Calgary Flames: The Win That Saved The Season?
It certainly hasn’t been the most ideal start for the Calgary Flames, with just one win in their first six games played.
An inconsistent offense to go along with some down right bad goaltending from the player they traded for in hopes he would sure up the position has been the leading cause of the early season struggles.
While it is hard to say that one win erases the first six, and it is still too early in the season to get a good gauge on where this team is at, Monday night’s win over the Chicago Blackhawks has to feel good.
It wasn’t the prettiest of outings, as Chicago completely owned the puck during the overtime period, but that goaltending issue that has plagued them all season came through and gave them their biggest win of the season to date.
Brian Elliott stopped 31-of-33 shots to earn his first win of the season. He faced 18 total shots over the third period and overtime.
The power play finally came to life, scoring twice against the league’s worst penalty kill. Heading into the contest, the Flames - who had the league’s worst power play - was only operating at 4% early on in the season.
Sam Bennett and Sean Monahan both scored while up a man, and Kris Versteeg scored the only goal in the shootout to seal the victory.
There are so many questions left to be answered when it comes to the Flames team, but for now, when they needed a win the most they came through with one. It wasn’t just one name, it was every big name that stepped up.
Johnny Gaudreau created chaos with his speed as well as delivered a beautiful no look pass to set up Monahan’s goal (he wasn’t credited with an assist, but the pass created the goal). Elliott was finally that guy that the team hoped to be when they traded for him from St. Louis. Mark Giordano played a strong two-way game, in fact outside a Deryk Engelland turnover that led the to Patrick Kane’s goal, the entire defensive group played a strong game.
Bennett and Alex Chiasson played very strong, physical games, forcing the Blackhawks to turn the puck over in their own end on several occasions.
If not for Corey Crawford standing on his head, the Flames walk away with this game, and likely score four, maybe five goals.
Crazy thing is, despite their terrible start, they still find themselves just a lone win away from jumping all the way into third place in the Pacific division. If there was any division to play in, and have this kind of start, Calgary may have lucked out as more than half the teams in the Pacific has struggled out the gate.
If there was ever a blueprint for the Flames to find success the rest of the season, they need to look no further than their win over the Blackhawks. Physical hockey, with a blend of speed and skill presented by Johnny Hockey, and some fabulous goaltending.
Help Still Needed
The big names found themselves on the scoresheets Monday night, but that doesn’t mean that the depth guys were quiet. Michael Ferland played over three minutes on the power play, assisted on Bennett’s goal, and delivered four hits. The fourth line of Ferland, Matt Stajan, and Freddie Hamilton produced some great shifts in the offensive zone with their forechecking and physical play led to 11 collective hits.
Even with the fourth lines success, you have to wonder if another depth goal scorer for that line wouldn’t be the ideal to add at some point in the season. Maybe that person is Matt Tkachuk, who was a healthy scratch. Perhaps management doesn’t want him playing fourth line minutes, and opt to send him back to juniors for the rest of the year. The deadline to decide on which before a year of his entry-level contract being burned up is fast approaching.
Either way, another scoring option should be near the top of their wish list going forward.
The Flames may still be another year away from truly getting back to where they were just two seasons ago. However, they have a goalie now that was one of the best in the league last year, they take part in a division that looks like it is going to be wide open, and they have maybe one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league.
This is still a team that could make some noise.
And it could all come back to this night, and this save.