The Calgary Flames have been riding quite a roller coaster lately. Two suspensions, one injury, players recalled from Stockton, players sent back down to Stockton, and 3 of 4 wins have been keeping the talented team on their toes in the past week.
On December 7th, Ryan Lomberg was suspended 2 games and head coach Bill Peters was fined $10,000 for what transpired at the end of the Flames game when they hosted the Minnesota Wild. After Matt Dumba made a questionable hit on Mikael Backlund at center ice, Ryan Lomberg took after Dumba and hauled him to the ice after the whistle. Backlund has not yet returned to the Flames bench and Lomberg has since been sent back down to Stockton. And Matt Dumba was not even considered for suspension considering the questionable target on Backlund’s head.
In that same game, Mark Giordano made a hit on Mikko Koivu and his knee collided with Koivu who was very unhappy with the hit afterwards. Giordano was suspended for 2 games for the hit. Was it intentional? No, I don’t think it was. It was Giordano playing on the edge again and it ended up being worse than he intended. Koivu has been listed as day-to-day since the hit.
In the absence of Giordano and Backlund from the bench, Alan Quine and Anthony Peluso were called up from Stockton to play with the Flames. And Mikael Backlund has been placed on the IR with concussion symptoms.
December 8, Flames host Predators
They were off to a great start when Oliver Kylington scored his first goal for the Flames this season about one minute into the game to give Calgary an early lead. The penalty kill unit looked promising as they effectively held off the Predators throughout the slashing call on T.J. Brodie. With less than one minute remaining in the first period, Nashville tied the game, 1-1.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) December 9, 2020
Through the early part of the second frame, the Predators dominated until Garnet Hathaway would change the momentum as he roughed up Hartman along the benches. Sean Monahan skated around the net, picked up a pass, and took a shot that went off one of the Predators sticks and into the net to give Calgary a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Because the Predators can never make things easy on the Flames, they tied the game again in the early part of the final period. But Hathaway would shut them down and put the Flames ahead again, 3-2. After being called up for the weekend, Alan Quine would make an impact for the absent Flames players by burying his first goal of the season for the Flames to give Calgary a comfortable 4-2 lead. With another empty net goal by Lindholm, the Flames took the win by a score of 5-2 over Nashville.
December 9, Flames at Oilers
It was another ugly start for the Calgary team as James Neal took an interference call and Connor McDavid opened the scoring for the home team. After a hit on Travis Hamonic, Milan Lucic felt the effects of Anthony Peluso being called up to the Flames. The first period was a messy, disorganized disaster as Calgary was left off the scoreboard in the first 20 minutes.
The Flames really started to feel the effects of losing Giordano and Backlund early, but the second period wasn’t a lot better for the team. David Rittich came up big for the Flames, keeping them alive and keeping a win within reach, but it was not to be. Sam Bennett rushed the Oilers net and ended up in the box for goalie interference, Prout was nabbed with an illegal check to the head, and in spite of Johnny Gaudreau’s 5 shots on net, he just couldn’t seem to bury the puck. The Flames fell 1-0 to the Oilers in the latest installment of the Battle of Alberta.
December 12, Flames host Flyers
Another rough start for the Flames could have turned into another ugly game against the Flyers, but they finally got it together in the third period and proved why they’re near the top of the league standings. Philadelphia dominated the play early, spending a lot of time in the Flames defensive zone. The standout player of the first 20 minutes was Elias Lindholm who was a one-man show offensively and defensively. Luckily, the Flames got it together later in the period and were lucky to be up 1-0 thanks to the great plays of Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett after the first period.
But, like always, the opposition fought back in the second period to tie the game early when Giordano got caught behind the play. Giordano would redeem himself a few minutes later when he buried the Flames second goal to give them a 2-1 edge. And then the Flyers took over. With goals by van Riemsdyk, Couturier, and Weise, Philadelphia was clearly in control of the second frame. Sean Monahan would shrink the gap with a goal for the Flames, but the score was lopsided after 40 minutes, 4-3 for the Flyers.
