Four straight losses coming into tonight couldn't phase me one bit. I love watching Calgary and Chicago play ever since that time we had a 5-0 lead and lost. Chicago is such a talented team built around smart drafting and maybe a few questionable contracts at times. It's a team we should aspire to admire and hopefully see our team build themselves like.
They have Norris trophy winning defensemen, they have Selke winning centres, and they have one of the most underrated players in the league in Marian Hossa. They’re exciting and a treat. That said, the Flames are one of the most interesting and exciting teams this season so I was salivating all afternoon before puck drop.
First period –
The Blackhawks are a good team.
Anyway, the return of David Jones to the first line appeared to be the right option for the team in the first period. Curtis Glencross, not so much. The Blackhawks would register the first shot on net less than a minute in with limited zone pressure. Jones, would counter for the Flames. The period itself was marked with several instances of literally nothing happening. Lance Bouma would get the first real good scoring chance from between the faceoff circles on a beauty pass from the corner.
The game would go five minutes without a whistle which then lead into Jonas Hiller making a huge save to keep it 0-0. Moments later, David Jones (you know the glass man) blasted one off the post, nearly making it a 1-0 game. Marian Hossa would be sent to the penalty box for the the sin of tripping Markus Granlund up. The Flames never got much going on the man advantage.
Though, it wouldn’t be a Flames game unless Johnny Gaudreau appeared and did something magical. The line of Josh Jooris, veteran Jiri Hudler, and Gaudreau continued their ability to enter the zone, and attempting to go five hole on Antti Raanta. Chicago’s ability to control the zone well ended up preventing Calgary from doing much in the first. That said, when Calgary did gain the zone, they put up sustainable time and it wasn’t completely a wash.
Shots 9-7 Calgary
Second Period –
The second period for the most part was boring, in the sense that it took forever for anything really exciting to happen. Paul Byron had a decent shot on net and moments after that Patrick Sharp was almost sprung on a breakaway. The ongoing strong play of Jones did continue and it’s worth keeping him up there on the first line for now. Finally, something spectacular happened.
After a scramble in the defensive zone, the Flames broke out thanks to Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie. Johnny Hockey broke into the zone, patiently waited, and fed a perfect pass to Jiri Hudler who destroyed the puck and put it past Raanta. The goal is Hudler’s 12th of the season; Gaudreau’s 15th assist and Brodie’s 17th assist. Then came long periods of Chicago possession dominance. It felt like a lot of the period was spent in our own zone and eventually it lead to Dennis Wideman taking a holding call against Jonathan Toews. Seconds into the penalty kill (six to be exact) Patrick Sharp would strike on a perfect pass from Toews.
What followed seemed like an eternity of relentlessness from a Chicago team hungry for goals, shots, ham sandwiches, and just about everything else. The Flames had 2 shots 13+ minutes into the period which is a telling tale of how persistent the Blackhawks are and their aggressive style of play. Hudler would break into the Blackhawks’ zone and break some ankles with a smart play but it didn’t go anywhere. Bryan Bickell (whose name rhymes with pickle) took an interference call and the Flames finally had a chance to maybe generate some offense.
It sorta happened.
I mean we got 4 shots on net which was nice but no goals. It was honestly the best power play all night (from what I remember, I might have fallen asleep). Jonas Hiller showed up to play as well posting one of his many highlight level saves to keep the game tied. Even though he lets in the odd weird one, he's been an incredibly crucial part of the team's success this season. The period would come to a close after a Toews highlight reel end to end rush and more zone pressure.
Shots in period: 11-10 Chicago
Shots in game: 19-18 Calgary
Third Period –
When Bob Cole calls out the team for being stuck in their own end, you damn well listen to the man and do something about it. Deryk Engelland broke up a scoring chance by not being Deryk Engelland. It was the best moment of his season so far. He’s my fourth highest scoring blueliner in NHL ’15 so I’m a little biased here. Johnny Oduya would get busted for hooking Josh Jooris sending the Flames back to the power play.
Wideman would have a decent point shot on the 5 on 4 but then the aggressive and talented PK went to work. They must have had the Flames back in their own end for 20+ seconds and it was painful to watch. The Flames PP had been a pretty well oiled machine at times this season and it met a brick wall. Their 12 PPG on the road is 1st in the league but that may change after tonight.
Shots were 5-0 in favor of Chicago 8+ minutes into the final period too. They continued and continued, Brandon "Kneel Before" Saad rang a beauty shot off the post; moments later Hiller bailed out his team again with a huge stop. Unfortunately Johnny Gaudreau would a tire at the Chicago blueline and the turnover allowed Toews to feed a streaking Saad the puck and he deposited that thing like a pay cheque behind Hiller.
Calgary wouldn't muster much more with the goalie pulled. Flames fall 2-1 on the road.
Shots 10-5 in period for Chicago
28-24 Chicago in the game
- I love David Jones on the wing with Sean Monahan. He is made of glass but he’s putting in the effort to be a top six guy for Calgary. Is he a top six guy elsewhere? Not many teams would consider him that but he works well for now in Calgary. Last game he was on the ice for 0 shots against and wasn’t bad overall. Keep him there.
- Curtis Glencross go away. You’re slow and you’re testing my patience. If we have a package deal ready to go, send him out so we can get someone else in here. 18:33 TOI tonight and he didn’t do much. He has some decent underlying numbers but his ability to skate is just awful.
- Fourth line of that seemingly Lance Bouma, the franchise Matt Stajan, and now Mason Raymond could probably have had a bit more ice time. They weren’t horrible and they are generally an improvement over Brian McGrattan, *sigh* Brandon Bollig, and yeah that’s it. That said, do we want $6M+ on the fourth line all season? No.
- Josh Jooris, Hudler, and Gaudreau should get more ice time or make them the starting line next game. They keep doing things and they deserve it. Bump Sean Monahan’s line down and give them the spotlight for a bit. That or play Hudler and Gaudreau with Monahan for a game.
- I love Josh Jooris.
- The third line of Granlund, Paul Byron, and Joe Colborne wasn’t too bad. I’m still feeling Colborne needs more time to adjust from getting back off the IR. Byron had a few moments tonight and Granlund drew a penalty on Hossa so that’s a plus.
- Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie had some heavy assignments tonight. They did alright considering much of the team didn’t do too hot. Their “hockey IQ” on the breakout for the Hudler goal was a spectacular sight to see. Even better: watching the Sportsnet team discuss it during the intermission.
- Our defensemen need to stop going so high, it’s so damn risky and it doesn’t help things if the rest of the team isn’t as responsible/skilled to go back and cover for them.
We break up that second line for an experiment next game. Monahan could use some more capable options on the wing and we might need to do that. David Jones is a helpful guy for Monahan and Joe Colborne has chemistry; so we could try that. I'd personally love to see a period of Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler to see if it works. It would be interesting to see.
by Mike Pfeil