The past few games have seemingly given everyone a bit of optimism regarding the Calgary Flames. They were good against New Jersey. They were really good against Chicago. They hit the road tonight in Anaheim looking at a three-game trip that could put them smack-dab back in the playoff hunt, despite their back start.
Well, just when you think they’re back to their old (2014-15 season) ways, they slip back into their old (October 2015) habits and rather than an up-tempo, aggressive game, the Flames were disjointed and on their heels all night in a 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Given how much of the time they spent in their own end, it’s like they never really showed up at all. (But hey, there’s their steaming cup of coffee…)
These Flames once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and now sit with a disappointing 8-13-1 record through 22 regular season contests.
The Ducks dominated the first period, possession-wise. Yet, the Flames were seemingly pretty strategic in their attack – when they got the puck long enough to actually attack. Starter Anton Khudobin kicked out a lot of rebounds early and that seemed to become a target for the Flames. Micheal Ferland jumped on an Anaheim turnover in their end and passed it to Kris Russell, who shot it from Khudobin’s right. The goalie kicked a rebound out to his left, right to Michael Frolik for a tap-in and a 1-0 lead. The Flames made it 2-0 on a nearly identical play: Backlund’s shot from Khudobin’s right got kicked out to Sam Bennett for the tap-in. (That ended Khudobin’s night, and John Gibson stepped in.) However, the Flames’ Brandon Bollig took a dumb hooking call and the Ducks needed all of eight seconds to take advantage of Calgary’s bad defensive coverage on the PK and get a tap-in goal from Corey Perry that squeaked through Karri Ramo. And the Flames blew the lead entirely late in the period, as Dougie Hamilton failed to take the body (or the puck) and Rickard Rakell went top-shelf on Ramo from in-close. Shots were 10-9 Flames, while shot attempts were 30-13 for the Ducks.
The Ducks maintained their dominance in the second period, and the Flames were extremely lucky to escape the period with their lives – let alone a one-goal lead somehow. Shots were 13-4 and shot attempts were 22-8, all for the Ducks. About two-thirds of the period was spent in the Flames end. However, Karri Ramo was sharp and on one of their rare forays into the Ducks zone – late in the period – Sam Bennett was under the red line and found Michael Frolik at the side of the net for a quick tap-in goal to make it 3-2.
The Ducks kept pressing in the early third and got the tying goal when the Flames defensive group forgot to cover Rakell in the slot, allowing him a tap-in for his second of the game, making it 3-3. And the collapse was completed mid-way through the period, as Dennis Wideman took a dumb boarding penalty in the defensive zone and Corey Perry, of course, came in on a partial break-away and beat Ramo to make it 4-3. The Flames had two third period power-plays and generated two shots on goal, neither of them dangerous, and the Ducks added an empty-netter (from Ryan Kesler) to ice it at 5-3. Shots were 11-10 Calgary, but shot attempts were 21-15 Anaheim.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
They lost because the Anaheim Ducks were allowed to dictate where the game was played. And man, a lot of it was played in the Flames end. Credit where it’s due, the Ducks did a smart job of line-matching. But man, the Flames had a lot of missed passes, failed zone exits, wonky zone entries, and were in general a team that looked out of sync and largely lost during the 60 minutes.
And they got spotted a two-goal lead, on the road, in a hostile building, and managed to forget how to play smart defensive hockey. Instead? We got the same clown show in the defensive end that we got throughout October.
One step forward, two steps back.
Michael Frolik gets the nod via his two goals on four shots. He was pretty good tonight.
Honourable mention to 19-year-old Sam Bennett, who had a goal and an assist (and four shots), and to Micheal Ferland for being the only 50+% Corsi performer tonight despite being buried in terms of zone starts.
The Flames have a couple days off in Phoenix, then suit up on Friday night against the Arizona Coyotes in the first half of a back-to-back (they play in San Jose on Saturday night).