Calgary Flames

Video: Sens rookie Stone reaches 25-goal mark

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The Ottawa Senators’ late season rise has been led by unlikely heroes and Mark Stone is among them. The 22-year-old rookie has been on fire during Ottawa’s incredible 20-3-3 run and entered this afternoon’s season finale against the Philadelphia Flyers on an eight-game point streak.

It didn’t take long for Stone to extend that streak to nine and give the Senators an early lead as he took advantage of Flyers goaltender Steve Mason’s mishandling of the puck:

That was Stone’s 25th goal of the campaign. Although for much of the season Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and Nashville’s Filip Forsberg have been dominating the Calder Trophy discussion, Mark Stone deserves to be in that conversation as well. After that marker, Stone is just a point behind Gaudreau and Forsberg in the rookie scoring race.

If Ottawa gets at least a point against Philadelphia today then the Senators will secure a postseason berth. That being said, a win would give them a chance to take the third Atlantic Division seed away from Detroit.

Discipline has been key for Flames (also, how the NHL has changed since obstruction crackdown)

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Of all the things to admire about the surprising Calgary Flames — from the way they’ve overcome the loss of Mark Giordano, to all the shots they’ve blocked, to the skill and speed they’ve displayed off the rush all season — one of the more under-reported keys to their success has been discipline.

Did you know the Flames haven’t taken a single minor penalty in their last three games, all of them victories?

Did you know they’ve had eight games when they haven’t gone shorthanded, and that they’re 5-1-2 in those games?

Did you know they’ve only been shorthanded 182 times in all, the fewest in the NHL? (In contrast, they’ve had 253 power-play opportunities.)

The Flames aren’t the only disciplined team in the NHL. The Hurricanes, Blackhawks and Islanders don’t take many penalties either.

Of course, compared to 2005-06, which was the season following the lockout when the league made a commitment to crack down on obstruction, no team takes too many penalties these days.

Consider: The Winnipeg Jets have been shorthanded an NHL-high 306 times this season. That would’ve made them the most disciplined team in 05-06, when the Devils had to kill the fewest penalties (348) and the Capitals the most (550!).

Part of it is the players getting the message. But another part is the officials letting more go. The NHL can deny the latter, but it’s clear to anyone who’s watching that the standard has slipped, for better or worse.

For example, this wasn’t an interference penalty the other night in Vancouver:

source:

For the record, Alex Burrows wasn’t upset that Drew Doughty didn’t get penalized there. He was actually happy with how the officials let the Kings and Canucks play. How closely the game is called is a personal preference. It’s a balancing act. Too many power plays can ruin the flow. A little obstruction may help reduce injuries too.

But here’s another stat to consider:

In 2003-04, the season before the crackdown on embellishment, the Devils were shorthanded 266 times, the fewest in the NHL, and way fewer than the Flames will be in 2014-15.

That same season, the Ottawa Senators led the NHL with 80 power-play goals, and the 30 teams combined to score 1,717 power-play goals.

With two days left in the 2014-15 season, the Detroit Red Wings lead the NHL with 70 power-play goals, and the 30 teams have combined to score just 1,391 power-play goals.

Related: GMs to consider a “re-set” for obstruction rules

 

Dethroned: Flames eliminate Kings, clinch playoffs

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The Los Angeles Kings’ title defense won’t even make it until the last game of the 2014-15 season.

The Calgary Flames gutted out a 3-1 win against the Kings on Thursday, clinching their first postseason berth since the 2008-09 season. This outcome also clinches a playoff berth for the Winnipeg Jets (more on the Jets in a post that’s soon to come).

Jiri Hudler hasn’t received the same sort of hype that’s been heaped upon his young linemates Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, yet he’s in many ways the leader of that trio. He came up huge for Calgary today, scoring two goals and one assist.

(Naturally, the kids weren’t quiet either, as each player on that great line recorded at least one point.)

Jonas Hiller stood tall in his own right, stopping 33 out of 34 shots.

So much for the Flames’ Cinderella run crashing and burning without Mark Giordano, right?

In some ways, this game was a microcosm of the Kings’ failed season, as they generated some impressive puck possession yet hey just couldn’t score enough goals. Los Angeles has been able to grind through underwhelming regular seasons before exploding in the playoffs before, but this time around they won’t get the chance.

They seem to be taking it pretty well, at least from a social media standpoint:

If this wasn’t exciting enough, get this: the Flames’ first-round opponent will be the hated Vancouver Canucks. Buckle up.

Goalie nods: After 39 straight starts, Dubnyk gets a rest

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News and notes from around the crease…

“Duuuuuuubs” takes a break

For the first time since Jan. 15, the Minnesota Wild will start a goalie not named Devan Dubnyk.

Dubnyk, who’s made 39 consecutive starts — one with Arizona, 38 with the Wild — will be dropped from the lineup entirely tonight as Darcy Kuemper will start in goal against Nashville, with Niklas Backstrom backing up.

While kicking back and relaxing, Dubnyk can reflect on what’s been a truly impressive — and borderline unbelievable — bounce-back campaign. He’s 36-13-4 on the year with a 2.04 GAA and .930 save percentage, numbers made even more remarkable given that, last year, he bounced around three different organizations and finished with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in Hamilton.

For the Predators, Pekka Rinne is the likely starter.

Elsewhere…

Sens at Rangers: Andrew Hammond vs. Henrik Lundqvist

‘Canes at Flyers: Cam Ward vs. Ray Emery

Wings at Habs: Jimmy Howard vs. Carey Price

Devils at Bolts: Keith Kinkaid vs. Ben Bishop

Bruins at Panthers: Tuukka Rask (probable) vs. Roberto Luongo

‘Hawks at Blues: Corey Crawford (probable) vs. Jake Allen

Jets at Avs: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Reto Berra

Kings at Flames: Jonathan Quick (probable) vs. Jonas Hiller

Sharks at Oilers: Antti Niemi vs. Laurent Brossoit

Coyotes at Canucks: Mike Smith vs. Eddie Lack

Flames have a ‘dangerous game’ tonight versus Arizona

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For the Calgary Flames to come this far, to win so many games they weren’t supposed to win, only to have a letdown tonight at home against the woeful Coyotes — well, that would be kind of a shame, wouldn’t it?

OK, maybe not for the Kings or Jets, given the standings, but definitely for the Flames and their fans.

It’s something defenseman David Schlemko is keenly aware of, with Thursday’s showdown versus the Kings looming over tonight’s match-up.

“I think it’s kind of a dangerous game,” he said. “Everyone’s already talking about L.A. on Thursday. It’s not going to matter if we don’t pick up two points tonight.”

That’s not entirely true. Thursday’s game is going to matter, whether the Flames win or lose tonight. But anything less than two points against one of the NHL’s worst teams would hurt, especially if the Kings go into Edmonton and get a win.

Calgary and Los Angeles each have 93 points heading into tonight’s action. The Flames hold the ROW tie-breaker, 39 to 37.

“It’s all about us, it’s all about us,” said coach Bob Hartley. “Whether we play the Stanley Cup champions or we play any of the other teams, it’s the way we prepare. … We understand what these two home games mean to us. But we’re going to play them one at a time.”

The Flames finish their season Saturday in Winnipeg.

As for the Coyotes, they won their last game, beating San Jose 5-3 on Saturday. But they’re 0-4-0 versus the Flames this season.