Post-Game: Ducks Seasoned, Flames Flicker

After a mixed bag of a road trip in San Jose and Arizona, the Calgary Flames returned home this afternoon hoping to exploit their home ice success and generate some much-needed momentum (and points) against the Anaheim Ducks.

Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way, and the team struggled to fight back against a bigger, more-skilled Ducks squad. Ultimately, their flagging penalty kill was once again their undoing en route to a 6-4 home loss to the Ducks.

THE RUNDOWN

If you hate goaltenders, you probably loved the first period. It was Club Flames Day at the ‘Dome – basically the team’s kids day – and the first period taught the message “Just put it on net, kids.” On the power-play, Johnny Gaudreau opened the scoring by going to the net, going for the puck and having both himself and the puck pushed past Frederik Andersen to make it 1-0. With Micheal Ferland in the box, Hampus Lindholm tied it up by wristing a puck past a screened Jonas Hiller to make it 1-1. That barely lasted as Dougie Hamilton scored 3 seconds into Calgary’s second power-play (with David Perron in the box). It was a great play, as Mark Giordano kept adjusting Hamilton’s position on the point before the puck dropped, and then Monahan won the draw cleanly and fed it to Hamilton for the knuckleball goal. Mike Santorelli responded back on the rush, as Deryk Engelland got caught up ice and Josh Jooris looked to be unintentionally screening Hiller while going back to cover the rush. It was a nice shot by Santorelli, though, and it made it 2-2. Jiri Hudler scored to put the Flames back on top a few minutes later, as his intended goal-mouth pass to Sean Monahan instead beat Andersen for a 3-2 advantage. Shots were 14-11 Anaheim and attempts were 24-19 for the Ducks.

The visitors began to pull away in the second frame, primarily on the backs of power-play markers. With Johnny Gaudreau in the box for a tripping call (which negated a Flames power-play), Ryan Getzlaf scored off a really nice individual effort – kicking the puck up to his stick and beating Hiller to make it 3-3. With Jakub Nakladal in the box, Sami Vatanen scored off a scrambley play where everyone wearing red seemed to lose track of the puck to make it 4-3 for the visitors. That goal spelled the end of the night for Hiller, who was replaced by Joni Ortio. Ortio seemed fine but wasn’t spectacular or anything, but the team around him seemed to lack their bearings for awhile in the second. After a sequence of a couple minutes where the Flames (a) couldn’t clear their own end and (b) couldn’t get the puck deep in the offensive end, Rickard Rakell came in and beat Ortio with a wrister off the rush. But just as it seemed that the Flames would go quietly into the intermission, Andersen made an initial save on a Monahan shot but lost track of the rebound, allowing Hudler to score his second with seven seconds left in the second. Shots were 12-8 for the Flames, while attempts were even at 17-17.

You might have thought that the hometown club may’ve come out of the gates quickly after scoring a late goal in the second. You’d be wrong. Mike Santorelli scored right away, crashing the net for a Joni Ortio rebound to double Anaheim’s lead 51 seconds in. The Flames had a few chances the rest of the way, but never really got back into it, with Anaheim content to keep them to the outside and poke-check away many stretch passes. Shots were 13-5 for the locals and attempts were 20-9, but it was too little, too late.

THE NUMBERS

(All Situations) CorsiFor% OZStart%
Bouma 15.38% 100%
Bollig 11.11% 100%
Gaudreau 54.35% 92.31%
Monahan 57.14% 92.31%
Hudler 58.54% 91.67%
Engelland 40% 85.71%
Hamilton 63.64% 84.62%
Giordano 56.82% 55.56%
Colborne 73.08% 50%
Jooris 14.29% 50%
Nakladal 70% 40%
Smid 32.14% 37.5%
Granlund 48% 33.33%
Bennett 72.22% 33.33%
Frolik 54.55% 27.27%
Brodie 52% 26.67%
Ferland 65% 20%
Backlund 71.43% 18.18%

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

The Flames got four goals at home, which – to steal a phrase from head coach Bob Hartley – should be enough to win a game. Unfortunately, the team’s penalty killing woes continued and helped to negate three separate (1-0, 2-1 and 3-2) early leads. The Ducks kept getting goals, got some momentum and then just kept things roll along.

