January 05 2011 10:56PM
We talked about Wednesday's game between Calgary and Vancouver being a real opportunity for the Flames to be honest with themselves. And after watching a 3-1 win for the Canucks, it's pretty clear how honest the Flames need to be. You can't knock the Flames effort necessarily but this was a Vancouver team toying with their opponent and coasting to a far-too-easy win.
The Flames didn't start this game very well, with Ryan Kesler scoring just 70 seconds into the hockey game. After an offensive zone turnover, the Canucks went down the ice and Mason Raymond fed Kesler in front of the net, and his 20th of the season put Vancouver up 1-0. They'd go up by two late in the period with Kevin Bieksa scoring his fifth of the season at 16:12 and it put the Canucks into a very comfortable situation. It was a pretty bland first for the visitors, as they generated four scoring chances on 12 shots, but for the most part were controlled by the home side.
Speaking of bland...how about that second period for the Flames. They generated 14 shots on net, and only one of them could be considered dangerous, so don't let the 14-5 shot edge fool you. Once again, the Canucks gave the Flames almost nothing from the blueline in, and midway through, they'd score their third goal...Daniel Sedin redirected his 22nd at 9:27 off a Bieksa shot, and that's all the Canucks would need. Scoring chances were 3-1 in favor of Vancouver, even with the lopsided shot edge Calgary enjoyed. If there was ever a case of shots on goal not telling the story, the opening 40 minutes was it.
The final frame really was meaningless, and with the Canucks sitting back a little bit, the Flames actually generated some scoring opportunities. Roberto Luongo held his ground when he needed, and the minutes ticked down. In the dying seconds, Tim Jackman pushed home his sixth of the season, a career high for him. It came at 19:49 and served as nothing more than a goal to break Luongo's shutout.
One Good Reason...
...why the Flames lost? They didn't have anything for 40 minutes, and they were down by three heading into the third, plain and simple. When you only have four quality scoring chances through two periods against a truly excellent opponent, you're not going to have a lot of success. It's not easy to do, and the Canucks get a ton of credit for doing enough to win the hockey game. But the fact is, the Flames are not as good as Vancouver, and that was heavily on display tonight.
I'll go with Mikael Backlund. I know he's only counted with one even strength scoring chance for, but on a night where the Flames continually shot the puck from the outside, at least the kid tried moving the puck to the scoring areas. He added an assist on the only Calgary goal, and after being out of NHL action for more than two weeks, he was just fine. I've been very vocal on Backlund sitting, because I thought it was ludicrous he was sitting for development and hockey reasons, so it was nice to see.
Sum It Up
Not a whole lot to see here. The Canucks beat the Flames because Vancouver did a nice job of pushing them to the outside. I'm not necessarily knocking the Calgary effort, because they had nice stretches of possession and got lots of shots on net, but they aren't at the same level. That was pretty clear on this night. They've got Detroit on Friday and then a four game eastern swing next week.