Flames Weekly offers a look at how the Calgary Flames performed in the previous week. Be sure to check in every Monday for my take on the week that was, and to find out which storylines and players took center stage. Feel free to use the comment section below to let me know how you thought the team performed or post any ideas or questions about the Flames.
Very eventful. That’s how I’d describe the Flames’ past seven days because it was neither universally great nor downright terrible either. Rather, it was a mix of both as the boys in red played awful at times and also looked like world-beaters against one of the NHL’s bottom feeders. The week also featured multiple players hitting major scoring milestones, so when you add it all up, there’s a whole lot to talk about.
Gaudreau Reaches 100 Points in Comeback Win Over Kraken
Coming off of a successful 4-0 West Coast road trip, the Flames must have been feeling pretty good about themselves when they hosted the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday night. Their four-game winning streak came on the heels of a mini-skid that saw them lose three in a row for the first time since January. The crowd at Scotiabank Saddledome was buzzing, as they were expecting to see their potential Hart Trophy candidate Johnny Gaudreau reached the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career.
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What they got instead was two periods of some of the worst hockey the Flames have played all season. A completely energized Kraken squad outplayed, outhustled and most importantly, outscored the home team in a game where they seemed to be hemmed in their zone for lengthy stretches. Jacob Markstrom didn’t look sharp after letting in three goals on 15 shots and got yanked at the end of the second frame. Down 3-1 entering the third, the fans finally got what they came to see – Gaudreau’s 100th point of the season, and they also got an epic comeback to boot.
What made the night even more special for the Flames’ leading scorer was having his parents in town for the first time in over two-and-a-half years. A very proud mom and dad joined in with 16,000 other Flames faithful with an outpouring of joy (and relief) after Gaudreau’s assist on Matthew Tkachuk’s power-play goal early in the third period. Chants of “Johnny, Johnny” reverberated through the Dome as the milestone point sparked the home squad to take control of the game. After a four-goal final frame, Calgary won it by a score of 5-3.
Vegas Golden Knights Chase Markstrom, Flames Blowout Coyotes 9-1
The Flames knew they didn’t have their “A” game against the expansion Kraken, but they still found a way to win. The Vegas Golden Knights came into Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday night playing for their playoff lives and they caught the host team flatfooted and unprepared. After Dillon Dube got the Flames on the board first with his 11th goal of the season, the Golden Knights answered right back and never looked back. For the second straight game, Markstrom got yanked – this time giving up four goals on 17 shots.
Unlike Tuesday’s game where Dan Vladar backstopped the Flames to a comeback victory, this time the young backup couldn’t save the day. He ended up letting in two more goals on eight shots as Vegas pounded the Flames 6-1 to keep their postseason hopes alive. This was the second game in a row where they didn’t look very sharp, so I’m sure they were really hoping for a major reset when the Arizona Coyotes rolled into town on Saturday night.
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I was shocked to see Markstrom get the start against the Coyotes after getting pulled in back-to-back games, but I guess head coach Darryl Sutter thought getting his confidence back was more important than giving him some rest. After letting Arizona’s first shot on goal just 30 seconds in, I thought “here we go again”, but I was wrong about that. Dead wrong. After the early misstep, the big Swede completely shut the door. Meanwhile, the rest of the team started scoring and they simply didn’t want to stop. After being down 1-0 after the first period, the Flames scored nine unanswered goals.
Once again, the top line led the way, with Gaudreau, Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm notching four points each. After the beatdown, Sutter didn’t care much about the offensive explosion but took some satisfaction that the win punched the Flames’ ticket to the playoffs without waiting until the very last minute. (Technically, Calgary officially got in when the Edmonton Oilers beat Vegas earlier in the day but that’s neither here nor there.)
“We made the playoffs with two weeks left in the season, Sutter said. “Our goal is to make the playoffs, to get home ice is awesome. Give the players lots of credit, that’s all that matters. There’s not anybody in this room that would’ve said that six months ago.”
The Week’s Winners and Losers
- After the Flames’ big 5-3 win over the Kraken on Tuesday night, all of the attention was focused on Gaudreau cracking 100 points and rightfully so. However, lost in the shuffle was Tkachuk’s all-important hat trick that powered the Flames’ comeback victory. I was very surprised to learn that it was only the second of his career. The hatty also kicked the team’s second “100-point watch” of the season into high gear. Tkachuk now has 96 points with seven games to play.
- It’s no secret that Gaudreau’s parents were back in Cowtown for the first time in over 800 days, and while the primary reason for their visit was to see their son reach the 100-point plateau, Guy Gaudreau also wanted to play some pickup hockey while he visited Calgary. “Papa Hockey” actually brought his gear with him and on Thursday, he took to the ice and proved that he still has the moves that made him a pretty good college player in his own right. I guess the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.
- With the Flames’ 9-1 victory over the Coyotes on Saturday night, Markstrom matched his career-high in games played at 60. I don’t know about you, but seeing him getting pulled in back-to-back starts this past week is making me worry that the 32-year-old Swede could use a bit of downtime before the playoffs start. If Calgary can secure the Pacific Division title sooner rather than later, I’d love to see Vladar start five of the final seven games.
- With the Flames’ 9-1 victory over the Coyotes, the team reached the 100-point plateau for the sixth time in franchise history, but they couldn’t have done it without a whole lot of players having career years. Here’s the list of guys who are having their best seasons ever – Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, Oliver Kylington, Dube, Chris Tanev, Erik Gudbranson, Markstrom and Dan Vladar. Lindholm has already matched his career-high of 78 points, so it’s only a matter of time before he joins the club too. Nikita Zadorov is just two points shy of his all-time high, but he marked a different milestone on Saturday night by notching his 100th career point.
- For all of you Flames fans who have been losing sleep over the possibility of Gaudreau signing elsewhere when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, I may have some reassuring news for you. While appearing on Hockey Night in Canada’s After Hours on Saturday night, general manager Brad Treliving tried to ease fans’ fears with a very straightforward answer to a very important question. “We want him back here,” Treliving told Scott Oake. “We’re going to move heaven and earth to do everything we possibly can to get Johnny back here.” I’m holding him to that.
Flames’ Week Ahead
Calgary will kick off the next seven days with a trip to the Windy City on Monday to take on the Chicago Blackhawks and that’s as easy as the schedule gets. The very next night, the boys in red face a potential first-round opponent when they head to Nashville to battle the Predators. Calgary is back home on Thursday to face the Dallas Stars – another team in the wild card mix. The week wraps up on Saturday night when the desperate Vancouver Canucks pay the Dome a visit. So, it won’t be the easiest of weeks to try and lock down first place in the Pacific Division.
Greg Tysowski is a former broadcast journalist who chose the exciting life of a stay-at-home dad for over a decade. He’s now a published author, parenting blogger and aspiring sports writer covering the Calgary Flames for The Hockey Writers. Greg is also a regular contributor to the weekly roundtable discussion “Flames Faceoff”, now streaming on YouTube and all podcast outlets.