Post Game: The Lesson Is, Never Try



It’s the Flames. It’s the Penguns. Many of you, and maybe rightfully so, had written the Flames off before the game even started (not me though, I’m definitely an optimist…). After all, this is the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s Crosby. It’s Malkin Zolnierczyk. It’s a team that has won 6 in a row and are 9-10 in their last 10 games. 

The Flames, God love ’em, are not the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’re Thomas the Tank Engine. They’re an ant colony. They’re hard working, blue collar heroes that you can’t help but love, sorta.

This game ended up not being as one sided as was predicted. The Flames tried. Tried HARD. It was a good game, a great effort, and a really entertaining game against the hottest team in the NHL. We got everything we wanted out of this game except a Flames W. There’s a lesson in there somewhere…

The Skatedown


If there was perhaps a bad omen presented to us right at the outset of the game, it was early in the first period when Flames forward Curtis Glencross strode behind the net to apply a check to Penguins’ defenseman Matt Niskanen, toe picked, and twisted his knee falling to the ice. You knew it right then: this was not good. Glenny hobbled to the bench, and his 37 seconds of ice time was the last we’d see of him on this day. And it was HEARTBREAKING.

Also, a sign of things to come (ooh, foreshadowing)

A lot of scoring in this one, so I’m going to run through it pretty quick, because I’m lazy and don’t want to type a whole lot.

The Pens opened it up at 10:26 of the first after Sidney Crosby picked Ladi Smid’s pocket because he’s Sidney goddamn Crosby, and after a shot on net turned aside by Karri Ramo, winger and luckiest man in the world Pascal Dupuis had a 100% open cage to tap in the rebound. Only 1:19 later, Harry Zolnierczyk, who will not be mentioned again today so I don’t have to type out his name again, redirected a point shot from Robert Bortuzzo, who I’m convinced is actually named Roberto, but doesn’t want to be known as the "other Roberto", and in a million less times than it’ll take you to read this sentence, it was 2-0 Pittsburgh. The Flames didn’t have too terrible a period considering they were down a player and two goals. They drove play a little bit and outshot the Pens 10-5 in the period. 5 of those shots came from Mikael Backlund, who as you all know, we think is awesome.

Calgary made it interesting to start the second, after a gigantic Mark Giordano hit on Brandon Sutter, Paul Byron made everyone on the ice look like idiots as he danced around everyone in the Pens’ zone before absolutely murdering a puck that bounced off the post and Marc-Andre Fleury before gliding into the net. The Flames had life.

Then this happened:

Sidney Crosby is pretty good. He made TJ Brodie look like Cement Shoes Jimmy, who is a person I just made up right now, but had cement shoes on his feet all the time. Perfect shot by The Croz, and thus began the undeserved downward descent of Karri Ramo’s save percentage.

James Neal scored again four minutes later, but we were all still in awe about the Crosby goal that I don’t even really remember how it went in, except yes I do, TJ Brodie essentially tipped it in.

TJ Brodie did not have a good second period.

Michael "Matt" Cammalleri netted the Flames second goal and his first in 9 games late in the frame, and it looked, as they say in the print industry when they need to be subtly dissing a team, respectable.

The Pens took control in the second, outshooting the Flames 13-8.

Jiri Hudler woke us all up in the third, scoring just over a minute in, and we were all in Initialize Comeback Mode. They played a decent period, but then, and this just really sucks, a chance collision in the Flames end led to Kris Russell leaving the game with an apparent leg injury. I’d say he hyperextended it, and I’m a doctor in my head so that’s that.

4-3 was as close as the Flames would get, as the game ended 4-3. Joe Colborne looked like he might have made it close a couple of times, including just a beauty drive across the net and a wraparound that clanged off the post. Nice to see from Colborne, who was awful to that point, and if he shows more of that effort and skill going forward, it’ll actually be justified when he plays on the power play or at all. Nice to see there’s something in his tank.

But that was that. Really entertaining, great pushback by the Flames, and they fell just short. The lesson is, never try.

Why The Flames Lost

Well, losing Glencross early on didn’t help. It meant double shifting wingers, including Brian McGrattan, which you never want. But despite this, and losing Russell late, it didn’t really seem like fatigue or mixed up lines really kept the Flames out of this one. The effort was there the whole game.

