Calgary Flames smoke the New York Rangers 5-1

IMG_9752

The Calgary Flames were on fire last night earning a 5-1 victory over the New York Rangers.  Matthew Tkachuk got his 31st and 32nd goal. All three of his assists managed to be what put them into the lead and it was his 100th  assist in the NHL.

 “I don’t think of myself as a shooter or a passer, I’m just somebody trying to read the play and make the best play possible.”

Matthew Tkachuk

The American-born professional hockey player is currently an alternate captain for the Flames and was a top-rated prospect who was sixth overall in the 2016 NHL entry draft. Tkachuk was showcasing his smart plays, impressing spectators at the Saddledome. Now the flames move one point ahead of the sharks with 11 games to go. Flames goalie David Rittch made an impressive 24 saves. Next, the Flames will go head to head with the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell MTS place

-Raynaldo Suarez

 

Advertisements

Prepare the Red Mile: Flames clinch playoff spot

And there we have it. With Minnesota’s 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Sunday, it was official.

This morning the Flames woke up with an “X” next to their logo in the standings; “X” marking a spot in the 2018-2019 post-season.

Courtesy of NHL.com: Standings from morning of March 18, 2019

The Flames become just the second team in the league – and the first from the Western Conference – to secure a playoff berth.

So prepare yourselves, C of Red and Red Mile-goers, in just over three weeks playoff hockey will be back in Calgary.

The Flames have just ten games left in the regular season, so let’s take a look at what’s remaining on the schedule before the playoffs, as well as what it will take to clinch home-ice and maybe even the Western Conference title.

Remaining Schedule:

Six of the Flames’ last ten regular season games will be played at the Scotiabank Saddledome, with a single-game trip to Vancouver and three-game swing through California remaining.

Courtesy Sportsnet.ca: Flames Schedule March 19 – April 6

In their final ten games, the Flames face just three teams that currently sit in playoff spots – Columbus, Dallas and San Jose – with their other seven opponents having no hope of reaching the post-season.

The game against San Jose on March 31st has the potential to be the biggest game of the season. With the Sharks sitting just one point back of Calgary for top spot in the Pacific, each game and every single point will be huge down the stretch. The head-to-head will swing four points in the standings, so if the two manage to keep pace with each other leading up to the contest, it could be the difference in who wins the division.

Not only are the Flames battling for first in the Pacific against the Sharks, but there is also a very real possibility that the two could meet in the second round of the playoffs.

Let’s dive a little deeper into how the Flames have fared against the Sharks this season.

Flames and Sharks head-to-head

Calgary and San Jose have played three of four regular season games against each other in the 2018-2019 NHL season.

  • November 11 – CGY @ SJS: 3-1 Sharks win
  • December 31 – CGY vs. SJS: 8-5 Calgary win
  • February 7 – CGY vs. SJS: 5-2 Sharks win
  • March 31 – CGY @ SJS: TBD

The Flames will look to split their season-series with the Sharks when they visit the SAP Centre on March 31st, as the second game in a three-game trip through California.

In three games, the Sharks have an edge in goals scored; netting 13 to Calgary’s 11. San Jose has had 11 players contribute offensively in those three games, while Calgary has had 14 different players on the score sheet. Of those producing offense for both teams, the Sharks have five players averaging over a point-per-game versus the Flames, and on the flip-side, the Flames have four. Those players include:

For San Jose:

  • Evander Kane: 3G, 4A (7 pts)
  • Joonas Donskoi: 3G, 3A (6 pts)
  • Tomas Hertl: 2G, 3A (5 pts)
  • Brent Burns: 2G, 3A (5 pts)
  • Joe Pavelski: 1G, 3A (4 pts)

For Calgary:

  • Sean Monahan: 1G, 5A (6 pts)
  • Johnny Gaudreau: 2G, 2A (4 pts) — All four points on December 31st
  • Matthew Tkachuk: 2G, 2A (4 pts) — All four points on December 31st
  • Elias Lindholm: 1G, 2A (3 pts) — All three points on December 31st

Of the two teams, there is only three players who have registered points in all three games, and they all play for the teal. Evander Kane, Joonas Donskoi and Tomas Hertl have all hit the score sheet in all three games against the Flames.

