down by two largely thanks to a terrible bounce - found their struggling penalty kill once again facing the Canucks' powerplay. Fortunately, the intermission seemed to do them some good, and they were much more composed in killing the bench minor.
In fact, there were a couple of good scoring chances for them following the kill, including Monahan in close, and a sharp shot off the post courtesy of Rafa Diaz. It didn't mean much, though, because the puck stayed out both times, and then the Flames took another too many men call.
Six skaters out on the ice for the Flames for a rather extended period of time - the refs sure took their time calling the penalty as the Canucks rushed up the ice for a scoring chance - for the second time in just half a period.
And the Flames responded with an immediate scoring chance. TJ Brodie took off with the puck, and Lance Bouma was right there with him. Bouma got a great shot off in close, but Miller had it.
Still, second too many men penalty kill, same as the first: the Flames had their legs back under them, and killed it successfully.
What followed was the Flames' best stretch of the game to that point. With the newly formed second line of Curtis Glencross, Markus Granlund, and David Jones swarming the net, along with Kris Russell, the Flames bombarded Miller with shots. This is a team that hasn't been shutout yet this season, and it wasn't about to start. Jones caught his own rebound in tight and fired it back, finally beating Miller and cutting the Canucks' lead to one.
All of a sudden, it was truly a game. The teams traded chances - a Canucks rush right after, Colborne cutting to the net and him, Matt Stajan, and Bouma all jamming away at the puck and Miller until the refs had to blow it dead (and quickly review it, but it was never going to be a goal - they were pushing Miller in!). A Russell shot that nearly had Miller, and Byron getting a good chance as well.
The Flames had a much stronger end to the period. The Canucks were now outshooting the Flames just 23-22, and after a 24-22 period, out-corsiing them by 49-38.
Well, last time we saw the Flames, they entered the third down by one, and were absolutely demolished by the Dallas Stars. This time? Not the same story at all.
Both teams entered the period cautious and afraid of making a mistake. The Flames already saw just how badly a miscue or unfortunate bounce could hurt them, and the Canucks clearly didn't want the same to happen to them. So while both teams traded chances on shots and rushes - one of which resulted in Hiller losing his mask - it all felt very safe.
But then, magic happened. And by magic I mean Johnny Hockey. His line, with Jooris once again back at centre, gained the zone, and didn't leave. The Canucks nearly cleared it, but Russell stopped the puck at the blue line. He slid it on over to Engelland, who chipped it up to Gaudreau. Gaudreau gave it to Hudler and quickly went to the slot. Hudler fed him with an absolute beauty of a pass, and Gaudreau didn't let that go to waste. He shot it and it went fivehole through Miller, tying the game at two.
The Canucks pressed back, resulting in Stajan taking a holding call as he outright tackled Nick Bonino. Many a blocked shot saved the Flames as penalty time ticked down. With Stajan just about ready to come out of the box, Monahan received the puck and went in on a breakaway. He went forehand backhand on Miller, but the Canucks goaltender stayed with him and the game remained tied. What a chance, though.
The game resumed its back and forth pace. Byron had a try, Hiller had a great glove save on Bonino.
With just under five minutes to go, Kevin Bieksa got a little careless and high sticked Byron right under his visor. Fortunately for Kevin and the Canucks, the Flames' powerplay was abhorrent and couldn't really get anything going, and time ended up running out, both teams desperate to at least get the point.
The Canucks outshot the Flames 9-6 in the third, and out-corsied them 17-15. The Flames kept it close and were actually rewarded for their efforts this time. Not like the Stars game at all.
... And then Giordano kicked it off with a shot that went wide and the Canucks took it up the rush, resulting in a two on one with the Sedins on the warpath and only Brodie back to defend. Giordano rushed back to try to stop it, but it was no good. Brodie took one Sedin, Giordano came back to nab the other, but by then, Daniel Sedin had passed to the Henrik one who had passed to Chris Tanev, the third man up, totally uncovered. He had a helpless Hiller in his sights as he scored the game winner just 18 seconds into the extra frame.
Well, at least there was the point. And they can probably convince themselves they'd have had it if not for that own-goal. Maybe.
Flame of the game
I could say Gaudreau, and I would be very right to. That kid is magic on skates. But I'm going to go with a hero a little less heralded: Sean Monahan. He doesn't lead the Flames on offence (although he's up there), but he does lead all the forwards in ice time, night after night. This is a 20-year-old we're talking about, and he's a very good one. Over 18:38 in ice time - only Brodie, Giordano, and Russell played more - he had three shots on net. He was the Flames' forward leader with 20 corsi events for, and right near the top with just 13 against. He had extensive powerplay time and even got to kill part of a penalty, and that very nearly paid dividends.
In short, he was excellent. A lot has been asked of him this season, and he's been able to step up to the task most nights. This is a rebuilding team, a rebuilding season. Especially in cases like this, you want to look for the positive, both in the now and for the future. Look no further than Monahan. He's turning out great.
- Gaudreau's goal, meanwhile, keeps him very much in the rookie scoring race. He's third on the Flames in points now with 24, behind just Giordano and Hudler. Twenty-four points in 34 games has him behind only the Predators' Filip Forsberg, who has 31 in 31. Not a bad place to be. He's another real special guy to love to continue to watch.
- Remember when people (outside of Calgary only I'm sure) said he was probably too small to play in the NHL? They're more adorable than he is.
- Gaudreau's goal also gave Hudler the 199th assist of his career (and it was a great one), and Engelland his 50th career point.
- The wonders of not dressing Brandon Bollig or Brian McGrattan! There was a brief scare that the two of them would be in the lineup, and Bouma and Granlund would be sitting. That was not the case, and good thing: Granlund did pick himself up an assist, and Bouma had a real good shorthanded scoring chance.
- Also, every single forward played at least 10 minutes, and nobody was benched in the third. I'm not sure what Stajan did, exactly, to get on Hartley's shit list, because for some reason he only played 10:46, but he was definitely more useful than Bollig's brand of not-really-doing-anything.
- Meanwhile, Monahan didn't have to play more than 20 minutes. It's good when Monahan doesn't have to play more than 20 minutes, because that is a lot of ice time for a young forward, and that can get exhausting. It's better for the Flames if Monahan is not tired.
- I thought we were getting somewhere in regards to Diaz, though, but apparently Hartley disagrees. Just 8:54 for him, the lowest out of all Flames, while Engelland played 14:50. Albeit Engelland has been less disastrous as of late, but I'm pretty sure that's largely thanks to Diaz. He's jumping into the play more with Diaz calmly hanging back just in case. Engelland needs someone like that, not a Ladislav Smid.
... the Flames won a game? Do you remember what that's like? There aren't really any criticisms here (other than the general usage of Stajan and Diaz). The Flames honestly played rather well. It was an exciting game. The losing streak probably isn't going to last much longer; they looked like a team capable. Just... you know... don't score on yourself. Don't do that.
There's just one game left before the Christmas break, and it takes place on Monday, Dec. 22 in Los Angeles as the Flames will play the Kings for the first time this season. They won the season series last time around, so hopefully they'll be able to repeat, and start that repeat then. Because it would be nice to go into Christmas with an actual win, y'know?
Late puck drop (because California) at 8:30 p.m. MT. See you then!