Postgame: Bad Middle

Pat Steinberg
October 08 2011 11:39PM

The season opening woes continued Saturday for the Calgary Flames, as an absolutely dismal second period was enough to sink the home team 5-3 at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  The middle 20 minutes, with a few tacked on either side, was as dominant a performance from a visiting team I've seen at the Saddledome in ages.  Unfortunately for Calgary, a late rally was too little, too late as the Flames have lost eight of their last nine season openers.

What Happened

It was actually a very positive opening frame for the Flames, as they had quite a bit of possession and offensive zone time.  I liked how they moved the puck out of their own end, I like their entry, and I liked their cycle.  While Calgary only generated three scoring chances at even strength, they also held the impressive Penguins to just three of their own, doing the job in the first period.  Even better was their opening goal, and it was of the highlight reel variety.  At 15:32, Mark Giordano took a pass from Scott Hannan and broke in down the left side of the seem; instead of going hard to the net, Gio fired a gorgeous pass to Curtis Glencross who one timed his first of the season, giving the Flames a 1-0 lead after one.

Then the second period happened.  As referenced above, I don't think I've seen anyone run Calgary's show like the Penguins did in the middle frame.  That includes blowouts at the 'Dome by Washington, Vancouver and Chicago over the last two seasons.  The Flames quite literally didn't have the puck in the second period, as Pittsburgh scored four times.  It started early with Tyler Kennedy scoring on a lopsided odd-man rush out of the penalty box.  His first beat Miikka Kiprusoff five hole to tie the score.  At 6:40 of the second, Matt Niskanen scored a powerplay goal at the tail end of a man advantage where the Pens blitzed the Flames.  Craig Adams gave Pittsburgh a two goal lead at 10:11 while the feisty Evgeni Malkin scored on the powerplay at 13:04 to give the Pens a 4-1 lead after 40.  Calgary was outchanced 14-4 (!) at even strength in the middle frame.

The Flames played the score in the third period, and scored twice.  Rene Bourque finished off a nice Alex Tanguay pass started by a Roman Horak play at 9:08; it's the first ever NHL point for Horak.  Calgary scored again when Niklas Hagman fed Olli Jokinen from behind the net; Jokinen beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a nice shot at 16:23.  The Flames pushed in the final frame but things were sealed with five seconds to go as Jordan Staal iced it with an empty netter.

One Good Reason...

...why the Flames lost?  Because they didn't have the puck in the second period and for a good chunk at the end of the first and beginning of the third.  When a very good team like the Penguins have possession for as much as they did in the middle part of the game, you aren't going to win very many hockey games.

Red Warrior

I'm sure we'll be saying this numerous times.  Mark Giordano had a strong, strong game for the Flames, leading all players with five blocked shots.  In his 22:43 of ice time, he was physical, smart defensively and got into the rush.  His pass to set up Calgary's first goal was incredible, and all in all, Gio was the best player on the ice for the home side.

Sum It Up

Calgary wasn't good enough over a 60 minute span in this one, and against a very good opponent, you're not going to win hockey games.  That's the negative, but it's also the facts of the matter.  However, I look back to a few games last season and liked how the Flames didn't let this unravel on them.  The games I think of are the Washington and Vancouver 7-2 defeats, both at home, so I think there is some value in that heading out on a three game road trip.  That trip starts Monday afternoon in St. Louis.

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Pat Steinberg can be heard daily on the Fan960 in Calgary at can be read at the FAN 960. Born and raised in Calgary, Steinberg considers himself a huge fan of all sports including the CFL, MMA and 13 round bare knuckle boxing matches. Follow Steinberg on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Fan960Steinberg.
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#1 Yourmomthinksimhot
October 08 2011, 11:46PM
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Ha.......... The fist of many of these games boys. Get used to it......... There's always next year though.

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#2 nolan moore
October 08 2011, 11:55PM
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Question? Yup 2nd they forgot to show up, but I think this is what they are, a team that can't play a whole 60. Who thinks if they go 0-10, 1-9 or 2-8 that sutter will be there. I hope it doesn't happen but ... Also if that happens PLEASE don't hand the reigns to Hartsburg!

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#3 schevvy
October 09 2011, 12:49AM
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Here's what I noticed from my PVR tape-delay game.

The Flames tried to make way too many cute and fancy plays on the PK. GET THE PUCK OUT. That directly led to the Pens 2nd goal.

