Tag: Jonas Hiller

Brandon Bollig

Feisty Flames dump Canucks, win first home playoff game in six years


Prior to tonight, the Saddledome faithful hadn’t seen postseason hockey since 2009.

They, and their Flames, savored the return.

And what a return it was, as the Flames rode a wave of emotion — and some gritty, physical play — to a 4-2 victory over Vancouver in Game 3 of their Western Conference first round matchup.

“It really helped us out tonight,” Flames center Sean Monahan said of the fan support.

“They were unbelievable,” added fellow forward Michael Ferland.

With the win, the Flames took a 2-1 lead in the series.

That win was also Calgary’s first in the playoffs at the Saddledome since defeating Chicago 6-4 in April of 2009. Back then, Mike Keenan was the coach and Jarome Iginla was the club’s veteran leader — a far cry from tonight, which further illustrated that Calgary’s youth movement isn’t just underway.

It’s thriving.

Sam Bennett, the 18-year-old playing in just his fourth NHL contest, scored what proved to be the game winner just 2:14 into the third period. Bennett, the fourth overall pick at the 2014 draft, notched his second point in three playoff games and helped solidify himself as a major contributor for a Calgary team that received plenty of support from the kids tonight.

Monahan, 20, scored an insurance marker for his first goal of the series. T.J. Brodie, 24, led the Flames with two points (1G, 1A). Ferland, 22, led all skaters with a game-high nine hits.

“They had a good forecheck. That’s the bottom line,” Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins said. “They got on our D. I thought they played physical all night. We turned over the first goal on the wall, where we couldn’t get it out. They did a good job on us.

“We have to be better. We weren’t good enough. We know that.”

Ferland’s ferocity embodied how the Flames played for most of the evening. They out-hit Vancouver 33-18 on the night and seemed to feed off a frenzied home crowd. They also carried over the emotion from the end of Game 2, when a wild brawl ended with over 130 minutes in penalties; Kris Russell squared off with Alex Burrows late in tonight’s third period, followed by a tilt between Ferland and Kevin Bieksa.

(Burrows was given an instigator penalty for his antics with Russell, and could be subjected to further discipline from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Dan Hamhuis could also be getting a call for a headshot on Bennett in the third period.)

As for Vancouver, tonight might prove a wake-up call. The Canucks controlled proceedings at Rogers Arena on Friday night but were unable to do the same this evening, and often looked to be the older, slower and less energetic team. If there was a bright spot, it was that some secondary scorers — Shawn Matthias and Jannik Hansen — scored their first goals of the series.

But that might be it, as far as silver linings go. Sunday night was all about Calgary.


The Flames made a pair of lineup changes tonight: Tyler Wotherspoon drew in on defense for Corey Potter, while Mason Raymond played up front in place of Markus Granlund… Eddie Lack stopped 23 of 27 shots for Vancouver, Jonas Hiller stopped 23 of 25 for the Flames… It was another busy third period for the scorekeepers tonight, as the two teams combined for 57 PIM in the final frame.

Goalie Update: Hiller and Holtby expected to start Sunday

Braden Holtby

Braden Holtby, who missed Friday’s game due to illness, is expected to return to the Washington Capitals net for Game 3 on Sunday.

Holtby made 23 saves in the Caps’ Game 1 loss to the Islanders.

“I don’t think there will be any questions,” said Holtby when asked about his health. “I don’t know if I lost more energy stressing out through the game or through the sickness.”

Philipp Grubauer made 18 saves in Friday’s 4-3 Game 2 win.

Jonas Hiller will return to the net on Sunday when the Calgary Flames host the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3.

Hiller left Game 2 late in the third period after allowing three goals on 29 shots in the Flames’ 4-1 loss.

Karri Ramo played 4:58 in relief.

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


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.


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.

Bulletin-board material: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup

Sidney Crosby

This is the third straight year (2013, 2014) we’ve done this, and so far we’ve only been wrong twice. Try and find more accurate NHL predictions than that. 

Calgary Flames: The worst team to make the playoffs. And we’re not even talking about their advanced stats, which are indeed awful. According to the standings, they were the worst team to make the playoffs. In a related story, it’s kinda funny how people are comparing this year’s Flames to last year’s Avalanche. Um, hello? The Avs won the Central and had a Vezina Trophy finalist in goal. The Flames finished third in the Pacific and have Jonas Hiller in goal. On top of that, they’re without Mark Giordano. Good. Night.

