January 19th 2004. That was the fateful day in which the Calgary Flames had last won a regular season game in Anaheim. Whether it was truly a curse in Disneyland or whether it was a matter of the team’s mentality, the simple fact of the matter was that the Flames entered Anaheim with a 29 game losing streak at the Honda Center. That all changed tonight, with a dominant performance from Mike Smith.
1st Period: Calgary 0 Anaheim 0
It is very easy to get caught up in the mentality of losing in an arena for so long. However, the Flames came out to play in the first period, peppering John Gibson with 10 shots as opposed to Anaheim’s 9 shots on net. All 4 lines played kept the forecheck going and the Flames played a strong grinding game to keep the score tight. Sam Bennett and Michael Stone took early penalties but the Flames penalty-killing unit was effective in limiting Anaheim shots on net. Overall, it was a tight-checking period with a few chances traded on both sides.
While the 1st may have been evenly matched, the 2nd period tilted momentum to the Ducks. Anaheim peppered Mike Smith with 17 shots on net, while the Flames could only muster 10 on John Gibson. Smith continued to stand tall while Calgary would seek to take advantage of every chance they got. Following a late penalty taken by Kevin Bieksa, the potent Flames power-play unit of Monahan, Gaudreau, Versteeg, Ferland and Brodie took to the ice and dominated possession, resulting in a powerplay goal from Sean Monahan to give the Flames a 1-0 going into the third period.
Despite Anaheim’s dominance in the 2nd, Calgary entered the final frame with momentum on their side. Leading 1-0, the Flames needed to keep the game tight and look for the insurance marker. However, the game was wide open, and Anaheim, building off of their 2nd period dominance, continued to pepper Mike Smith with shots. However, the Flames goaltender displayed a calm demeanor, comfortably stopping pucks that came his way. Then, 6:19 into the third, Michael Frolik fed a beautiful pass to Mikael Backlund, who perfectly placed the puck behind John Gibson to make it 2-0.
The Ducks simply would not go away though, as they continued to hound Mike Smith with shots. A significant portion of the third was spent in the Flames zone, but all in all, the Flames defence and most of all, Mike Smith, handled it very well. The Flames would take 2 penalties in the third but would not surrender a goal.
It certainly was not the smoothest victory for the Calgary Flames, but given the team’s history in the building, it is so refreshing to see the curse that haunted Flames fans for over a decade finally be broken. Mike Smith continues to put up solid performances and is cementing his spot as the Flames number one goaltender for the 2017-18 season. The Flames played fairly well as a team and showed a lot of patience on the powerplay. They capitalized on the chances they got and played very well. However, the defence certainly let in more shots that in expected. However, better defense will come over time.
To make matters even better, the Oilers lost to the Winnipeg Jets tonight, and the Flames now boast a better record than their provincial rivals. Granted, it’s early in the season, but hey, why not brag?
Flame of the Game
Mike Smith (G). I’d be remiss if I named someone else. Smith continues to put up solid goaltending and looked like a brick wall tonight. He did have an injury scare late into the third period but seemingly recovered from it. We’ll have to keep an eye out on Flames practice tomorrow to see if he’s alright. He is a tough customer though, and it would not be surprising to see him back on the ice. Either way, the Flames goaltender made 43 saves to earn his first shut out of the season, and boy did he deserve it. What a great performance.