The 2nd period was brutal. You can't give up 4 goals in 1 period. With effort like that Sutter should have shown his inner Jim Mora.. PLAYOFFS? I just hope we can win a game. Ok maybe not that extreme, but you get the point.

Gio for Norris! That was some kinda play on the 1st goal. Wow!

Flames PP stunk. Couldn't get much going at all.

On the Pens 1st goal, Kipper has to take the shooter. Let the d-man worry about the pass. Instead he cheats and Kennedy takes advantage.

All in all one period cost them the game. They out-scored the Pens 3-1 (the 1 being the empty-netter) in periods 1 and 3 but get out-scored 4-0 in the 2nd. Unacceptable. Consistency is the name of the game. I expect a better effort against the Blues Monday. (btw will there be a live chat on Monday Kent?)

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#4 jeremywilhelm
October 09 2011, 01:10AM
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Kipper. Yikes. The guy is aging Khabibulin gracefully. Unfortunately this team absolutely needs Tim Thomas gracefully. I think he might be done.

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#5 Vintage Flame
October 09 2011, 01:26AM
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I think we are maybe reading a little too much into this first game.

Were the Flames flat for 25 minutes? Absolutely. They were a completely different team in the 2nd from what they were in the 1st. The passing got sloppy and for some reason the forwards were spreading themselves far too apart.

There is going to be a lot of fans that are going to use game 1, yes, game 1, to justify a lot of skepticism and doubt they had through out the off-season.

Let's try and look at a little perspective here. Iggy looked off, but he was also playing his first game. I'm willing to give him some slack.

Some things to look positively on was the play of Gio, outstanding. Hannan looked very comfortable and I was happy to see Bouwmeester show shades of his play back in Florida.

On the rookie front, Horak looked good in his first game and made a nifty play to register his first NHL point.

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#6 Vintage Flame
October 09 2011, 01:28AM
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jeremywilhelm wrote:

Kipper. Yikes. The guy is aging Khabibulin gracefully. Unfortunately this team absolutely needs Tim Thomas gracefully. I think he might be done.

Dude.. What are you talking about? kipper played a pretty solid game tonight. he kept the Flames a lot closer than it could have been. Numerous times he was called upon to make the 2nd and 3rd save.

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#7 Jeff Lebowski
October 09 2011, 02:08AM
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I was at the game. What I saw (without benefit of a lot of replays) was:

the Penguins first two goals coming off odd man rushes.

Calgary had a tough time in their own zone for most of the game. Flame players had the puck in their own zone but were dispossed by the excellent Pens forecheck.

Kipper got better as the game went on. The first two goals were groan inducing however they were odd man rushes. He made some really great saves too.

Pittsburgh are an elite transition team. They turn it up ice fast and possess the puck entering the zone. Calgary expends a lot of juice playing dump and chase. They didn't get it back a lot of the time (hence the shots) while the Pens made those turnovers (Calgary's dumps) into two quick passes and they were playing offense in a disorganized Calgary zone (especially the second).

The Flames played hard, I liked the effort from all the players it's just they had breakdowns. Calgary battled back and showed a lot of grit in the skirmishes. I liked that.

Overall I'm not too worried as I think the mistakes are correctable and not glaring deficiencies that will plague the team all year.

Hartsburg better get the defensive coverage worked out. Calgary was forced into a lot of bad plays because of hesitation.

Lastly, there are a ton of great looking Calgary women at the games. I mean DAMN!

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#8 hunter1909
October 09 2011, 07:26AM
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Oilers fan coming in peace:

Best of luck this season for the Flames! Bring back the Battle of Alberta!

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#9 Vish
October 09 2011, 07:27AM
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Kipper looked like Luongo... straight down to the pads. Liked the effort in 1st and 3rd but with BMO and Backlund making impact we would be more dangerous offensively. I think Gio is going to have an unreal season and hopefully the smooth skating bum Jblow does too.

Iginla looked lost at times imo maybe that's just me. Is this finally the year he hits a wall?

