Tonight was basically what you’d expect on-paper from a match-up between the Calgary Flames and the Minnesota Wild. The Wild, with a talented club, home ice and some good play, pulled out a one-goal win at home. The Flames, full of piss and vinegar, got down twice and battled back before narrowly tasting defeat.
It was exactly what you would have expected, and that’s just fine, because nights like this provide a road-map for what tinkering needs to be done to help this team become more competitive. And by sheer coincidence, this handy lesson comes about 42 hours before the trade deadline.
Play was dictated mostly by the visiting Flames to begin the game, but Wild rolled with the punches and pushed back a bit later in the first. The Flames were able to keep their defensive play structured, though, so the Wild were kept mostly to the outside. This was a typical Flames/Wild first period, but both teams feeling each other out and a lot of neutral zone broken plays. There was no scoring. Shots were 9-7 Minnesota, attempts were 16-15 Minnesota, chances were 8-3 Flames and face-offs were 11-7 Minnesota.
The second period was driven almost entirely by the Minnesota Wild. Remember how the Flames kept the Wild to the outside in the latter part of the first? That was not the case here, as the Wild were able to get inside Calgary’s coverage and wreak havoc. Tons and tons of good chances, but due to dumb luck and Reto Berra’s positioning, the Flames kept it tied. That is, until Berra fumbled a puck behind the net, Kris Russell and Chris Butler were caught napping and Matt Cooke found Kyle Brodziak, who put it into a wide-open cage to put the Wild up 1-0. That lead lasted until late in the second. After being the Invisible Man for the better part of his first three games back from a concussion, a Dennis Wideman pass tipped off a stick and landed right in front of Mike Cammalleri, who put the biscuit in the basket for the first time since January 6. That kept things even going into the intermission, despite Calgary being on their heels for the majority of the middle stanza. Shots were 12-7 Minnesota, attempts were 23-12 Minnesota, chances were 9-5 Minnesota and face-offs were 12-10 Minnesota.
The two teams fought rather evenly to begin the third, but the Flames were given a golden opportunity after Keith Ballard toppled into Reto Berra. The Flames PP has struggled as of late – they haven’t scored since before the Olympics – but the team showed some good puck movement before Mark Giordano got nabbed on a hooking call after a Flames turn-over. After a brief 4-on-4 span, the Wild made the Flames pay for their penalty: with two Wild players and a couple Flames defenders in front of the net, Jared Spurgeon slapped the puck past Berra to put the Wild back up 2-1. After that point, the Wild went into The Shell and Calgary’s attacks stayed primarily to the outside. Zach Parise drove the net with five minutes left in the period and tipped a Jason Pominville slap-pass past Berra point-blank to push the lead to 3-1. Game over? Not quite, as the Flames pushed back. Mark Giordano pulled the Flames back within one with his 10th goal of the season via a nifty pass from behnd the net by rookie Markus Granlund. However, even with an empty net and an extra attacker, the Flames just couldn’t capitalize on their chances and were kept to the outside by the Wild and the Flames fell 3-2. Shots were 9-6 Calgary, attempts were 16-10 Calgary, chances were 4-3 Minnesota and face-offs were 10-4 Calgary.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
The Minnesota Wild ate their lunch in their own zone and kept them to the outside, for the most part, in the offensive zone. Granted, the first goal was a team fail between Berra, Russell and Butler, but Berra barely got any help on the Spurgeon goal (he was screened) and the Parise goal (where he was able to go right to the net for the tip).
It doesn’t help that the team’s de facto second pairing, Chris Butler and Kris Russell, were each minus-2 on the night.
Oh, and David Jones, who has quietly been generating a lot of scoring chances for the Flames, was injured when he awkwardly went into the boards late in the second period and didn’t return. With the game close, the Flames basically had to run with 10 forwards (minus Jones, who’s one of their bigger forwards, and McGrattan, who’s used sparingly in close games) and combined with their general lack of size up-front, they just were’t able to generate enough chances to tie things up.
|Away||3||1:13||Scrum in front||9||11||20||29||35||46||5||7||8||17||22||24||5v5|
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Let’s go with the kid, Markus Granlund. With David Jones out for roughly half the game, Granlund got more ice-time. He made some nice plays on both sides of the puck, and capped off the night with a nice feed to Mark Giordano for his first NHL point.
SUM IT UP
Calgary drops to 23-31-7 this season. There’s 21 games remaining this season. The next one is on Wednesday night, at 7:30pm MT, when they host the Ottawa Senators. In addition to the game, there’s also the three-ring circus fo the NHL’s trade deadline to worry about.
We’ll have even more trade deadline preview content tomorrow, followed by in-depth coverage and analysis of the circus itself on Wednesday.
Oh yeah, and the game, too.