Flames’ Martin Pospisil about to learn that edginess comes at a cost

Philipp Grubauer made 36 saves on the night, and the Seattle Kraken took care of the Calgary Flames 4-2 and spoiled Andrei Kuzmenko's two-goal night to reach 100 career points.

CALGARY – Martin Pospisil got the Flames into the game, then took them out of it.

In the process, he took out a few Seattle Kraken veterans, while almost certainly taking himself out of the lineup for at least a few games, as a league suspension certainly looms.

Such is life in the NHL for a first-year agitator who is about to learn a costly lesson about walking the line.

On a night in which the 24-year-old winger made a game-high four hits, it was his first and last blasts that drew a rather frank assessment from Kraken coach Dave Hakstol.

“Garbage,” he said of the last hit in particular, which will earn Pospisil a hearing after a hitting from behind major on Vince Dunn.

“But not really a whole lot different than the first hit six or seven seconds into the game. You run around like that you probably need to answer when somebody comes to you man to man and that didn’t happen either, so from there I’ll leave it to the league. I thought both hits were just about as bad as you get.”

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In an important game in which his Flames waited 14 minutes to record their first shot on net, it was Pospisil who tried his best to light a fire early with an opening-shift hit on Adam Larsson that violently sent the defenceman head-first into the boards.

No penalty, but his No. 76 was taken.

That hit paid off a period later when Tye Kartye sought justice by initiating a fight Pospisil refused to participate in, earning the Flames a powerplay Andrei Kuzmenko would cash in on to tie a game 1-1 that was previously dominated by the Kraken.

Kudos to Pospisil for getting the Flames into the game – the type of thing the six-foot-two, 175-pound revelation has done so many times since making his NHL debut in November.  

“That was big for us,” said Andrew Mangiapane of the powerplay goal Pospisil made possible with his pledge to prevent a seventh-career concussion by refusing to fight.

“Everyone just kind of upped their game. The message in the room was just everyone get their legs moving, forecheck, hit guys and get into the game, and everyone started to do that.”

Playing a crucial role alongside Nazem Kadri, he epitomizes the youthful exuberance and feistiness that has endeared a retooling team to so many fans.

But there’s a downside to playing on that edge.   

With six minutes left in a 4-2 game the previously surging Flames were pressing hard to claw back into, a forechecking Pospisil hit Dunn from behind a few feet from the end boards, sending the defender’s head into the glass for the type of perilous contact sure to earn him his first NHL suspension.

Dunn skated to the bench in pain, which won’t help Pospisil’s case. 

“I don’t know,” said Ryan Huska when asked the impossible-to-answer question of whether he thought his player crossed the line.

“We have that (video review) thing on the floor. I haven’t watched it again as a review yet.”

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He will, as will the department of player safety, which will schedule a chat with Pospisil Tuesday.

So, how does the youngster prevent this from being the first of many such meetings?

“That’s part of experience,” said Huska of the rookie who was kicked out of a game one month earlier in Boston from decking Brad Marchand after a whistle.

“The more he plays he understands, and he will understand. That’s a big part of it.

He’s a special player because of what he has, so you don’t want to take that away from him.”

Brad Treliving drafted Pospisil in 2018 and joked, “he could get into trouble at church,” following a USHL season in which the fourth-rounder accrued an incredible 253 PIMs in 49 games.

It’s a numbers game when you run around hitting everything that moves to energize your team, as a percentage of those will infuriate the opposition to your benefit, and a percentage will result in injury and/or suspension.    

“He’s learning his way right now, I guess is what we can say,” said Huska, whose club remains seven points out of the final wild-card berth while allowing St. Louis to pass them and Seattle to tie them in the standings.  

“For the majority of the year, he’s been walking the line on the right side of it for sure. He’s done a really good job with that. So he brings a lot to our team with regards to physicality and making sure he’s prepared to play.

“He’s at his best when he agitates and when he’s playing that style of game.”

“He has impact every time he plays the game.”

In a game that did tremendous damage to the Flames’ remote playoff chances, his physicality worked both for and against him and his club.

It also added to his growing reputation as a marked man.

“Dirty and unnecessary,” was Larsson’s frank assessment.

The only opinion that matters now is the league’s.

You can bet it will have plenty to say about it.

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