Post-Game: Not last year’s Kings

Last season, the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames ended up intwined in a tight battle for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. The Flames won four of five meetings, including the fifth and final that saw them both clinch that fabled playoff spot, and end the defending Stanley Cup Champions’ season early.

There is no such battle this go around. The Kings are almost certainly going to make the playoffs this year; they’re the only Pacific team in the top half of the NHL standings. And indeed, they looked it, as try as hard as the Flames did, quick goals and Quick goaltending left them closing out 2015 with a 4-1 loss.

The rundown

Things started off really, really well when Dougie Hamilton sprung Sam Bennett for a breakaway just 33 seconds in, but Jonathan Quick stayed with him and made sure there was no early goal to be had. The Kings took over thereafter, and 11:04 into the opening frame they made it a 1-0 game thanks to a perfectly screened Marian Gaborik shot. 

Back-to-back offensive zone penalties by Milan Lucic and Jordan Nolan gave the Flames a chance to tie it on the power play, but even though they had a couple of good looks, they were unable to score, and left the first down a goal.

So if there’s any time you can point at as to when the Flames lost, it was the start of the second. Two goals within the first three minutes of the period gave the Kings a 3-0 lead, and for a team that had just been shutout the game before, things were starting to look insurmountable. A long, long cycle in the Flames’ end left the home side exhausted, and with both Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic standing on the doorstep, Lucic was able to bang it home. A minute and 20 seconds later, Andy Andreoff was left all alone in front of the Flames’ net with Sean Monahan and Dougie Hamilton behind it and Kris Russell off to the side, and suddenly, it was 3-0 Kings. 

Brandon Bollig fought Lucic off the ensuing faceoff, but then the Flames gave the puck away to Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli hitting the goalpost was the only thing that prevented it from becoming a 4-0 game. Not even the Kings’ third offensive zone penalty – Nick Shore tripping Hamilton – could get the Flames on the board, even though Sam Bennett (who is on the power play now!) had a golden chance at the power play’s end. Even a wide open net left there for T.J. Brodie didn’t result in a goal, because just Lucic got in the way to keep it out.

Down 3-0 to start the third, the Flames turned it on. An early goal gave them hope, as 3:36 into the final period, Joe Colborne retrieved the puck from behind the net, Micheal Ferland fought off Brayden McNabb, and Mark Giordano scored with a shot from the point that went in off Drew Doughty, snapping the Flames’ shutout streak at 105:36.

Try as the Flames did for the rest of the game, though – and they really, really tried, outshooting the Kings 10-3 – that was all they were able to manage. Monahan nearly scored seconds after Giordano’s goal. Mikael Backlund found Ferland in the slot. Hamilton made a beautiful move to get the puck in close. But Quick stopped all of them, leaving the Flames increasingly desperate. Even a fourth power play – courtesy of a Doughty delay of game – couldn’t beat him, with Colborne hitting the post, and Dennis Wideman staying true to his last name and shooting the puck wide.

Karri Ramo was pulled with just over three minutes to go, and Sam Bennett tripped Dustin Brown about half a minute later, leaving the Flames to close out the game five-on-five with an empty net. Tanner Pearson was able to get the insurance goal in the game’s final minute, though, and that was that as the Flames lost to the Kings, 4-1.

The numbers

(All Situations) CorsiFor% OZStart%
Johnny Gaudreau 58.33 93.33
Sean Monahan 68.29 93.33
Jiri Hudler 62.96 88.89
Dennis Wideman 65.91 85.71
Brandon Bollig 50.00 80.00
Lance Bouma 46.67 80.00
Matt Stajan 27.27 80.00
T.J. Brodie 62.79 78.95
Mark Giordano 66.67 73.33
Micheal Ferland 59.38 63.64
Sam Bennett 70.00 62.50
Deryk Engelland 37.50 60.00
David Jones 52.00 57.14
Dougie Hamilton 50.00 55.56
Joe Colborne 54.55 55.56
Kris Russell 54.05 50.00
Markus Granlund 53.57 50.00
Mikael Backlund 58.06 37.50

Why the Flames lost

The Kings dominated to start the second, leaving the Flames scrambling as what had been a manageable 1-0 deficit suddenly become a 3-0 one. That, or the fact the Flames had four power play opportunities and couldn’t score on any of them, even though they did have some close looks. That, or the fact that Quick stood on his head, particularly when the Flames were pressing the most, and the only goal that got past him was one deflected in by one of this own guys.

Well, it was probably all three of those things. Going to sleep for a few minutes against a team as good as the Kings is going to cost you, and it was too little, too late for when the Flames looked ready to actually compete.

Red Warrior

Micheal Ferland fighting off Brayden McNabb to get the primary assist on Giordano’s goal was awesome, and really helped to highlight just how far he’s coming along. He also had that really good chance on Quick from the slot, and a couple of solid hits because, well, he’s Micheal Ferland. Micheal Ferland, top six forward that is, because that’s the role he played tonight – and he excelled.

Honourable mentions to Sam Bennett and Mikael Backlund for playing with jump all night long, and T.J. Brodie for continuing to be an impressive skating force from the backend.

