Post-Game: Just that Close


– gif via The Score


There’s at least one thing you can say about this iteration of the Calgary Flames so far – they keep things entertaining. For the third time in three games, the contest was decided by one goal and for the second time in the last two the contest needed OT to settle things. 

The bad news is, the Flames were on the wrong side of the box score. The good news is, they probably deserved better.

The Rundown

Vancouver was the first team to score in the first thanks to David Booth tip, but the Flames were the better team from start to finish in the opening frame. Calgary dominated possession and had Vancouver back on their heels for a majority of the initial 20 minutes, culminating in a Mark Giordano snipe from the high slot with about five minutes left. The goal marked Giordano’s team leading 4th point.

The second started much like the first, with the Flames hemming the Canucks in their end for long stretches. Vancouver also took a number of penalties and it was only Eddie Lack’s heroics that kept things close, particularly a point blank stop off of Dennis Wideman on a PP. The Flames nevertheless managed to grab a lead when Jiri Hudler spotted Mikael Backlund and sprung him on a break away. Backlund deposited a backhand deke and the Flames looked like they were well on their way to securing the victory.

Sean Monahan extended the lead early in the third by firing a shot through the five hole on a 2on1.Going down by two seemed to spurn Calgary’s opponents, who were largely dormant up until that point in the game. Vancouver poured on the pressure for the rest of the period, reeling off eight strahgt scoring chances, converting on three of them to regain the lead. On the first, a lackadasical Curtis Glencross pass behind the net was picked off by a Sedin and centered to a wide open Janik Hansen. On the second, a hopelessly overmatched Brian McGrattan found his clearing pass intercepted by the other Sedin, resulting in a 2on1 Mike Santorelli goal. Tough guy Dale Weise finished up the come back after beating both Sean Monahan and Shane O’Brien to the net and depositing a Richardson pass.

The Flames managed to right the ship long enough to mount a counter-attack in the final two minutes. After a Hudler shot from the top of the circle, a goal mouth scramble resulted in David Jones, Kevin Bieksa and the puck piling into the net. The goal was reviewed, but stood and Jones was awarded the goal.

The OT featured a healthy does of the Sedins, but it was Mike Santorelli scoring off another 2on1 rush, this one caused by a missed Dennis Wideman hip check (he had a good game otherwise).

Flame of the Game

Let’s go with Mikael Backlund. He played over 21 minutes, scored a go ahead goal and was generally solid all over the ice. He also managed to finish the night +1 even though the Flames gave up five goals.

Why the Flames Lost

Because they made a handful of key errors in the third period that the Canucks capitalized on. One of those blunders belongs to Hartley himself because he found his enforcer on the ice with some of the opposition’s best players in the third period with a one goal lead. That’s a fairly elementary mistake that shouldn’t be happening, especially in your home building.

Scoring Chances


# Player EV     PP     SH    
4 RUSSELL, KRIS 21:07 6 5 03:48 2 0 00:00 0 0
5 GIORDANO, MARK 20:50 8 7 02:12 1 0 00:54 0 0
6 WIDEMAN, DENNIS 21:45 6 5 03:47 2 0 00:54 0 0
7 BRODIE, TJ 22:25 8 7 02:13 1 0 01:06 0 0
8 COLBORNE, JOE 06:35 0 1 00:00 0 0 00:10 0 0
11 BACKLUND, MIKAEL 19:14 3 2 01:20 2 0 01:02 0 0
16 MCGRATTAN, BRIAN 06:48 1 2 00:00 0 0 00:10 0 0
17 BOUMA, LANCE 07:59 3 2 00:00 0 0 00:00 0 0
20 GLENCROSS, CURTIS 15:11 5 5 02:46 0 0 00:23 0 0
22 STEMPNIAK, LEE 15:40 9 5 03:02 3 0 00:23 0 0
23 MONAHAN, SEAN 13:01 8 5 00:41 1 0 00:00 0 0
24 HUDLER, JIRI 19:02 5 2 03:15 2 0 00:00 0 0
35 MACDONALD, JOEY   15 14   3 0   0 0
38 STREET, BEN 14:42 7 6 02:45 1 0 00:25 0 0
39 GALIARDI, TJ 18:18 4 2 00:00 0 0 01:02 0 0
44 BUTLER, CHRIS 12:32 4 2 00:00 0 0 01:06 0 0
47 BAERTSCHI, SVEN 12:15 7 5 01:13 0 0 00:00 0 0
54 JONES, DAVID 15:13 5 5 02:58 0 0 00:25 0 0
55 O’BRIEN, SHANE 11:55 4 2 00:00 0 0 00:00 0 0
Period Totals EV PP 5v3 PP SH 5v3 SH
1 9 3 9 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2 6 3 3 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
3 6 8 6 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Sum it up

Calgary probably deserved better tonight. They were the superior team for the first 45 minutes or so and probably could have been well ahead except for some highlight reel saves by Lack. If Glencross bears down on an own-zone pass and if Hartley doesn’t play a 5 minute/night player while protecting a lead in the third period, Calgary wins this one convincingly.

