Beating the Oilers was a good feeling; it never gets old and it never will. With a 2 game winning streak (yay) and the goal of ending 2014 on a positive note, the Flames played the Kings for the second time in a week. After coming back in OT thanks to Johnny Hockey and the glorious Mark Giordano; the King were hungry for revenge.
Oops too bad, guess they'll have to try again.
First Period -
The necessity of winning draws to open the game is often underrated. Especially for a team like Calgary as they've spent a bulk of the season out-possessed, out-shot, and often trailing. Finding their legs right away after the opening draw, they were able to get a bit of the pace sorted out with the line of Paul Byron, Joe Colborne, and Mason Raymond. From there the fourth line centred by Matt Stajan looked to be a threat too. Having Stajan on the bottom line ISN'T THE BEST but it works for now. Hell, he makes Brandon Bollig and Lance Bouma more capable.
Kris Russell would rush up the ice with the puck, enter the zone strongly, and fire the puck on net; unfortunately Bouma missed batting the puck in. Dennis Wideman would take a holding call on Dustin Brown (probably responsible for Benghazi). The Kings' deadly PP wouldn't generate much more than a single chance. Thankfully the Calgary penalty kill has been improving slowly and their aggressive play late in the penalty helped kill it off.
That said, the Kings wouldn't stop the push. Jamie McBain's shot from the half-boards was tipped in front my Mike Richards that Hiller fought off valiantly. After a smart pass from Sean Monahan to Hudler in the neutral; Papa Hudler broke in, spun around and fed Curtis Glencross who put it past Jonathan Quick for his 8th of the season. Hudler's 22nd assist and Monahan's 12th assist came on the goal.
Only a minute later this happened (I don't want to describe it, just watch it):
The goal is Marcus Granlund's 5th of the season with assists from Hudler (23rd) and Gaudreau (18th). The Flames would then take a "commanding" 2-0 lead mid-way through the first.
The continued strong play of the Flames kept coming, fortunately Kyle Clifford would take an incredibly dumb elbowing call on Bouma sending the Flames to their first power play. The 13th (19.2%) in the league ranked PP wouldn't get much going at first however they would get a pretty beautiful passing play going that would lead to only one decent shot. The PP would end with not much beyond that and the strong play would lead until the end of the period.
Second Period -
Moments in the period Drew Doughty was almost hit in the head and then David Jones randomly ended up in the Kings' net. I don't know, it was a weird sequence. This entire period was a snoozefest so I'll try to make this exciting. Kris Russell broke into the Kings' zone and did the ol' fashion drop-pass to Raymond that lead to a quality shot. Though for moments Los Angeles would gain back some of that momentum and generating shot attempts.
Russell would trip up Dustin Brown (sheesh he sure draws penalties) sending the Kings back to the man advantage. Nothing really happened at all on the kill besides Deryk Engelland blocking a shot heroically which was incredibly smart of him. Yes, this is me praising Engelland for something. The Kings would nearly score as the puck trickled across the goal line behind Hiller. Don't worry though, they didn't score.
The Flames would get their best scoring chance of the period on a 2 on 1 play with Monahan and Glencross breaking in. Monahan would elect to shoot and hit the post while Glencross would snow shower Quick while heading to the net. Quick would go down, cry, sulk, and moan about the blast of snow; delaying the game.
Late in the period on a bad line change, Brown would feed a streaking Tyler Toffoli who roofed it past Hiller to make it 2-1. The goal would be Toffoli's 12th of the season with assists to Brown and Trevor Lewis. With under a minute left, in a scramble along the boards; Gaudreau would turn the puck over giving Toffoli a huge scoring chance that Hiller would stop with his toe.
Third Period -
Fortunately the third and final period was a bit more exciting than the second. Though the Flames would ice the puck 4 times in the first 5:00 of the period. The focus on keeping the 2-1 lead was so crucial because of the turtle approach. The Kings for the bulk of the period spent time controlling play, generating chances, and attempting to draw even. It was remarkable that the Flames were resilient to this degree.
During a Kings rush, Dennis Wideman had another strong play by poking away the puck preventing a potential scoring chance; allowing the Flames to take a bit of the pressure of them momentarily. Russell would join his partner in smart plays by breaking up another potential scoring chance too. So, some positives to be found. Granlund had a decent chance in close later into the period, giving them a bit of life.