With the exception of the New Years Eve barn-burner, the Sharks have done an excellent job of shutting down Flames’ leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau – who has over a point-per-game this season – had 4 points (2G, 2A) in the December 31st win, but has been held scoreless in the other two contests against San Jose.

With 24 goals scored through three games – for an average of 8 goals-per-game – it is also important to examine how the goaltenders have fared.

Goaltending Matchup

Through the three games we have seen four different goalies. Here is a game-by-game summary of the goaltending:

November 11 (3-1 SJS win in San Jose):

  • Flames: Mike Smith (26 SV on 28 SA)
  • Sharks: Martin Jones (29 SV on 30 SA)

December 31 (8-5 CGY win in Calgary):

  • Flames: David Rittich (28 SV on 33 SA)
  • Sharks: Aaron Dell (19 SV on 27 SA)

February 7 (5-2 SJS win in Calgary):

  • Flames: Started David Rittich (2 GA on 6 SA) who was pulled after 13 minutes, Mike Smith (21 SV on 24 SA) played the rest of the game
  • Sharks: Martin Jones (36 SV on 38 SA)

 The main difference between San Jose and Calgary in the crease is that the Sharks have a clearly defined number one goalie, while the Flames might still be up in the air when it comes to their Game 1 starter in the playoffs. The Flames have seen both Martin Jones (2 wins) and Aaron Dell (1 loss) this season, but here’s a closer look at their respective numbers on the year:

  • Martin Jones: 55 GP (34-15-5) with a 2.86 GAA and a .899 SV%
  • Aaron Dell: 21 GP (9-6-3) with a 3.06 GAA and a .889 SV%

Of note, both goalies are having statistical seasons that are below career average. In 279 career games, Jones has a 2.44 GAA and .912 SV%, and in 70 career games, Dell has a 2.57 GAA and .912 SV%. Jones started the season significantly below his normal standard of play, but he has really come on in last month. Dell won’t challenge for the starter’s spot in San Jose, but in Calgary the situation in goal is a very different story.

Mike Smith started the season as the undisputed starter, but a shaky first half and strong back-up performance – from second-year Rittch – led to Smith’s loss of the bulk of the starts. Here’s how the Flames tandem in goal has done so far this year:

  • David Rittich: 41 GP (25-7-5) with a 2.65 GAA and .910 SV%
  • Mike Smith: 36 GP (19-14-2) with a 2.88 GAA and .896 SV%

Smith is similar to the San Jose goalies, in that his numbers in the 2018-2019 season have been below career average. In his long career, Smith has a 2.71 GAA and .912 SV% in 565 NHL games. Rittich’s numbers better than in his first NHL season, so this has been the best year of his short career.

On paper, it would seem that Rittich would be the more obvious choice as the Flames’ Game 1 starter; however, it might not be so clearly cut.

Flames head coach Bill Peters has shown a willingness to give a longer leash to the veteran Smith, while Rittich has been more closely policed. For example, in Calgary’s 5-2 loss to San Jose on Feburary 7th, Rittich was pulled just 13 minutes into the game after allowing two goals on six shots. Smith also had a stretch in February soon after the loss to the Sharks when he went 4-0-1 in five-straight starts. So while Rittich has won more games and put up better numbers for the Flames this season, Peters might still be wondering if leaning on Smith – who has played 502 more NHL games than Rittich – would be a better bet in the first round.

For now, we will just have to see how the final ten games of the season play out in the crease, and we have a better idea of the Flames’ game one starter before the playoffs begin on April 10th.

Conclusion

The Flames may have clinched a playoff berth, but there’s still a lot to play for in their final ten games of the regular season. The battle between Calgary and San Jose for first in the division, and likely first in the Western Conference, could come down to their meeting on March 31st in San Jose.

For now, prepare yourselves, Flames fans. Playoff hockey is back for the C of Red, and the Red Mile will live on this spring.

Road to the Red Mile (Danica Ferris & Jake Foster)

Johnny Gaudreau powers Flames past Devils 9-4

Johnny Gaudreau had three goals and three assists to earn a career high six points on Tuesday night. The Calgary Flames scored six times in the third period to give them a 9-4 win over the New Jersey Devils.