Regardless, it was a generally a strong effort against a quality opponent. The Flames have only won one of their first three games, but they aren’t looking like the sort of automatic "W" most folks assumed they’d be heading into the season.

Next up: The Montreal Canadiens visit the Dome on Wednesday. Game time 6pm.

  • loudogYYC

    McGrattan on the ice. Why? McGrattan take the cross ice pass instead of the open pass along the boards. Why? Butler staying on the ice after a ridiculous pinch that does cost us a goal. Why? Butler following that up by chasing a player behind the net (costing a goal). Why? Street nearly leading the forwards in PP time while Baertschi, Monahan, Galiardi, Backlund, etc get almost none. Why?

    A good effort overall. But a game that was decided by a serious lapse in judgement on and off the ice.

  • the forgotten man

    Lots of bright spots with the youth on this team…they will do their part in rebuilding this Club to its former glory.
    The coach and management though need to get with the program…this is a rebuild plain and simple…do not cut corners or take the easy way out for the next 2-3 seasons. This team needs to go on a 7-8 game skid to erase any inklings of the Org thinking this club can meaningful challenge into the post season. We have been in the wilderness for some 25 years… 2-3 more years will be a cakewalk to build a sustainable dynasty. Club needs two more high end draft picks…a stud defence an and a top 3 forward. We can sign a true #1 goalie via free agency once we tank it for two more years.

    I can’t take the mediocrity any longer…all or nothing baby!!

    • loudogYYC

      Did you forget that the rebuild JUST started? You don’t go from 5 years of mediocrity to sustainable dynasty in 2-3 years, specially when you drafted like crap for over 10 years.

      They’ll stink for a bit while they rebuild the team and their identity. If they do it right, they’ll win a Stanley Cup within 10 years. Anything more than that would be gravy.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      This team needs to inflate the value of several players that will be moved in the next 2 – 3 seasons, especially a couple of pending UFA’s. Loosing every night does not help a team in getting good value back for players and or picks.

      Look north and witness what loosing in perpetuity brings you: nothing.

  • SmellOfVictory

    While I couldn’t agree more that Grats on the ice with a one goal lead is poor decision making I think that you also have to give credit where credit is due. Hartley has this team playing with intensity that hasn’t been seen at the dome for quite some time. I love the up tempo aggressive style we are playing. I also don’t think we could have found anyone that would have guessed that they’d earn 4 of a possible 6. Unfortunately many would have predicted that they’d have trouble holding leads.

    I’m surprised at the early dislike for Jones as I am seeing a hard worker with good finish and vision. Couple key face offs as well.

    Butler on the other hand….

    • Truculence

      Too bad he was on the ice for 3 against, though. The Dale Weise was partly his fault as he missed his check, but during the other two he was on top of his assignment. Unfortunately, Weidman missed his check in OT and Booth had a great deflection. Can`t blame the latter two on the kid.

  • Truculence

    So how sustainable is this really? I don’t mean Kris Russell doing the Walrus every time there is a dangerous attack in the Flames end. I mean the all out, high intensity, no room game Hartley has them playing? It looks pretty now, but after 40 or 50 games and they are into the dog days of the season, how hard will it be for this team to bring it every single night?

    They are working like playoff hockey from day 1. It’s great to see. I just don’t think they can keep it going like that all season.

  • beloch

    It’s still a very small sample size, but here are a few of interesting stats that seem to be subjectively on track:

    GF/G: 4.00 (#3) (tie)
    GA/G: 4.00 (#26)
    SF/G: 35 (#6)
    SA/G: 33 (#24)
    Sv%: 0.880 (#22)
    Sh%: 0.114 (#6)
    PDO: 0.9931 (#15)

    So far this year, Calgary has been a high event team, generating a lot of chances but giving up a lot at the same time. Goal-tending is still a problem. It’s not league-worst, but it’s in the bottom third of the league. On the other hand, the flames shooting percentage might be unsustainable. These two seem to cancel each other out and the Flames have a PDO of almost 1, which is neither lucky or unlucky.