Vancouver Canucks: The second-worst team to make the playoffs. Somehow, the Canucks were lucky enough to match up with the Flames in the first round. Their luck won’t last long, though. Vancouver entered the season with the misguided goal of getting back to the playoffs, and can’t stop bragging that it accomplished that goal. While ownership will be happy with a couple of playoff gates, what this team really did was blow its chance to start a much-needed rebuild, and in a draft year with two “generational” talents to boot. Instead, the Canucks think they can “continue to build this team and be a playoff contender every year,” which is another way of saying they’d like to have their cake and eat it too. Question: if Jim Benning is such a genius at identifying talent, how does one explain Luca Sbisa?

Ottawa Senators: It’s hard to criticize these guys after what they did to make the playoffs. True, they got their coach fired because he was too mean to them, but 23-3-3 is 23-3-3. It’ll actually be too bad when Andrew Hammond falls back to earth over the next few weeks. The Hamburglar’s been a great story, from not being very good in college and the minors to what he’s done at the highest level of the game. He will fall back to earth though. The playoffs are a whole different animal, and Hammond — a 27-year-old undrafted rookie — is not the next Patrick Roy or Ken Dryden.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Remember when these guys were going to be the next great dynasty? It was funny then and it’s even funnier now, because we don’t recall the 83-84 Oilers needing to beat the worst team in the NHL on the last day of the season just to make the playoffs. But that’s what the Pens needed. And boy were they completely unconvincing against the Sabres. Talk about zero confidence. Talk about no killer instinct. The Penguins could’ve easily lost that game. “It hasn’t been easy,” said Ben Lovejoy. “I’m proud of the way we were able to close it out tonight.” Yeah, way to go. You showed a lot of heart losing five in a row then barely defeating a historically bad team. Good luck against the Presidents’ Trophy winners.

Detroit Red Wings: It’s one thing to bench your big-money goalie for a young guy who’s playing out of his mind. It’s quite another to park him for Petr Mrazek, a 23-year-old with no playoff experience and a save percentage (.918) that isn’t even that great. That’s how poorly Jimmy Howard played down the stretch. And make no mistake, the Wings have issues beyond goaltending. They were a mediocre possession team in the second half of the season, and there’s no way Pavel Datsyuk is 100 percent. Enjoy Mike Babcock while he’s still behind the bench, Wings fans. (Which should be about five, maybe six, more games.)

Winnipeg Jets: You have to be happy for Jets fans. It’s been a long time since meaningful hockey was played in Winnipeg, and it’s going to be a tough assignment to beat the home side at MTS Centre. Except, of course, for the fact the Jets are the least disciplined team in the league, as ably demonstrated here by Dustin Byfuglien. Oh, and they don’t really have an elite center either. Also, Ondrej Pavelec is their goalie. (Other than that, though.) And please, PLEASE don’t argue that Pavelec is good now. Yes, he had a strong finish. But he’s shown flashes in the past too, only to revert back to what he really is — a below-average NHL goalie.

Montreal Canadiens: Unlike Pavelec, Carey Price is decidedly not below average. He’s actually the favorite to win the Hart Trophy, which would make him the first goalie to win the award since Jose Theodore did it for the Habs in 2001-02. Hey, how did that turn out anyway? Oh right, Theodore was just OK in the playoffs and Montreal lost to Carolina in the second round. Goaltending: impossible to predict and incredibly risky to rely on. That’s why teams that are good at possessing the puck are better bets. Puck possession is a team thing, so if one guy falters or gets hurt, it’s not the end of the world. By the way, the Habs were the worst possession team to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

Washington Capitals: One of the most improved teams in the NHL still doesn’t have what it takes to win it all. That’s basically what Barry Trotz admitted a few months ago, and he was absolutely right. Asking Evgeny Kuznetsov to play first- or second-line center in the playoffs is way too much to ask. He’s a 22-year-old rookie. Even if he’s “come a long way over the last two months,” he’s still got a ways to go. The Caps simply aren’t strong enough down the middle, period. (Admit it, you all thought this was going to be a screed against Alex Ovechkin, and how he’s never won anything of meaning and never will. Nah, we’ll wait until they’re eliminated for that.)

