Flames thoughts: Calgary impresses against big-time competition

Dougie Hamilton scored his 4th goal of the season and the Calgary Flames defeated the St. Louis Blues.

In their second-last game before the Christmas break, the Calgary Flames moved back into a playoff spot with a 2-1 victory over the Western Conference co-leading St. Louis Blues at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Wednesday.


After surrendering a season-low 17 shots in Sunday’s 6-1 crushing of the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Flames goaltender Mike Smith faced just 22 shots in Wednesday’s 2-1 triumph over the Blues. The Flames have been a lot better defensively since an unscheduled practice on Dec. 5, following a 5-2 loss to the Flyers. In eight games since, the Flames have held their opponents to a total of 13 regulation and overtime goals.

In my opinion, the Flames have played even better than their 4-2-2 record in the last eight games would lead you to believe.


The Flames won Wednesday’s game but lost an important player in the process. Travis Hamonic left in the first period after awkwardly blocking a shot and didn’t return.

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Hamonic, who was really starting to play well on the Flames’ second pairing with T.J. Brodie. Because groin injuries can be nagging, I can’t help but wonder if Hamonic will sit out Friday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, giving him a full week to recover before the Flames face the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 28 following a five-day Christmas break. If Hamonic can’t play on Friday, look for the Calgary to recall Rasmus Andersson from its AHL affiliate in Stockton. Andersson, who like Hamonic is right-handed, has 16 points in 22 games with the Heat and is pointless in one game with the Flames this season.



Garnet Hathaway continues to impress. Not only does the 26-year-old power forward have six points in 11 games since being recalled, he’s also been a force physically.

Hathaway has fit right in on the Flames’ third line with Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski. Hathaway didn’t have a point in Wednesday’s win, but he was once again hard to play against. Hathaway is listed at 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds. While I’m buying the height, I’m not buying the weight – the right-winger is cut out of a stone.

In addition to having good size, Hathaway has pretty good speed and can get in on the forecheck and punish opposing defencemen – just as Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo, who got absolutely buried by the Flames forward in the third period on Wednesday, found out.

While I’m not sure that the third line is better with Hathaway than it is with the man that he replaced on right wing, Jaromir Jagr, it’s different – and not in a bad way. Unless there is a major drop-off in his play, there is no way Hathaway is going back to the AHL. Not only has the fourth-year pro looked like an NHLer during his most recent recall, he’s been an impactful one.


The 2017-18 season has been a frustrating one for Jagr. Since signing a one-year, $1-million contract with the Flames on Oct. 4, the 45-year-old has only played in 19 of the team’s 35 games.

Jagr missed the first three games getting up to speed after missing training camp and the pre-season. Since making his debut on Oct. 11, the living and playing legend has been in and out of the lineup because of a nagging lower-body injury. After playing in back-to-back games last weekend, the NHL’s second all-time leading scorer didn’t skate with the Flames on Wednesday morning or play against the Blues on Wednesday night.

While Jagr hasn’t been ruled out for Friday’s contest versus the Canadiens, with a five-day Christmas break coming up after that game, I’d be shocked to see No. 68 play. While Father Time isn’t on Jagr’s side long term, giving him some extra time to heal is probably in the best interests of the player and the team. If Jagr doesn’t play on Friday, he’ll have had 10 days to recover in time for the Flames’ first post-Christmas contest, an important Pacific Division battle versus the Sharks next Thursday. Jagr’s next game is a big one. The future Hall of Famer has played one less game than his former teammate, Ron Francis, whose 1,731 career games played are third-most in NHL history.

If Jagr can stay healthy in the second half of the season, he’ll have a chance to become the league’s all-time leader in games played. Jagr is currently fourth on that list, behind Francis, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe.


Much like when Toronto comes to town, it’s always special when Montreal visits Scotiabank Saddledome. There are a lot of Maple Leafs and Canadiens fans in Calgary, and for most of them, they have one opportunity to see their favourite team each season. The atmosphere inside the Saddledome will be electric on Friday night, both because the Canadiens will be in town and because it will be the Flames’ final game before the Christmas break.

It should be a great game, hopefully featuring the two best puck-playing goaltenders in the NHL, in Smith and the Canadiens’ Carey Price.

Friday night should be a great night at the ‘Dome.

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