The Calgary Flames played two good periods of hockey tonight.
Unfortunately, those two good periods sandwiched a pretty ugly second period, where they gave up three goals to the St. Louis Blues and responded with three shots of their own. That was the difference in a 4-3 home loss by the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome this evening.
The Flames book-ended the first period with a pair of nice passing plays that were converted for goals. The rest of the period? Burn the tape. Lots of passes in skates and icings.
But the goals were really nice goals. Just over a minute in, Kris Russell began the play with a pass from the red-line with two Blues forwards in pursuit. Sam Bennett took the pass and head-manned it up to Michael Frolik, who skated in, found Dennis Wideman at the point and made a pass, and as soon as Wideman accepted it he tapped it to a streaking Mason Raymond for the tap-in. Raymond also left the game briefly a couple times in the first, as his leg bonked the net pretty hard on the goal. After that, the Flames were given three power-plays by the officials (and the Blues continuing to commit infractions). On their first three power-plays, they consistently failed to gain the zone and the Blues actually had as many shots as the Flames did. After one such ugly power-play late in the period, a Paul Stastny shot was saved by Jonas Hiller but Scottie Upshall was out front to crash the net and pick up the scraps to tie the game at 1-1. However, the Flames finally broke through on their fourth power-play, with Wideman, Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler connecting on a nice cross-zone passing play, ending with Hudler getting the tap-in to restore the Flames lead heading into the intermission. The Flames were out-everything-ed in the first, trailing in shots (14-7), even-strength shots (13-4), shot attempts (22-16) and face-off wins (12-10). But they led the game where it counted – the scoreboard. But that would soon change.
The Blues really took the game over in the second. They were very effective at clogging up the middle of the ice and forcing bad shots and passes by the Flames. Either that or the Flames got frustrated and started to force their own bad shots and passes. Either way, the Blues dominated.
Troy Brouwer tied the game at 2-2 with a break-away goal with the Flames caught up the ice; David Backes made a great pass to spring him, and his shot beat Jonas Hiller low stick-side. Later on, the Blues scored on the first shot on their first power-play: Colton Parayko’s shot beat a partially-screened Hiller just inside the post glove-side to make it 3-2 – and represented Parayko’s first NHL goal. And they closed out the period with another Colton Parayko point shot beating Hiller from far away. This one may’ve been tipped by somebody, but Hiller saw all of it. Shots were 9-3 Blues (8-3 at even-strength), shot attempts were 21-9 and face-offs were 15-8. Yeah, St. Louis was pretty good.
The Flames showed up in the third and played with a pretty good amount of desperation – though their execution was a bit lacking. They managed to get within one goal with a head’s up play in the Blues zone by Michael Frolik; he intercepted an attempted back-pass by David Backes and set up David Jones in the slot to make it 4-3. However, that was as close as Calgary got. The Blues defended well and continued to manage the puck intelligently. Despite pulling their goalie late, it wasn’t enough. Shots were 8-5 Calgary in the third (all at even-strength) and the Flames also had a healthy shot attempt edge (21-14), but the Blues utterly dominated them at the face-off dot by a 9-2 margin. In a close game, that made a big difference.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
Take your pick.
On one hand, their power-play was fairly bad. They struggled to gain the zone and generate any dangerous chances on their first three man advantages. When you generate just three shots in 6:17 of power-play time – and your opponent scores on their only power-play shot – you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle.
Speaking of: they simply didn’t have the puck enough tonight. They chased. They tried to force passes. They really got spanked in terms of face-offs. It’s hard to win the game, especially a close game like this one, when you don’t have the puck very often. Sean Monahan especially got killed, going 9-for-26.
Let’s go with Michael Frolik. He was moving his feet and creating chances more than most other Flames, and he was rewarded with a pair of assists.
Honourable mention to Dennis Wideman, who also had a pair of assists on some really pretty passes in the first period, and Mason Raymond, who was really skating well and got a goal early-on.
“We had some great comebacks last year, but we had some good bounces. I
don’t know if everything’s going to go our way this year or not, but the
onus is on us. We didn’t have a good second at all, and they took it to
us.” – Mason Raymond.
“In some moments, parts of the game our execution is very good. In some other parts, our execution is not good at all. We’re making bad puck decisions. We’re giving pucks, easy pucks, away. Against good teams that are big, that are physical, we’re just giving them the momentum, and that’s what we did in the second period.” – Bob Hartley breaks down the game.
“Hills played good, kept us in the game. We can’t fault him at all. Got beat by some quality screen shots, got beat by that breakaway. Hills, I felt first period came up with some good saves and then he kept in in for the rest of the game.” – Bob Hartley assesses the performance of goaltender Jonas Hiller.
The local sports team is off for a couple of days, and then they have their first back-to-back set of the 2015-16 season: Friday night they’re in Winnipeg to take on the Jets, and then it’s back home for a Saturday night meeting with the Edmonton Oilers.