Florida Panthers vs. Calgary Flames: My thoughts

In a game where so much could have gone wrong, almost nothing did.  The Calgary Flames came out heavy against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night and simply did not let the game get away from them.  It was a pleasure to watch.  Here are my thoughts on the Flames’ 5-1 assault on the league’s top team.

I ain’t gonna lie to you.  I did not see this one coming.

Going into Tuesday’s game against the Florida Panthers, the Calgary Flames had a truckload of concerns.  There was the erratic COVID-affected schedule that put anywhere from three to five days between games.  There was no offense to be found anywhere but on the top line.  There was, finally, Head Coach Darryl Sutter’s very public accusation that the team lacked emotion.

That’s a lot of baggage to take into a game against the league’s top team.  A group that had scored 50 goals in their last 8 games (which no team had pulled off in the NHL since Mario Lemieux’s Pittsburgh Penguins did in the early 1990s).

Yet in spite of all that baggage, or perhaps because of it, the Calgary Flames took control early and never let it go.  Here’s what I saw in Calgary’s 5-1 beat down of the Florida Panthers.

Florida Panthers
Calgary Flames
Sean Monahan

It’s been tough sledding for Monahan this year.

Having come into this season after summertime hip surgery, optimism prevailed that he could return to 30-goal form.  That fire was put out quickly as he started the season in the bottom six.  Getting a few opportunities on the second line, Monahan’s game rehabilitation has been a slow one.

Tuesday’s performance, however, was a renaissance.  Or at least a step on the right direction.

It wasn’t just that he scored 2 goals.  Although on a team starving for secondary scoring, that would be enough.  In his post-game media availability, Sutter was quick to praise Monahan for his play leading up to each goal and creating his own opportunities.

His first goal was a direct result of a clean faceoff win back to Johnny Gaudreau.  And he started the rush that led to his second goal by breaking up the opposition’s play in his own end.  This is the type of work the Calgary Flames need out of Monahan in order to take the next step.

Standout Defensemen

Having watched Rasmus Andersson play this season, it came as a surprise to me that Tuesday’s first period goal was his first of the year.  He’s been a solid top-pairing player, logging big minutes on both the power play and the penalty kill.  Plus, he’s had offensive contributions this year, leading Flames rearguards with 16 Assists.

The fact that it was his first of the year made a pretty cool goal even cooler.  Andersson, on the Flames opening power play, floated down to the Panthers’ faceoff circle, shot the puck and then knocked in his own rebound.  It was a beauty!

Dec 9, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) during the face off against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

At the other end of the ice, kudos need to go to Erik Gudbranson.  Coming off the loss to the Senators, Sutter not-so-subtly mentioned that Gudbranson and defense partner Nikita Zadorov need to “help each other more”.  Read into that what you will.  I thought that was Sutter-speak for “get your <expletive> together”.

And get it together, he did.  Gudbranson was second on the team with 3 Blocked Shots, behind Chris Tanev (who routinely leads the team in that category).  However, it was the timing of Gudbranson’s blocks that are worth noting.  Two of his three blocks were potential goal-savers where Jacob Markstrom wasn’t necessarily in the perfect spot to make a save.

Right spot, right time.  Markstrom owes him a beer.

Ex-Flames On Display

By any Florida Panthers’ measure, Tuesday was Sam Bennett’s night.  It was his first game against his old team.  It was his first trip to Calgary since being traded.  He scored the lone Panthers goal which, short of spoiling a shutout, was actually good to see.

I was a bit concerned about Bennett’s physical play on Tuesday.  He’s an emotional player and that, mixed with his physicality, has earned him some discipline from NHL Player Safety.  However, short of some body work in the corners, Bennett was pretty quiet against his old team.  Most notably, he remained on the outskirts of a scrum that earned Matthew Tkachuk and Jonathan Huberdeau time in the penalty box.

As good as it was to see Bennett, I think honourable mention should also go to Ryan Lomberg.  If you don’t remember Lomberg, it’s because you blinked.  He was in the Calgary Flames’ system for 5 years, but only played 11 games for the team.  He was a mainstay in Stockton until he signed as a UFA with Florida in 2020.

Lomberg was a high energy guy who couldn’t find a spot in Calgary.  On Tuesday, however, he was on display.  He raised the ire of Zadorov in the 2nd, prompting the big Russian to go after him after a whistle.  He earned a cross check from Markstrom in the third.  And he got himself a behind-the-play Roughing call at the end of game.

He was a role player playing is role with his new club.  I was glad to see it.

Next up, three more days of unneeded time off before the Battle of Alberta resumes!