“Just give him the puck”

Gaudreau entered the night with only one goal in his last 19 games. He became the first Flames player to accomplish the feat since Al MacInnis on March 20, 1994.

Sean Monahan spoke after the game saying “He (Johnny) was feeling it today. Just give him the puck and he was making plays all over.”

Flames now move on to meet the New York Rangers, who are 7th in the metropolitan division, on Friday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Hannah Lepine

Flames down Knights in potential playoff preview

Sunday’s showdown between the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights had the kind of “most important game of the year” narrative surrounding it that is so common at this time of year.

And sure, it might have been the most important game of the year for the Flames… for now… until that title is most likely taken by their March 31st matchup with the San Jose Sharks.  

The Flames will probably play a handful of “most important games of the year” in their final stretch, as they jockey for position – and home ice advantage – heading into the post-season.

But their fourth meeting of the year with the Knights definitely did feel like the stakes were higher than any game in recent memory, as the two teams entered Sunday riding two very different streaks of play.

Four-straight losses for the Flames, and a six-game winning streak for the Golden Knights.

One team looking to change their fortunes, and one looking to stay hot.

The two also had bad blood fresh in their minds, after a meeting just four days prior, when Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury earned his league-leading 33rd win of the season, in a game that had all speed and bite of a playoff matchup. The 2-1 Knights victory might have only featured three goals (four, if you count Johnny Gaudreau’s disallowed marker) but it didn’t lack in entertainment, with both teams recording a matching 26 hits, and Matthew Tkachuk further thrusting himself into the “most hated player in the league” conversation.

So less than one hundred hours later – after the Flames failed to win their first game ever at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas – all eyes were on the Flames’ third-year winger.

And as he’s proven throughout his young career, he thrives when the spotlight is pointed at him.

Skating on a reunited 3M line, alongside Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, Tkachuk was the most noticeable player on the ice – once again – as the Flames and Knights dropped the puck.

The line combined for 11 points, including Tkachuk’s first career hat-trick (he also added an assist), four helpers from Frolik, and two goals and an assist by Backlund.

The other Flame that managed to beat Knights’ back-up netminder Malcom Subban was Andrew Mangiapane, who opened the scoring with his fourth of the year.

With a final score of 6-3, the Flames victory bumped them back into first place in the Pacific – one point up on the Sharks, who have a game in hand – and kept them firmly in the driver’s seat for post-season home-ice advantage, with an eight-point lead on the Golden Knights.

The Flames have just 13 games remaining in the regular season, with eight of those on home ice, so winning the Pacific division is still a very probable outcome; but if the Flames don’t manage to lock up the Pacific, they would more than likely face these very same Golden Knights in the first round of playoffs.

So how do the Flames matchup, on paper, against Vegas? Let’s take a look.

Head-to-head

The Flames and Golden Knights will not meet again in the 2018-19 regular season, as last night’s game ended their season-series in a 2-2 split, with both teams winning their two games on home ice.

  • November 19 in Calgary: Flames win 7-2
  • November 24 in Las Vegas: Knights win 2-0
  • March 6 in Las Vegas: Knights win 2-1
  • March 10 in Calgary: Flames win 6-3

One thing that is immediately noticeable about the season-series is the difference in the amount of goals scored in Calgary, versus in Vegas. The two teams combined for 18 goals in two contests at the Saddledome, while there were just five goals recorded between the two at T-Mobile Arena. A major reason for this discrepancy is goaltending, with Marc-Andre Fleury starting both games at home, while backup Malcom Subban suited up for the two visits to Calgary; but I’ll have more on the goaltending later.

With this being just the second season for the NHL’s newest franchise, the Golden Knights and Flames don’t have much of a history to look back on. But in their eight regular season meetings the edge goes to Vegas, who are 5-3-0 against Calgary. Both teams average over three goals-per-game against each other, with Calgary netting an average of 3.3 goals and Vegas just behind them at 3.1. Obviously that stat would be heavily skewed for the Flames because of the high-scoring affairs this season at the Saddledome.

Finally, in those eight meetings, we are yet to see the Flames and Golden Knights face-off in overtime, and – as mentioned previously – we are yet to see the Flames secure a win at T-Mobile Arena.

