Well, that was disappointing.
After months of anticipation, particularly after the summer acquisitions of Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik, Flames fans and media alike had tonight’s season-opener circled on the calendar. Everyone wanted to see the new and improved Flames against the hated Vancouver Canucks.
Instead of looking new and improved, the Flames looked like they needed a few more days of practice. They skated to a lackllustre 5-1 loss at the Scotiabank Saddledome to kick off the 2015-16 regular season.
After the usual pomp, circumstance and bally-hoo of the opening night introductions, the Flames came out of the games BLAZING in the first half of the first period. At one point, they led in even-strength shots 6-0. They had multiple gorgeous chances but couldn’t bury them. And then things started going the other way.
The Monahan line got discombobulated at center ice, leading to a Canucks 2-on-1 and a fantastic arm/blocker save by Karri Ramo – on Vancouver’s first even-strength shot. That was followed by a Jannik Hansen shot beating Ramo top-corner (on ES shot #2) to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead. From then-on, the Flames started bleeding shots against and really struggled to connect on passes and shots. Late in the period, Ramo made a solid save on a Daniel Sedin shot from the wing, but the rebound bounced right to Brandon Sutter – who knocked it in out of mid-air for a 2-0 lead. The Canucks led the way in shots (15-9, 12-9 at even-strength) and goals in the first, but the Flames led in face-offs 18-10.
The Flames showed some life to kick off the second period: off a dump-in, Sean Monahan pressured the defender (Luca Sbisa), who coughed the puck up. A little tic-tac-toe passing between Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau later, and the game was 2-1 (off a tap-in from Hudler). The rest of the period? Burn the tape. Lots of passes dying in the neutral zone – by both teams. Lots of scoring chances dying at the blueline. Lots of passes into skates. The execution wasn’t there for either team. Adam Cracknell had a great chance in the period after Karri Ramo was wiped out with an initial save, but Dennis Wideman dove in and made a nice block – though it’s unclear from replays if Cracknell actually made contact with the puck, poor guy. But the Canucks did strike again in the period, as a Dan Hamhuis shot bonked in off Daniel Sedin with five seconds left. Shots were 11-5 Vancouver (9-3 at even-strength), and the Canucks dominated the face-off dot 12-5 in the second period as well.
The home side trudged out in the third period with a bit of a hop to their step, but failed to really turn it into much in the way of scoring chances. The Canucks continued to drive play. Vancouver put it out of reach mid-way through the period with a goal that will haunt the Flames. Alex Burrows was trying to pass from the wing to Jannik Hansen at the side of the net. Hansen was being guarded by Dennis Wideman, who tried to knock the puck away from the goal-mouth…and ended up tipping it past a sprawling Ramo. Welp. Henrik Sedin added a late goal that he shot while straddling the goal-line – it may have bonked in off of Ramo. The game ended up 5-1.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
Where to start?
Outside of that initial beautiful 9+ minutes of great play, the Flames weren’t that good tonight. The execution and intensity was lacking. Lots of passes ended up in skates. Or a foot behind their intended recipient. Lots of pucks were over-skated instead of collected. Lots of shots were whiffed on, or shot off the heel of sticks. And once the Flames got down in the game, they really started dumping and chasing, which made their possession game even worse.
Some nuggets from Bob Hartley’s post-game press conference:
“We got what we deserved. They kicked our butt.” -summing up the game.
“As good as the rest of the team” – assessing Karri Ramo’s performance.
“It was a good first ten minutes, and then we kind of totally lost the feel of the game. We were chasing. Probably maybe trying to do too much. The effort was there, but we were not smart in our approach. We were working against us most of the last 50 minutes.”
Let’s go with Micheal Ferland, who a shot on goal, a fight, six hits and jumped into the rush quite a bit during his 12:02. He did his level-best to spark his team.
Kris Russell was also pretty decent at times, but not consistently throughout.
THE NEW GUYS
- Sam Bennett: 13:08 TOI, even, 1 shot, 2 hits, 54% at faceoffs
- Michael Frolik: 17:24 TOI, -1, 4 shots
- Micheal Ferland: 12:02 TOI, -1, 1 shot, 6 hits, 5 PIM
- Dougie Hamilton: 21:14 TOI, -2, 1 shot, 2 hits, 1 block, 4 PIM
- Brett Kulak: 13:58 TOI, -1, 2 shots
MONEY ON THE BOARD
Micheal Ferland’s six hits translate into $150 for Kids Up Front Calgary. And Sam Bennett had a single shot on goal, so that’s another $5 for Kids Up Front Calgary.
These two teams had so much fun playing each other, they’ve decided to do it again. Or the league did. Either way, they trek back west for a rematch on Saturday night in Vancouver on Hockey Night in Canada.