    I don’t think this team is going to go on scoring 4 goals a night, but I also suspect they won’t go on giving up 4 goals a night either. I am still holding onto hopes that Ramo is an upgrade over MacBackup.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Nice work!

      If the Flames keep playing MacDonald, my guess is that they give up 3+ goals in most games. He’s a career backup goalie what else should we really expect?

  • everton fc

    With $13mill in cap space, replacing Russell and Butler, or moving Butler and placing Russell in a 5/6 role, plugging his spot with someone like Liles… Though Liles isn’t exactly a defencive defenceman, is he? To me, Liles is another smallish d-man. Something we already have a lot of.

    But a solid #4 & 5 d-man would give this team a better chance at keeping the puck out of the net. A better alternative to McGrattan (and Colborne, perhaps) with Bouma on the 4th line… If we had a 4th line like we did a few years ago – Nystrom/Moss/Prust – this team may be able to grab a low-end playoff spot.

    You never know. They seem to be a competitive bunch.

  • everton fc

    Yeah, a real #4 D man would make a huge difference. And I agree, Liles is not that man. But I read Elliote Friedman’s 30 Thoughts this week talking about the problems between Randy Carlyle and Jake Gardiner – ‘I see Carlyle. I see Jake Gardiner. I hear what they say about each other and think, “Well, 50 per cent of all marriages do end in divorce.”‘ – and I wonder if Calgary could get Gardiner if we were willing to take Liles. I mean, Reilly looks ready in Toronto, and Gardiner is talented…

    • McRib

      Another reason Jake Gardiner might be expendable for Toronto is T.J Brennan another defenceman with the Marlies is absolutely ripping it up in the AHL, six points in two games. Brian Burke make it happen please!!

  • Greg

    Was at the game last night and can honestly say it was a lot more entertaining than games I’ve been at in the past few years. Scoring and events aside, just a lot more energy from the flames.

    It was just 1 game so take these observations with a grain of salt but:
    – the lone guy who still looked like he’s playing with the same intensity as previous years (ie none) was Glencross. I wonder how unhappy he is being in a rebuild, and what he’d fetch at the deadline?
    – stempniak on the other hand… Loving this guy. It’s like back to his early Stl days. Something about being on a bad team brings out the best in him. Right now, I’d look to extend him instead of trade.
    – wideman and giordano also looked good and like they will be good veteran assets to keep around for the rebuild. And I agree with the other commenter on D. Jones. He didn’t look that slow and seems to be playing very well.
    – probably too early to say much about feaster’s low risk additions this year, but so far I think he found good value. Galiardi was really good, and I’m still ok with Russell given what they paid for him and the role he’s being asked to play. Better him than the other options they’ve got. Colbourne on the other hand was already looking like an overpay. Dude is huge though! I hope that wasn’t just a size-for-size-sake acquisition.
    – Ben street looks like a good 4th line energy guy, but he is way over his head on the top line. Hope Matty Franchise is a quick healer.
    – butler and obrien are an adventure every time they were on the ice. Don’t know if their ice time was really high, or they were just that noticeable?

    • piscera.infada

      I agree re: Glencross. There is a rumor out there that Philly really wants him – so who knows if that could happen, or what you could get, or if it’s really true. I think Glencross becomes expendable only because Stempniak seems to have embraced the rebuild head-on. For that reason, I’d say you try to extend him if you can.


      I get where you’re coming from on Wideman being the cause of that OT goal (he was, no getting around it). You would hope he wouldn’t go for the hit there, but in all fairness he had the angle on Bieksa, just slipped on his pivot. That happens. In fact, if you do check Bieksa there, you have a three-on-two the other way against a forward and a defenceman – I can live with the blunder.

      • mk

        Fair enough. It was definitely exciting to see Wideman light up (can’t remember who) earlier in the game. After living through the Phaneuf years of bad pinches for big hits, I get nervous when it happens.

        I’m actually surprised with how Butler has looked out there. I haven’t checked the stats but IMO he hasn’t looked awful like last year. Optimism or low expectations? 🙂

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Does FN think Calgary’s relative success is sustainable? I’m asking if this is a SH%, or variance thing.

    Of course a 3 game sample is too small, but based on your eyes what do you see?

    For me, I’m not seeing players play above their heads right now.

    What I do see is a heavy reliance on the top 4 D. Really, really heavy. In short bursts yes, they can achieve but over a longer haul…the blemishes will show.

    Having said that, it’s team play that is the strength, as Feaster said. The challenge for the d is to keep from playing over their heads-trying to do too much.

    To be clear, last night they (D) played fine. I heard rumblings about Russell sliding but people are just reacting to replays. Why did he feel he had to slide? – he was put in a desperate spot.