Goaltending

One of the biggest differences between the Flames and Golden Knights is the state of their crease. While Vegas has a proven, elite starter in Marc-Andre Fleury, Calgary’s starter for Game 1 of the post-season still remains a question mark. David Rittich (23-7-5) and Mike Smith (19-13-2) have both had solid stretches this year, but neither goalie has firmly grabbed the title of starter.

The edge for stats would have to go to Rittich:  

  • Rittich: 23-7-5, .911 SV%, 2.65 GAA
  • Smith: 19-13-2, .896 SV%, 2.90 GAA

But the veteran experience and puck handling that Smith provides are intangibles that can’t be quantified.

Rittich has started all four of the Flames’ games against Vegas this year, and has fared well against the Knights:

  • November 19 (7-2 W): 20 saves on 22 shots, .909 SV%
  • November 24 (2-0 L): 26 saves on 28 shots, .929 SV%
  • March 6 (2-1 L): 36 saves on 38 shots, .947 SV%
  • March 10 (6-3 W): 25 saves on 28 shots, .893 SV%

He hasn’t stolen them a game at T-Mobile Arena, where the Flames have struggled to beat Fleury, but he’s given them a chance to win games.

While Fleury is the undisputed number one guy in Vegas, the same can’t be said for Calgary.

Goaltending will be a huge topic of conversation for the Flames as they finish off the regular season and head into the playoffs, and at this point it still remains a toss-up for who will start Game 1 for Calgary.  

Other important stats

Another way you could forecast a potential playoff meeting between the Flames and Golden Knights would be to directly compare their regular season stats. So far this season:

  • Record:
    • Flames: 42-20-7
    • Golden Knights: 38-27-5
  • Home Record:
    • Flames: 21-7-5
    • Golden Knights: 21-10-4
  • Away Record:
    • Flames: 21-13-2
    • Golden Knights: 17-17-1
  • Goal Differential:
    • Flames: +42 (3rd in NHL)
    • Golden Knights: +16 (11th in NHL)
  • Power Play:
    • Flames: 21.9% (9th in NHL)
    • Golden Knights: 17.2% (22nd in NHL)
  • Penalty Kill:
    • Flames: 79.5% (22nd in NHL)
    • Golden Knights: 81.8% (7th in NHL)
  • Short-handed goals:
    • Flames: 16 SHG (1st in NHL)
    • Golden Knights: 8 SHG (7th in NHL)

Obviously those aren’t all of the statistical categories you could compare, but in those seven, Calgary has the edge in six.

The topic of home-ice advantage is huge surrounding the Golden Knights because Vegas has such an insane atmosphere inside of T-Mobile Arena, but the Flames have just as many wins on home ice as the Knights do this season. The theatrics of Las Vegas could go head-to-head with the Red Mile and C of Red. The Flames may not have won a game in Vegas yet, but their record on the road is better than the Knights’.

Conclusion

All this research and discussion could be for nothing, if say the Flames clinch first in the Pacific and the Knights get knocked out in round 1; but if you’re into gambling – as most people who go to Las Vegas are – the odds are good that we’ll see the two meet again this year. A 2-2-0 regular season series was entertaining enough that you wouldn’t hear many people complain if the two did indeed meet in the post-season, and with just 13 games remaining for the Flames, we won’t have to wait long to find out their first round opponent.

— Road to the Red Mile (Danica Ferris & Jake Foster)

Minnesota cats spoil Iginla’s jersey retirement

Flames logo

It was supposed to be the perfect night to celebrate a worthy sportsman, as the Calgary flames took on the Minnesota cats. Like all fairy tale stories, the flames were supposed to win and make it a perfect night of celebration as they retire the number 12 Jersey of their former captain and legend, Jarome Iginla.

“You know they’re going to come with a pretty hard push at the beginning of the game, they’re a good team and played well here. I thought we did a good job weathering it.”

Well it was not to be, as Minnesota had other ideas of their own. The cats not only put a dent on the flames aspiration by winning 4-2 on the night, but they also ended a seven game streak for the flames and soured Iginla’s testimonial.

