Post-Game: Feeling The Blues

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 RUNDOWN

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.

RED WARRIOR

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.

QUOTABLE

“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.

UP NEXT

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.

  • RickT

    Hamilton’s never been a guy who dealt with own-zone pressure very well. His main flaw as a player. He’s definitely an offensive defenseman at this point (not that he’s bad defensively, just that he doesn’t have the kind of grace under fire that a TJ Brodie does).

    We really need Brodie back. Hartley needs to start burying the top pair to shelter Russell and Wideman (preferably on separate pairs). I think Russell – Hamilton might do a pretty good job of moving the puck up ice if given a little high ground. But honestly, even if Hartley keeps the GioHammer going, Brodie will have a boosting effect on the rest of the roster by virtue of his being TJ Brodie.

  • MonsterPod

    Bennett is gonna be a beauty, but I don’t think he’s ready for second line minutes yet. Monahan got a lot of 3C time in his rookie year and I think it’s time to switch Bennett and Backs.

    But overall, the problem is deeper, because so much talk is about possession and the Flames were decimated in the dot last night. Blues wins in our zone after icings led to some dangerous chances. Blues wins in the third ate away at our chance to comeback.

    Monahan and Bennett will improve at faceoffs over time, but Backlund and Stajan are what they are. It leaves me scratching my head for a solution. And it’s not a small think; it’s muy importante.

    I’m not shaving my head over the goalie thing. It seems to me the organization saw Ramo play vs Anaheim last year in the playoffs and thought he might be the best tandem with Ortio. And that might be exactly what we have come the middle of November. To my mind, the Flames are not letting Ortio go and based on his age, they never had plans for Hiller after his two year contract.

    Ortio/Ramo could be the tandem for the next 2-3 years while Gillies develops. Hiller is wasted money in the minors? Yeah, they don’t care. This is all about building.

    • piscera.infada

      When he’s playing as poorly as he is, it’s something to think about. Sure, argue that it’s “all his linemates”, but you, me, and everybody else here knows that it’s nothing more than a feeble excuse. I’m a big Backlund fan and I love what he brings when he’s playing well, but he’s been god-awful so far.

      That’s not to say “scratch him” as a de facto stance, but he’s clearly not playing the way he should be playing–linemates or no linemates.

      • mattyc

        I don’t think it’s a feeble excuse. I actually think having good (nay even OK) linemates makes a big difference.

        It’s also difficult to “work your way out of it” when you get 8 minutes of icetime.

        • piscera.infada

          So why don’t we just put Backlund with Gaudreau and Hudler then? I’m sure that would be sufficient to “work his way out of it”.

          Look, Bennett has played better than Backlund, Stajan has played better than Backlund. If Backlund had played better than either of those, I’d be right there with you. He hasn’t though, so he finds himself with crap line-mates. I find it funny how the people on this site that are so quick to throw some players under the bus, are so willing to give Backlund a pass. Admit it, he’s not playing well. I’m all for a discussion about his line mates (I’ve already admitted Bollig is a horrible idea, I’m not defending that), but you can’t tell me that’s the only problem Backlund is having right now.

          The onus is also on him to “work his way out of it”, not the coach, not his line mates.

          • mattyc

            That’s very absolute for a subjective opinion.

            We’re also talking about a player with a fairly long track record of evidence suggesting he’s a top 6 forward. Even if I were to agree with you that he’s playing poorly (in a 3 game sample), you still need to convince me that it’s in the teams best interest to play him less than everyone else on the team going forward.

            How many Flames forwards can you say with confidence are better than Backlund? (I have Monahan/Hudler/Gaudreau/Frolik, and maybe someday soon Bennett)

          • piscera.infada

            Fair enough, I guess I can agree that it is, in fact, a subjective opinion. I’ll also agree that Backlund has a proven track record of being a top-6 forward. Can I say anyone other than the listed players are definitively better than Backlund? No. Are there many playing better at this juncture? Subjectively, yes.

            I would just like to point out that if Stajan let someone get behind him for that breakaway last night, and his only line of defense against it was a weak stick check, the pitch-forks would be out in full-force. If Bennett did it? He “wouldn’t be ready to play centre in the NHL”.

            I use that play as an example, because everyone in the arena knew that’s not how you play that. It’s the embodiment of what Backlund does when he’s effective, and hasn’t done through a small sample size to start the season. His decision making has been questionable, he doesn’t play the body at all, and has no burst in his skating.

