Post-Game: Good Grief

Ryan Pike
January 11 2014 11:11PM

The Calgary Flames played a hockey game this evening. It was their 45th hockey match of the 2013-14 NHL season. They were facing the Pittsburgh Penguins, a perennial playoff team and a club that has (recently) won a Stanley Cup. Sidney Crosby, arguably the best player in the world, plays for Pittsburgh. So does Evgeni Malkin, who is also quite good.

So you wouldn't be shocked to learn that the prognosticators didn't like Calgary's chances in tonight's game, nor would you be amazed to learn that there was a lot more Penguins fans in the stands than those rooting for the home team. Regardless, the game unfolded in some ways that were very predictable (the result), and also in ways that may have surprised onlookers.

THE RUNDOWN

The Penguins began the game appearing to be feeling the effects of their game the previous night in Edmonton, as they were a bit back on their heels. The Flames, obviously not wanting another drubbing like they faced against St. Louis, were very energetic early-on - including a quick fight between Brian McGrattan and Deryk Engelland that ended with a quick jab from McGrattan. However, the Penguins quickly figured out Bob Hartley's line deployment plans - put the Backlund line against the Crosby line - and managed to hem the Colborne/Westgarth/McGrattan line deep in their zone. Some broken coverage, a delayed penalty against Shane O'Brien and some overall defensive-zone chaos and Chris Kunitz put a bad-angled shot past Reto Berra to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. The Penguns had the edge in shots (13-12), shot attempts (18-16) and scoring chances (5-3) in the first, though the Flames had the edge in face-offs by a 9-6 margin.

The second period seemed to be of two minds for the Flames. Without the puck, especially on the penalty kill, their defensive zone play was structured and outside of a few lapses, they managed to keep the Penguins to the outside and minimize chances. With the puck, especially on the power-play, the team seemed tentative and nervous. Over the entire game, the Flames generated just four shots on net in over eight minutes of power-play time. Oh, and one of those lapses that I mentioned, again involving the five-man unit of Colborne, McGrattan, Westgarth, O'Brien and Wideman, resulted in the second goal of the game. Matt Niskanen put a puck through a lot of traffic off of a Flames turnover, and it eked past Berra to make it 2-0 Penguins. Shots were 10-6 Calgary in the second. Shot attempts were 19-16 Pittsburgh. Face-offs and scoring chances were even.

The third period began with the Flames setting their franchise record for goal-scoring futility on home ice. The game got a bit of added emotion when Robert Bortuzzo crushed Mark Giordano with a high hit, giving the Flames a brief five-minute power-play. It was brief due to an ill-advised cross-checking penalty by Mike Cammalleri that negated quite a bit of that man-advantage. Talk on Twitter soon rumbled about the Flames potentially setting their franchise record for overall goal-scoring futility, when Mikael Backlund had to go and ruin it.

Midway through the period, Backlund drove into the Penguins zone on the left wing, beat Kris Letang on the outside and beat Marc-Andre Fleury on the far side to bring the Flames within one.

Much rejoicing occurred, and the Flames looked at the scoreboard and played as if they could actually win the game - or at least tie it. However, the Penguins went into defense-first mode and kept the Flames to the outside for the remainder of the game, and the contest ended with a 2-1 final score in favour of the Penguins. The Penguins led in shots (7-6), attempts (19-16) and face-offs (9-7), while scoring chances were even at 4-4.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

Well, they scored a goal, but outside of the last 10 minutes or so, the Flames played as if the puck was a grenade. Much like Charlie Brown attempting to kick the football, the Flames are operating offensively as if they expect Lucy to snatch the football away from them at the last possible minute. With a bit more offensive success, their confidence will probably return. But like Peter Loubardias often says, confidence is probably the big difference between the Flames right now and the Flames a few weeks back.

But most of all, despite the Flames' utilizing the Backlund/Cammalleri/Stempniak like to negate Sidney Crosby (who generated just two shots all game), Dan Bylsma managed to stack the deck against Calgary's fourth line and generate a pair of goals from those favourable match-ups. Confidence issues aside, Bob Hartley got out-coached by Bylsma.