    My concern is that, if 4 guys are playing 22 min+ THEIR strengths and weaknesses are going to represent Calgary’s strengths and weaknesses. 4 guys play more than 2/3 of the game.

    I’m not trying to pick on any of them. Wideman has really improved compared to last year. Russell is not scared to go anywhere and do anything. He is battling in the corners.

    What happens when one of them gets nicked up? Will Russell’s frame hold up? Wideman is playing a lot more physical – what’s the trade off?

    People wail about Butler, but he’s actually been pretty good playing 15 min. It’s when he has to play 20+ where things get dodgy. The same thing happened with Sarich. When he played a lot we saw the warts. When he played a little less he was effective.

    When you look at that top 4- the thing that sticks out is ability to transition.

    Who else can do that in the org (Ramage, Wotherspoon, Culkin, Kulak)? Hopefully that development is happening in Abby or else if there is injury, we’re going to see more hard of the glass.

    That, I think is why this team has been so entertaining and so high scoring (It’s not like the PP has been on fire). They connect passes from the back end – stretch or just hitting the centre with speed. Or Brodie just outskates everyone – I love watching Brodie play – They build the play.

    This team skates. Especially the defence. Do they have the horses for the grind of an 82 game sched.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I agree with you on Chris Butler, over the last 3 games he’s been okay. Unfortunately the microscope on this player is very big, and every mistake is magnified, since every Flames fan is watching for it. Interesting thought on 15+ minutes a night. Might do the trick to decrease his TOI.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        That’s the thing with him. He doesn’t suck in terms of skill per se, it’s really his decision making ability or hockey IQ. When he’s out there a lot the inability to process the game consistently leads to blunders. For a D man those blunders are magnified.

        It’s not just him, it’s all players. How do you think the game, against top players, when you’re tired, offensively/defensively. All the more reason to like the drafting philosophy installed here.

        Take a guy like Ben Street. He has been making good decisions, sometimes those are safe decisions. The result is Hartley’s trust and BIG minutes. It’s not like he’s tearing up the scoresheet. He’s just not creating chances for the other team.

  • mk

    I’d hang the OT goal on Wideman as much as Russell. He made an aggressive check and missed – probably better to just slow Bieska down rather than flatten him.

    I guess hindsight is 20-20, but that combined with Russell’s less-than-effective shot block attempt were the direct reasons for the goal.

  • Craig

    I know Derek Smith is hanging around as the 7th D but I’d like to see Cundari get a chance on the bottom pairing, I think he’s already better than SOB and Butler. He also has speed and grit, two of the staples of the young teams identity.

  • McRib

    I gotta get this off my chest, Vancouver is Henrik & Daniel Sedin not re-signing with them this offseason from being in the same position as Calgary (maybe even worse) at least we aren’t stuck with a bunch of lousy contracts.

    Does this team really think they are cup contenders anymore?!?!? Let alone anything except first round playoff exits. Ryan Kesler & Alexandre Burrows have completely lost it. So that gives them a second line of Mike Santorelli, Brad Richardson, David Booth… Wow, Not to mention Chris Higgins & Dale Weise will also see some significant minutes…

    Outside of the Sedins I think the Flames have a better Top 9. I think that is something everyone ignored when ranking us to finish last. I get it we have no stars, but we have three very decent second tier lines.

    • piscera.infada

      Not a Canucks fan at all, and I can’t believe I’m going to do this… Did you see Kesler against the Oil Saturday night? Completely took over the game. The guy is a beast – straight up, no ifs, ands, or, buts about it. He’s been injured for two seasons, but I can’t imagine him being a non-factor if he’s healthy.

      To reiterate, I’m not (by any means) a Canucks’ fan, or even a Canucks’ apologist. They are definitely on the steady down-slope, but they’re still a good team. Will they win a cup? Probably not with this core. That said, you can’t say Kesler’s lost it, you can’t say the Flames have a better top three lines (with or without the Sedins).

      • McRib

        Depends what your terminology is for Kesler “loosing” it…. I guess I should have said he is no longer an “elite” 70+ Point guy. For me, he has “lost” that ability and is now a soft 50-60 point second liner who is weak in his own zone.

        I looked for Ryan Kesler for 60 minutes last night and didn’t even notice him once (except for the odd dive or two)… Anyone can score on Devan Dubnyk!! In three games (two against the 6th & 7th worst teams in the league last year), Kesler has one goal and is -2. When a team of Jiri Hudler’s & David Jones’s out play and out score you completely for 60 minutes, it’s saying something.