            I mean, if Stajan was directly responsible for a breakaway against last night, would you seriously be arguing that the team needs to give him more playing time? Or is it just by virtue of Backlund having a reputation as a good defensive forward, that we’re willling to overlook blatant defensive gaffes? I will concede that playing Backlund less than everyone else on the team is not in the team’s best interest long-term, but neither is Backlund playing poorly.

            [I don’t know why I feel I have to prove that I’m not on some personal vendetta against Backlund every time I think he’s having a rough stretch–I like him as a player, I really do.] I came into this season with sky-high expectations for Backlund. Perhaps they were too high. Right now, though, he’s not putting it together, and it’s frustrating to watch.

          • mattyc

            Backlund isn’t infallible.

            The reason (I think at least) that he gets more slack in the community than, say, Bollig, is that Backlund has demonstrated he’s a top 6 fwd, by a whole suite of indicators that are predictive of future success. All players make bad plays, the difference is bad players make them more often.

            The thing about bad plays is that by the time the coach has had a chance to react to it (by benching, demoting a player etc.), the play has already happened. So the coach’s reaction is only effective if it prevents the likelihood of future bad plays. Otherwise, it’s a counter-productive knee-jerk reaction – overvaluing recent events over a long track record (recency bias). In hockey terms, some (bad) coaches are too knee-jerk, while the good ones ‘let the player work through their slump’.

          • piscera.infada

            I’ll agree with that (especially the knee-jerk reactions part).

            I guess my overarching argument re: Backlund, is that (in my eyes) he hasn’t done much to push him either 1) ahead of Bennett on the depth-chart, or 2) necessitate Bennett being moved to the wing.

            I like how Bennett has played in the last two games, and I think he’s worked well with Frolik and Raymond. I would prefer Jooris-Backlund-(Bouma replacement-not named Bollig).

          • mattyc

            1) Backlund has not looked good to start the season (I agree). This is some of the worst hockey I’ve ever seen from him.

            2) Say what you want about his effort on Brouwer’s breakaway, but here’s my question: where were Russell and Wideman? Mickis was the only guy back.

          • piscera.infada

            Say what you want about his effort on Brouwer’s breakaway, but here’s my question: where were Russell and Wideman? Mickis was the only guy back.

            Russell decided to pinch on the puck coming op the boards, Backlund (correctly) bumped back to the point to cover. Backlund played a soft pass into 3 St. Louis players, one of them sprang Brouwer.

            That all said, you need to play the body there–it’s a simple play. By no means do you play the puck. Even if you take the body initially, and Brouwer still gets past you, you’ve given either Russell, Wideman, or anyone else on the ice time to recover. Why Mickis tried to intercept the pass (which would have put four players offside), makes no sense to me.

          • piscera.infada

            Russell was pinching and Backlund was there covering the point. The puck went past Russell and another Flame along the half boards and Backlund, under pressure from Brouwer, fired the puck into the middle in front of the St. Louis net. There, it hit Backes, who then passed it up to a streaking Brouwer who had pushed past Backlund and got a step on him.

            Bad pinch by Russell, blown cover by Backlund.

            See it here at about 1:47 http://video.flames.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=846465&lang=en

          • MontanaMan

            Point 1 – Backlund is not a top 6 forward on any NHL team.

            Point 2 – Nice psychoanalysis of coaching. We have an entire culture of children raised with the same parenting philosophy of no accountability. Doesn’t work.

      • piscera.infada

        I can’t help but think about the lockout & Backlund playing wing with Berglund as centre & they were tearing it up. Maybe, just maybe try to move Backlund to wing on a line with Bennett & Frolik. I know Raymond is playing well but he may be injured after ramming into the post on his goal. Sometimes, the next day is when the injury starts to get the inflammation & impact his game. Bouma looked more seriously injured, so I see Jooris slotting in to replace Bouma. If Raymond is injured as well, I would love to see what Arnold could do on that 3rd line.

        We are missing the youth injection that brought the us against everyone attitude last year that was so contagious. The boys seem to be struggling a bit with expectation.

        I know we got crushed in the possession stats last year but that counter attack transition game that made us lethal & exciting is missing. Gio lead the way last year & he & Brodie were down right elite. Gio seems a little apprehensive so far & for good reason. But there will be no Norris discussion if this is all he gives. We are missing Brodie dearly. When he gets back (Godspeed TJ), I think he needs to get paired back with Gio & lets get that magical chemistry those two had last year percolating. That will buy Dougie time to get acclimatized to how this team played last year & should be playing.

    • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

      Wideman was scratched in the first few games last year and then came out a house on fire. Didn’t do him any harm.

      Backlund looked good, when the Flames had nothing else, but now that there are good players he is now visible as what he is. A serviceable NHL player.

      Remember when Matt Stajan was a first line center and everyone thought Toronto, and then Calgary were stupid?

      Same situation with Backlund, better players than him have passed him.

  • everton fc

    I’ll join in here;

    Frolik looks good. Stajan’s better than Backlund. Ferland will be fine, he’s playing his game. He’ll get his opportunities on net.

    Wideman seems to be doing what he did last year. Ditto Russell. But they are a 5/6 pairing. I’d like to see Kulak w/either Hamilton or Brodie. But that’s “me”.

    As for Brodie, if we can’t play better than .500 w/o him, we are in trouble. We need a fast start to the season. If we start in a slump, it’ll be tough to recover. Our defence has been porous. Defenders and forwards, alike. Gio does not look like a Norris candidate, and Hamilton looks young, inexperienced at times. Backlund continues to find himself as an also ran in this organization. Probably time for a change. I’d take Granlund over him now, and I like Backlund. But we don’t need him as our 4th line centre.

    I think Raymond’s played well thus far. No issues there. Everyone wants to punt Bollig, but he gets pucks on net. He’s earned his minutes. Kulak should never go back to the “A”. He’s NHL-ready, and has actually played more consistent than Gio and Hamilton, albeit w/fewer minutes.

    Jooris should play. He’s brings speed and jump we need. He’s willing to go places others don’t. Hope he gets a game soon.

    Once Monahan gets going, our first line is one of the best in the league. Hudler and Gaudreau are going to match last year’s totals. I agree Bennett may be suited for 3rd line minutes. Jones needs to do what he did last night. We could use a little more to of him and Stajan (and Ferland) but that line will gel soon, me thinks…

    • mattyc

      “Everyone wants to punt Bollig, but he gets pucks on net. He’s earned his minutes”

      What, you mean how every time he enters the zone and just takes a slapper from the top of the circle? That’s really a skill we need in this line up every night…so substitute for that ability no sir!

      • mattyc

        Only Raymond, Ferland, and Jooris have less unblocked pucks on net (Fenwick) than Bollig. (You’ll also notice that none of the other players have played 3 full games).

      • everton fc

        Let me put it a different way;

        LW was “lean” prior to losing Byron, who now sits in the press box in Montreal. I’d like to see guys like Agostino, maybe Klimchuk, get a look on the left-side. Agostino probably will, if Bouma’s out for a period of time, unless they move Bennett to LW, move Jooris to centre, and/or recall Granlund. We are thin on the wings. Left-side, in particular. Perhaps Jooris can move into Bouma’s spot, as well. We shall see. Still looks lean to me. “On paper”.

        Bollig is not ideal, but hasn’t been a too cavalier and “rogue” out there, thus far. He’s not played poorly, in his limited role.

        All that said, giving Backlund and Bollig so few minutes is a waste of minutes when guys like Jooris, not to mention Granlund, Agostino, and Hathaway all chomping at the bit for their opportunity. Jooris can play centre, so bench Backlund and put him there, unless there’s some pysch game Hartley’s playing w/Backlund. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, in terms of call ups, in the next day or two…

  • piscera.infada

    “Backlund needs to get it going” *While playing on the fourth line with BRANDON BOLLIG*

    PK “system”: Don’t bother pressuring the opponent and attempting to supress shots…just sit back and block pucks. That’s it.

    Glad to see after all these years and personnel changes, the ol “dump and chase” method of zone entry is alive and well.

    Hartley is the best coach ever durrrrrrrrr

    • Cfan in Vic

      Well that theory is based on large sample sizes, so I got one for ya:

      3RD GAME OF THE SEEAAASSSOOONNN

      At least they’re generating some goals out there. The ship will be righted.

      Side Note: Surprised about the lack of love for Johnny in the write up. As much as the Flames were generally chasing for the 1st and 2nd, holy crap, was Hockey Seed on fire. Stealing pucks like a mad man. I could watch that kid all day long.

  • Crazy Flames

    I have a feeling unless the Flames change their strategy this year they are going to have an unusually high shooting percentage again. Last night they scored all tap ins from a couple feet out.

    Sure notice they don’t like taking shots from far out, and if they do they hardly hit the net. Trying to pick corners rather then putting the puck on net and crashing (something a team like the Sharks utilize)