SCORING CHANCES

Team Period Time Note Home Away State
Away 1 12:46 Pyatt 3 8 15 24 29 44 4 15 16 17 29 58 5v5
Away 1 11:02 Crosby 5 7 11 13 22 29 14 29 41 44 49 87 5v5
Away 1 10:39 Crosby 5 7 11 13 22 29 14 29 41 44 49 87 5v5
Away 1 8:40 Gibbons 6 23 24 29 32 55 14 29 41 44 49 87 5v5
Away 1 7:36 Gibbons 5 7 17 18 29 39 4 14 29 49 58 87 5v5
Home 1 4:41 Byron 3 23 24 29 32 44 2 3 18 29 36 71 5v5
Home 1 4:30 Hudler 3 23 24 29 32 44 2 3 18 29 36 71 5v5
Home 1 0:19 Cammalleri 3 11 13 22 29 44 2 3 5 27 29 38 5v5
Home 2 11:36 Monahan 6 23 24 29 32 55 4 16 17 27 29 58 5v5
Home 2 11:34 Hudler 6 23 24 29 32 55 4 16 17 27 29 58 5v5
Home 2 9:59 Backlund 5 11 22 29 44   14 18 29 58 71 87 4v5
Away 2 8:53 Sutter 3 7 11 29 32   2 3 16 17 29 36 4v5
Away 2 5:22 Jokinen 5 18 22 29 44   2 3 16 17 29 36 4v5
Away 2 1:44 Crosby 5 23 24 29 32 44 2 14 17 29 44 87 5v5
Away 3 16:51 Jokinen 3 23 24 29 32 44 18 29 36 41 44 71 5v5
Away 3 16:43 Kunitz 5 7 17 18 29   14 18 29 58 71 87 4v5
Away 3 16:13 Neal 5 29 32 39 44   14 18 29 58 71 87 4v5
Away 3 8:50 Malkin 6 7 11 24 29   4 29 36 58 71   4v4
Home 3 8:32 Backlund goal 5 7 11 24 29   4 16 27 29 58   4v4
Home 3 5:16 Stempniak 6 7 11 13 22 29 5 15 16 27 29 44 5v5
Home 3 2:54 Cammalleri 5 11 13 22 29 44 4 18 29 36 58 71 5v5
Home 3 2:35 Stempniak 5 11 13 22 29 44 2 15 16 17 29 44 5v5
# Player EV     PP     SH    
3 SMID, LADISLAV 13:42 3 2 00:03 0 0 00:43 0 1
5 GIORDANO, MARK 18:07 3 4 04:24 0 0 03:51 1 3
6 WIDEMAN, DENNIS 16:59 3 2 04:33 0 0 00:31 0 0
7 BRODIE, TJ 19:09 2 4 05:15 0 0 01:34 0 2
8 COLBORNE, JOE 06:47 0 1 02:11 0 0 00:00 0 0
11 BACKLUND, MIKAEL 15:21 5 3 04:31 0 0 02:01 1 1
13 CAMMALLERI, MIKE 14:27 4 2 04:54 0 0 00:00 0 0
15 WESTGARTH, KEVIN 03:39 0 1 00:00 0 0 00:00 0 0
17 BOUMA, LANCE 08:28 0 1 00:00 0 0 01:37 0 1
18 STAJAN, MATT 12:26 0 1 00:01 0 0 01:15 0 2
22 STEMPNIAK, LEE 17:07 4 2 03:08 0 0 01:28 1 1
23 MONAHAN, SEAN 14:44 4 3 03:23 0 0 00:00 0 0
24 HUDLER, JIRI 17:00 5 5 05:32 0 0 00:00 0 0
29 BERRA, RETO   9 8   0 0   1 4
32 BYRON, PAUL 15:41 4 3 00:38 0 0 01:41 0 2
39 GALIARDI, TJ 10:11 0 1 00:00 0 0 01:47 0 1
44 BUTLER, CHRIS 15:18 5 3 01:57 0 0 03:52 1 2
55 O'BRIEN, SHANE 10:34 2 1 00:00 0 0 00:00 0 0
Period Totals EV PP 5v3 PP SH 5v3 SH
1 3 5 3 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2 3 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0
3 4 4 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0

RED WARRIOR

Mikael Backlund played 21:54 (second among forwards behind just Jiri Hudler), effectively negated the Crosby line all night long, put four shots on net and played a very solid game. Oh, and he scored a goal, too.

Honourable mention to Sean Monahan, who was quietly very effective (physically and otherwise) and went 9-for-11 in the face-off circle.

