Calgary Flames at Minnesota Wild
Wild doesn’t begin to describe what transpired in St. Paul between Calgary and Minnesota. Matthew Tkachuk and Matt Dumba were feeling feisty as they dropped the mitts after a play in the corner, only a few seconds after the puck dropped. Not long afterwards, Mark Giordano took on Matt Hendricks, who seemingly wanted revenge for Giordano’s knee on Koivu during the last match-up. Tkachuk exchanged a few spirited words with some of the Wild players a while later while Sam Bennett threw fists with Ryan Suter. Luke Kunin took out David Rittich in the blue paint, which ended up in a goalie interference call. And the Flames were up 1-0 from a goal by Mark Giordano after skating up ice to help out Mark Jankowski short-handed. All of this in only the first 20 minutes of the game.
Dumba was not on the bench for Minnesota in the second period after his fight with Tkachuk early in the first period. The Wild scored early in the second period when a puck was redirected off of Oliver Kylington. Bennett rang a couple pucks off the posts but he wasn’t able to bury it. Jankowski gave James Neal the perfect chance to get the monkey off his back at the side of an open Minnesota net, but Neal couldn’t capitalize. And the score remained 1-1 after 40 minutes.
The refs seemingly put away their whistles or maybe they didn’t see some of the infractions on ice. With a few non-calls made, the Flames were trying to beat the odds that were clearly against them in the third frame. The Wild put more pressure on the Flames net throughout the third period, but around the midway mark, Neal took the puck up ice and passed to Tkachuk in front of the net. With 34 saves on 35 shots, David Rittich and the Calgary Flames took a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.
Calgary Flames at St. Louis Blues
Early on December 16th, the Flames announced the return of Mikael Backlund to the bench after he took some time off to heal from a nasty hit during the game against Minnesota. As well, Andrew Mangiapane and Jon Gillies were returned to Stockton while Kerby Rychel was called up. Sam Bennett is considered day-to-day. The Flames came out of the gate pressuring Jake Allen in the Blues net. And it paid off. Tkachuk earned a powerplay goal, Lindholm notched a goal off the faceoff, and Giordano solidified a 3-goal lead. Alan Quine stepped up and gave the Flames a comfortable 4-0 lead heading into the middle period.
Jake Allen took a seat on the bench after letting in 4 goals on 16 shots and was replaced by a young Jordan Binnington. St. Louis put up a bit more of a fight in the second period with two goals, but Johnny Gaudreau would put the Flames up 5-1 after 40 minutes.
The Blues put some pressure on Rittich in net to start the final frame, but Rittich was solid. James Neal took a puck to the face in the early part of the period, but he returned soon after. With over five minutes left in the game, the blues pulled their goalie and Gaudreau capitalized. Another goal by Quine would give the Flames a 7-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. The Flames keep beating the odds against them, in the form of non-calls, to win against some of the toughest teams in the league. Mark Giordano is proud of the team for being able to win all types of games throughout the season so far.
“We’re a deep team, we’re a good team. The belief is there right now.”
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) December 16, 2020
Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars
I don’t know why the Flames struggle against the Dallas Stars, but they do. In their last match-up, the Flames fell 4-3 in overtime to the highly skilled Stars, and they struggled again on Tuesday. With David Rittich in net again for the Flames, Czarnik on the second line, Bennett sidelined, and Neal out after taking a puck to the jaw in the previous game, we knew this one wouldn’t be easy. But I didn’t expect it to be this bad.
Rittich was the only player in the first period to keep the Flames in the game at all. The Stars dominated almost every play. The Flames defense looked uninspired and slow. Jamie Benn opened the scoring for Dallas, giving the home team a 1-0 lead after the first 20 minutes.
The second period was much of the same. The Flames looked sluggish and couldn’t seem to set up many plays. Things got ugly when Garnet Hathaway barrelled into Ben Bishop behind the net and landed in the sin bin for goalie interference. Khudobin took over in net temporarily, but Bishop returned the following period. After Hathaway collided with Tyler Seguin, Roman Pollak skated across the ice and jumped Hathaway who didn’t seem to be expecting such a aggressive reaction. Rakek Faksa would bury another goal for Dallas and the home team was up 2-0. With shots on goal in favour of Dallas through two periods, it was a rough outing for the Flames.
The rough stuff didn’t stop there. Pollak would continue to torment the Flames throughout the third period as he and Tkachuk would get in a scuffle at the Stars net after a whistle and even Mikael Backlund would get involved. But Calgary fought back a bit in the final 20 minutes of the game, earning 12 shots on net to the Stars 2 shots throughout the final frame. With a final score of 2-0, even head coach Bill Peters knew it wasn’t the team’s best performance.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) December 19, 2020
Jankowski is one of those players with the potential to do great things in his career and he’s well on his way. His numbers get better each season and his plays are more refined as time goes on. Last season, Jankowski played 72 games, earning 25 points, 33 penalty minutes, and 118 shots on net. This season, he has played 32 games, already earned 12 points, and has played much more disciplined hockey. There have been fewer penalties and more chances to set up great plays, such as the short-handed goal that Giordano got when Jankowski made the good decision to skate up ice on a breakaway. His numbers may not be as good as Sean Monahan or Johnny Gaudreau, but he has the potential to be an asset in the Flames future.
I didn’t notice him much during training camp. But a couple of weeks into the season, both my husband and I looked at each other and asked in unison, “who is this guy??” At only 5’10” tall, he’s not one of those flashy players that makes a display of everything. He’s a sleeper-hit. Ryan’s play is subtle, yet effective. Last season, with the Carolina Hurricanes, Ryan earned 38 points in 80 games while taking 135 shots on net. This season with the Calgary Flames, Ryan is already making a difference for the team with 11 points in 34 games. He played 3 seasons in Carolina with head coach Bill Peters and is now working with Peters again in Calgary. There must be something special in Ryan that the head coach can see if Peters was willing to sign him in Calgary to play under him again.
The Calgary Flames have two more games before Christmas. Thursday, December 20th, the Flames return to home ice to host the Tampa Bay Lightning and then they will host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, December 22nd.