Minnesota's season went from alright to a heap of burning garbage to a goaltender less than year removed from being dealt several times. With Devan Dubnyk, the Minnesota Wild have been a capable and lethal team. Tonight they showed off their capabilities and to not much surprise; they showed us how difficult the Western conference truly is.
"We weren't playing our smartest hockey." - Mikael Backlund #CGYvsMIN— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) March 28, 2015
First Period -
Within the first minute of the period Karri Ramo was tested as Swiss hotshot Nino Niederreiter had a decent scoring chance. Fortunately for the Flames they still can count on Johnny Gaudreau to drive zone entries. During that sequence a perfect pass to Raphael Diaz... didn't go anywhere as Diaz fanned on the shot. Couple that with heavy pressure in the defensive zone led to large pockets of being hemmed in.
The Flames would get on the board thanks to rookie Josh Jooris being in front of the net after an incredible shift by Matt Stajan.
Jooris' 12th of the season is just icing on the cake that is his rookie campaign. The Wild immediately went back to work taking advantage of neutral zone turnovers and errant decision making. Once again Ramo was counted on to deliver and keep the game 1-0. Justin Fontaine and Matt Dumba came in on a fantastic play but Ramo held strong though Joe Colborne would take a penalty he would want back immediately.
The initial part of the Flames' PK was great. They were able to break out of their zone twice as Stajan and Lance Bouma went up ice once. Sean Monahan would get a partial-breakaway but a solid defensive play (to make up for his mistake) by Ryan Suter would ensure no shorthanded goal would be scored.
The wheels came off though and it's one the Flames definitely wanted back. After clearing the zone, the Wild went back up ice and gained zone control. After setting up, the former Red Deer Rebel Matt Dumba's persistence paid off as he cleaned up and put the puck past Ramo for his eighth of the season making it 2-1.
Calgary caught a break as Mikael Granlund (Markus' not as cool brother) took a penalty he probably didn't need to take. The power play didn't really accomplish anything. The Wild's insanely aggressive penalty kill may have been great at shutting the Flames down though they did more self-harm than good.
Shots: 13-6 in favor of the Wild.
- Matt Stajan's shift leading to that first goal was probably the best thing in the period next to the goal.
- Dennis Wideman's passing ability on the PP was the most Wideman thing that could happen.
- They briefly showed Hiller's retro pads in the intermission during the Flames Rookie Report segment. For the love of all things in this world please let us see those pads this season.
Second Period -
Most of this period was literally Ramo doing things we haven't seen since Kiprusoff played here. The
fourth third fourth line with Paul Byron had a fantastic passing play to open the period. Ramo then put on a clinic of highlight reel saves to show off his pending UFA value and raise questions in the fan base about which goalie is the goalie to keep.
Finally after all this play in their own end and Ramo doing everything humanly possible to keep them in the game Mason Raymond had a great shot on net. Just one but it was worth noting. The constant and unrelenting Minnesota play continued from the first period though as the period went on, the Flames found more seams in play to enter the zone.
After trying to shake some life into the roster by moving father Jiri Hudler off the top line, replacing him with David Jones didn't work. The next shift, the regular top line had a decent play in the Minnesota zone. Joe Colborne trying to redeem himself entered the zone creating a play that led to his potential scoring chance. Though his stick was broken on the play, there was no call on it.
Not to be outdone, Ramo continued his inhuman level play by mounting yet another ridiculous save. Finding some life in his game, Gaudreau's consistency for carrying the puck led to a great Kris Russell point shot. Russell would also clean up a partial-breakaway by Vanek that shouldn't have happened. Thankfully he prevented a shot from happening without taking a penalty.
Shots: 15-9 in favor of the Wild. 28-15 through two periods for Minnesota.
Some more thoughts:
- It's not often I get sweaty watching hockey but Ramo's play made me sweaty. Oh lord. I wanted to turn most of the second period summary into nothing but highlights of Ramo but the video isn't online yet.
- Hartley adjusting lines to get a "spark" - please don't adjust the top line by swapping Jiri Hudler for David Jones. With all due respect to David Jones, he isn't the right player for that line.
- They cut to Mark Giordano in the press box during the intermission. It's a huge bummer his season had to end. His play was much needed in this game.
- Calgary is playing against themselves as well as other teams right now. They need to find ways system wise to not play so recklessly in the neutral zone like they did tonight. A bulk of the issues continue to stand out against juggernaut teams: neutral zone mistakes AND inability to gain offensive zone pressure. Johnny Hockey can only do so much.
- Mikael Backlund's game rebounded in the third period. For a team that was flat for a bulk of the game, he was a bright spot throughout the final period.
- David Schlemko is the optimal player on our third pairing. He isn't optimal on the power play. It doesn't work and I'm not sure how Hartley considered it to be a valid option over Diaz. I would use Raphael Diaz next time because he can move the puck and his shot is pretty decent.
- Ramo deserved better than this. He played beyond words at times on the huge saves he made. Hiller is likely to get the start against Nashville now.
- Kris Russell was confusing tonight. He made a handful of smart decisions and a few other decisions that continue to make me question his usage.
- Byron wasn't super noticeable. Still it's good to have him back in the line-up over others. Here's hoping he can get back to his abundant breakaway form soon.