Minnesota Wild: Sure, we could point out that Devan Dubnyk got run into the ground by Mike Yeo and, come April, the goalie savior started to show a few cracks. But the reason the Wild won’t win the Stanley Cup is because they won’t score enough goals. The power play stinks, and if they’re counting on Thomas Vanek to produce in the playoffs, well, let’s just say he hasn’t always been at his best in big games. Need another reason? The Wild aren’t deep enough on defense, and that can be big-time problematic in the playoffs.

Anaheim Ducks: The most overrated team in the NHL. Goals per game: 11th. Goals against: 20th. Power play: 28th. Penalty kill: 15th. Those aren’t the numbers of a Stanley Cup champ. In fact, the Ducks (+10) had the worst goal-differential of the 16 teams to make the playoffs. “If you look at teams that have won the Cup, they’re high in the defensive standings — L.A. was the best defensive team last year, won the Cup. Chicago before that, won it. When Boston won … there’s definitely a trend there.” You know who said that? It was Bruce Boudreau.

Tampa Bay Lightning: What seemed like a savvy preseason pick doesn’t seem quite so smart anymore. Yes, the Lightning score a lot of goals, but they don’t keep them out of their net particularly well, ranking 12th in that category. The year after being named a Vezina finalist, Ben Bishop predictably regressed and finished with a so-so save percentage of .916. Also remember that Bishop, 28, has never played in the playoffs. This is a young team that may win a Cup in the future, but it’s not quite ready yet.

New York Islanders: Can the Isles win a playoff series for the first time since 1993? We only ask this question so we can point out the fact that the Isles haven’t won a playoff series since 1993. It’s pretty sad how far the standards have fallen on Long Island. A fan base that once celebrated four straight championships now holds up Jaroslav Halak as some sort of goaltending god for having a .914 save percentage. Meanwhile, everyone’s doing cartwheels because Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, two good-but-not-great defensemen that were deemed expendable by their former teams, actually agreed to re-sign. The Isles finished the regular season with four wins in their last 14. Maybe they’ll raise the bar when they get to Brooklyn.

Nashville Predators: Similar to the Islanders, the Preds got off to a great start and had people debating whether they were legit Stanley Cup contenders. This despite the glaring facts that Mike Ribeiro was their first-line center and they had a rookie by the name of Filip Forsberg who was piling up points at an unsustainably high rate. Yada, yada, yada, the Preds went 8-13-4 in their last 25 games, including six straight losses to finish the season. Bottom line: this team is gonna be done real quick if Pekka Rinne doesn’t find his game. He gave up 17 goals in his last five outings combined.

New York Rangers: Back in March, a handful of Rags faithful got all hot and bothered when we pointed out the Blueshirts were “good but not great” down the middle. As if hockey fans everywhere should marvel at the amazing talent the Rangers had assembled to play center for their spectacular team. Sorry, but Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan, Kevin Hayes, and Dominic Moore are pretty much the definition of “good but not great.” Which, hey, is better than “fine but not good”; however, when you consider the truly great centers that Cup champs almost always possess, not to mention the Rangers’ worrying possession numbers, it’s really not hard to doubt this team. On the bright side, at least Alain Vigneault has another Presidents’ Trophy to his name.

St. Louis Blues: The new San Jose Sharks. Or maybe the Sharks were the new St. Louis Blues. After all, the Blues were choking in the playoffs long before the Sharks started gagging away successful regular seasons. Six times in franchise history have the Blues amassed over 100 points, only to fall well short when the games start counting. This season was their seventh with more than 100 points, so of course they drew one of the league’s hottest teams in the first round. But it’s not a cursed history or tough opponent that will doom the Blues. It’s questionable goaltending (another Blues tradition) and a coach that can’t stop himself from over-coaching.

Chicago Blackhawks: Fun fact about the ‘Hawks: Out of the 16 teams to make the playoffs, only Ottawa and Winnipeg finished with fewer regulation/overtime wins. Another fact: If instead of going 9-3 in the shootout they’d gone 3-9, they’d have made the playoffs by one measly point. And yet the ‘Hawks remain Stanley Cup favorites in the eyes of many. Have people not been paying attention? The simple truth is, these guys have not been playing at an elite level since the Winter Classic. Antoine Vermette hasn’t been the answer, and Kimmo Timonen’s not the answer either, based on the 40-year-old’s dreadful possession stats. Just do us a favor and don’t act surprised when Chicago’s eliminated in the first or second round, OK?