Up next

The Flames are off to Denver for a day as on Saturday, January 2, 2016 (Happy New Year!) they take on the Colorado Avalanche. Late Hockey Night in Canada games means an 8 p.m. MT puck drop, but hopefully the Flames will be a little more awake throughout that game.

Look out for former bestest friend ever Jarome Iginla, who currently sits at 599 career goals and doesn’t play again until… Saturday, January 2, 2016. It would be extremely poetic if Iggy hit #600 against the team he spent the majority of his career with, so it’ll probably happen, so get ready.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    What this team lacks is top line forwards.

    We currently have Johnny….. And that’s about it.

    Monahan is a good 2C.

    Bennett may become a top line player but is banging like a third line player right now.

    The cause: terrible first round drafting over the last half dozen or so years.

    -Backlund. Baerchi. Jankowski. Poirier. Klimchuck.

    All max out as third liners.

    If only 2 of those 5 first rounders developed into top 6 forwards we would be competing.

    WW

        • supra steve

          OK. So present some FACTS then. Not internet/made-up facts, real FACTS.

          When has Flame drafting been better? If you go back 30 or more years you may find some good drafts. But more recently…? Was Rico Fata a nice grab at #6 overall? Danny Tkaczuk, also at #6? Krahn at #9, how did that turn out again?

          If you don’t understand the long term history, it’s pretty hard to be a fair judge of the recent history. On top of that, with most picks it takes a good 5 years plus before you really know what you have got, so judging the last few years now?

          Second part of your proof. Show us other clubs that have done noticeably better in recent years. Not a single club with a single particularly lucky year. Multiple clubs with multiple years of superior drafting.

          If you can’t prove your hypothesis, then claiming it to be “FACT” is just BS.

    • MontanaMan

      I don’t say this often, but I agree with you Walt. I’m also one who doesn’t judge based on a game or a week, but I agree that there are many holes remaining in this team. I’m still not convinced that Ramo is a bonafide number one but admittedly he has been playing better. On defence, Ruseell has struggled and will need a new contract so he needs to be moved; also move Wideman ASAP if you can find a taker for that contract; Smid is a write off. Up on forward, I thought that Jones played well with JG and Monahan but they’ve moved him to the 4th line and looks terrible. That first line needs some size and Hudler has been awful. I will disagree with your assessment of Bennett; yes, he’s been crashing but also creating some great scoring chances. But beyond Bennett, Gaudreau and inconsistently Monahan, the forward group has been spotty at best. Hope some time on the road (and a trade?) can cure what ills them.

      • Kevin R

        FFS! How long do you think the Flames have been rebuilding????
        Bennett is 19, Monahan 21 & Gaudreau 22, Hamilton 22, Brodie 25
        Pretty young core & it’s just started. Playoffs last year was such an anomaly at the stage for this team, too many peoples perception & expectations are just not realistic. The critique of the 1st round picks the last half dozen years, well take a look where they were selected. Not exactly top 10 picking.

        What we need:
        -a top 10 pick this year but still see progress in our future young core

        -BT needs to target a forward in the same ilk as he did Hamilton & find a soul mate for Bennett

        -deal with a bunch of these veteran stale contracts

        -get a goalie

        Playoffs is not on that need list, just on the would be nice to happen list.

    • MontanaMan

      Excellent post!

      I would add the goaltending needs major rebuild. With regards to the forwards the talented but tiny top 6 needs to be better balanced with bigger physical forwards who are strong on the puck. Teams like the Ducks & Kings continue to punish the Flames physically with ease….

  • FlamesRule

    Hurdler has to go – for anything we can get – just get him out of here! Ferland can take his spot and do so much more.

    Wideman has to go too! I’m sick of both these vets and their half-arse efforts.

  • WildfireOne

    Posting this from Ontario, where the Heat beat the Reign by the exact same score as their parent clubs battled to in the ‘Dome. A very physical affair, but a weird game that culminated in a Grant penalty shot with 8 seconds left, awarded for the Reign repeatedly illegally adding a 4th player to a 3-on-5 penalty kill.

    The laser fireworks show afterwards was a reminder to wish everyone here a happy new year!

  • MontanaMan

    I miss the old days when you could look forward to a GM making a deal to shake up the team.

    Now it’s impossible and a trade is damn near an impossibility for 90% of the year. Thanks Gary you sawed off little chump

  • Pit Martin

    As of today almost half way through the year the Flames have the worst power play, the second worst penalty kill and the second worst goals against in the league. Let’s not kid ourselves there is a significant amount of work needed on this roster. Hudler-1 goal in 23 games and he is on the first power play unit! Brutal. Colborne is extremely frustrating, with his size he should be bloody well creaming some of the Kings in a game like last night. I would rather have a smaller player that hits consistently than the no hit Colborne. Ramo is so up and down it is ridiculous. If Ramo gets hurt we are so screwed as not one other goalie is anywhere capable of playing regularly. Hiller has deteriorated very badly. We have quite a few decent sized forwards who refuse to play physically. Replace them with guys with an edge to their game. Anyway, sorry to rant but there is hope for this team but there is a really far distance from where they are and where they need to be. Thank goodness for Gaudreau, Bennett, Ferland, Brodie and most of the time Giordano . End of rant