Following a disturbingly bad performance in their return from the bye, the Calgary Flames bounced back on Wednesday night with a big win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
A few notes:
1) Goaltending has been a big problem for the Flames this season, especially over the last couple months, so I'll start there.
Simply put, Brian Elliott was fantastic. The Flyers came out with a lot of desperation and made Elliott work hard for 55 minutes (they generously gave him a breather during that five-minute power play).
Elliott looked very poised and confident stopping 33 of the 34 shots he faced, headlined by a few flashy glove saves.
If the Flames can get goaltending remotely close to that caliber on a semi-regular basis, making the playoffs won't even be a question. It's a big if based on the play of Elliott and Chad Johnson this season, but it's not like these guys -- particularly Elliott -- haven't provided consistently good goaltending before.
2) Dennis Wideman played just over 12 minutes vs the Flyers after logging 20+ minutes in three straight games (what?!?) and at least 18 minutes in 47 of his first 50 games (WHAT?!?). Perhaps Glen Gulutzan is realizing that Wideman playing top-4 minutes on a nightly basis is not going to work out no matter how hard he tries. Wideman just can't keep up anymore, and some of the plays he makes with the puck are headscratchers, to put it nicely.
3) While we're on the topic of defense, I figure I'll chime in on the Matt Bartkowski PTO. I think it was a good move. Gulutzan is familiar with him from last year in Vancouver, Dougie Hamilton is the only defenseman on the roster producing more 5v5 points per 60 than Bartkowski did last year (although, Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie definitely have more offensive talent) and Bartkowski can actually move on the ice. I don't know how much he'll play if and when he gets an NHL deal, but it can't hurt to bring him into the building, let him practice a bit and see if he can help out.
4) It really is too bad Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Patrik Laine, and co. are as good, and flashy, as they are. Matthew Tkachuk tallied another two points last night and continues to be one of Calgary's best players on a nightly basis yet he flies completely under the radar because he's not on the highlight reel every night. The kid is already a very, very good top-6 forward capable of putting up points, driving play, and driving opponents nuts. I can't even imagine the havoc he'll wreak when he enters his prime, which is still several years away.
5) Sticking with Tkachuk, he has a chance to become the Flames' most productive teenage rookie of all-time.
Tkachuk will need 16 points in his final 24 games to tie Dan Quinn so he has some work to do. It's definitely a reachable goal, though. How crazy will it be if he puts together the best rookie year in franchise history and isn't a finalist for the Calder? It's realistic, if not likely, I would think.
6) Nick Cousins certainly sold the Alex Chiasson spear but that's just a dumb play on Chiasson's part. A spearing motion, which he made, combined with any sort of contact on a player = automatic five-minute penalty and a game misconduct. Be smarter.