If the victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday evening where he stopped all 28 shots was, according to Darryl Sutter, a “Jacob Markstrom Statement Game”, what would the coach call the encore, when his goalie stopped 46 of 48 Leaf shots in a convincing 5-2 Calgary performance over the streaking Maple Leafs?
“He played good,” the coach said afterward.
“You’ve got to stop Auston Matthews and John Tavares, it’s not easy.”
While much of the talk this season (for good reason) has been Calgary’s top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk (all of whom are on pace for at least 30 goals and 70 points), the Flames’ goaltending, defensive play, and scoring depth has shone this season, with every game bringing out a different star. Markstrom once again shon versus the Leafs, tying the franchise record for most saves in a regulation home game and bailing out his teammates in the opening period.
The blueline also stepped up in a big way.
Flames’ defencemen combined for three goals and six points while frustrating Leafs players all game with their active sticks and physicality. Before the game, Darryl Sutter told his defenders to shoot more - and they obliged.
“Sometimes we try to catch guys off-guard a bit,” Hanifin said, of his goal.
“I tried to go back door. Razzy made a great play and thankfully it worked out, but it doesn’t happen all the time…the opportunity was there and we have a lot of confidence to make plays.”
Hanifin joked that had his pinch in the offensive zone not worked, Johnny Gaudreau would have had to defend an odd-man rush.
“It’s nice for us to get on the scoresheet,” Andersson said.
“Overall, we played a really good team game.”
Beyond the scoresheet, both Andersson and Hanifin said that Nikita Zadorov’s big hit on Ondrej Kase near the end of the first period was a key moment.
“Z lays out a really big hit and gets the crowd going, and Guddy and Tanny have been really good on the PK night in and night,” Andersson said.
Earlier this week, general manager Brad Treliving told TSN’s Pierre Lebrun that the team was in the market for secondary scoring. That depth offence has come from within lately. The second line of Blake Coleman, Mikael Backlund, and Andrew Mangiapane has combined for seven goals and 18 points in their last five games while being a strong presence without the puck and in the defensive zone.
“If we’re gonna be a winning team, we’ve got to win in different ways,” Hanifin said.
“We can’t just rely on those top guys. They’re obviously unbelievable for us, but everyone has to contribute, and depending on the type of game it is, we have a deep team and can roll all lines and d pairs.”
Thursday’s tilt had the feel of a playoff game. The crowd was loud, there were post-whistle scrums, and plenty of emotions on both sides.
“You could tell there was a lot of jam in the building,” Hanifin said. “Especially after Z’s hit there, it got really rowdy. It was a competitive game, a playoff-type game, two really good teams. Those are the games you want to be a part of. You want to be a team that can break teams down and use your building for momentum. It was a fun night.”
Over the past 48 hours, the Flames have defeated the Maple Leafs and previously division-leading Vegas Golden Knights by a combined 11-2 score. What do those victories say about a team that’s still under the radar to many hockey fans?
“It says a lot,” Andersson said.
“We have good character in the room and we’re ready to play coming out of the break. Honestly, it’s feels really good to win back-to-back games, especially at home…it was two really good wins for our team here.”