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#10 M.Dizzle
October 09 2011, 08:04AM
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It was a pretty rough game to watch..especially the last 40 mins, but the one thing I noticed (that I haven't seen any mention of) is the fact that Chris Butler looked horrible out there. He gave up the puck plenty of times (mind you so did others) and he was on the ice for at least 3 of the 5 goals against. I just heard an interview with Feaster where he believes Chris Butler is going to be a top 4 kind of guy. I understand it's only 1 game, but I personally did not see anything to be excited about when it comes to the likes of Butler. I understand he was a part of the Reggie trade, but if this guy doesn't show up I sure hope Feaster/Sutter stick to what they said about allowing the best players play and give Brodie a chance to be with the big club..at least until Carson is ready to go. Will Brodie be better? Maybe, maybe not, but he's our prospect and I think deserves to have more chances.

I'm in no means a hockey expert, nor do I think I know what is best. I just wanted to throw in my two cents. Again, this is only Game #1. There is plenty of optimism left in my tank, I just hope that this year's motto: "Every Game Matters", matters not only to the Flames loyal, but to the players we stand behind.

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#11 ChinookArch
October 09 2011, 08:15AM
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I was going to post about about how awful the 2nd period was and specifically how scary the Sarich/Babchuck combo was. Instead I'll focus on what I thought were good.

Gio of course was great in all 3 zones and periods. Was that Tanguay mixing it up and running Fleury . . . love the passion. All of our question-mark players were at least okay: Stajan looked good on the PK, and I bet Sutter makes him him earn his stripes and more TOI there. Hagman didn't look like his was fighting the puck. And, I thought Bourque was noticeably good, with some good effort. Kipper was not great, but he was okay and didn't have a chance on 2 goals for sure. I hated the 2nd period, but 1 & 3 were actually, on balance good.

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#12 walkinvisible
October 09 2011, 08:22AM
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gio's play on the first goal: dirty. like, sexy dirty, not dirty dirty.

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#13 Ryan
October 09 2011, 08:29AM
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I felt the Flames played a great first period. I have to ask you where there speed was the rest of the game though? I feel they can still play against the big boys however it has to be a full 60 minute effort. How many times were players just standing around in the neutral zone? Way too many I would say.

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#14 Rain Dogs
October 09 2011, 09:42AM
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Looks like we need to change the signs on the wall already...

"Every Shift Matters"

with a small notation underneath

("Yes, that means backchecking matters")

Actually, maybe we should really break it down

"Every Zone Matters"

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#15 Rain Dogs
October 09 2011, 09:54AM
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@Vintage Flame

Ha! You sound like me about 60 times last year (except for that 10 game or so brutal stretch where I didn't comment.)

Seriously though. It's like people forget that these are NHL shooters... the best in the world. They are going to score goals. And when you give them numerous odd man rushes, with no back pressure... and they have a lot of time unchallenged with options! We're done.

No goalie is saving that Kennedy shot unless they drop early, or cheat. Kipper played it square and couldn't drop early, because of back-door pressure... so he got worked!

If the Flames continue to allow such high option (wouldn't want to say "quality") plays with no back-pressure and 36 shots against, we're f*ked plain and simple (with Kipper, Karl or Tim Thomas)

It may take us numerous seasons to learn the game is a transition one, and playing defense is pursuit speed and back pressure through the neutral zone, supporting the d. But, someday....maybe....hopefully.... we'll learn.

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#16 doubledown
October 09 2011, 09:58AM
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I'm not sure how much credit the flames should get for the third period comeback. In my opinion the game was out of reach and Pittsburgh deffinately started to let up. Hoping for a full 60 in St. Louis.

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#17 FlamesNation (London ed.)
October 09 2011, 10:14AM
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I think the word Bouwmeester means "weak outlet passes" in Dutch.

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#18 dotfras
October 09 2011, 10:22AM
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So many problems breaking out. I hope that's just the signs of weak chemistry between the D pairings. What was up with the frequent chip around the back of the net passes & giving the puck up to Pens forecheck? So weak.

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#19 Kent Wilson
October 09 2011, 10:42AM
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@hunter1909

Appreciate that. Unless you're doing the Lowetide jinx thing...

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#20 CitizenFlame
October 09 2011, 10:44AM
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slow down people... while not a great game remember their last preseason game was 9 days ago! That is only game 1. The Pens just played a couple of nights ago in Vancouver so have already had a tune up. Calgary should and needs to put up a better effort in St.Louis, but I think they will now that they've tasted some real action again.

