Post-Game: flat Flames flattened at Rogers Place

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(Perry Nelson / USA Today Sports)

The Calgary Flames went into Edmonton this evening hoping to spoil the Oilers’ big party on the first regular season National Hockey League contest at the shiny new Rogers Place. However, the visitors did more harm than good to their own hopes and via some wonky defense, shaky goaltending and general sloppiness dropped a disappointing 7-4 decision to their most hated rivals.

Here’s how it happened.

THE RUNDOWN

The Flames just weren’t very good in the first. At all. They had bad reads. Bad passes. Bad defensive zone play. And a lot of unforced turnovers. The Oilers opened the scoring 70 seconds in, as Nicklas Grossmann’s ugly outlet pass was intercepted by Leon Draisaitl and his shot was tipped by Patrick Maroon (on the very first shot against new Flames goalie Brian Elliott). The Flames answered back 36 seconds later, as Alex Chiasson beat Cam Talbot via the five-hole on a nice group effort by the fourth line.

However, Grossmann soon struck again. After a nice penalty kill (with Matthew Tkachuk in the box), Grossmann grabbed the puck and streaked up the ice like T.J. Brodie. Unfortunately, unlike Brodie he got caught in the offensive zone and Tyler Pitlick came back and beat Elliott on a 2-on-1 (on the second shot on Elliott of the game). The Flames just couldn’t get anything going for the rest of the period in terms of pressure or scoring chances, and Zach Kassian was sprung on a breakaway by Oscar Klefbom on an awful Flames line change and he beat Elliott to make it 3-1. Shots were 10-9 Edmonton in the first, but most of the Flames shots weren’t all that dangerous.

The Flames got out of the gates well in the second, as an early power play gave them some momentum. They didn’t score, but there was a ton of puck movement and some nice long looks. Heck, they kept the puck in the Oilers zone for the first 75 seconds of the advantage. That momentum carried over to their penalty kill, as well. After clearing multiple Oilers attempts at gaining the zone, Troy Brouwer stole the puck and went in alone, beating Cam Talbot top-shelf to make it 3-2. The Flames then tied it up, again short-handed, as Mikael Backlund went in and had his initial shot stopped by Talbot…only to have Michael Frolik tap in the loose rebound. That made it 3-3, and life was good. For a little bit.

But after an errant pass went for an icing, an errant Andrej Sekera point shot bounced right to Connor McDavid for the easy far post tap-in to make it 4-3. The Flames unraveled a bit after that in their own end, and McDavid got hooked after beating out Wideman for a puck. That gave him a penalty shot, and he beat Elliott to make it 5-3 to end the second. Shots were 20-9 for Calgary in the second.

The third period was tight, as you could tell Edmonton just wanted to cling to their lead. The Flames gave the Oilers one power play too many, though, and an errant Deryk Engelland clearing attempt went right to Jesse Puljujarvi and he beat Elliott to make it 6-3. A nice one-timer power play goal by Dennis Wideman make it 6-4, but Jordan Eberle scored on the empty net to finish the Flames off. Shots were 12-9 for the Flames and they had the most dangerous chances, but Edmonton was sharp enough to limit the danger.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

First and foremost, their defensive zone play was not crisp and their pairings seemed to lack chemistry. The first goal was due to a Grossmann error. The second goal was due to Grossmann getting caught up ice. The third goal was due to everyone going for a line change at once. The fourth goal was due to a bounce (and Sean Monahan missing his check). The fifth goal was due to Wideman getting beat. The sixth goal was due to an Engelland error. That’s a lot of lapses that piled up in a big, big way.

Second, Elliott wasn’t all that sharp. He seemed to not know where rebounds were going for the first half of the game, and often looked around with curiosity after blocking pucks with his upper body. He probably wanted a couple goals back tonight.

The top line was a non-factor. Granted, some of that was Edmonton getting at the puck carrier right at the blueline, but Gaudreau in particular seemed off his game all night.

If you want a silver lining? The Flames out-shot the Oilers by a hefty margin tonight, and their penalty killing was generally pretty damn sharp. Calgary’s special teams generated three goals (2 short-handed and 1 on the power play) to Edmonton’s single power play goal. Most of the time, that’s enough to win.

THE TURNING POINT

The McDavid goal that bounced to him off the end-boards completely tilted the game to Edmonton. It was followed soon after by his penalty shot goal and the Flames weren’t really in it after that point.

RED WARRIOR

Honestly? I thought Matt Stajan was probably Calgary’s most consistent player. He was good with the puck, drove play north despite some wonky offensive zone start figures, and kept himself out of the box.

Sam Bennett also drove play fairly well and had a ton of nice carry-ins as the game progressed. He seemed to be playing with a lot of confidence, and he made a great individual play to beat an Oilers defender to the puck and protect it, leading to the power-play goal by Wideman. He gets an honourable mention, as does T.J. Brodie for his strong possession stats (despite playing with Engelland most of the evening).