Pressing Playoff Question: Which coaches are coaching for their jobs?

St Louis Blues v Nashville Predators

Ken Hitchcock

Hitch has been on notice since last year’s opening-round exit — St. Louis’ second in as many years — and he confirmed it earlier this month, explaining that his future is tied to getting out of Round 1.

“There’s always going to be a question for players and coaches until we win a first round. But it’s a question I’m not afraid to answer,” Hitchcock said, per the Post-Dispatch. “I don’t know the answer right now but this team is built to go long in series, long in games. We’ve won a lot of games late. We’ve been at our best in the second and third periods. We know we can go the distance.

“Like everyone else I won’t know until it plays out but I’m looking forward to answering the questions.”

St. Louis is 8-13 over its last three playoffs, a record that gnaws at management. The Blues have spent plenty of money on its core group of players, and added high-priced free agent Paul Stastny following the Chicago ouster. The pieces are in place for a Cup run — now — which is why Hitchcok was delivered a message in the form of a one-year extension last May.

That message?

“Making the playoffs no longer is good enough,” Blues GM Armstrong said. “There’s some franchises that are losing in the first round that had good years. We’re not one of them.

“We’re a franchise that lost in the first round that did not meet its expectations.”

Mike Johnston

Consider, for a moment, what Johnston said upon getting hired in Pittsburgh:

“The bottom-line expectation for me is that, from training camp through the first part of the season, everything we do is setting the table for the playoffs. The score is relevant, but it’s not as relevant as the habits that we are going to have to make us successful in the playoffs.

“This is a group that wants to win. They’ve won the Stanley Cup, and I believe they want to do it again.”

The first-year bench boss set the bar with those remarks, and it remains to be seen what happens if he falls short.

We almost got a preview of it on the final day of the regular season, only for Pittsburgh to beat Buffalo and secure the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. While it was hardly the type of qualification many — including Johnston — envisioned, the Pens did make it to the dance (and there is something to be said for that, especially since L.A. and Boston didn’t.)

But as Johnston said, his job wasn’t about getting Pittsburgh into the playoffs. It was about doing something once they got there — and now, things get interesting.

Last week, Pens GM Jim Rutherford didn’t give Johnston a vote of confidence, though that was because Rutherford doesn’t like votes of confidence. Regarding the head coach’s job security, Rutherford said Johnston did “a good job under difficult circumstances.” CEO David Morehouse said much of the same, explaining that “we never even had discussions about people’s jobs,” adding, “we’re very happy to be where we are.”

Management is giving all the right answers, but it’s telling that people are asking the questions.

Bruce Boudreau

Boudreau has a great track record in the regular season, with 363 career wins and a Jack Adams trophy on his resume.

Boudreau does not, however, have the same track record in the playoffs.

His lifetime mark — 27-30, a .474 winning percentage — includes just three series wins and zero appearances beyond the second round.

What’s worrisome this year is that a recurring issue throughout Boudreau’s career — goaltending — is once again a factor. He’s yet to decide between John Gibson or Frederik Andersen as his postseason starter, carrying on a rich and colorful tradition:

• In 2009, his second playoff appearance with Washington, Boudreau yanked Jose Theodore in favor of Semyon Varlamov.

• In 2010, after vowing “there is no short leash” for Theodore, Boudreau yanked him in favor of Varlamov. Again.

• In 2014, he played three different netminders. Andersen started the Dallas series, only for Boudreau to shift to Jonas Hiller. Hiller then beat the Stars, started the L.A. series, only for Boudreau to go back to Andersen… and the Danish netminder promptly got hurt. But instead of going back to Hiller, Boudreau threw in Gibson, fresh off a recall from the AHL.

• The Ducks blew a 3-2 series lead, and lost to the Kings in Game 7.

History, as they say, has a way of repeating itself. Wonder what happens in Anaheim if it does.

Have to mention…

Mike Babcock, who isn’t so much coaching for his job as the Red Wings are playing for him to remain their coach… Jack Capuano, who could be feeling some heat if the Isles don’t show much in the opening playoff round.