Once the Ducks got their legs under their and got their feet moving, the Flames had a ton of trouble handling their big forwards. If Anaheim wanted a scoring chance, they got one, and that’s something the Flames just couldn’t find a counter for.

RED WARRIOR

Let’s go with Dougie Hamilton, who played with a bunch of different partners (primarily a mix of Giordano, Engelland and Nakladal) and looked really good throughout the game.

The top line did a great job generating chances in the first half of the game, but as the Ducks bore down on them, they couldn’t adjust and they weren’t really a factor late in the game.

SUM IT UP

They are who we thought they were.

The Ducks? They’re a team in a playoff spot, playing a game where they were able to lock down two points by not giving the Flames a ton of time, space or respect.

The Flames? They’re eight points back from a playoff spot and four points ahead of last-place Toronto. That probably tells you everything you really need to know.

UP NEXT

The Flames are back in action on Wednesday evening when they face off against the visiting Minnesota Wild.

  • beloch

    This is the first game where Nakladal got regular shifts. He totaled 12:45 of TOI (as compared to just 1:45 against Toronto). That’s a huge increase in trust from Hartley, given that this was against a much tougher team. It would be huge for the Flames if Nakladal sticks.

    • Burnward

      There’s been a lot of criticism on Harts for not playing him, but I think people have to remember that hockey probably isn’t any different than any other job, just expedited more.

      You’re hired for a role and you wait for your opportunity to prove your worth and earn your place past those ahead of you.

      Nak did very well today. I bet he took a massive step forward in the coach’s eyes.

      • beloch

        If Wideman weren’t suspended and Russel out with an injury, Nakladal would likely not have dressed. You can’t fault a coach for not trusting players who haven’t proven themselves, but it’s bad for a club when most prospects aren’t even given a chance, especially when the team is in the middle of a rebuild.

        Consider how many times Wotherspoon was called up last season. He played just one game, which happened to be the very last game of the regular season. Is that enough for a meaningful evaluation?

        To be blunt, Nakladal just got extremely lucky. Thanks to Smid getting healthy, this was a particularly bad season to be a defensive prospect in the Flames system. There were just too many NHL defenders in the club for prospects to have a reasonable chance at getting some ice-time. Consider what had to happen for Nakladal to get his first two games, and how easily that could not have happened at all.

        NHL talent is not developed entirely in the AHL. At some point you have to give players a chance to play the NHL game. For whatever reason, the Flames haven’t been doing that, and this needs to change.

      • MontanaMan

        According to many on this site, Nak should have played 25 minutes his first game. No one is sure why his ice time was so low for his first game, but clearly a few practices leading up to today warranted his increased ice time. It’s not a race to get a rookie into the lineup and critically important that he is ready for the big step.

        • brodiegio4life

          the reason he played so much is because hartleys man love russell didn’t play. Hamilton finally played the amount he should too. I honestly can’t wait until russell is gone so other more deserving guys get to play.

        • MattyFranchise

          Nah, Nak just should have gotten more than 1:45 in his first game. 10-12 minutes would have been nice especially since Hartley elected to play 11 forwards in that game instead of keeping Engelland at forward on the 4th line RW where he started the game. There was no reason to play with a short bench against the friggin Maple Laughs.

          Nakladal getting 12:45 this game was perfect for a guy tearing up the AHL with first pairing minutes down there. Giving him 25 minutes in his first game is ridiculous, I’m not sure where you’re getting that from, but in another universe where Russell isn’t getting 25 minutes a night, I could see him graduating to second pairing minutes by the end of the season.

          As for the game itself, Nakladal did well, aside from that penalty he took that led to a goal against, he was solid and if he ended up getting another 12 minutes next game I would be fine with that as well.

          Unfortunately, I have a feeling that he will end up getting the Wotherspoon treatment and we’ll never see him play again in favor of Smid. I like Smid, I think he’s ok in the 7th D spot but he isn’t slotted on the depth chart in the 7th spot. Otherwise he wouldn’t be playing every game.

