Calgary Flames

Hartley says Monahan doesn’t have a shoulder injury

1 Comment

Sean Monahan managed to play in Game 1 against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, but there was plenty of speculation about his health going into that contest. Monahan didn’t practice on Monday and then when he did get on the ice Tuesday it was only for about 10 minutes before leaving.

At the time it sounded like he might be dealing with a shoulder injury, but Flames coach Bob Hartley shot that down on Thursday, per TSN’s Darren Dreger. Instead, it sounds like Monahan had been dealing with an illness.

The 20-year-old forward has been part of a very effective line with Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler, but the trio wasn’t able to combine for a goal last night and each of the three finished with a minus-one rating. Despite that, Calgary still earned a 2-1 victory over Vancouver.

For his part, Monahan said he felt better as the game progressed and felt good today, according to the team’s Twitter feed.

Game 2 of the first round series will be held on Friday.

Desjardins defends limited ice time for Sedins

8 Comments

Vancouverites woke up this morning, turned on the radio, and heard all about how Canucks coach Willie Desjardins got out-coached in last night’s 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames.

Many listeners did not disagree.

In particular, people wanted to know — why did Daniel Sedin, a top-10 scorer in the NHL during the regular season, only play 16:14 while forwards like Nick Bonino (16:24) and Chris Higgins (16:53) played more? The former was the best Canuck, Corsi-wise, in the game; the latter two were the worst. So it’s not like the coach could say he was just rewarding the guys who were playing well.

Desjardins was asked about it following this morning’s practice.

“We play our best when we’re fresh,” he said. “Maybe [the Sedins] should have had a couple more minutes, probably wouldn’t have hurt. But … there’s no sense burning them out one game. They’re going to be fresh for the next game, and maybe in the end that’ll pay off.”

This storyline is, of course, an extension from last year when then-coach John Tortorella was accused of overplaying the Sedins. Ever since taking over, Desjardins has preached a four-line mantra, a philosophy that paid off in a return to form for the twins and a playoff berth for the team.

Still, just 16:14 for Daniel? And only 4:45 in the third period when the game was on the line? That’s going to get people talking.

Desjardins is apparently taking the long view here. The most any Canuck played in Game 1 was 22:11, logged by defenseman Alex Edler. Radim Vrbata led the forwards at 17:50; Henrik Sedin played just 17:29.

In stark contrast, Flames coach Bob Hartley rode his top players, with three d-men — Dennis Wideman (30:03), Kris Russell (29:07), and T.J. Brodie (26:05) — playing big minutes. Sean Monahan led the forwards with 20:09.

We’ll see how it pays off for each coach. Desjardins will be hoping it’s a long series and that his rested players can eventually take over from the theoretically fatigued Flames. Hartley will be hoping for a short one, with time to rest up for the second round.

Game 2 goes tomorrow in Vancouver.

Bennett impresses in Flames victory — ‘he’s going to be a very special player for this organization’

14 Comments

Remember Sam Bennett? You know, the kid the Flames drafted fourth overall this past summer? The one who couldn’t do a pull-up at the combine? The one who missed most of the season with a shoulder injury?

Well, last night in Vancouver, Bennett was better known as the Calgary forward who gave the Canucks all sorts of trouble, driving the net multiple times throughout the game and providing the screen on Kris Russell’s last-minute winning goal.

“What a screen by Sam Bennett,” said Flames head coach Bob Hartley, per the Calgary Sun.

“Very impressed. We knew the kid would come in with lots of grit. During his rehab, we had a chance to spend many days with him. Even though he was not on the ice, he was in every meeting, doing video with him to teach him the system. We had no clue that he would be with us in the playoffs, but today, it turns into a great investment. He can skate, and he’s a gritty player, and he’s built for the playoffs.”

Bennett skated with Mikael Backlund and Joe Colborne, that trio’s effectiveness proving vitally important as the Flames’ vaunted first line of Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau had trouble getting going versus the Canucks.

Said fellow rookie Michael Ferland, who also had a strong game: “Watching Sam do the stuff he does, he’s going to be a very special player for this organization.”

Comeback kids: Flames score winner with 30 seconds left, stun Canucks in Game 1

16 Comments

VANCOUVER — The Calgary Flames did it again.

After a regular season in which they staged 10 third-period comebacks for wins, the Flames conjured up similar magic in their series opener against Vancouver as Kris Russell scored with 30 seconds left for a 2-1 win.

“I think if you asked anyone (on the Flames) we’d rather have the lead and just win that way,” said Russell. “But we knew (trailing after two periods) that we’d been in a situation like that. We knew we had to earn it though. They’re not a team that’s going to roll over and just sit back. We had to be at our best.”

That they were.

With the victory, the Flames wrestled home-ice advantage away from the more experienced Canucks and scored their first playoff victory in six years.

As the final score and shot total — 30 a piece — suggest, this was a tightly-contested affair. Neither team scored in the opening period though Vancouver held an advantage in possession and pucks directed on goal, registering 13 to Calgary’s 10.

In period two, a rookie broke the deadlock.

Vancouver forward Bo Horvat scored his first-ever career playoff tally, directing a shot on goal that took a wicked deflection before settling past Jonas Hiller in the Calgary goal:

The Canucks would take that 1-0 lead into the third period — which, it could be argued, is just how Calgary wanted it.

After scoring 99 third-period goals during the regular season, Calgary scored two more in the final 13 minutes of tonight’s game. The first came courtesy David Jones, on a nice drop pass from Michael Ferland:

Calgary and Vancouver traded chances after that, and the game looked destined for overtime until Russell fired home with a half-minute remaining.

Notes…

Hiller finished with 29 saves on the night, while Eddie Lack countered with 28 for the Canucks…Calgary rookie Sam Bennett, playing in just his second NHL game, recorded an assist on Russell’s game-winning goal… Speaking of, that goal was the latest game-winner in Flames franchise history, per Elias.

Monahan insists he feels ‘great,’ but there’s reason to wonder

5 Comments

From The Province newspaper, ahead of tonight’s series opener between the Flames and Canucks in Vancouver:

There is a mystery surrounding the health of Flames centre Sean Monahan. The Flames young star hadn’t skated since the Flames second-last game against the Kings at home on Thursday. He didn’t skate — including not travelling to the Flames’ final game on Saturday in Winnipeg – until Tuesday, when he lasted about 10 minutes at the beginning of practice. Flames coach Bob Hartley was seen talking to the team’s trainer after Monahan went to the dressing room. Monahan took the morning skate with the team on Wednesday and afterwards said the days off the ice were just rest days because he played so much during the regular season.

With Mark Giordano injured and unable to play, Monahan — the 20-year-old who’s been centering Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler on what Henrik Sedin called “the best line in hockey for the past couple months or so” — is arguably Calgary’s most important player.

Translation: if Monahan’s not 100 percent, for whatever reason…

… it’s a major concern for the Flames.

Monahan, however, insists he’s fine.

“I felt great, well rested, right now I’m just focused on the start of the game here,” he said this morning. “I’m excited for Game 1.”