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#21 jeremywilhelm
October 09 2011, 10:46AM
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One of the big problems the defense has is there is 3 guys playing on the wrong side. This is one of the only teams I have ever seen who has two pairs of left handers and a pair of right handers. It will always lead to scrambly defensive zone play and is a really stupid setup that is setting these guys up for failure.

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#22 jeremywilhelm
October 09 2011, 10:48AM
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Vintage Flame wrote:

Dude.. What are you talking about? kipper played a pretty solid game tonight. he kept the Flames a lot closer than it could have been. Numerous times he was called upon to make the 2nd and 3rd save.

I just think he has lost it. He isn't elite anymore. And at his price tag, it's really hurting this team. I wouldn't mind so much if the guy was making 3 mill a year but for his pay, his play the last year and what it looks like it's gonna be this year is unacceptable.

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#23 schevvy
October 09 2011, 10:59AM
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On the bright side it was better than last year's first game!

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#24 RKD
October 09 2011, 11:16AM
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Some positives I take from this game is that the Flames were much more aggressive in the first period. They were better in this year's opener instead compared to last year.

Nice to see Jay-Bo getting up into the offensive zone. I thought Jokinen had a strong game. He dominated Staal in the faceoff circle.

Gotta play 60 minutes, again consistency is key for this group.

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#25 RexLibris
October 09 2011, 11:50AM
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I wouldn't worry too much about this.

While I need to be up front and say that I've predicted the Flames will finish 10th in the West, I don't think you can say that the season is a waste based on how you played one game. It was your season opener and you managed to score three more goals than you did in last year's game. You were playing a very good team that had already had one game under it's belt against the second-best (and I love rubbing that in) team in the league and it was an eastern conference opponent that you don't see very often.

Relax. I mean the Leafs are 2-0, and some of those idiots are already talking about challenging for the Division title this year, so give it some time and see where you stand by Jan 10th.

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#26 FireOnIce
October 09 2011, 11:55AM
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Is there any word on a Sarich hearing with Shanahan for his hit on Cooke?

Cooke is a dirty SOB and finally got a little of his own medicine, but he definitely sold the "injury" and then was right in on the cheap shots to GlenX after he nailed Malkin.

Watching the Pens feed was ridiculous. "GlenX totally deserved to be beaten bloody for his cheap shot on Malkin, which could've severed his MCL and ACL"... he hit him in the foot. What a bunch of maroons.

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#27 Ken V.
October 09 2011, 12:22PM
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Wow, flames faithful or what? It's one game against the Penguins. Who the hell wants to face the Penguins on their home opener? Anyways, I'm more upset about Matt Cooke trying to take advantage of the new head-shot rule by embellishing the hit from Sarich and his "We'll wait for what the league says about it..." what a dick.

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#28 Kevin R
October 09 2011, 12:36PM
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RexLibris wrote:

I wouldn't worry too much about this.

While I need to be up front and say that I've predicted the Flames will finish 10th in the West, I don't think you can say that the season is a waste based on how you played one game. It was your season opener and you managed to score three more goals than you did in last year's game. You were playing a very good team that had already had one game under it's belt against the second-best (and I love rubbing that in) team in the league and it was an eastern conference opponent that you don't see very often.

Relax. I mean the Leafs are 2-0, and some of those idiots are already talking about challenging for the Division title this year, so give it some time and see where you stand by Jan 10th.

My sentiments as well. I think it's a pretty established fact our team doesnt quite have the talent & star power to run & gun with the top playoff teams. By Jan 10th we'll be around a .55 team, so I have emotionally set myself up to not getting too upset when we lose & pleasantly suprised when we win against a top 5 conference team. Big road trip for this team coming up & if I was B Sutter, I would be getting the boys to treat it like a best of 3 playoff series. Sounds early to be doing that but this team needs to be playing with desperation early, they seem to play better that way.

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#29 John Deere Green
October 09 2011, 08:50PM
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I realize it's only game one and a guy shouldn't jump off the sinking boat quite yet, but how is this any different than last season? Do we keep saying this? It's only the first game, it's only been five games- relax, they're just off to a slow start- it's only been ten games.

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#30 Vintage Flame
October 10 2011, 12:51AM
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@John Deere Green

"I realize it's only game one and a guy shouldn't jump off the sinking boat quite yet, but how is this any different than last season?"

I see what you're saying, but how is it the same as last season? It's only been one game?

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