Calgary Flames beat San Jose Sharks to clinch first place in West


SAN JOSE – Best in the West.

For the first time in almost three decades, the Calgary Flames will enter the playoffs as first place in the Western Conference, an honor they won with Sunday's 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center.

That perch, of course, comes with the home ice advantage in the first three rounds of the annual Stanley Cup mission.

"It's a great achievement for this team and this organization to finish first in the Western Conference," smiled Mike Smith. "It does not happen often, so it says a lot about the group here.

"We know what lies ahead. We know there is a bigger ultimate goal. But definitely this is special and you will not forget it as long as you live.

Smith was only a beginner when the Flames captured his last way back in 1989-90. Most of your current teammates are not yet born.

Thanks to Sunday's win over second-placed Sharks, the Calgary team also secured their first division title since 2005-06.

Congratulations, gentlemen.

"It's a lot better when you get those positions," said Flames captain Mark Giordano, wearing a commemorative T-shirt and a cowboy hat from the Calgary Police Service in a euphoric dressing room at the SAP Center. "We had a good year, a good regular season, but we know the work is coming in the playoffs.

"We're hoping to get into the playoffs at the top of our game and continue to play well, so we're looking forward to it. But that's one of the things we're going to remember. "

In an excellent display against the Sharks, the Flames (49-23-7) certainly seemed to be the legitimate candidate of the championship.

The Calgary offense in San Jose came courtesy of attackers Sean Monahan, Mark Jankowski, Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik and the underused defender Dalton Prout.

Lefty midfielder Johnny Gaudreau made a pair of assists – he is now four points from the end of the century – and Smith made a series of defenses behind a defensive effort to confirm the tie.

The Flames have three remaining regular season dates, starting with Monday's game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center (20:00, Sportsnet West / Sportsnet 960 The Fan).

And then the fun really begins.

"It's hard enough to make it to the playoffs," Monahan said. "So, I think doing what we did is very special and it's something that you will always remember, but we have a lot of work to do, as a group, we know where we are."

The Sharks opened the scoring on Sundays thanks to a first-rate snipe from Timo Meier, but out-of-town visitors lost momentum – and then a few – with three goals within 75 seconds before the break.

Gaudreau made a beauty backhand pass to his best friend Monahan even to the scoreboard.

Just 31 tickets later, Jankowski fished a loose disc of a skid mess and fired a low shot, passing by Sharks pilot Aaron Dell.

The less likely suspect covered the Flames offensive flurry. Prout rushed to hit a hat-trick of back-checkers on the ice, accepted a feed from rookie Andrew Mangiapane and then ended up with the kind of deke you would not expect from one kind of stay with all seven. career goals at the highest level of hockey.

Backlund added a bit of insurance to a lucky midfielder, bouncing off an album that then hit the Sharks defender's boot, Joakim Ryan.

Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc buried in third place for the hosts, pressing Frolik's Snipe from the slot.

Giordano, who continued to add to his best career offensive line with an unselfish setup in Flames' fifth record, made a post-game speech.

Even with the music on, you could hear jokes and screams down the hall.

"It was quiet and peaceful here, which I really enjoyed before the game. The guys were ready to go, "Giordano said afterwards. "I like our composure. I think we played well throughout the game. They took the first and usually in this building, you can lose it a little if they get that moment and those goals (initial), but I thought we had a good answer and we played well all night. "

The truth is they played well for most of the season.

His perch now finalized at the top of the Western Conference standings is proof of that.

"It's hard to get to the top," Smith said. "Getting to where we are with these guys tells a lot about this group and the resilience of that group.

"We're not taking it lightly, for sure."


Dalton Prout's eyes lit up at the mere mention of post-season hockey.

The Calgary Flames deep fielder is so excited about the coming weeks.

"I drive down on day 17 on my way to the rink all the time and you see" Come here for playoff beers, "said Prout." I remember having grown up and seen the C of Red, or you see a clue Even going into the season, when I signed with Calgary, it was like, "I can play Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday, Night. "And the playoffs are just that, 10 times.

"It will be incredible."

Prout is likely to be a spare for the Flames during the playoff, but the 29-year-old is determined to prove he can be a reliable choice when called.

He remained in the 5×3 Sunday lineup over San Jose Sharks – claiming consecutive fights for the only fourth time this season – and dropped a few claws when he scored in a dike for his first appearance at Flaming C.

"It does not change – when you're a kid and you score a goal, that feeling never goes away," Prout said. "To see that cross the line of the goal and contribute to a game that has meant a lot, I think it means a little more. It was fun. You feel like a kid again scoring a goal. "

The big man grinned after the first period.

You can see lots of teeth from your teammates as well.

"Everyone was excited," Prout smiled. "It would be nice to poke another pair and not have the bench so surprised when you score."

Prout has scored two points in 17 appearances this season. The 6-foot-3, 215-lb. Thumper also watched 62 (!) times as a healthy scratch, but his boss Bill Peters repeatedly praised his professionalism.

"It's an honor to be in the National Hockey League and he does not accept that," Peters said of Prout. "You can sit there, pee and complain about your opportunity or you can hug her. So choose your attitude, and he chooses the right attitude and he comes to work every day proud that he is a National Hockey League player, and he puts the work inside.

"And then, when he gets the opportunity, he capitalizes on it. So I give him a lot of credit. "


This seems to be the most revealing clue so far.

In all the crazed country lounges from Country Hills to Cranston, Shaganappi to Sunridge, the biggest question is, "Who will be in the pipeline for the Flames in the first playoff game?"

Well … it seems Peters is leaning toward Mike Smith, who won initial approval for Sunday's showdown against the Sharks and supported the visitors in a 5-3 victory on a relatively quiet night.

After all, this could be a decisive argument against another of the Western Conference's top candidates.

This does not seem like a recipe to keep up with your likely backup.

Smith has now logged 39 matches this season. After a long hard spell in the fall, the 37-year-old has been sharpened in recent times, allowing two goals or less in 10 of his last dozen of crease calls. (He was dinged by three in 15 shots on Sunday.)

His team-mate to stop the record, David Rittich, was marked by 40 matches. It is a safe bet that the 26-year-old will be back in action on Monday while the team completes a consecutive set against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center.

"I read elsewhere the other day, over the last four years, every team that won the Cup used two guys during the playoffs, whether Chicago with (Scott) Darling and (Corey) Crawford or Washington last year with (Philipp) Grubauer and (Braden) Holtby, "said Flames coach Jordan Sigalet recently. "So I think it's important that all teams have two sides.

"I do not think it's a problem if you have both guys in a rhythm and they both feel good about their game."


Juuso Valimaki was a healthy grumpy Sunday for the AHL Stockton Heat, fueling speculation that the 20-year-old will be called up by the big club … Dmitry Zavgorodniy's future was a rookie last fall and he rolled through the winter with 28 goals and 64 points in 67 regular season laps for QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic. Even before that, the 18-year-old left-back – the seventh-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft – made a good impression on his future bosses, spending a good portion of his summer in Calgary to work hard and strong. conditioning coach Ryan van Asten. The Flames rewarded Zavgorodniy's efforts this weekend by signing the up-and-comer for a three-year entry contract. "He's really committed to being a player," said Flames general manager Brad Treliving of Zavgorodniy whose team has already advanced to the second of the QMJHL playoffs. "He has cutting-edge skill, high-quality competitions and high quality drive. He intruded and we think he has a chance … "Just a week after Calgary Inferno won the Clarkson Cup, Sunday's disappointing announcement is that the Canadian Women's Hockey League is doubling. Here we expect positive news soon about the future of women's professional hockey in our city.


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