Speaking of injuries, it’s pretty obvious to everyone except maybe coaching and management that Sean Monahan is still hurt. He was not very good again today, and he only played 9 minutes, had 0 shot attempts, while there were 9 against. Sit him against St. Louis, let him heal, and send him out to join Team Canada. It’s the best thing for him right now and we all know it.

Quite frankly, the Penguins are just really good, and Fleury was solid in goal.

Also this:

Kid’s got some game, don’t he?

Let’s blame the afternoon game thing too, because afternoon games suck.

Red Warrior

This one was a tough one to choose, because anyone who really stood out at any given time also showed some pretty bad lapses over the course of this one too. I’m choosing three guys, just to make a point.

I’m giving it to Paul Byron, Mikael Backlund, and Mike Cammalleri. And here’s why:

Paul Byron’s goal was just straight up dominant. He made a very good Penguins team look like rank amateurs. As FlamesNation Citizen Jeremy Wilhelm noted, it was like Paul Byron’s version of "THE SHIFT", and yeah, it kinda was.

Backlund and Cammalleri play so well together, and they were in the faces of Pens’ defenders all game. They were downright gritty. They pursued the puck like dogs, drove the net, CRASHED the net at times, and were a lot to contain.

So you tell me, Brian Burke, why you’re so insistent on your Size Matters Mantra, because it seems to me like you can be a smaller skilled guy and do exactly all the things you’re looking for in a hockey team.

Again, and I’ve gone on the record about this a lot of times, I love big players too, but I love skilled big players, but until you go on record as saying THAT’S what you’re looking for, don’t take opportunities away from guys like these because they’re not big enough. Skill should always trup size, especially if the smaller guys are playing bigger than they are.

In the end

Again, great game. Tough loss, tough to lose a couple of important players, but if you weren’t entertained by this game, you’re either dead or you just don’t matter.

This damn road trip is finally over. The early starts, the afternoon games, NEVER THINK ABOUT THEM AGAIN until early February when it starts all over again.

Rebuilds are tough. They’re long (hopefully not TOO long), arduous, and a lot of times watching the games is just tough sledding. It’s nice to have these games interspersed in the middle of them, because today was damn good hockey, and if you, like I was, were getting a bit disenchanted watching this team play this season, this should reinvigorate you a little bit. Sucs to lose the game, but that was a lot of fun.

So that’s the other lesson to take away from this game: Hockey is fun.

The other one, of course, is never try.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    BoL, are you also Peter Loubardias? He also chose the same 3 Flames today in the post game show. Anyway, each one of those guys earned the Red Warrior, and played very well.

    Pretty good effort all around today.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    yes, MattMike StaCammallerijan had a very good game.

    Interesting that each of the Flames goals was scored on an absolute monster shift (well, play) by somebody. First goal was Byron, second goal Cammalleri, third Stajan.

    Don’t often see Flames guys other than Backlund doing the whole beast mode thing.

  • I liked the Flames overall performance. They lost two key players but the only time they were really looked overwhelmed is when Crosby took over here and there. Otherwise they had some good stretches. Pens got the bounces.

  • EugeneV

    “Joe Colborne looked like he might have made it close a couple of times, including just a beauty drive across the net and a wraparound that clanged off the post. Nice to see from Colborne, who was awful to that point, and if he shows more of that effort and skill going forward, it’ll actually be justified when he plays on the power play or at all. Nice to see there’s something in his tank.”

    I got trashed during the game for stating this.

    I think he just needs to “get it”, and will then become a pretty good player.

    Maybe a summer spent with Gary Roberts to improve his fitness and strength.

  • EugeneV

    “5 of those shots came from Mikael Backlund, who as you all know, we think is awesome.”

    Except he has hands of stone. Can’t score, will never score.

    Would be an adequate 3rd or 4th line center though.

        • SmellOfVictory

          “Hands of stone” is still a gross overstatement. Yes, nearly every regular in the NHL has scored a nice goal at least once. Backlund has done it a number of times, because he’s not what I’d call a “stonehands” kind of player. He’s not the kind of guy who can pick a corner with ease, but he’s a good enough shot that I think it’s a disservice to call his hands anything below average.

          • EugeneV

            Ok, Stonehands may be a little rough, but I would rate him no more than a low average.

            I am just frustrated with continually hearing how Backlund is a 1st liner. Maybe he is on our current team, but our current team is not good.

