Johnson: Flames continue remarkable pattern of proving doubters wrong

 

 
 
 
 
Colleen De Neve/ Calgary Herald CALGARY, AB --NOVEMBER 18, 2014 -- Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman, left, celebrated with teammates, clockwise from left, centre Markus Grandlund, defenceman Ladislav Smid, centre Paul Byron and left winger Johnny Gaudreau after scoring the Flames third goal of the game and Wideman's second against the Anaheim Ducks during third period NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome on November 18, 2014. The Flames defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in overtime. (Colleen De Neve/Calgary Herald) (For Sports story by Scott Cruickshank) 00056694A  SLUG: 1119-Flames Ducks ORG XMIT: A65W7126.JPG
 
 

Colleen De Neve/ Calgary Herald CALGARY, AB --NOVEMBER 18, 2014 -- Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman, left, celebrated with teammates, clockwise from left, centre Markus Grandlund, defenceman Ladislav Smid, centre Paul Byron and left winger Johnny Gaudreau after scoring the Flames third goal of the game and Wideman's second against the Anaheim Ducks during third period NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome on November 18, 2014. The Flames defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in overtime. (Colleen De Neve/Calgary Herald) (For Sports story by Scott Cruickshank) 00056694A SLUG: 1119-Flames Ducks ORG XMIT: A65W7126.JPG

Photograph by: Colleen De Neve, Calgary Herald

Outside the city limits, they continue to be regarded as some form of hallucination. A trick of the light, perhaps. A mirage, more likely. Rub your eyes hard enough, long enough, and the verdant oasis will be exposed as barren wasteland.

Nothing more, surely, than a confounding, can’t-last curio. One of those pinch-me early-season surprises — and every year dishes up one or two — guaranteed, with the passage of time, the unravelling of the schedule, to falter, fade and flatline.

Just a collection of jumped-up pantry boys unaware of their station.

At 11-6-2, the Flames were indisputably the surprise package of the National Hockey League as they thunder towards the quarter-pole of the season.

After all, weren’t they supposed to to wither and die early on, a casualty of a sadistic, punishing six-game road swing in the wake of an opening-night loss to the Vancouver Canucks? When they returned home not only with all their vital organs in working condition, but ahead of the game after collecting four wins on their travels, eyebrows were duly raised, incredulous murmurs heard. But no one took them very seriously.

Tuesday, on Peter Maher Night, the Flames began a stretch of games that could still go a long ways in convincing the of doubters to the validity of their aspirations.

Eight of nine against Western Conference. Six of eight inside the Pacific Division. The tough points. The telling points.

Starting with an authentic Stanley Cup contender, the Anaheim Ducks.

So far, so good.

Producing an amazing comeback out of the mists, Sean Monahan’s shootout goal propelled the upstart Flames to a wildly-improbable, wildly-entertaining 4-3 victory over a dazed band of Ducks.

As Maher himself would’ve intoned: “Yeah, baby.”

“We knew,” said Calgary coach Bob Hartley, “if we could get one, the crowd would get going, we would get going. Tonight, Peter Maher’s night, it was like a big family party. Obviously for the first 40 minutes, we didn’t receive the invitation.

“We were not very good. We were not on the puck. We were not skating. And suddenly in he third period we got some legs, making plays, forechecking.

“We certainly flirted with danger. I don’t know what we were on Bodog or in Vegas, but the bets certainly weren’t very high on our part. But where it would’ve been easy in the third to just pack it in and forget about it, we came back. Those players are the performers. You look at the energy, the electricity, there was in this rink in the third period . . . it was a playoff atmosphere.

“In the third period, we played Flames’ hockey.”

Hartley’s Anaheim counterpart, Bruce Boudreau, was left understandably cranky and confused.

“We beat ourselves,” he stewed. “There’s no doubt in my mind. I think it was evident that after two periods we had total control of the game. And then we do stupid stuff in the third period and get lazy.

“Once you get the crowd involved and then the emotion comes in from the players’ side, they’re going. I’m still pretty upset about the whole thing. I thought it was perfect hockey for two periods. Holding another team to seven shots in their building? We got the crowd dead. They’re dead.

“It was just bad plays, stupid passes, losing battles on the boards. I don’t know how you can be so great and so bad all in the same game.”

As Hartley conceded, completely schooled through 40 minutes that netted them a grand total of seven shots, the Flames, as has been their custom, nevertheless refused to give up and give in, and were eventually rewarded for persistence, reeling off three unanswered third-period goals to pull back from the abyss.