In the last few minutes of play, a huge Kings and Flames scrum in front of the net generated a few fantastic chances by Los Angeles unfortunately Matt "The Franchise/ French Fries" Stajan was there to prevent one by using his stick. Huge, it's exactly what we needed. He might be relegated to the fourth line but god love him. He is doing what is needed to keep the Flames in it.
Jarret Stoll would wipe out in the LA zone and the Flames would pounce on the puck, Hudler trying to feed his son Johnny the puck was stopped as Stoll held the stick sending the Flames back to the PP. Nothing would happen beyond that as the Kings would kill the penalty and continue generating chances. Fortunately the Flames kept the game 2-1 to hit 20 wins before the new year; and extend their winning streak to 3 games.
Stray Observations -
- When can we permanently reunite Monahan with Papa Huds and Johnny? WHEN!? Yo Mr. Hartley, I know you've been reading this site. I know you have. You listened when we recommended stuff before. So why not now? Do it, man. Just do it.
- Mikael Backlund could be back soon. There was a bit of chatter tonight on the ol' Twitter about whether or not Monahan or Backlund could centre the line. Both are great options. Monahan first though. But seriously though, there was discussion earlier today that Backlund could try contact in practice. HUGE NEWS!
- Brandon Bollig continued his trend of not being a human disaster again tonight. I'm a man who respects a man with a good beard. Live up to your beard, Bollig. Honour the beard you possess and keep improving.
- Matty Franchise, y'all. He's doing heroic things even if he is out there with Bouma and Bollig. I wish we had a way of utilizing him more and giving him a bit better teammates and ice time. I guess it's time we accept he is on the outs in the long term. He finished the night at 13:06 with 2:00 on the PK.
- Marcus #SuperiorGranlund Granlund had a goal tonight, 13:44 TOI (0:20 PP, 0:42 PK), and 2 shots. Not bad. He could end up in Adirondack by the Backlund's return which sucks. I'd love to see him moved to the wing if we can find a way to keep him up; but it's unlikely. That said, he's going to have a bright future if he keeps growing like he has this year.
- Colborne had a strong game tonight. I was very impressed with him overall and his play has improved immensely since returning from injury. 15:10 (1:31 PP, 1:10 PK) TOI total with 1 shot.
- Jonas Hiller's new mask. God damn it's spectacular. I lent out my GCL access to John Carroll of Jewels From The Crown so he could watch the game so I didn't grab any screen caps yet. I'm hoping to add those soon. That said, you probably saw our love for it on Twitter. He had a good night overall too. That mask though.
- We play Karri Ramo against the Oilers on New Years Eve? Wait, what? Yeah. I mean let's give the guy some more time to play. I feel like he's getting starts when the team is playing absolutely terrible in front of him. He deserves a chance.
- Johnny Gaudreau is for real. I mean. I've had Filip Forsberg as my Calder pick for much of the season, even during Johnny's surge of play in the last 30. Both are spectacular forwards though; and serious consideration should be given to Florida Panther's rookie Aaron Ekblad as well. This year's Calder race will be phenomenal to watch as the season progresses. Lots of concern has been expressed over Gaudreau's endurance over the season as he's used to play 40 game seasons in college.
- I feel like if anything, he's hitting his stride at the right part of the season and will probably slow down a bit in awhile but still be formidable. If he hits 50 points, I wouldn't be surprised; if he goes any higher (especially in goals); I feel like he has a stronger chance than Forsberg or Ekblad for the Calder.
- We cut Wideman and Russell's TOI by about 1-2 minutes total? Then gave it to Engelland and Raphael Diaz. Diaz has a great shot and Engelland has been improving (probably because of Diaz); so let's reward them. They may need some work still but they're a bit better in their own end than Russell/Wideman lately. They aren't as panicky and a bit more confident with getting out. We don't have much but let's adjust the ice time a bit.
M&G three stars: 1. Jonas Hiller's mask 2. Jonas Hiller (and his mask) 3. Jiri Hudler but only because he shares initials with Jonas Hiller— Matchsticks&Gasoline (@MatchsticksCGY) December 30, 2014