            Stajan was a 1st liner in Toronto, but Toronto was not good either, came here and was expected to be a 1st liner. Remember how he was hated here, there and everywhere? Well that was due to the expectation that he was a 1st line center, when all along he should have been a complimentary 3rd liner, capable of filling in top 6 if needed.

            Backlund = Stajan, Stajan = Backlund, and that is ok as they are both good players; in the right role.

            I believe we will get a 1st rounder for Stajan not long after the New Year as he is now seen as a strong 3rd line center who would go a long way to completing a contenders case to win a cup.

          • EugeneV

            “I am just frustrated with continually hearing how Backlund is a 1st liner”

            Forgive me but… From whom? I don’t believe I’ve seen anyone say they think Backlund can be a first liner for at least two years.

          • EugeneV

            What, 2 years from now you think Backlund will be our 1st line center?

            Do you reallly think that’s what Backlunds’ ceiling/future position is on a winning Flames team?

            2 years from now if he is our 1st line center then I give up.

            3rd line center? ok. Remember, our current first line is really a 2nd and a 1/2 line

            Hopefully Monahan can be a 1st or 2nd and we sign a free agent to fill whatever role Monahan doesn’t.

            In 2 years.

            I’m talking about the future of the team, not today, not tomorrow or even 2014/15 but after that.

          • EugeneV

            Oh, now I read what you are saying!

            I’m glad you don’t, I’m too lazy to go searching through looking for the comments that stir me up. Suffice to say that it is usually to do with someone using Corsi to show who is effective or not.

            I would like to see an article where our team is in 2015, not including Draft Picks, just the players who are our property now or our own free agents we should sign, and not some pipe dream players like Ekblad or pieces we get in the future.

            The only players I see on the Cup winning Flames 5 years from now are:

            ? Monahan Poirier

            Gaudreau ? ?

            Ferland Backlund ?

            ? ? ?

            ? ?

            Brodie Wotherspoon

            Sieloff ?



            No fantasies, I just hope that we can draft well in 2014 & 15, sign the right free agents at the right money and at the right time and trade some of our prospects for pieces that can fill in the question marks.

          • EugeneV

            Lets try this progression of the organization:

            Start of 2014/2015:

            Forwards: Glen+, Hudler, Backs,TJG,DJONES,McG, Monahan, Bouma, Colborne, Sven, Byron(he’s the talk of the town),Knight, Ferland, Granlund, Hankowski(he’s scoing in the AHL),Poirier, Johny G,and Arnold. Add 1 or 2 freeagents. Choose 13/14 for the big club.

            D: Gio, Wides, TJB, Russell(I would resign him), Smid, Spoon(not sure he’s ready), Sieloff(not sure he will be healthy), Billins, Ramage, Cundari, Kanzig(he is a long way off); he is where we could really use the signing of 1 or 2 freeagents prereably bigger more physical Dmen about 25-27 years old.

            Goalie: same as this year as I think Gilles may play one more year.

            Forwards: Hudler, Backs,TJG, Monahan, Colborne, Sven,Bouma,Knight,Ferland, Granlund, Poirier, Johny G,(whoever the two free agents were) plus two new free agents. Not sure if Klimchuk or any others will be ready.

            D: Gio, Wides, TJB, Russell, Smid, who ever we signed in 14/15, Sieloff or Spoon. Add one more free agent.

            goalie:One of the Euros and Gilles

            These are line ups from the current organization with realistic ideas of signing free agents. Does not include any top 5 picks from either 2014 or 15 as we can’t speculate who they will add, I believe if we add the right freeagnets over the next two years 2-4 this year and about the same the following year we will become competitive again.

          • EugeneV

            Yes, this is what I am talking about.

            No speculation, just plans with what we have, and should do to fill spots with “blank” free agent.

            So yep, we will have 2 – 4 more 1st round picks to add also, so 2 years to become relevent and competitive, I agree.

            I believe that Gillies NEEDS to turn pro after the college season, and then spend a full year in the AHL playing 50 – 60 games.

            JohnyG and Poirer also need to go to the AHL for at least 50 games.

  • beloch

    Backlund is a fantastic possession player who has a great nose for creating scoring chances, but he does seem to lack the “killer instinct” of a trigger-man like Cammalleri. He’s beaten a lot of goalies stone-cold only to flub the shot into their body instead of the gaping net. This could be chalked up to jitters. He’s had some top-line time, but never a lot of it for long enough to get comfortable. He also might just not be a scorer.