          Nakladal playing a game on a firm pairing with Engelland wouldn’t be the worst idea either. His NHL veteran presence worked well with Kulak when he was up at the start of the season, probably the lone bright spot from those first 9 games, and I see no reason not to try it again with another player trying to break into the best league in the world, no matter what his age is.

  • Oil City Roller

    Just spent the weekend it your fair City. Went to some nice restaurants, saw a bunch of friends, and got super drunk. To top it off I was leaving today at the same time as every one was going to the game and I got to throw out a sweet drive by booing of group of guys in Flames jerseys. All in all a good time provided by the City of Calgary.

    • The GREAT Walter White

      Just FYI: the PRESET DAY Oilers are mathematically the worst team in the history of the NHL…. There has never been a team with a worse winning % over a 10 year period than the PRESENT DAY Oilers.

      Not a team that played years ago: the PRESENT DAY Oilers….. The same team McSuck&luck 2015 plays for and 3 other first overall picks.

      “Decade of disgrace” for a he Oilers and the city of Edmonton!!!

      WW

  • brodiegio4life

    actually surprised hartley actually played nakladal this game and didn’t just play shorthanded like the last time he was in the lineup. Well done hartley… now go away

  • Clayton

    Interesting to see the significant increase in penalties to the Flames since the Wideman ‘incident’. Went from being one of the least penalized teams up to that game…to one of the more penalized teams since. That doesn’t include the non-calls the flames suffer from now too…plays like the non-penalty shot call on the Hudler breakaway. Seems it doesnt matter how the appeal goes down the refs are making their point clear.

    • Kevin R

      Was at the game & for the life of me early in that first period when Johnny got run from behind & no penalty. It pisses me off because it’s one thing to just call more chinsier penalties on us but ignoring dangerous hits on a smaller star player is nothing but horse crap. The call on the penalty on Hudler’s breakaway should have been a penalty shot. Just a few things but they will add up.

      • Clayton

        Yes…didn’t mention that one…or the cross check he took on the goal he scored. Would have eliminated the penalty, but the refs didn’t raise a hand at all to call a penalty on a clear cross check.

    • RedMan

      there was Gaudreau’s head first check into the boards that could have resulted in a match penalty and suspension, but no call. The high stick to the face of Hamilton right in front of the ref, no call, the cross check to the ice after the face-off against (was it Backlund?) then like you say, the no-penalty-shot. these were the obvious ones. there are all the penalties called that were soft, but at least they were legit. the type that normally go without calls for both teams a hundred times during the game.

      Given all the noise that seemed to come from the officials union after the Wideman hit, it is not a stretch to suggest that it is more then coincidence that the Flames, after Wideman’s appeal, have seen a 400% increase in penalties called against them.

      • piscera.infada

        Com’on Jeff. In no way should the hit on Gaudreau be considered a match penalty or suspension. It should have been called because it was an irresponsible play. More importantly, someone on the ice should have been all over Manson because of it.

        As fans, we can go over games with a fine-toothed comb and point out all the calls and non-calls, but yesterday’s game was pretty fairly officiated. I asked the same question about officiating after the Arizona game, but I mean, what is the team honestly going to do? Penalties were not the reason the Flames lost the last two games. The penalty kill was.

  • MontanaMan

    What is it that makes people think Wotherspoon deserves a call up to play with the Flames? I keep seeing comments about bringing him up but nobody can say why. Is it possible that he has regressed in the past year? I’m all for giving kids opportunities and would love to see the Flames go with a major youth movement but the conversation is between the farm coaching staff, the Flames coaches and management as to who deserves the call up. Maybe someone familiar with the farm can comment intelligently on who (outside of Grant and Nak) deserve a look.

    • piscera.infada

      Agostino definitely deserves a look. He’s been great for the Heat all year.

      I don’t get the Wotherspoon love either. I imagine it probably goes back to him playing reasonably well when he’s had a shot with the big club in the past. That’s fair. It would be nice to see what he can bring these days.

      Poirier is slowly moving up the scoring charts on the team as well. Ditto for Shore.