Another goal by Philadelphia’s Couturier short-handed early in the final period would give them a comfortable 5-3 lead throughout most of the period. With the stands starting to clear out by fans after a less-than-stellar display by the home team, this one was all but over. But then Rasmus Andersson proved again why he was called up to the show this season. With Rittich on the bench, not only did Andersson close the gap 5-4 with a beauty goal from the blue line, he notched his first NHL goal for the Flames. And then the fans were in for another surprise. With help from Tkachuk and Giordano, Monahan banged home a stunner with a mere 7 seconds left on the clock to tie the game and force overtime.
A Swede night for this guy. pic.twitter.com/KJuoULMquf
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) December 13, 2020
It wasn’t over, until it was really over. And it was over after a perfectly executed play up the ice by Monahan who passed to Gaudreau in front. Giordano picked up the first rebound which was redirected again, straight to Gaudreau’s stick and then into the back of the net. The Flames took this one 6-5 with a dramatic overtime win.
Rasmus Andersson, the 22 year old, 6’2” defender, is proving exactly why the Flames put him in the opening night roster this season. He has been a solid blue-liner for the team this year, defending effortlessly and creating offensive chances for the team in the opposition’s end. And he stepped up his game again during Giordano’s suspension. With over 22 minutes of ice time the first night and over 19 minutes the second night, Andersson stood solid on defense when the Flames needed it the most. Add his first NHL goal during the game against the Flyers and this guy has made his mark. Welcome to the show, Andersson!
Speaking of defense, David Rittich has been a great backup goalie for the Flames - one of the best in recent history. Smith and Rittich have worked closely together and have been a good tandem for the Calgary team this season by splitting a lot of the workload. Where one falls behind, the other steps up, and vice versa. In 13 starts so far this season, Rittich has earned 9 wins. Smith has notched 11 wins in 19 starts. Say what you want about Mike Smith but you can’t contend an overall save percentage of 0.912 throughout his NHL career. David Rittich is on the same track, already earning a save percentage of 0.911 so far during his short time in the NHL. And Rittich is getting progressively better with each passing year. They are the best last line of defense the Flames have had since the retirement of Miikka Kiprusoff. Yeah, I said it, and I’m not sorry.
And how about that offense?? Holy Sean Monahan. From 34 points in 75 games with the Flames in his first season to 38 points (20 goals and 18 assists) in 32 games this season with Calgary, the quiet, unassuming forward has been the backbone of the Flames team for quite a while now. Alongside Johnny Gaudreau, Monahan has played his best hockey. And I hope they are never split up because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a pair that were meant to play together the way Monahan and Gaudreau play.
Speaking of amazing offense…Elias Lindholm. When Lindholm came to Calgary, he was a good player with potential. With 44 points in 81 games with the Carolina Hurricanes, Lindholm was a good acquisition. This season, with 34 points (16 goals and 18 assists) in 32 games under his belt, he has now become an asset. He is part of what makes this season’s team so special. On a line with Monahan and Gaudreau, Lindholm’s potential shuts the opposition down with his offensive and defensive talent. And he’s only 24 years old. He has a lot of great hockey years left in him and his skillset will only get better through the next few years.
Now we just have to get James Neal back to form and this team could rule the world. Last season, with the Las Vegas Golden Knights, Neal notched 44 points in 71 games with the newest NHL club. Acquired during the off-season, the Flames signed Neal to a five-year contract worth almost 5.8 million, I’d like to see more from Neal offensively. But, like a lot of other players in the history of the Flames, some players take a bit more time to heat up throughout the season.
Does this team have what it takes to get to the post-season? Yes. If they can keep up their momentum and their hunger for wins, which was clearly displayed in their game against Philadelphia, they have a good shot at making a good post-season run. If they can stay healthy and uninjured, the Flames depth could make quite an impact on their season. Time will tell.
This coming weekend, the Flames are on the road with a continuation of the matchup with the Minnesota Wild and then they are off to St. Louis to take on the Blues.