SUM IT UP

The Flames lost for the seventh time in their last eight outings and now boast a 15-24-6 record on the season. They sit 28th in the National Hockey League overall, 17 points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second Western wild-card playoff spot. They hit the road for another weird, short road trip - playing Carolina in Raleigh on Monday night and in Nashville on Tuesday night.

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Now in his third full season covering the Calgary Flames and the NHL, Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's trying to keep his head up, his stick on the ice and is giving it 110% every shift. You can also find his work at The Hockey Writers, the Wrestling Observer and Tough Talk MMA.
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#1 mk
January 11 2014, 11:22PM
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BACKLUND. All I want to say right now.

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#2 Baalzamon
January 11 2014, 11:25PM
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At one point in the first, the fourth line was ambushed by Crosby AND Malkin. Terrified doesn't begin to describe how Colborne must have felt.

No mention of the assist from TJ "Zone Exit" Brodie? haha.

In other news, Ben Street was just recalled. Does that mean the end of "THUG LYFE" (and also his spot on the AHL all-star team)?

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#3 cunning_linguist
January 11 2014, 11:38PM
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Come on Edmonton, just one point to go.

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#4 aloudoun
January 11 2014, 11:50PM
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Backlund and Monahan had a good game against the Penguins. Heavens rejoice!

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#6 exsanguinator
January 12 2014, 12:18AM
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By eye, this appeared to be a game that Calgary deserved to win. Looking at the underlying stats tells a bit of a different story. I'm a little surprised and happy to see that the top line managed to effectively neutralize the Crosby line and also score a goal but as was alluded to in the article, the fourth line got the game winner.

That's the difference between good teams and the Flames.

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#7 ChinookArch
January 12 2014, 07:45AM
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I was only able to watch the 2nd period where I thought the Flames carried the play. Is it just me or does the one goal they scored field like a win? Hopefully, the monkey is off their proverbial backs (no pun intended).

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#8 coachedpotatoe
January 12 2014, 07:50AM
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Yahoo a goal. Actually I was quite happy with how well the team played last night. Backs scored a goal, could have had another, defended against and agitated well against Crosby.

Does anyone else think the Flames should maybe try Bouma as a net presence on the powerplay?

Great to here that Street has been called up, I believe he scored again for the Heat last night. Heat won 3-2;Billins, Sreet and Jooris scored. Sven was a +2. I wonder how far Glenx, Russell and BJones are away from returning to the lineup. They miss the Russell/Wides duo on the pp.

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#9 Jeff In Lethbridge
January 12 2014, 08:47AM
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Backlund has been looking good this year. when he plays with confidence, he is a legit top six

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#10 Carlizzle
January 12 2014, 09:36AM
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That unconscious back of the head save by Fleury was criminal.

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#11 Carlizzle
January 12 2014, 09:40AM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

Mark Giordano was also, to no surprise, quite good as well. Thankfully it doesn't appear he was injured by Bortuzzo's hit.

Prior to Cammaleri's crosscheck on Glass, Glass should have been sent off which in turn could have given Calgary a 5 on 3 for 2:35.

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#12 Carlizzle
January 12 2014, 09:45AM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

Mark Giordano was also, to no surprise, quite good as well. Thankfully it doesn't appear he was injured by Bortuzzo's hit.

Did everyone else see Bortuzzo swear and try to give to the fans as he was escorted off the ice? Lucky for him he was ejected, I would have liked to see another KO by Ern'

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#13 Carlizzle
January 12 2014, 09:47AM
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I liked Cammy's reaction to go after Bortuzzo after the high elbow to Gio.

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#14 mk
January 12 2014, 09:54AM
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Carlizzle wrote:

Prior to Cammaleri's crosscheck on Glass, Glass should have been sent off which in turn could have given Calgary a 5 on 3 for 2:35.

As soon as Glass' hack at Cammalleri wasn't called, it was a given that Squid's retaliation would result in a pay-back call. Ugh.

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#15 Kent Wilson
January 12 2014, 10:03AM
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If the Flames don't ice a blackhole of a 4th line, they probably win this game. The rest of the roster played relatively well (absent Smid and Wideman) and the first line went toe-to-toe with Crosby.

A pretty good night, all things considered.

