Post-Game: Flames lead flies away

After an uneven opening evening to their 2016-17 season, the Calgary Flames were given a helpful do-over by the hockey universe – and the National Hockey League’s schedule-makers. 47 hours after their 7-4 loss in Edmonton, the Flames played host to their old rivals at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The result? Unfortunately, a very similar one. The locals dropped a disappointing 5-3 decision to the Oilers. They were really good for the first 20 minutes but, unfortunately, the game kept going for another 40 and the Oilers were significantly better for the duration.

THE RUNDOWN

For those worried after Wednesday’s game, the Flames were a lot better from the get-go tonight. They were skating well, made smart decisions early, and scored early. Deryk Engelland jumped into the rush and had the initial shot on Cam Talbot, but Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan swarmed the rebound and Monahan beat Talbot to make it 1-0. The lead lasted awhile, but after a point shot by Mark Giordano was blocked just inside the Oilers blueline the puck trickled to Connor McDavid. A few seconds later, the puck was in the back of the net after some crazy acceleration by McDavid and a nice move on Brian Elliott.

However, the Flames regained the lead before the period’s end: after being hemmed in their own end for awhile, the Flames escaped and Gaudreau dumped the puck in and headed to the bench. The fresh forwards hauled ass into Edmonton’s zone, Michael Frolik retrieved the puck and managed to beat Talbot from the left faceoff circle with a bunch of bodies in front of the net to make it 2-1.

Shots were 24-12 for the home side in the opening period. Every single Flames skater aside from Giordano and Brodie had a shot on goal.

The Flames weren’t nearly as good in the second, and the Oilers must’ve made some adjustments in the intermission because they came out looking motivated. With Giordano in the box for a tripping penalty, the Flames PK looked oddly scrambly and unable to clear the zone. That resulted in a wild scramble off an initial save by Elliott, and a Jordan Eberle goal off the rebound confusion to tie the game.

The locals did have a really nice 4-on-3 penalty kill with Dougie Hamilton and Deryk Engelland in the box, but they couldn’t turn it into any momentum of their own. The best Flames chance of the period?

The shots were 10-3 Edmonton in the second.

If the Flames were a boat, you could say they sprung a leak in the second but kept themselves afloat. They started taking on water early in the third. With Monahan in the box for hooking, a really nice passing play by the Oilers (McDavid to Lucic to Draisaitl, the latter two uncovered at the Flames net-front) led to a tap-in goal and a 3-2 lead. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins went off for tripping T.J. Brodie short thereafter, but Mark Letestu beat out both Brodie and Dennis Wideman for a loose puck and beat Elliott on a short-handed breakaway to make it 4-2 for the visitors.

After coincidental minors on Giordano and McDavid (for tripping and diving, respectively), the Flames got a brief 4-on-3 powerplay where they couldn’t generate a controlled zone entry. Their 5-on-4 PP amounted to very little also, but shortly afterwards Kris Versteeg (bumped to the fourth line) found Jyrki Jokipakka sneaking in from the point for a nice wrister that beat Talbot to make it 4-3 and made the final moments of the game a bit more dramatic. The Flames pressed, but Draisaitl added an empty net goal to ice it at 5-3.

Shots in the third were 8-7 for the Flames.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

They were the better team in the first period, by far, but couldn’t bury their chances. Then the Oilers made adjustments and the Flames didn’t and that was that.

If you want to dissect it further? Their special teams were the difference. After out-scoring Edmonton 3-1 between power play and shorthanded goals on Wednesday, they gave up two powerplay goals and a shortie of their own tonight. They out-scored Edmonton at even-strength (and out-shot ’em 30-20), but just couldn’t do enough with their special teams.

THE TURNING POINT

It’s gotta be Draisaitl’s powerplay goal early in the third. The Flames had been fighting the puck in the second but managed not to give away their lead. But the Oilers pressed early, caused the Flames to take a defensive zone penalty, and then scored on the ensuing advantage. The Flames trailed from then on, basically the entire third period. (That PP goal was essentially everything bad you can imagine about the Flames’ PK: everyone clustering at a particular point of the ice to create pressure, leaving a couple guys wide open for passes.)

RED WARRIOR

Let’s go with Dougie Hamilton, who looked like a man renewed with a new defensive partner in Jyrki Jokipakka. He played pretty well, had four shots and wasn’t on the ice for any of Edmonton’s five goals.

Other than him? Tkachuk and Bennett had some nice flashes, but they didn’t amount to much tonight. And don’t hate me, but I thought Engelland was pretty good tonight. His jumping into the rush early and making the initial shot created the opening goal.

THE NUMBERS

(All numbers are all situations.)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Hamilton 78.6 76.2 1.400
Gaudreau 69.2 68.4 1.650
Jokipakka 68.4 61.5 1.900
Tkachuk 64.3 57.1 0.475
Bennett 63.9 55.6 0.350
Versteeg 63.6 61.5 1.375
Monahan 60.7 66.7 1.025
Frolik 59.1 55.6 0.875
Brouwer 57.6 70.6 0.450
Chiasson 56.5 50.0 0.300
Ferland 52.4 75.0 0.275
Wideman 50.0 45.5 -0.075
Backlund 50.0 40.0 0.600
Engelland 48.3 37.5 0.775
Stajan 46.2 57.1 -0.025
Bouma 42.1 40.0 -0.225
Giordano 41.7 60.0 -0.275
Brodie 41.0 47.6 -0.525
Elliott -0.600

THIS AND THAT

This happened late in the second.

There were a ton of scouts at the ‘Dome tonight, something I can’t help but think will be a trend all season long based on the upcoming expansion draft. Not only were there many pro scouts, but there were many key hockey operations figures: Anaheim’s assistant to the GM, the director of pro scouting for Chicago and Ottawa, and the head pro scouts from Florida and Winnipeg. Every team likely wants to have a handle on what players are going to be available in the expansion draft (in an effort to upgrade their squads prior to the draft).

QUOTEABLE

“We got out of our rhythm, tried to do things by ourselves a little bit. The third period I thought we came back okay, but special teams was the difference.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan assessing the game.

“It’s disappointing when…the first period was pretty good, for whatever reason in the second we started chasing it a bit and again, weren’t making clean plays and giving them speed through the neutral zone. We’ve got to be a lot better in a lot of areas. Special teams was number one tonight.” – Flames captain Mark Giordano.

ELSEWHERE

Mason McDonald made his pro debut, starting between the pipes as the Adirondack Thunder began their season! The Thunder won in a shootout. Tyler Parsons posted an 18-save shutout in London’s 4-0 win over Sarnia. Matthew Phillips had a hat trick (and an assist) in Victoria’s 6-1 win against Edmonton. Nick Schneider picked up the win as Medicine Hat trounced the Hitmen 7-2.

UP NEXT

The Flames (0-2-0) are immediately back on the road, heading to the west coast to play the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow night in the late game on Hockey Night in Canada. Despite the wacky weather out west, it seems like the Flames should be able to get there for the game.

To everyone on the coast: stay safe and dry, and please don’t blow away.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    If McDavie is really and truly the next Great One, then the Flames are forked, just as they were in the 1980s. Do the Flames stay the candy-assed bitches they are or do they try and elevate their game? You know what choice they made in the 80s when they stared at that same fork and they rebuilt themselves without ever getting a first overall draft pick. Brad Treliving, have you made your decision? The clock is ticking down.

  • Greg

    Did this get cross-posted on ON? Or did that many Oiler fans just not have anything better to do?

    I like banter and al, but was hoping to actually discuss the game.

    • Randaman

      Ya, like Arminius, scorpion, Walter White, Derzi and many others never troll Oilersnation?

      Pot meet kettle so to speak.

      The only observation I have after two games is that maybe it wasn’t Hartley’s fault. At least the team had more heart?

      Oh and Elliot was a huge miss!

    • MontanaMan

      If the goal is to tank to get the #1 pick, Calgary isn’t the city and Tre isn’t the GM to make that happen. Might work for Edmonton but not in the Calgary DNA.

    • Kevin R

      Better get down to Whyte Avenue with your Oiler Banner buddy. You guys have been wandering in the sand so long you wouldn’t know the difference between a clock & a sand timer. This isn’t the 80’s anymore. Your window is the next 2 years & then McDavie (yes I love this kid & he is a generational player) will be making $12.5 mill per year. It’s still a team game, ask Crosby & Ovechkin & some of the other superstars in the league.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      FN MODERATOR: Don’t agree at all with your deletion, but I accept and respect your call.

      Here’s the kiddie version.

      If McDavie is indeed the next Great One, then the Flames are at a fork in the road just as they were in the 1980s when the first Great One was destroying them and the rest of the league. The Flames can either stay as McDavid’s punching bag or they can make a serious attempt at getting better. You know what the Flames did in the ’80s and they became arguably the 2nd best team in the NHL for the second half of that decade without ever getting the benefit of a first overall pick, so which path will the Flames take now?

  • Greg

    As for the game, I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but Brodie looked awful. Not surprised to see his corsi ended up that low. I kinda wonder if he’s playing hurt/sick already because he sure didn’t look like his usual elfish-footed self skating around out there.

    On the positive side, Tkachuk looks like a keeper. I was in the camp of worriers that he might have just been a product of his linemates, but he definitely looks like he belongs in the top 6 already. I’m betting he lasts longer than 9 games now.

  • madjam

    Flames have a problem with too many offensive defenseman , much like Oilers had with too many similar soft forwards in the past . Trade one of those offensive defenseman for a decent stay at home defenceman like a Larsson type . Two offensive defenceman is more than enough . Flames yet to put forth a 60 minute game and one wonders if part of that is due to coaching change . One period of each Oiler game was not enough to garner any points or wins .

    • Kevin R

      I can almost agree with you but, in all fairness, what GM can really construct their backend for the longterm past his top 3 D without fear of losing what they built in that stupid expansion draft. Typical Bettmen using greed to weaken the makeup of the rest of his teams.

    • cberg

      Let’s see, Wotherspoon anyone? Wideman and Grossman not helping the Flames out in pretty much any way.

      Also, what happened after the first period? I’d have to see it again and focus on specifics, but watching the game they seemed to stop throwing everything at the net which they were doing in the first. May be just a Systems thing that they are still working on?

      Also, the Flames have been built as a fast break team primarily scoring off the rush, or at least that’s my impression. Changing to a different system requiring more cycling and consistent O zone play may require different players?

      Looking forward to tonight’s game, to see the Flames against a different team. Also waiting to see a consistent full 60-minute game…

  • JabbyD

    Had a good first period, played with more heart and showed urgency in the third period so that was good.

    This may be the best thing for them – it shows they need work, they need to gel quicker and learn the new system and they have holes that they need to fix. Getting your ass handed to you in the first game is a wakeup call and then losing the next game due to a bad second period is a reminder to play 60 minutes. No better motivation than to realize you have to work harder to be competitive.

    Hope teams are more physical with McDavid – I know he can handle it but I want him to earn it a bit more – feel like they are not agitating him enough.

    Was it me, or was it hard watching the Oilers unveil their new shiny arena then see the old Dome and tiny scoreboard and feel very envious … another motivation for the Calgary collective to get a modern stadium.

  • madjam

    The defensive group gives up far to many ten bell chances to the opposition (for last 3 years) , and thus the defensive imbalance in the Flames defence is lopsided . Get a defensive gem that can eat multi minutes and sacrifice one of your top 3 offensive defenceman to obtain one . It’s all about a better balance . A heavy forecheck now on Flames defence causes multiple problems and odd man rushes from opposition , and no goalie can have success with the type of chances they are giving the opposition . Flames do not have a rock type minute munching defensive defenseman of note , nor in their system .

    Regher was probably your last type of good defensive defenseman .

  • Admiral Ackbar

    I’d like to apologize to Flames Nation for my fellow Oilers Nation trolling.

    My thoughts (as an Oiler fan):

    The Flames will bounce back so long as they don’t get sucked into track meets.

    They also seem to be stuck between identities. The early 2000s Flames were a small market team that had to scrape and claw against bigger budget competition. Now that they’re closer to the cap like all other teams and speed has come to dominate the game again, they have talented players but still try to make the ice smaller with suffocating plays (and players). McDavid exposes this but the slower Oilers don’t, hence Flame domination for large stretches of the game.

    I think this Flames team makes the playoffs (especially with all the problems in the Pacific division) but they aren’t built to skate with the faster, high-flying teams.

    Good luck, Flames. If we’re sticking to the recent past, I still hate the Canucks more (they have the most irritating fans in the league).