Speaking after the game, Minnesota captain Devan Dubnyk said, “You know they’re going to come with a pretty hard push at the beginning of the game, they’re a good team and played well here. I thought we did a good job weathering it.”

Earlier in an elaborate pre-game ceremony, the flames raised Iginla’s number 12 to the rafters bringing the curtain to a close in what can be termed a beautiful career for Iginla.

Chimezie Uguru

Former Calgary Flames legend gets his number retired

It was a very special night on Saturday as Jarome Iginla had his number 12 jersey retired in a heartwarming ceremony.

The Flames legend spent 16 seasons with the club. He achieved the franchise record for games played, goals, as well as points. He was also known for his service to the community, as he raised $800,000 for KidSport.

“I won over and over again every day for the 20 years that I played in the NHL.”

Iginla went on to to speak about his time in the NHL, as well as how much the Flames organization and fans meant to him throughout his career. He went on to say “I won over and over again every day for the 20 years that I played in the NHL.” As he spoke about how much hockey meant to him.

Besides retiring his jersey, the Flames honored Iginla by paying $50,000 to his charity of choice, KidSport.

Iginla joins an exclusive club consisting of Mike Vernon, and Lanny McDonald to be the only Flames to have their jerseys retired.

-Logan Stein

Czarnik shines as Tkachuk brothers face off

On the eve of the NHL’s Trade Deadline, the brothers Tkachuk – Matthew (21) and Brady (19) – provided a short distraction for two teams who approach Monday’s 1 pm MT deadline on opposite sides of the table.

Sitting comfortably atop the Western conference, Matthew’s Flames are being called buyers as they eye a return to the post season. On the other side of the ice Sunday, younger brother Brady belongs to a team that is openly selling, as the Ottawa Senators embark on a rebuild.

The deadline poses many questions for a Calgary Flames team with an eye on returning to the post-season; one that many think have a shot at making their first real run since Jarome Iginla led the Flames to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals.

But all the trade rumours were temporarily overshadowed at the Canadian Tire Centre, as nearly 40 members of the Tkachuk family and their friends visited Ottawa to see the two young stars face off for the first time ever in an organized game. The night before, Keith Tkachuk – father and former NHL star in his own right – silenced the speculation that the two would fight, when he convinced them to shake hands and promise not to drop the gloves.

Even without the fisticuffs, the game had more fireworks than expected, in a game that many would have predicted to be dominated by Calgary.

Head coaches Bill Peters and Guy Boucher played along, allowing the brothers to take the opening faceoff. The younger Tkachuk won the draw, one of the few he’s taken at the NHL level as a left winger, but it didn’t take long for Matthew to seek pay-back, with a solid hit on Brady in their first shift.

Both brothers are having solid statistical years. Brady has 31 points in 51 games so far in his rookie season, while Matthew has 59 points in 62 games in his third NHL campaign.

Matthew looked to be the first brother on the score-sheet in the game, going hard to the net as Craig Anderson tried to cover up the puck, but after a lengthy coach’s challenge deliberation the goal was called back for goalie interference.

After twenty minutes the Flames led by one on Mikael Backlund’s 16th of the year, but Brady looked to make his mark on the game in the second. On a breakaway the younger Tkachuk looked like a poised veteran player, with a deke that beat Flames’ goalie David Rittich five-hole.

“Big Save Dave” was looking for a big performance, in his first start in six games. The resurgence of Mike Smith in five-straight starts has Rittich looking like the 1B starter, after taking over the crease earlier in the season from 35-year-old Smith.

Tied at one heading into the third, many on Twitter wondered if they would see Tkachuk vs. Tkachuk in 3-on-3 overtime, or the shootout.

But recently hot Flames forward Austin Czarnik put the game to bed late in regulation. With his fourth goal in the last five games – and third game-winning goal this season -Czarnik played the hero in the dying seconds of the third period. On a feed into the middle by Michael Frolik, Czarnik went to his backhand to beat Anderson with less than a minute left.

What’s next? 

The Flames will look to get through Monday’s Trade Deadline before shifting their focus to the 20 games remaining in the regular season. Game two of an Eastern Conference road trip is Tuesday night in New York, when the Flames will face the Islanders for the second time in six days.