EDIT TO ADD - Backlund's line outshot the opposition 14-7 at ES last night. And they faced the Pens top-6 almost exclusively.

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#16 Carlizzle
January 12 2014, 10:09AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

If the Flames don't ice a blackhole of a 4th line, they probably win this game. The rest of the roster played relatively well (absent Smid and Wideman) and the first line went toe-to-toe with Crosby.

A pretty good night, all things considered.

EDIT TO ADD - Backlund's line outshot the opposition 14-7 at ES last night. And they faced the Pens top-6 almost exclusively.

Agreed, Crosby held to just 2 shots (1 of them a partial break on Berra) and kept off the scoresheet.

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#17 Jeff In Lethbridge
January 12 2014, 10:30AM
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Carlizzle wrote:

Prior to Cammaleri's crosscheck on Glass, Glass should have been sent off which in turn could have given Calgary a 5 on 3 for 2:35.

am I the only one who gets frustrated with he fact that differeng refs call games differently?

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#18 suba steve
January 12 2014, 10:49AM
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Carlizzle wrote:

I liked Cammy's reaction to go after Bortuzzo after the high elbow to Gio.

I agree that there should have been a call on that hit on Cammi. I will also add that Cammi was noticeable (in a good way) for most of the game, at least in my opinion.

However, that crosscheck to the face (or that general area) was reckless and selfish and I would not be surprised if a suspension resulted (though I don't think one will). It was the kind of action that cannot be condoned.

Just realized, you were referring to another play. My mistake.

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#19 piscera.infada
January 12 2014, 10:52AM
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Jeff In Lethbridge wrote:

am I the only one who gets frustrated with he fact that differeng refs call games differently?

Kind of. But that's sport. It happens in every one - ya know, different people and such...

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#20 Carlizzle
January 12 2014, 11:19AM
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Jeff In Lethbridge wrote:

am I the only one who gets frustrated with he fact that differeng refs call games differently?

No. All game long (last night) and through this train wreck it's been clearly noticeable.

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#21 Skuehler
January 12 2014, 11:24AM
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suba steve wrote:

I agree that there should have been a call on that hit on Cammi. I will also add that Cammi was noticeable (in a good way) for most of the game, at least in my opinion.

However, that crosscheck to the face (or that general area) was reckless and selfish and I would not be surprised if a suspension resulted (though I don't think one will). It was the kind of action that cannot be condoned.

Just realized, you were referring to another play. My mistake.

If the refs do their job well then there is no need to retaliate. It is human nature to stand up for yourself. It's a respect thing. It might have been a selfish reaction but at least he was playing with emotion, he was fired up for a big test against one of the best teams on HNIC. Not condoning it, just saying if the ref calls the penalty on Glass, that crosschek doesn't happen.

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#22 suba steve
January 12 2014, 11:59AM
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@Skuehler

I don't disagree, but going after another man's face with a stick is kinda stepping over the line for me. And it did negate a powerplay for the team.

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#23 MangoTanker
January 12 2014, 12:18PM
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What a shot by Backlund.

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#24 MonsterPod
January 12 2014, 12:21PM
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Perfect game. Backlund, Monahan, and others played well. We scored and maybe we deserved to win. Better to feel ripped off than desolate. Islanders and Panthers now 5 points up on us -- awesome. Let's go ED, I wanna see a strong second half from you. Yes, I will be cheering for the Coilers. And don't rule out some positive changes in Buf. That, coupled with a Flames AHL roster in March, may pave the way to the top pick.

Work hard Flames, don't suck, believe in yourselves, learn... but please lose often and finish last -- just this year (and maybe next). With love...

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#25 Carlizzle
January 12 2014, 12:31PM
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Skuehler wrote:

If the refs do their job well then there is no need to retaliate. It is human nature to stand up for yourself. It's a respect thing. It might have been a selfish reaction but at least he was playing with emotion, he was fired up for a big test against one of the best teams on HNIC. Not condoning it, just saying if the ref calls the penalty on Glass, that crosschek doesn't happen.

Amen.

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#26 seve927
January 12 2014, 01:10PM
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@suba steve

Yeah, but when you're playing on a team that hasn't scored in forever, if that's all the frustration that comes out after being hit from behind into the boards - I'm not going to be too hard on him. If he does it regularly, for sure, suspend him, but I think that was out of character for him.

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