After two games where the Calgary Flames did not show up whatsoever during the third period, they exclusively played well after 40 minutes against Nashville. There’s a lot to break down and some major red flags, but let’s also take a minute to recognize that the end of that game absolutely ruled.
Feel of the game
The Flames had potentially their worst start of the season against the Predators, which is saying something because that first game against Los Angeles is still pretty fresh in the mind. However, the Flames looked like they had no idea what was going on. By the time they had their first shot on net, Nashville had scored twice and had 14 shots. It doesn’t matter if you’re team fancy stats or team watch the game, that’s bad any way you slice it.
The second period was vastly improved, and yet still fairly mediocre! It’s really interesting that Nashville recognized that the Flames’ penalty kill is relatively strong, so they decided to do all their special teams damage shorthanded. A bold strategy, and one that paid off. Given how the last few games have gone, no one would have blamed fans for turning off the television.
Those people were wrong.
The last 25 minutes, give or take 1.4 seconds, were some of the most captivating to watch from Calgary this season. It’s easy to forget that the goals by Rasmus Andersson and Elias Lindholm weren’t beautiful, nor did they feel inevitable. It was caused by hard work, and some good old-fashioned puck luck, something that has been in short supply this season. Calgary didn’t let up though, and were rewarded with getting out of the hole they dug themselves.
It was an absolute rollercoaster though. I was still bracing for the worst when the Flames pulled within one, and even still when Alan Quine tied it up. I felt shamefully validated when noted domestic abuser Austin Watson pulled Nashville ahead 5-4. (Side note: what a bizarre move for Nashville to announce a contract extension for Watson during the game. Did he sign the papers from the bench? Weird move by their team)
Then came Matthew Tkachuk. There’s been some building frustration and criticism over Tkachuk, and I hope a game like this silences it, as it didn’t really feel valid to begin with. He’s been putting in the work, and is tied for the team lead in scoring. Yes, he’s had some gaffes like the OT shift in Regina, but this OT shift absolutely redeems him for that. What a show. I screamed. I couldn’t believe it. I felt pure, unabated joy.
Time will tell, but fellow FlamesNation writer Ramina Shlah said that if the Flames do well this season, this is going to be looked at as the Turning Point. That’s ideal, but even if it doesn’t come to fruition, it was still a hell of a comeback.
The good news
That must have been a hell of a speech at the intermission. Tkachuk said post-game that words were said after 40, and they clearly resonated with the Flames. However, instead, of just looping that OT goal here, let’s break down the actual positives.
Sean Monahan didn’t score, but damn if he didn’t do everything else he could during this one. He had three assists (including #200 in his career!) and shared the team lead for individual high-danger scoring chances with Tkachuk (who else). He’s really starting to look like the two-way player he was touted as being during his junior career, even though his scoring has hit one of the worst skids of his career. If he keeps bringing as much to games as he did in Nashville, it’ll be a lot easier to stomach the lack of goals. Bring on Mean Sonahan.
Speaking of players on the top line, all three of the reunited top line had something to celebrate last night. On top of Monahan’s 200th assist, Lindholm continued his hot streak lately in scoring his 100th career goal. Johnny Gaudreau decided to flex on both of them, totaling his 400th career point. It was nice to see them rewarded for being reunited.
David Rittich kept them in the game when no one seemed interested in playing. He let in five goals and was not a problem for Calgary.
In the continuing saga of who gets to play with Mikael Backlund, Andrew Mangiapane looked good alongside him and Tkachuk. It’s maybe a little frustrating that so many players look good in spurts alongside Backlund and Tkachuk, because the Flames would be so much more complete if every line had drivers of their own instead of great complementary pieces. However, credit where it’s due, Mangiapane kept up.
One of the major reasons the Flames were able to get six goals last night was because their depth came to play. Getting goals from Quine, Derek Ryan, and Rasmus Andersson makes a world of difference.
The bad news
The first fifteen minutes were absolute rubbish. There have been slow starts for this team, and then there have been those that were zombie-like. Hopefully this game gives the team back their swagger, because this still feels like a team licking their wounds since last April.
You know what else was decidedly not good? The power play. Calle Jarnkrok had more shorthanded goals last night than the Flames had power play shots. The second power play unit has had struggles all season long, but now both units look uninspired and keep costing the Flames – if not in goals against then at least momentum. That needs a major readjustment.
There’s a reason that Mark Jankowski and Milan Lucic only got three shifts after the Predators’ fourth goal: they were struggling last night. They had the lowest CF% last night at 5v5, and shortening the bench worked wonders for Peters. He also limited Quine’s time, but Quine still got shifts, and ended up scoring. Speaking about Jankowski specifically, this was not a triumphant return for him after getting scratched, and you have to wonder what the plan is for him long-term.
Rittich had to face seven high danger shots. Three of them went in, because you can only ask a goalie to stand on his head so many times. His defense needs to give him more support.
The Flames were shorthanded three times, as they still keep taking penalties at an abnormally high rate.
Numbers of note
0.98 – Johnny Gaudreau’s career points per game. With point #400 last night in game #409, he’s easily the best value the Flames have come away with at the draft. Maybe he eclipse a point per game in his next 400, all with Calgary.
1 – The first assist of the season for Noah Hanifin on Ryan’s goal. For a player who leads the team in GF%, the points have not been there for Hanifin. Is he due for a breakout soon? He looks like a much stronger player this season overall, major lapses notwithstanding.
7 – Individual shot attempts for Mark Giordano, which led the team alongside Lindholm. That doesn’t even count his ridiculous slap-pass to Quine. The captain played a big part in the comeback.
9 – The number of players who eclipsed 20:00 TOI, and Andersson wasn’t far behind at 19:49. It would be fun to call the comeback a team effort, but it was really just a half-the-team effort.
1.4 – The number of seconds left in overtime when Matthew Tkachuk scORED AN ABSOLUTELY FILTHY GOAL BETWEEN HIS LEGS DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT WAS NOT TO JUST TALK ABOUT THAT THE ENTIRE ARTICLE WHAT A BEAUTY
I mean this goal doesn’t even make sense pic.twitter.com/vhUBGoz15T
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) November 1, 2019
Goal of the year or… ? pic.twitter.com/CmKTEq2vCQ
— NHL (@NHL) November 1, 2019
— Noah Adler (@noahadler1) November 1, 2019
feminist legend matthew tkachuk said we're not having an austin watson gwg on my watch https://t.co/gIcEjtInZW
— mallory (@sports_lesbian) November 1, 2019
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) November 1, 2019
Imagine if they played the rest of the season like they played those last 25 minutes.