In a game the coaches probably won’t want to watch again but some fans likely will, the Calgary Flames stretched their winning streak to three games with a thrilling 5-4 shootout victory over the Devils at Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday night. Here are five thoughts from the game.
With Sunday’s win, the Flames improved to a perfect 4-0 in games decided beyond regulation time this season. Going back to last season, the Flames have 17 overtime and shootout wins to go with only two overtime losses and two shootout losses. Assistant coach Paul Jerrard suggested that because the team is so well conditioned, players don’t run out of gas in overtime. That’s one factor.
In addition, with T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton, the Flames have three defencemen who are a threat offensively, especially in 3-on-3 OT. Even when they don’t score, they create space for skilled forwards like Sean Monahan, who holds the franchise record for most career overtime goals with eight. Monahan has also been money in the post-OT skills competition, with a franchise record-tying six shootout-winners. With that said, Matthew Tkachuk has been the Flames’ main man in shootouts this season, having scored the clinching goal in both of the team’s shootout wins. Tkachuk, who has used the same fake, freeze and fire move to score both of his shootout-winners this season, told reporters after the game that he has three go-to moves and might have to change things up next time. I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
ANOTHER SLOW START
In their last game, a 2-1 OT triumph over the Penguins last Thursday, the Flames picked up a pair of points despite being badly outshot, out-chanced and outplayed in the first period. While the first period of Sunday’s game wasn’t as one-sided, the Flames were still lucky to be tied at one with the Devils through 20 minutes. The Flames have been able to overcome slow starts in the last couple of games, but that won’t last. The Flames are going to have to be better out of the gate.
Mike Smith is the main reason why the Flames are 8-6-0 this season. After surrendering a single goal in a pair of 2-1 victories over the Capitals and Penguins last week, going into Sunday’s contest versus the Devils, the Flames’ goaltender had given up two or fewer goals in eight of 12 games and more than three goals only once. While Smith wasn’t at his best on Sunday, the Flames finally provided their puck-stopper with some room for error. Following his team’s third straight win, head coach Glen Gulutzan said “It’s about time that we gave (Smith) some run support. He has been bailing us out for a long time.”
STONE SOLID AS A ROCK
With defenceman Travis Hamonic on injured reserve (retroactive to last Thursday) with a lower-body injury, Michael Stone was promoted to the team’s second pairing for Sunday’s game. Reunited with Brodie, who he played with after being acquired from the Coyotes last season, Stone played his best game this season in 24:10, which was 4:07 more than he had played in any other game this season and 8:19 more than his average time on ice in the first 13 games.
Offensively, he scored his first goal of 2017-2018 and had a game-high six shots and nine shot attempts. Defensively, Stone was solid as, you guessed it, a rock. For the first time this season, the Flames’ depth on defence was tested. Stone deserves credit for stepping up. So does general manager Brad Treliving, who stepped up and brought Stone back knowing he’d be a great No. 5 defenceman for the Flames when they were healthy and a good top-four guy when they weren’t.
After missing the last five games, including contests versus four of his former teams, the Stars, Capitals, Penguins and Devils, with a lower-body injury, Jaromir Jagr is close to returning to the Flames’ lineup. The 45-year-old was a full participant in practice on Saturday and took part in the team’s optional morning skate on Sunday. Assuming the NHL’s second all-time leading scorer doesn’t suffer a setback at practice on Monday, there is a good chance he’ll play in the fifth game of the Flames’ season-long seven-game homestand versus the Canucks on Tuesday, which would be welcome news for fans who didn’t make the cut with The Travelling Jagrs.