THE NUMBERS

(Percentage stats are all even-strength, game-score is overall.)

Player Corsi
For%
OZone
Start%
Game
Score
Brodie 71.4 71.4 2.075
Stajan 69.2 0.0 1.335
Chiasson 66.7 0.0 1.250
Tkachuk 65.5 80.0 0.750
Bennett 65.4 75.0 0.795
Engelland 61.9 66.7 0.450
Bouma 61.5 33.3 0.900
Hamilton 58.6 20.0 0.250
Brouwer 57.1 66.7 1.150
Ferland 53.9 40.0 -0.025
Versteeg 52.0 33.3 -0.175
Wideman 51.7 41.7 1.375
Frolik 50.0 50.0 -0.025
Monahan 48.0 40.0 0.035
Grossmann 47.1 20.0 -0.300
Giordano 45.2 36.3 0.625
Gaudreau 41.7 36.3 0.000
Backlund 40.0 60.0 1.265
Elliott -2.400

THIS AND THAT

Sportsnet commentator Craig Simpson kept referring to the Oilers goaltender as “Tall-butt.”

Grossmann and Bouma were the only Flames that didn’t register shots on goal.

UP NEXT

The Flames (0-1-0) head back home, where they’ll host the Oilers in their own home opener on Friday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

  • Baalzamon

    How the hell did Hamilton get so little ice time? Giordano, Brodie, Wideman (???) all over 20 minutes, Hamilton comes in under 18 and BELOW ENGELLAND. Gulutzan seems to have his head on straight with regard to forwards, but he clearly has no idea what a good defenseman is. Grossmann? Seriously?

  • freethe flames

    To be honest I turned it off after 1 period. 4:30 comes way to early to watch that crap. I have said all off season that if the Flames have to play both Eng’s and Wides on the same night they are in trouble but adding Grossman to the squad even made it worse. This experiment needs to end now. If not GG may not make it to 10 games.

    • cjc

      Calgary did win it, but nobody who uses corsi to support their arguments would suggest it’s the only thing that matters. Especially in small sample sizes (i.e. one game). Corsi is the one thing that reliably correlates with scoring goals and winning though – that and good goaltending. We needed some big saves from Elliot last night and didn’t get them. That’s not to say he wasn’t regularly hung out to dry.

      The fact remains that teams with a better corsi differential over a full season consistently finish ahead of teams that don’t.

      In this day and age though, math and logic seem to be optional in any discussion.

      • RedMan

        I disagree… CORSI is regularly used almost exclusively around here to measure things, such as Brouwer, who was labeled a “fringe 3rd-liner” regardless of averaging 20 goals a year for last 6 years because of CORSI.
        Math and logic are welcome at my place anytime, and it is kinda silly to insinuate that someone that doesn’t give CORSI the same tunnel vision infatuation that some do is ignoring math and logic.
        The traditional +/- stat is math and logic as well… and yet we know that in isolation it has very little value. Same truth for CORSI – Without supporting facts and analysis CORSI can be misleading.
        CORSI is the new +/- it tells a story when shared in context… without the context it can misleading and therefore no more useful then +/-

      • Gary Empey

        Two years ago the team with the worst Corsi in the league (The Flames made the playoffs) The team with the best (Corsi in the league (The Kings) missed the playoffs. Circling around in your own end and the neutral zone, taking shots from the perimeter, with give you a great Corsi.

  • cjc

    Additional silver lining: Wideman of all players scores a goal. I’ve always doubted he has any trade value (even with salary retained), but if he can put up a few points on the pp other teams might overlook the deficiencies in his game.

    That was one disheartening performance. It just goes to show that small moves on the back end of the roster can make a big difference.

    • KACaribou

      Wideman has always put up points. Check out his career stats.

      That is why the Flames paid so much for him to begin with. He’s just getting older and slower now, and as displayed last night the NHL is getting younger and faster.

      His trade value is poor only because he makes over $5 million per season.

        • ChinookArchYYC

          The Oilers were far from the best team on the ice, despite having the best,and yes the fastest player. It was a sloppy game that with poor goaltending (although Talbot got better as the game went on).

          Let’s all hope for a better show in the rematch.

          Also Lucic was a non-factor, so while Wideman, Grossman and Engelland are gone soon Lucic will be a slow, overpaid Oiler for years to come.

      • cjc

        “Wideman has always put up points. Check out his career stats.”

        I never said Wideman didn’t reliably put up points – though after his performance last year, that reliability should be called into question.

        His trade value is also poor because he’s getting older and slower.

        So you agree with me that it would be difficult to trade him?

  • Howedy

    Having Grossman and Engelland playing every night will more than erase anything good Treliving has done the past few offseasons. It’s embarrassing and frustrating so see an organization and GM who seem to get it 90% of the time completely screw the fanbase by continuing to be delusional enough to think they belong anywhere but the AHL or press box. While they are still inserted in the lineup I’m going to preserve my sanity by not watching.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    Gio should never have been signed to this contract. Should have been traded when he was at his peak value. He has never been a fast skater and what is HE going to look like in 2 years when the team will be in a position to hopefully make some noise?

