The Calgary Flames have been dominating the Desert Dogs all season, entering tonight 4-0-0 against the Coyotes this season. This was the last easy game on their schedule, and the Kings were playing the Oilers tonight, so it was important to walk out of the place with two points. Despite each teams' point total, the game was harder than it should've been.
It took 32 seconds for the Coyotes to make a mistake. Oliver Ekman-Larsson tripped up Sean Monahan, and the Flames’ 12th ranked powerplay went to work against the Coyotes’ 27th ranked penalty kill. The pressure was on for the two minutes; the Flames generated good pressure including three shots on goal and six shot attempts, but no goals.
Right before the powerplay ended, former Flame David Moss high sticked Johnny Gaudreau, bloodying the young forward’s nose. Despite a decent amount of blood and some complaining, there was no penalty on the play. Judge for yourself:
GIF: explanation is no penalty because it was a follow through pic.twitter.com/eBtpttYNba— Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) April 8, 2015
Just a few minutes later, the Coyotes got themselves in trouble again. Martin Erat interfered with David Jones in front of the net, and the Flames got another two minutes with the extra man. The PP nearly started with chaos, as Jonas Hiller turned it over to Joe Vitale on the forecheck. The Arizona centre nearly put it past a scrambling Hiller, but the crisis was averted.
After staving off disaster, the Flames went right back to work in the Coyotes’ zone. They passed around the Desert Dogs, setting up their usual "Dennis Wideman slapshot" play. This time, it worked. Mike Smith saved the initial slapper, but was unprepared for a Johnny Gaudreau snipe. 1-0 Flames.
The Flames looked very comfortable, keeping everything in the Arizona zone for the first period. All the powerplays certainly helped, but Calgary was clearly the dominant team for the first frame. Mike Smith returned to his 2012 form, stopping everything the Flames threw at him.
Calgary faced another injury scare, as Dennis Wideman went down after checking Sam Gagner behind the net. Fortunately for the Flames’ already depleted defensive core, Wideman got up and returned for the game. This team literally could not lose anyone else on the backend, even the always questionable Dennis Wideman.
Late in the period, Tobias Rieder was called for hooking on the aforementioned Dennis Wideman. Three powerplays in one period? We’ll take it. It would have been nice to get a goal before heading for intermission, but the Flames chose to get hemmed in their own zone for a minute instead. It was bad.
And that’s how the period ended. The Flames dominated the first, leading 18-7 in shots, and 32-16 in corsi, but the score was only 1-0.
A strong first period could only mean good things for a team that usually heats up late in the game. This time, it was the opposite. The Flames came out for the second very groggily, looking very slow and unproductive compared to the first period versions of them. The Coyotes, while not completely taking over the game, began to even things up.
Arizona began turning up the heat on the Flames, and David Moss nearly scored on a wide open net while Jonas Hiller was lying on the ground. Thankfully, unsung hero Matt Stajan swatted it out of the air, preserving the Flames lead.
Matt Stajan just batted out a puck out of mid-air, going into the net. Incredible. https://t.co/oSagGroKdA— Christian Roatis (@CRoatis) April 8, 2015
We’re very sorry for how Brent Sutter treated you, Staj.
Yet another injury scare happened when Lance Bouma blocked a shot to the chest. He left the game halfway through the second, and did not return. Hopefully, a young prospect (Sam Bennett, Drew Shore, anyone) will take his place in the lineup instead of a player whose name is German for "dumpster fire" (Brandon Bollig).
The Arizona pressure eventually got to the Flames. Dennis Wideman turned the puck over in the zone, and it eventually wound up in the hands of Jordan Szwarz. His slapshot was blocked by Kris Russell, who was slow to get up. With an ineffective defender in front of the net, the Coyotes pounced, and the crease chaos resulted in a BJ Crombeen goal. 1-1
The lackluster second period was reflected in the possession stats; Arizona barely led both categories. 8-7 in shots, and 22-18 in corsi. This is okay when you’re playing a good team. This is the worst team in the conference.
