Time to play catch-up. It’s been a while since my last update and so much has happened. So, let’s start with the All Star Weekend.
All Star Weekend
Johnny Gaudreau was the only Calgary Flames player to make an appearance at this year’s All Star weekend and Bill Peters made an appearance behind the bench as the Pacific Division Head Coach. Gaudreau took part in the Puck Control Challenge as well. On Friday night, Gaudreau was up against some tough competition in the Puck Control Challenge, but he earned his spot at the top again for the second consecutive year. Gaudreau clocked a time of 27.045 seconds to complete the challenge while Patrick Kane came in second with 28.611 seconds. Claude Giroux, Mark Sheifele, and Gabriel Landeskog rounded out the top 5.
The next day, at the All Star Game, Gaudreau, Peters, and the Pacific Division Team lost out in the first game against the Central Division Team. But Gaudreau seemingly enjoyed it all in spite of the loss because his dad, Guy Gaudreau, got the go-ahead to be behind the bench with Head Coach Bill Peters. At the last minute, Bill Peters announced that Guy, the face of the Flames parents, would be included behind the bench to add support to the team during the game on Saturday. Guy seemed a little shy at first, but quickly became part of the team with pats on the backs of the players and energy emanating from him. The team may not have won, but they seemed to make some great hockey memories.
Feb 1st, Flames at Capitals
With Mike Smith in net for the Flames, Calgary took on the reigning Stanley Cup Champions on February 1st, when they returned from the All Star break. Alex Ovechkin did not suit up for the Capitals due to his one-game suspension for missing the All Star Weekend. But Johnny Gaudreau not only returned as the Puck Control champ, but also as first star of the week in the NHL.
— NHL (@NHL) February 1, 2021
The first period started off not well for the Flames as the Capitals opened the scoring to give Washington a 1-0 lead. Matt Niskanen and Matthew Tkachuk made friends early in the game and didn’t give each other any space on the ice throughout 60 minutes of play. In the first period, it started when Niskanen made a hit on Tkachuk when the puck was nowhere near them and the interference went uncalled. Disaster would strike when Travis Hamonic got awkwardly caught up with Jakub Vrana and headed straight down the tunnel to the dressing room. He returned a few minutes later. Mikael Backlund tied the game in the later part of the period, but Washington buried another one to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead heading into the second frame.
Less than one minute into the period, Tom Wilson notched his 14th goal of the season, giving the Capitals a comfortable 3-1 lead. And that gave Washington the push they needed to spend a lot of time down in the Flames zone, but the Calgary defense kept the pace and didn’t allow any goals. In a typical turn of events, the Flames, Garnet Hathaway, deflected a shot to bring the Flames back within one goal, 3-2. Even though Johnny Gaudreau had some slick moves throughout the middle period, he couldn’t seem to capitalize on his chances and the score remained 3-2 in favour of the Capitals to end 40 minutes of play.
To make up for some questionable calls against the Flames in the second period, the refs seemed to be making even more head-scratching calls against Washington in the third. In spite of the penalties, Braden Holtby saved the day for the Capitals with typically amazing post-to-post saves. But he could only hold on for so long before Gaudreau deflected a shot from Elias Lindholm to tie the game 3-3. After the assist on Johnny’s goal, Lindholm’s point streak continued, 11 points in 9 games. Those late third-period infractions bit the Flames in the end again when Backlund took a late holding call and the Washington Capitals took advantage and the win with a score of 4-3.
After the final buzzer, Nicklas Backstrom leveled Gaudreau into the end boards, sending the rest of the players on the ice into a flurry of fists. Andersson got mixed up with Wilson, Orpik took on Tkachuk, and everyone else was involved in the scuffle in some way as Johnny tried to shake off the hit and regain his composure.
Feb 3rd, Flames at Hurricanes
Luckily, Gaudreau didn’t miss a beat and was back in the lineup the following game against the Carolina Hurricanes. But, late in the game against Washington, the Flames announced that Hamonic was injured and would not return. He wasn’t able to play against the Hurricanes due to a lower-body injury.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) February 2, 2021
Dalton Prout was called up from Stockton and was paired with Oliver Kylington while Andersson was paired with Noah Hanifin. Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie remained the top defensive pairing. With Bill Peters, Elias Lindholm, Derek Ryan, and Noah Hanifin returning to their old stomping grounds since coming to Calgary, it was sure to be an interesting game. And it did not disappoint.
David Rittich got the start in net for the Flames, and Carolina struck first to give the home team an early 1-0 lead. But Lindholm’s shin would come to the rescue and score against his former team to tie the game 1-1 soon afterwards. Dougie Hamilton, former Flames defenseman, seemed to be making a case as a potential forward for Carolina with his aggressive net-front presence in the offensive zone. He seemed to have something to prove to himself throughout the game against his former team.
The early part of the middle period seemed to drag on with back and forth play but no goals. Derek Ryan, another former Hurricanes player, gave the Flames a 2-1 lead mid-period and Garnet Hathaway gave Calgary a two-goal lead a few minutes later when he notched a short-handed goal. Dougie Hamilton’s offensive prowess paid off for Carolina, cutting the Flames lead to 3-2 after 40 minutes. Petr Mrazek proved why he is an elite goalie in the NHL with some unbelievable saves to end the middle frame and keep him team within one goal.
With Calgary’s fourth line creating chances, Hanifin stepped up at the blue line and he, too, scored on his former team, even though Mrazek claimed goalie interference on James Neal. After review, the goal was good and it was official that all three former Carolina players who moved to Calgary scored on their former team during the game. And that’s when things turned ugly. With the Flames owning a 4-2 lead, Mrazek took a shot at Tkachuk after a whistle in the Hurricanes zone, Ryan took a high-stick from Justin Faulk who made it clear he did not like the call, and Hathaway then had to step in when things could have gotten out of hand. Even after Mrazek made his way to the bench, the Hurricanes late goal didn’t do much to change the score and the Flames walked away with a 4-3 win over Carolina.
But the best part of the game came after the buzzer as Lindholm made his way over to Rittich and mockingly celebrated his team’s win in the arena of his former team who traded him away during last year’s off-season.
Take warning. pic.twitter.com/UuyTGDhK97
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) February 3, 2021
The Calgary Flames are on another multi-day break and they will return to home ice on Thursday, February 7th when they host the San Jose Sharks. And then, on Saturday, February 9th, the Flames will be in Vancouver to take on the Canucks.