    • cjc

      Way too early to judge whether he will be value for money. Last night aside, he is still an elite D-man – 6 weeks ago people were clamoring for him to get a spot on Team Canada.

      In two years he can play comfortably easier minutes on the second pairing, helping to bring along another young D. That’s assuming there is a significant drop off in his game, which isn’t a given. While his scoring might drop off, it appears that possession ages better.

      He’s also the definition of a late bloomer, his best three seasons being the past three.

  • OILFANMEXICO

    Honestly, both teams didn’t play up to their potential and the rust was showing. I have alot of Friends who are Flames fans and they are pissed management has made a coaching change. We shall see how the team plays for him i guess.

  • Brownblazer

    How in the world is Grossman out there? Before Jokipaka? What in the world? He was brutal. So was Engllend, so was Wideman. So we didn’t have 1 good pairing out there all night!?! Boat anchors on every pairing.

    I am actually hopeful after this game. I felt the flames held the play (including the first line, unlike Pike I thought they did well, and Johnny was very dangerous).

    A few things compounded the score. 1. Boat Anchors were the source of almost every goal. (1st 2 Grossman)
    2. Elliot didn’t bail out any boat anchors (two shakey b/t blocker and arm goals) 3. The reffing was slighting tilted at timely times that gave the oilers the lead.

    Edmonton did not look as dangerous as this score line would indicate.

    Coach better figure out the d pairings.

  • Scary Gary

    Here’s hoping GG has learned a lesson with his ridiculous D pairings.

    There’s also no way Kulak would have been worse than Grossman, if a 22 year old makes mistakes it’s one thing but what is the 31 year old learning at this point?

    Elliot needs to be better and I think he will be but I was surprised that he wasn’t pulled after that third goal.

  • I was at the pre-season game versus the Jets where Chad Johnson allowed 3 goals. That one was chalked up as possible jitters for Johnson in his first starting game ever as a Flame in his hometown. Then we have this performance by Brian Elliott and Nicklas Grossmane last night up in Edmonton.

    I keep hearing from commentators that we have better goaltending than last year. On paper, before the pre-season started, yes it looks like we did. Now we need it in the regular season. If it’s just a matter of giving fewer minutes to Nicklas Grossman, fine by me.

  • Backburner

    Grossman is obviously Gulutzen’s guy, every coach has that one guy they want to bring in from the outside.

    The experiment is clearly over. If he doesn’t scratch Grossman after last night, and put Jokipakka and Kulak in, then it’s going to be a long season.

    Pairings should be:

    Giordano – Brodie

    Jokipakka – Hamilton

    Kulak – Wideman

    Engelland

    Also.. in defense of Brian Elliot, the games I saw in the pre-season he was absolutely solid. I’m guessing it was just first game jitters, although Grossman didn’t help.

    Well, here’s hoping things will be better on Friday.. in Gaudreau’s territory.

    • cjc

      Yes. I think we should at least wait until November to throw in the towel.

      Sadly I think this is the year Edmonton is finally rewarded for a decade of ineptitude and having horseshoes surgically removed from their rear end.

      • Scary Gary

        Those are conflicting statements regarding sample size.

        I wouldn’t glean too much from last night, the oilers were pumped up to be playing in their new building. Injuries hit everyone at some point and they will be no different.

  • Arod

    Kills me that Dennis Wideman needs a 25 ft head start in a race with McDavid from the blueline back to our own net in order to make it fair.
    We used to have a D-corp that controlled games, but they’re looking like liabilities now due to their footspeed issues.

  • Arod

    And where the heck was Monahan last night?? Gaudreau was at least trying to make something happen, but SM was literally nowhere to be seen. I expect our top guys will be better in Calgary than they were last night.
    That or we’re in for a tough start to the season.

  • Arod

    Last post here… Elliott looked like my grandma in net last night. He actually seemed to be physically off with his blocker. If this continues, its gonna get ugly. These days teams know the opposing goaltenders tendencies. Elliott showed some big holes last night on some otherwise easy shots. A team like the Blues will absolutely embarrass the Flames if that’s still going on… I’m sure the Blues know EVERY hole on Elliott already.

    • piscera.infada

      Elliott: it’s one game. Cool your jets. I’ll take 213 games (~12,780 minutes) worth of good to great results, over 60 minutes of poor results. Frankly, every single goalie in the league has stinkers. I hate to break it to you, there will be another this season, as well.

        • piscera.infada

          Interesting. If we look at last years statistics, the St. Louis Blues gave up more shots against (1.1 more per game), and similar scoring chances against (0.3 less per game)–including high-danger scoring chances (0.2 per game).

          You may be right, but to use one (admittedly poor) game against a seasons worth of statistics is a poor argument.

          As someone stated above: if he does prove to have been a poor bet, you aren’t tied to him at all past this season.