The Calgary Flames haven’t played great through a dozen games of the 2015-16 schedule. They’d probably admit as much. But they headed into Denver, Colorado tonight to play the Colorado Avalanche, a team with similarly unsteady footing in the Western Conference. After ekeing out a win against Edmonton on Saturday, it seemed a prime opportunity for the Flames to take that glimmer of momentum from Saturday and create some hope for the rest of the season.
Instead? All the warts of the 2015-16 Calgary Flames were on display for all to see once again in an uneven, occasionally ugly 6-3 loss to Colorado.
The first period was reasonably even, though the Flames were back on their heels a bit. They looked like they’d go into the intermission dead-locked at zero – a moral victory if there ever was one on the road – but the Avalanche had other ideas. Shoddy defense allowed Matt Duchene to go in and collect his own rebound in the final minute of the period to send the Flames into the locker room trailing 1-0. Shots were 17-11 in the first period in favour of Colorado, but the Flames held a slight 27-21 shot attempt lead.
The Flames came out and tied it up early in the second on a nice play; some nice end-zone passing from Sam Bennett and T.J. Brodie sprang David Jones and Johnny Gaudreau on a 2-on-1. Gaudreau opted to shoot and beat Semyon Varlamov for Calgary’s first goal. Just past the mid-way point of the game a familiar face, Jarome Iginla, scored for the Avalanche on a tip-in – as the Flames simply couldn’t clear out the area in front of Karri Ramo – to reinstate the lead at 2-1. The Avalanche pushed it to 3-1 off a short-handed marker from Erik Johnson, as once again it appeared that a game was slipping away from the Flames. But the Flames began to battle back, and Sam Bennett scored his second of the season late in the period (on a nice individual effort behind the net) to send the Flames to the intermission in a familiar state: trailing by a goal. Colorado led in shots again in the second (13-7), but shot attempts were even at 20-20.
Believe it or not, the Flames found a way to tie it up nearly half-way through the third period! Mark Giordano’s point shot – through a layer of traffic – eluded Varlamov and made it 3-3. And then? The wheels fell off, and the Flames found a way to blow a chance to win a game. 90 seconds of sloppy hockey turned the game from promising to putrid: Nathan MacKinnon scored after Sam Bennett couldn’t grab a puck to clear the defensive zone, then Mason Raymond took a tripping penalty in the offensive zone, then Matt Duchene scored his second of the game on the ensuing power-play. Jarome Iginla added insult to injury with an empty-netter to cap it at 6-3 for the Colorado Avalanche. Colorado held an edge in shots (12-7) and shot attempts (21-19) in the final frame.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
They weren’t great five-on-five. They were out-shot 33-24 (and a lot of them were good shots) and out-scored 4-3. That’s not ideal, but it’s also not surprising given some of the team’s deficiencies this many games into the season. But man, they had two power-plays. They generated a shot. The Avalanche had a goal on two shots on Calgary’s power-plays and then added a power-play goal of their own.
Not great five-on-five? Check. Not great down a man? Check. Not great up a man? Check.
And that amounts to their ninth loss of the season in regulation.
T.J. Brodie continues to be very good. He played a ton tonight, looked great, was +3 and was generally a force for good in a chaotic, scary world.
And it’s nice to see Gaudreau and Bennett contribute offense considering both of them have looked good and not really buried much lately.
The Flames (3-9-1) come back home to host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night at the Saddledome. And after that, it’s Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.