        The Canucks finished comfortably in the playoffs the last 5-10 years because they hammered non-playoff quality teams (Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado, Minnesota) 32 times a year… Go back and look at their winning percentage against those teams, it was insane they never lost a game to bad teams. It was so skewed they should have to give back any Presidents Cups they won. Then look at their record against the SJ, LA, Anaheim, etc during those years, who are now in their division. Zero secondary scoring along with much harder competition… If the Sedin’s don’t absolutely tear it up, I have a hard time seeing them making the playoffs to be honest.

        • Purple Hazze

          I’d have to agree with you about the Canucks situation. They’ll definitely be hard pressed to make the playoffs. This version of the Canucks reminds me a lot of the Flames from 2009-2010, the first year we missed the playoffs.

          Everyone said our management screwed up big time by trading Iggy and Kipper 3 years to late and we spun our wheels by going for it with the same aging core. Well its interesting that Vancouver’s core players (the Sedins and Louongo) are all about the same age as the Flames star players were back when we first missed the playoffs.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      Respectfully, I disagree. Especially on Kesler. Let me be clear: I hate that diving, classless POS but he is a great player. Size, speed and when he’s right, very strong offense to go with always consistent defense. He’s had a lot of major surgery. Fans just do not appreciate that. It is one of the things that amazes me most about pro athletes – their ability to play at the highest level after injuries or surgery that convalesce normal people for months on end. It is nothing short of incredible.

      The Canucks are in a ‘similar’ place Calgary was coming out of the lockout, IMO. That means, they had a strong team who showed post season success. They felt they could rely on the core – change the non core – and consistently challenge.

      The problem is in young players. Young players won’t blossom when your core vets demand the ice. Not necessarily be voicing this but really in their play. Why wouldn’t you play your most effective players? What happens is you never develop young players who can play the big minutes.

      Gillis knows this. That’s why he got Horvat. The idea was astute the actual execution is to be seen.

      • McRib

        Jiri Hudler has 81 Points since 2011-2012 Season, Ryan Kesler has 63 Points. Just don’t think Ryan Kesler is still an Elite All-Star he is a medicore second liner for me and looks to be the same with John Tortorella. I understand the sugeries as being a valid excuse, but he just lost a step and any edge he ever had for me.

      • McRib

        In terms of where Vancouver is headed, my opinion may seem bias, but not fan of Mike Gillis at all. He is easily the most overrated GM in the league in my opinion. For Jay Feaster to be branded as an Idiot and Mike Gillis a genius it shows how fickle the Hockey world is.

        Brian Burke & Dave Nonnis whether you like them or not, built this team and for some reason MG gets all credit?!?! Bryan Allen (Roberto Luongo), Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler, Cory Schneider, Alexander Edler, Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond, Luc Bourdon, Alex Burrows are all BB & DN guys. Not to mention MG let go of Michael Grabner a DN guy as well.

        I think your statement of young players won’t blossom on a core with vets can be true if you draft even remotely well…. Which since 2006-2007 under Mike Gillis Vancouver has not… Patrick White… Bust. Jordan Schroeder… Bust. Nicklas Jensen… Bust. Cody Hodgson.. Trade for Zach Kassian… Third Liner or Bust. Outside of first rounders only Yann Sauve has played in the NHL (5 Games). He honestly drafts the most overrated hyped players he can find every year (i.e. Cole Cassels & Jordan Subban).

        Let the record show I think Max Domi is the real player and all the advanced stats back it up, but when you have to trade a franchise goaltender for (only) a first round draft pick. It goes to show how horrible Gillis is at developing talent. I just think Vancouver is headed nowhere fast under Gillis and no one seems to notice that.

  • Z-z-zone starts!

    Street/Jones/Glencross: 6 offensive, 2 defensive
    Monahan/Stempniak/Baertschi: 6 offensive, 2 defensive
    Backlund/Hudler/Galiardi: 5 offensive, 3 defensive
    Colborne/Bouma/McGrattan: 1 offensive, 0 defensive

    • Purple Hazze

      So a total of 18 offensive zone starts compared to only 7 defensive zone starts. Does the imbalance of zone starts imply Calgary was dominating the possession battle?

      • MattyFranchise

        That’s what I was wondering as well. And is there tracking for neutral zone starts that I can find somewhere? I’d like to see what the zone starts look like for all three zones.

  • beloch

    One nice thing to note about the college player round-up article is that there are a few undrafted/unsigned players on it, although all but one is a forward. These kids will probably be pursued by many teams, but having a chance to crack an NHL roster immediately would give the Flames an edge. Say what you will about stars like Iginla attracting rookies, what good are they if you immediately get sent to the farm?