April 01 2014 07:46PM
It was a close, tight-checking game at the Air Canada Centre this evening, as the Flames continued their road trip in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. Despite keeping the score low, the Flames continued some of their defensive dodginess and dropped a close game by a 3-2 score.
The first period featured the NHL debut of Bryce van Brabant (of the Morinville van Brabants), a few nice scoring chances for each side...and not much else. Van Brabant took a penalty and the Flames killed it without surrendering a strong scoring chance. Chad Billins got several good looks but seemed to be waiting to pass the puck and couldn't get a shot off. Phil Kessel blocked a few shots (two according to the scoresheet) and didn't enjoy it. Toronto led in shots (7-5), shot attempts (18-15) and face-off wins (8-3).
Early in the second frame, an uncharacteristic defensive lapse by Giordano and Brodie led to Toronto opening the scoring. Jay McClement snuck into the slot and Cody Franson – kept to the outside but not checked closely – found him for a quick tap-in past Ramo to make it 1-0. The Leafs had a couple more excellent chances – Ramo stopped Kadri and Kessel – and the game evened out after the Leafs pressed early. The Flames generated two shots past Jonathan Bernier; one of 'em was in off a Curtis Glencross high stick, but they successfully tied things up when T.J. Brodie used his skills to put a two-line outlet pass on the stick of Matt Stajan, who split the D and put it past Bernier. The Flames led in shots (9-6) and shot attempts (21-14), while Toronto had a slight face-off edge (15-13).
Early in the third, the home side broke the deadlock: the Leafs came in on an odd-man rush but Flames covered well; but Brodie blocked Dave Bolland pass towards the slot...into his own net. Ugh. 2-1 Leafs. A little bit later, the Flames were victimized by some shabby coverage in the offensive zone; Brodie pinched but nobody covered his spot at the point; David Clarkson got a breakaway through the hole in coverage and scored. 3-1 Leafs.
Karri Ramo stood tall on a few subsequent Leafs chances and then answered back. Colborne found Russell by the face-off dot with a nice pass (after some great puck protection) and with Sean Monahan screening, Russell put it past Bernier to cut the lead to 3-2. The Flames pressed late, including a great chance for Curtis Glencross, but Bernier stood tall and the Leafs won the game by a 3-2 margin. Toronto led the third in shots (10-8), Calgary led in shot attempts (22-21) and face-off wins (16-15).
HOW WAS VAN BRABANT?
He barely played in the later stages of the game, and he took a penalty in the first. He was okay, I guess. I'd like to see more out of him before I come to any conclusions, though. He did seem to use his size well in the corners early-on, so that's a positive.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
The Flames were fairly mediocre for long stretches against Ottawa and they lost by three. Tonight they were mediocre for a shorter period – particularly in their defensive coverage – and lost by one.
T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano had an uncharacteristically poor game – not out-and-out bad, just not great by their standards – and it's tough for the team to perform too well without their aces being at their best.
Joe Colborne has been so much better as a winger than he was as a center, and I thought he had one of his better games. His puck protection on Kris Russell's goal was superb.
SUM IT UP
The Flames (31-38-7) have six games remaining in the 2013-14 season. They head south to sunny Florida for a meeting with the Tampa Bay Lightning (41-25-9) on Thursday and the Florida Panthers (27-41-8) on Friday.