The Flames finished a season-long road trip at .500, and start their homestand Tuesday.
Derek Wills breaks down the latest from Calgary:
COMEBACK, SHUTOUT HIGHLIGHT TRIP
After starting their season-long five-game, 10-day road trip with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Jets at the Tim Horton’s Heritage Classic at Mosaic Stadium in Regina in Oct. 26 and a 2-1 regulation loss to the Hurricanes at PNC Arena in Raleigh last Tuesday, the Flames were well on their way to a third-straight loss in Nashville on Halloween Night.
Trailing the Predators 4-1 following 40 minutes at Bridgestone Arena, the Flames battled back to square the score at four. After all that hard work, the Flames fell behind again with 1:22 left in the third period, but fought back for the second time, tying the game on a goal by Matthew Tkachuk with just 39 seconds remaining in regulation.
Still tied at five in the dying seconds of overtime, Matthew Tkachuk scored what might be the goal of the season in the NHL, putting a between-the-legs buzzer-beater past Predators’ goaltender Pekka Rinne to complete what was an incredible comeback and a thrilling 6-5 win.
Even though Flames coaches and players alike agreed that the game was far from a recipe for success, they also said that winning the way that they did, on the road against a really good team, could help build belief and confidence for a squad that has seemingly lacked those two intangibles early in the 2019-20 season.
The Flames seemed to take some of the momentum that they built in the final 25 minutes of Thursday’s game into Saturday’s contest in Columbus.
David Rittich silenced the Blue Jackets cannon by tying Mike Smith’s franchise record for most saves in a shutout win with 43 in a 3-0 triumph at Nationwide Arena.
While from afar, it might look like the Flames were lucky to win a game they were out-shot 43-29 in, the Blue Jackets we’re putting pucks on net from the parking lot, shooting from anywhere and everywhere. As good as Rittich was, the Flames were pretty darn good, too, playing pretty close to a full 60 minutes, which they’ve struggled to do in a lot of games this season.
OUT OF GAS
The Flames wrapped up their season-long road trip in Washington on Sunday. After a strong start, the Flames, playing their second game in as many days, third game in four days and fifth games in nine days, seeming to run out of gas as the game wore on.
After tallying twice in the first period, Jakub Vrana completed his hat trick with what turned out to be the game-winning goal, breaking a 2-2 tie with just under five minutes remaining in the second.
The Capitals added an insurance goal in the third en route to a 4-2 triumph.
It was a tough night for some of the Flames’ top players. The team’s top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm, and top pairing of Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, finished a combined minus-9 on the night.
It’s important to note that even though he had a minus-1 rating, Lindholm was once again one of the best players on the ice. The 24-year-old fifth-overall pick scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season and sits tied for sixth in the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy race.
PARTY AT CAPITAL ONE
There was an awesome atmosphere at Capital One Arena on Sunday night as the Capitals paid tribute to the 2019 World Series champion Nationals. Stephen Strasburg and Co. may have learned a thing or two about how to celebrate a championship from Capitals’ captain Alex Ovechkin.
MANGIAPANE MOVES TO TOP SIX
There has been a revolving door on the right side of the Flames’ second line this season. While we’ve seen the 3M Line with Matthew Tkachuk on left wing, Mikael Backlund at centre and Michael Frolik on right wing more often than not, Andrew Mangiapane, Sam Bennett and Austin Czarnik have all been given an opportunity to play on the right side of the Tkachuk-Backlund duo.
In Sunday’s game against the Capitals, the Flames gave Mangiapane another shot in the top six, but unlike in the past, head coach Bill Peters put Mangiapane on the left wing and slid Tkachuk over to the right side. While it was only one game, the tweak worked. The 23-year-old 166th-overall pick scored a beautiful goal, and in my opinion, was one of the team’s best players in a tough matchup versus the first-overall Capitals.
Peters told me earlier this season that at this stage of Mangiapane’s career, the coaches think he’s better on his natural side than he is on his off-wing. While I think the Flames will continue to rotate the winger that plays with Tkachuk and Backlund, I also expect to see Mangiapane play more top-six minutes moving forward. He’s earned it.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Flames will start a four-game homestand on Tuesday night when the Coyotes visit the Scotiabank Saddledome. Led by the great goaltending of Darcy Kuemper, whose 1.67 goals-against average and .942 save percentage are both second-best in the NHL, the Coyotes are off to a surprisingly good 8-4-1 start. Phil Kessel and Co. will start a two-game road trip versus the Oilers on Monday, which means the Flames will get the desert dogs on the second-half of an Alberta back-to-back. The Flames won three of four games against the Coyotes in 2018-19, out-scoring them 18-6 in the season series.
On Thursday, P.K. Subban and the struggling Devils will visit the ‘Dome. At 3-5-4 to start the season, the Devils have had a hard time keeping the puck out of their net. Cory Schneider and Mackenzie Blackwood have .847 and .878 save percentages, respectfully. The Flames swept last year’s season series with 2-1 and 9-1 wins.
The Flames will wrap up the week on Saturday, when the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues will visit the Saddledome. With a 9-3-3 record and 21 points, the Blues sat atop the Central Division and tied for top spot in the Western Conference with the Oilers going into Monday’s games.
Last season’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Ryan O’Reilly, leads the Blues with 16 points while Brayden Schenn has a team-high 10 goals. The Flames were 1-2 versus the Blues last season.