      Klimchuk isn’t ready now, but I imagine he’s going to make a hard push next year with the Heat.

      I think there is some good things happening down there. It’s far too easy to take a cursory look at goals and assists and assume no one is being developed properly. I’ve watched a fair bit of the AHL this season (~30-40 games), and there’s been a lot to like with some of the players down there.

  • MattyFranchise

    Kulak probably, if for no better reason than to see if he’s any better now than he was at the start of the season. He’s been another top pairing guy down there most of the season.

    The Wotherspoon comments largely stem from his treatment last season where he played one game in the NHL all year despite being up with the big club for half the season.

  • beloch

    Re: Why we keep bringing Wotherspoon up

    Last season, the Flames had too many aging third pairing defenders with no upside. If a rookie with upside can do the same job as a veteran, you generally want to play the rookie and hope he’ll develop into something more. That’s how you develop talent. A team that never plays it’s prospects has to trade for veterans, and that’s not an easy way to build a winning team.

    Wotherspoon spent half of last season in the press box. He missed a lot of games in the AHL and didn’t play one minute in the NHL until the very last game of the regular season. Not only was his development probably derailed a bit, he was never fairly evaluated either. If he’d gotten lucky like Nakladal did today, it’s possible he might have developed into a better defender than Smid by now. Wotherspoon has since fallen down the depth chart thanks to the addition of a veteran Euro (Nakladal) and a surprise performance from Kulak in training camp plus the early season.

    We still bring Wotherspoon up because he’s an example of an opportunity missed by a rebuilding team because it clung to it’s aging veterans. A couple extra wins this season are not going to bring the Stanley cup any closer, but developing some young defenders might.

  • Primo

    I would give each of Ortio and Poulin 5+ games each. Let’s not waste our time on a beachball 34 year old UFA goalie who has has had d a horrible year! Time to start thinking of the draft and what needs to get done this summer to get this rebuild back on track….

  • flames2015

    ^ Agreed. I’d like to see what Poulin can for a few games. He has 50 NHL games experience and a 0.899 save %, a small sample size but will give us a good idea if he can be a good backup next year.

    • cberg

      I would like to see Poulin at some point also, however the team needs to manage the waiver issues well as all the goalies are eligible. Personally I would try and trade Hiller for anything, asap. Failing that I waive Hiller and bring up Poulin. Let Ortio and Poulin share the net and see who makes the most of their opportunity while Ramo is injured. Once he comes back you send down the loser, or Ramo if they both excel and you’ve decided to go young next year.

      Personally I still believe next year should be Ramo and one of Poulin/Ortio but I guess we’ll see how it turns out….

  • BlueMoonNigel

    If the Flames have a chance to do a do-over do they pick Ritchie over Bennett?

    The big kid sure has a set of wheels. Only a matter of time before he starts getting the points and the headlines.

    • RedMan

      trolls gonna try and troll…

      boy, you sure got us all here with this one. we are all so insecure and sensitive about Bennett and his inability to do a pull up, we may just fall apart when you throw this in our face. /sarcasm

      And the Oilers, they drafted Yak… with a FIRST OVER ALL hahaha man does hindsight ever suck sometimes.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        It seems you are a mite touchy about this subject as you called me a troll and referenced the Oilers–no idea why the Oilers as I was talking about Flames and Ducks– simply for asking an honest question. I expressed no opinion in my comment other than to state the fact that Ritchie could skate fast for a big man and he would likely start putting up the points with more experience and ice time.

        • beloch

          Ritchie’s big, but Bennett was the superior player in junior, is 7 months younger, and is currently producing in the NHL while Ritchie is struggling with the transition despite some time in the AHL. Ritchie will probably be a good player, but Bennett is going to be better.

  • VoRaCS

    I’m somewhat intrigued by how little attention fans are paying to Bouma. I know he’s had some injuries, but has he elevated his game at all this season? Has he played to the expectations of his contract? In fact, an interesting topic for discussion would be how many Flames have actually played up to the level of their contracts this season and what players are providing real value to the team. Can the team enjoy meaningful success moving forward if there are too many overpaid, underperforming players?