The Calgary Flames and Buffalo Sabres are two of the worst possession teams in the league, albeit, Buffalo is, like, historically bad. So the Flames definitely had it in them to win the corsi battle... but what of the actual game? Well...
... It was a rather slow start. These are two teams that haven't played in a while, so that's to be expected, but man, it was a real slow start. The Sabres had the first notable scoring chance of the game when Cody Hodgson and Drew Stafford ended up with a two-on-one against Mikael Backlund somehow. Hodgson took the shot, and while Jonas Hiller's rebound went to Stafford, he was unable to get a quality shot off, and everything was okay.
Then Joe Colborne hooked Torrey Mitchell behind the Sabres' net because reasons. (Sloppiness, mostly.) Despite being bad and having a league-worst powerplay, it somehow took the Sabres all of 13 seconds to open the scoring, as Chris Stewart tipped Tyler Ennis' shot and got it in past Hiller to give Buffalo the 1-0 lead.
But then Mitchell slashed Johnny Gaudreau! How dare he Johnny is an all-star. The Flames controlled the puck on the delayed call for quite some time, but eventually, Buffalo was able to get a handle on it. And then the Flames powerplay we all know and cry over more than is healthy showed up, and everything was terrible.
UNTIL. Bob Hartley threw out his top line, best defenceman, and also Dennis Wideman was there. Get the puck to Gaudreau, let him stickhandle in a phone booth, and boom, the puck's up and over Jhonas Enroth with seven seconds left in the man advantage to tie the game at one.
And then Colborne high sticked Hodgson towards the period's end. Uh, Joe, everything okay? Fortunately, the Flames had no problems keeping the Sabres at bay, and the period closed out with a goal apiece. The Flames outshot the Sabres 8-5, and out-corsied them 16-14.
Everyone is still sleepy from the all-star break, so some leeway should be afforded. Just some, though. And while nothing particularly meaningful happened this frame, there were still a couple of nice plays. Wideman set up Colborne for a great chance he just couldn't Johnny Hockey his way into the net, and Stewart gave Paul Byron a partial break (it's Paul Byron, so you already know how this one ended). The Flames even got a powerplay when Brian Flynn took one of those dumb delay of game penalties! ... The powerplay did not score. Although Wideman hit the post.
The Flames' best chance of the period developed thanks to, of course, Gaudreau. He did all those Gaudreau-like things we know and love him for, dancing through opposing players. Twice. On the second time, he fed a wide open Jiri Hudler, but Enroth had the stop. Still, thank goodness those two are still together, and with the great Sean Monahan in the middle. Monahan even had a surefire chance of his own later on, but the puck went juuuust wide of the post.
Hiller had some work cut out for him, too, to make sure his team stuck around in the game. Immediately after Monahan's chance, the Sabres drove the puck right back down the ice, and Hiller had to be sharp with the left pad to just stop Stewart.
With the second over, shots were even at 16 apiece, but the Flames had the corsi advantage, 43-35.
Enter: the third period. The period the Flames have made legends out of. What could they do in the third period, against the worst possession team in the league? A team that honest to goodness took 9:52 to get their very first corsi attempt of the period? Like... it didn't just take them nearly half a period to get a single shot on net, it took them that long to get any kind of shot attempt, period. That's. Distressing. If you like the Sabres. (Which I kinda do.)
Things kicked off with Ennis tripped TJ Brodie. Hartley, in a moment of stunning wisdom, immediately sent out the unit that got the Flames their first goal of the game. They didn't score this time, but hey, it looked a heck of a lot better. Even though all that really happed was Wideman shot wide, like, a lot, man.
Have no fear, though. The Flames don't need no stinkin' powerplay in the third period. Josh Jooris carried the puck into the zone, and passed it back to Colborne. Colborne shot the puck on net, and Jooris was right there to collect the rebound and roof it, giving the Flames their first lead of the game.
The powerplay had the chance to once again try to do something when Mike Weber took another silly delay of game penalty. Just as it was ending, Rafa Diaz sent the puck on net, and while it hit Enroth, Colborne was hanging out right in front of him to quickly collect it and slip it five hole, increasing the lead to two. It wasn't a powerplay goal, but the play came at the very end of the man advantage.
And then, just to wrap things up, we saw the absolute glory the line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Jiri Hudler can bring us. Monahan carried the puck in, dished it to Hudler. Hudler took it, gave a perfect cross-ice pass to Gaudreau. Gaudreau received it, and slipped it right in behind Enroth, who was too slow getting over. It was absolutely beautiful, shh, just watch:
And that was all that was needed, as the Flames downed the Sabres, 4-1. The final count saw the Flames completely dominant: they outshot the Sabres 31-18, and out-corsied them 71-38. Boom. Nice.
Flame of the game
The Flames did the thing. They scored on the powerplay. And who was it that scored on the powerplay? Johnny Gaudreau. He played 20:46 tonight, the only Flames forward to eclipse the 20 minute mark, something that Monahan is much more known for. I'm pretty sure this is the first time Gaudreau has led all Flames forwards in ice time. We can stuff all that talk about him possibly getting burnt out now, yeah? It can go the way of him being "too small"? Because the kid is clearly an NHL player. His two goals gives him 15 on the season. He has 37 points over 47 games, now just four points back of Filip Forsberg in one additional game played. WATCH OUT, FILIP. JOHNNY'S COMING FOR YOU.
- The Sabres... really are not a good team. Keep reaching for that McEichel, guys. You can do it. Don't let Edmonton.
- At one point on the penalty kill, Brodie, Backlund, and Byron all led a rush. It was pretty fun to see, even if nothing came of it because Byron couldn't receive Backlund's pass. The Balgary Blames, folks.
- Byron seriously has the worst luck. He's not a bad player! He's certainly better than some other guys on the roster! He just... cannot score!
- Speaking of guys Byron is better than, Brandon Bollig is a disgrace to the Balgary Blames name. After one period, he'd played just 1:48. After two, 4:58. He finished with 8:28 of ice time. Sven Baertschi and David Wolf died for this?! (Although, to his credit, he did manage three shots on net. He just... shouldn't be playing above prospects if you're never going to give him ice time.)
- Is Diaz officially the number five defenceman now? He played three more minutes than Deryk Engelland. He even got two minutes of powerplay time, taking Kris Russell's spot. When Tyler Wotherspoon draws in for a game - and since he was called up, they'd seriously better dress him - he should be taking Engelland's spot.
- I genuinely cannot believe it took us so long to get Gaudreau, Monahan, and Hudler on a line together. Gaudreau and Hudler have amazing chemistry, and Monahan is the perfect combination of skill, size, and defensive responsibility to slot in between the two. This line rules. Never get rid of it.
- Things could have gotten messy for the Flames prior to the third period. They were the better team after two, but the Sabres were getting scoring chances, and Hiller had to be on point to make sure the Flames didn't fall behind. And on point he was.
... Brodie played on the first unit powerplay? Nothing against Wideman, it's just, Brodie is on the top pairing for a reason. And he's scored more than Wideman has, even though Wideman averages about 30 seconds more powerplay time than Brodie does. So, you know... put Brodie out there on the man advantage alongside Giordano, and let Wideman take the second unit minutes.
Well! That was nice! And it certainly went better than the last time the Flames played the Sabres. Next up is the Minnesota Wild, not in a playoff spot, but just coming off a fresh 2-1 victory against the Oilers. (The Oilers are Bad.) We'll meet Minny in the Saddledome on Thursday, Jan. 29. Puck drop is at 7 p.m. MT. Go Flames! Go scoreboard watching in late January!