All fears would be put aside because, after all, we are talking about the Calgary Flames. Third periods are their calling card. It took the Flames about a minute to put things back in their favour. After gaining the zone, Michael Ferland took a nice shot on goal and David Jones buried the rebound top-shelf. 2-1 Flames
The game was still too close for comfort, both on the scoreline and with the actual play. The Coyotes were still keeping up with the Flames, and it was stressful. It was hard to tell if the Flames were simply trying to protect a lead, or if they were seriously being outmatched by the Coyotes. Not good, either way.
Oddly enough, the Coyotes’ goal in the third wasn’t created by offensive zone pressure, but actually because of a defensive play when the puck was cleared down the rink to the Flames zone. David Schlemko couldn’t keep up with Kyle Chipchura, and Jonas Hiller made a fateful set of errors. He chose to play the puck, but couldn’t decide where to send it. He took too long, and Chipchura stole the puck from him. As Hiller scrambled back to the net, Chipchura flipped it to Craig Cunningham to tie the game. 2-2.
And here we were. 13 minutes left, tied with the damned Arizona Coyotes. Nail biting time.
But should we really have worried that much? Barely two minutes later, the Flames sent out the top line. Jiri Hudler outmuscled a Coyote for the puck at the blue line, and sprang Sean Monahan for a two-on-two rush. Silky-Hands-Sean, showing his usual patience, waited for Johnny Gaudreau to create a crowd infront of the net, and scored a beautiful goal. 3-2 Flames.
Mike Smith, clearly tired of being a Coyote, threw a temper tantrum and roughed Josh Jooris in the process. A perfect time for the Flames to try and preserve the lead that, somehow, wasn’t safe from Coyote hands. For the fourth time tonight, the powerplay was ineffective, and the game was still 3-2.
The Flames pretty much kept turtling and trying to protect that lead, inviting pressure from the Coyotes. They iced the puck three straight times during one sequence of play. The Coyotes graciously accepted, and had a few scary scoring chances. Good Jonas Hiller showed up, and the Flames staved off Arizona. The pressure was intense during the 80 seconds of empty Arizona net, but the Flames scurried off winners. The Coyotes led in possession again, 9-7 in shots and 21-16 in corsi. The Flames’ dominant first period kept them leaders of the totals, leading 32-24 in shots and 66-59 in corsi.
- This section should really be called "Reasons Sean Monahan is awesome" but our own Liam already wrote an excellent piece on that. He scored his eighth game winner tonight, keeping the dream alive for another day. His 53rd career goal not only makes him the highest scoring member of the 2013 draft class, but also puts him ahead of the entire 2012 draft class, and 4th on the 2011 draft class. There also have only been ten players in the past 20 years to have 30 goals and 30 assists before they turn 21. Sean Monahan is one of those. The one year we drafted ahead of the Oilers, we made it count.
- The first line is all kinds of amazing too. I lost count of how many fast breaks they had this game, but it was more than any other line.
- Matt Stajan does not deserve this team sometimes. The defensive and possession contributions he makes daily are always overshadowed for some reason. Let’s all appreciate Stajan more often.
- Good Jonas and bad Jonas both showed up today (Dr. Jonas and Mr. Hiller?). He did bail us out numerous times tonight, but he also made some very unfortunate mistakes. With Brad Thiessen backing him up, everyone’s wondering when Jon Gilles can get here.
- The Arizona Coyotes are very bad, especially when they are down a man on the ice. The powerplay tonight was horrible. The Flames nearly gave up a shorthanded goal on the powerplay they scored on. Not looking great.
- In the same vein, this game was definitely closer than it should’ve been.
The Edmonton Oilers, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, we did sweep them, and have generally made fun of them for the past nine years, but please take a moment out of your day to appreciate them for their 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. This gives the Flames a bit of breathing room for the final two games of the season, but also puts extra emphasis on beating the Kings on Thursday. Win (in any fashion) and you’re in, lose, and you get another chance. That’ll do, Edmonton.
A Winnipeg loss would’ve also been some extra insurance, but they took out the Blues 1-0, and would also clinch with a Flames win (only in regulation though).
Are you ready for it? It’s the single most important game of the season. The Flames could clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2008-09, and it’s against our direct competitor for the same spot, the Los Angeles Kings. Puck drop is at 7 PM. It’s a big one.