    Backlund is 24. He still has a little time to develop that scoring touch. If he does, he could be a point-machine. If he doesn’t, he’s still a bloody useful two-way center. When he’s engaged in the game he can really steal the puck.

    Stajan is a top candidate for being traded this season. Backlund is currently the only other center the Flames have who can handle top competition without getting his head beat in, and he’s cheap! If he doesn’t turn into a scorer he’s still a crucial player for the Flames to hang onto. Monahan seems destined to develop into an elite two-way center, but he’s not there yet, and even when he is there having a second solid possession center will be a very good thing.

    Backlund is a keeper.

    • EugeneV

      Don’t get me wrong, I like Backlund.
      As a 3rd line center a la Jarret Stoll or Brandon Sutter etc…

      Able to play top 6 for a few games if needed, kill penalties, take face offs, you know 3rd line center stuff.

      I just wish people would take him for what he is, which is not a top 6 player on a contending team, but still a VERY important part of a winning team.

      On our team at the moment, he may very well be our best center, but if we are to ever be a contender this can not continue to be the case.

      Brandon Sutter was picked 11th overall the same year as Backlund was picked 24th. Sutter was never projected to be an elite 1st or 2nd line center, and neither was Backlund so why all the fantasies about Backlund being a top center?

      Let him become what he will be going forward and hope that it all works out.

  • supra steve

    “We got everything we wanted out of this game except a Flames W.”

    Disagree. With the exception of the injuries, we got almost EVERYTHING some of us wanted out of this game.

    Competitive? Check.

    Close game? Check.

    Entertaining? Check.

    Loss in regulation? Check.

    27th place in the standings? Check.

  • EugeneV

    Flames have recalled Smith to replace Russell, exactly what I thought they would do, unfortunately not what they should have done. This again demonstrates that they are more concerned with present rather than the rebuild. We already know what Smith is and is not really part of the long term plans of the organization. Breen is already up and they keep saying they don’t want to lose him to waivers; he is either good enough to play or he is not.(I suspect not)

    They are short 2 pp point men now, Wides and Russell. They should have brought up Billins or is it Billings because he is a pp quarterback and is roughly the same size as Russell and we need to evaluate him. Other D we could look at are Cundari or Ramage as it appears that Spoon is injured again; they are hopeful that Sieloff may be healthy enough to join Abbottsford in the new year. Upfront it appears that either TJG or BJones will replace Glen+ in the short term. By the way the Heat have lost their last 2 games on the road and their offense has dried up getting shutout on Friday.

    I don’t want us to panic once the Christmas trade embargo is lifted but we may be looking at the need to acquire another D man.

    • Michael

      I agree with most of your thoughts here…what I will add is that based on Burkes comments the Billins, Cundari types are history. They simply will not play here based purely on size. They were acquired based on Feaster’s strategy for success being based on smaller skilled players.

      I agree the backend will be overhauled quickly. I expect new players/prospects to be brought in.

      Hey everyone if you want some great entertainment have a peek at the Oilernation comments. There will soon be a public hanging of the Oiler owner and Kevin Lowe in looserville. Amazing!

  • Michael

    I simply don’t understand the hype about Backlund. he is nothing more than a solid third line checking center, valuable in his role, but he is simply so offensively challenged that he will never take the huge step forward to being a top six forward. You actually have to score more than once every seven or eight games to rate that high.

    • Michael

      I’m not sure what hype you are talking about. I’m a Backlund supporter because I like how he plays I do not think he will suddenly become a 30 goal scorer and a 60-70 point man. I do believe that he can score 10-20 and have about 40-45 points provided he plays with the right linemates. I think that is what most of his supporters think. He is an NHL forward who can play in almost any role for a short period of time, he can play every shift, he can play a bit on the pp and he kills penalties. Teams need players like him, good teams roll lines with his type of players as anchors with players of other skills.

  • EugeneV

    Was just looking around the Oilers nation site, talk about depressing.

    I almost feel sorry for them. almost.

    Where is each NHL team at in comparison?

    Russell or Schultz? Brodie or Schultz?

    Monahan or Nuge?

    They should be ahead of us, but don’t appear to be. Lots of possible elite, or nearly elite talent yet they are not playing as a team. Where is their leadership? We have some good veterans which they are lacking, so where will we be after the deadline? Scary.