Calgary and high draft pick. The two have been synonymous of late, with the team failing to perform all that well since playoff success in the mid-2000s. Such was thought to be their fate this season as well, but they’ve belied expectations, coming out hard and winning or gaining an OT point in all of their first five games.
Now coming off two losses, the last one a 6-3 drubbing by San Jose on Saturday, they faced the LA Kings on Monday night. The game would give Kings fans a first look at goalie Karri Ramo. He came from Finland by way of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the draft of 2004. He played about fifty games for Tampa before decamping to the cold, cold north of Omsk in the KHL. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Jagr was recently with them. Before the NHL comeback, obviously.
About his night, Ramo said, “They had a really good power play, really good aggression. But we knew they would come hard. It was easy to get in the game because they came out so hard.” His own performance was worthy of the team’s CFD fire helmet, which came from the other goalie, Joey MacDonald. Ramo wore it during his poat-game interview.
“We are really confident in our conditioning. They other team has to really play hard to get us tired.” That was his summation of the work ethic that the team has displayed to date, and also a reflection on their preparation.
The Flames brought a 3-2-2 record into Staples Center to face the 6-3-0 Kings. Along with that came a middling power play (16th in the league) and an abysmal PK, dead last in the league. The number was under 70%. Their PP was at 17.9%. The total? About 88. The great Scotty Bowman has said that if the two numbers add up to a hundred, you’re golden. Call the Flames’ special teams worse than bronze. (For you Canadians of a certain age, they would get the participation pin of the “Participaction” fitness testing of yore.)
Before the night was over, they team from Alberta mostly erased those stats, scoring all their goals on the power play. Their coach, Bob Hartley, explained that after the contest: “We knew coming here that it would be physical, so there would be power plays on both sides, and I think that we won the special team battle. Our execution was very good. We kept it simple, and the right guys had the puck. Cammi [Cammalleri] brought a new dimension to our power play. He’s one of the best shooters on this side on the one-timer. He can snipe the puck real quick, and he did.” It was his first game of the year after getting hurt in the first preseason game.
Hartley went on to explain that Cammalleri hasn’t even practiced with the team, except for Sunday, which was only twenty minutes long. “He was fresh like he didn’t even miss a beat, which is quite rare, because he missed quite a few weeks.”
They also toted in their amazing rookie, Sean Monahan, who began the night with eight points on five goals. The game wasn’t halfway over when he added another, a power play goal from Cammalleri and Goirdano. It came off a three-way pass where Giordano threw the puck to the far side of the net, Cammalleri knocked it out of the air with the blade of his stick, and Monahan shot it past Quick from in close.
Hartley also talked about him. “He’s fun to coach. He’s fun to have around. He’s a great kid, and I’m very honest, he’s quite a learner. You don’t need to repeat with him.”
For his part, Monahan in his interview said that he was not sure whether he would be kept with the big club. “I don’t know what to expect, but I’m trying to do the best I can every day,” he began. “At this point, it’s not up to me. I don’t have any idea, but what I can do is to try and do my job every day.” He said that he noted the physicality of the team. Hartley said that he was targeted by LA for physical play, but that it was to his credit that he had played right through it.
Anyway, his goal made it 2-1 for Calgary. The Kings to that point had dominated in shots, though they were not outplaying the Flames by any stretch. In fact, the game was tight both ways, defensive with some grand lapses, and the Flames had had some good, in-close chances to score.
The home team tied things up shorthanded shortly later on a goal credited to Mike Richards. This surprised the arena, not only because he obviously didn’t touch the puck but because no Kings center has scored a goal yet this year. That problem was rectified shortly after the third period started when the announcement took the goal back and gave it to Carter, who had thrown it from the corner to the front of the net, where a defenseman’s stick (covering Richards) had knocked it in. The game would eventually end with no Kings center having potted a goal. Yet. This year. Ten games. That’s a problem.
The third period saw LA coming on, with some good chances in the last half of the period. The closest they came to scoring a goal, however, was a deflection by Stoll off a shot by Jake Muzzin. The puck went to the net, eluded the goalie, and went off the crossbar and post and out again.
Calgary got a lucky break after playing a weak third period in that Kopitar of the Kings was charged with hooking on a play near the boards with about three minutes left. At least, that’s when the referee’s arm went up. They got about thirty seconds of extra time and pulled their goalie to maximize that, then took advantage of their power play. The Kings’ Matt Greene failed to clear a puck, and it went from Hudler to Brodie in front of the net. He took a low slapper that was hard and fast to the far side. Quick stuck out his legs, but he wasn’t able to get to it. Brodie commented on his goal to say, “Huds made a good play, and I got it out front. It ended up sliding out, and I had a good seam.” Simple, like the goal.
The Kings were predictably angry after the game that they’d let it slip away. That goal was scored at precisely 19:30, to make it 3-2. All the goals for the evening were special teams efforts, four on the power play and the one by Carter shorthanded.
The Flames now continue their road trip versus the Coyotes and Stars before going home to three games. The Kings remain in SoCal through Sunday. They next get Phoenix and Edmonton. Then they’re away for one game (Phoenix) and home for four more.
The scratches on the night were Keaton Ellerby, Alec Martinez, and Jordan Nolan. If one had to guess, he might say that the next forward to rotate out will be Matt Frattin. He played 11:45, mostly with Carcillo and Stoll, and his numbers looked good with four hits and one takeaway, but he was also out of phase at times.
The best LA line by far was the group of Lewis, Fraser, and Clifford. They’re the fourth unit, it seems, but they were actually double-shifted in the first period, and they were the most visible on the night. Their offensive output included five of LA’s 29 shots, but they had more buzz than that number indicates.