Down a deuce, the Flames battled back. Out of nothing, nowhere, Jiri Hudler counted his sixth goal of the season, retrieving a loose puck in the high slot. T.J. Brodie was largely responsible for the goal, managing to keep an airborne puck in at the Anaheim blueline to set the wheels in motion. That awoke a dormant Scotiabank Saddledome.

Then, a spot of miscommunication between Ducks’ defence partners Vatanen and Bryan Allen allowed Markus Granlund to set the ball up on a tee for defenceman Dennis Wideman to lash a laser beam beyond Anderson. The remarkable quickly became the astounding, Wideman counting his second of the night and seventh of the season to actually propel the Flames into the lead. Anaheim was reeling.

But the surprises weren’t over, and on an ensuing Ducks’ power play, Kyle Palmieri equalized, battling with Calgary skipper Mark Giordano in front, the puck kicking up high and dropping down into the net before ex-Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller could react.

Ominously for the locals, the Ducks arrived in a particularly owly mood, still smarting from a highly embarrassing 6-2 dusting courtesy the Florida Panthers, of all teams, on home ice Sunday.

And for 40 minutes, they looked to have atoned for that blemish.

But with these Flames, as we’re learning, nothing is ever certain.

“There’s so much character in our locker-room,” lauded Hartley, “you feel it on the bench. I thought we put on quite a show in OT. Our guys skated. Gosh, I think we spent most of the overtime period in their zone, buzzing, numerous chances.

“Our confidence, our belief, is growing. Tonight, it wasn’t working but we never quit.

“A big, fun night for our fans. More importantly for Peter Maher. I would like to dedicate the win to him.”

Ahead on this stretch of games looms more challenges, the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, a double-dose of the San Jose Sharks, both home and away, and a visit to Anaheim, the Flames’ own personal Death Valley.

They embark on the journey understanding the believers are still very in the minority. Even if, slowly, surely, they’re picking up a few more converts along the way.

George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at gjohnson@calgaryherald.com

Follow George Johnson at GeorgejohnsonCH

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Colleen De Neve/ Calgary Herald CALGARY, AB --NOVEMBER 18, 2014 -- Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman, left, celebrated with teammates, clockwise from left, centre Markus Grandlund, defenceman Ladislav Smid, centre Paul Byron and left winger Johnny Gaudreau after scoring the Flames third goal of the game and Wideman's second against the Anaheim Ducks during third period NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome on November 18, 2014. The Flames defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in overtime. (Colleen De Neve/Calgary Herald) (For Sports story by Scott Cruickshank) 00056694A  SLUG: 1119-Flames Ducks ORG XMIT: A65W7126.JPG
 

Colleen De Neve/ Calgary Herald CALGARY, AB --NOVEMBER 18, 2014 -- Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman, left, celebrated with teammates, clockwise from left, centre Markus Grandlund, defenceman Ladislav Smid, centre Paul Byron and left winger Johnny Gaudreau after scoring the Flames third goal of the game and Wideman's second against the Anaheim Ducks during third period NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome on November 18, 2014. The Flames defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in overtime. (Colleen De Neve/Calgary Herald) (For Sports story by Scott Cruickshank) 00056694A SLUG: 1119-Flames Ducks ORG XMIT: A65W7126.JPG

Photograph by: Colleen De Neve, Calgary Herald

 
Colleen De Neve/ Calgary Herald CALGARY, AB --NOVEMBER 18, 2014 -- Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman, left, celebrated with teammates, clockwise from left, centre Markus Grandlund, defenceman Ladislav Smid, centre Paul Byron and left winger Johnny Gaudreau after scoring the Flames third goal of the game and Wideman's second against the Anaheim Ducks during third period NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome on November 18, 2014. The Flames defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in overtime. (Colleen De Neve/Calgary Herald) (For Sports story by Scott Cruickshank) 00056694A  SLUG: 1119-Flames Ducks ORG XMIT: A65W7126.JPG
Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman, left, celebrated with teammates, clockwise from left, centre Markus Grandlund, defenceman Ladislav Smid, centre Paul Byron and left winger Johnny Gaudreau after scoring the Flames third goal of the game and Wideman's second against the Anaheim Ducks during third period NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome on November 18, 2014. The Flames defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in overtime.
 
 
 
 
 
 
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice