The Calgary Flames are a salary cap team. They’re bumping their heads on the cap ceiling. The Carolina Hurricanes are a cap floor team, just a smidge over the absolute bare-bottom for what you can pay an NHL squad. The Hurricanes came into Calgary without a win, and in the midst of a five game road trip. If you thought the deck was stacked for the Flames to have a confidence-building game, you were probably right.
Unfortunately, special teams were Calgary’s undoing as they lost by a 4-2 score at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday evening.
The Flames started off the opening frame rather well. After a few minutes of getting their feet under them, they had a nice stretch of about four minutes of fairly consistent pressure on the Hurricanes, to the point where I don’t think Carolina really touched the puck during that span. Unfortunately, a defensive lapse going the other way left Teuvo Teravainen all alone in front and he beat Brian Elliott to make it 1-0 Carolina.
Then Lee Stempniak took a double-minor and the Flames seemed to lose the plot. Between that four minutes of power play time and another two minutes after Matthew Tkachuk drew another penalty right afterwards, the Flames had a lot of PP time to work with. They generated four shots, total. The Flames took a couple penalties in succession (with Lance Bouma and Alex Chiasson headed to the box), and former Calgary Hitmen sniper Victor Rask beat Elliott (with Deryk Engelland screening the goaltender inadvertently) to make it 2-0. The Flames had one last PP to finish off the period, but also failed to gain the zone and generated just a single shot. Shots overall were 10-8 for the home side in the first.
The second period was not one for the books. The issues that have defined the Flames power play crept into their even strength time, to the point where it was tough for them to get into the Carolina zone and do very much for the balance of the period. Five minutes in, things got worse, as Victor Stalberg was sprung on a breakaway by Klaus Dahlbeck – catching both Dougie Hamilton and Jyrki Jokipakka flat-footed – and suddenly it was 3-0 after the puck crept past Elliott after an initial save. The Flames eventually responded back with a couple minutes left in the second, as Troy Brouwer collected an errant puck (after a failed zone entry), strode into the Carolina zone and powered a slap shot past Eddie Lack to make it 3-1. That was probably one of two nice scoring chances for the home side in the entire frame. Shots were 13-8 for Carolina.
Bad PP early. Good PK after that seemed to give them life. Hamilton entered zone, passed to Gaudreau, who sped up and tucked it past Lack to make it 3-2.
CARRY THE PUCK IN AND THINGS HAPPEN
CONTROLLED ENTRIES ARE A BLESSING
Ahem — Johnny Hockey’s first of the season is ?? pic.twitter.com/4UWC4umOFQ
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) October 21, 2016
The Flames pressured quite a bit after that goal and made attempts to tie it, but they couldn’t bury any of their chances. A late high-sticking penalty by Chiasson (and then a subsequent call on Brouwer) negated the last chunk of the game and effectively ended their chances to get a point. Jeff Skinner added a late power-play goal to ice this one at 4-1. Shots were 11-8 Carolina in the third.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
First and foremost, their power play remains horrendous. The team had eight minutes of power play time in the first period. They could barely generate clean zone entries, let alone scoring chances. As a result, they weren’t able to generate momentum or at least tire Carolina’s defensive players out. Carolina got a boost from deflecting the Flames’ attacks so easily, and from that point on they were in the driver’s seat.
The team has other issues, such as the top line being basically invisible through the first five games, but tonight the lack of power play production of any type was what absolutely sunk ’em.
THE TURNING POINT
Six minutes of power play time in the first: zero goals, four shots, and a ton of zone entries that resulted in absolutely no zone time of any consequence. Here’s direct from my tracking sheet:
Yikes. Zone entries at that frequency indicate that you aren’t spending any time in the offensive zone, aren’t generating any pressure, and should probably re-think your approach. The six minutes of PP came right after Carolina went up 1-0 and they had a golden chance to reply. They didn’t, and it basically sunk ’em.
Let’s go with Johnny Gaudreau, who had a nice goal and probably looked as dangerous at even strength of anybody on either team. He didn’t have a great game, and he struggled on the PP, but he was one of the Flames’ best tonight.
(Percentages are even-strength; game-score is overall.)
Lots of negative numbers in game scores tonight, gang.
THIS AND THAT
The last time Carolina won in Calgary was December 2002. Noah Hanifin was five years old.
“I just don’t think we’re shooting the pucks and winning battles enough. I think you can’t shoot the puck if you don’t win battles. Early on I thought they did a good job, they’re probably the best in the league at denying the zone. They do a really good job, they’re highly organized at the blue line. We started to dump it in later in the later power plays but when you do that, which lots of teams do, you need to win those wall battles. We did that maybe on the fourth or the fifth power play a little bit, but the other four we were losing puck battles and they were breaking out on us. And we weren’t supporting it. We were a little bit one and done, and I think that is the biggest breakdown.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on his team’s breakdowns on the power play.
“I don’t know what it is. I think we got to be more desperate, be hungry,
we gotta get dirty. We’re losing battles on the wall and we should be
getting those pucks. I think that’s hurting us, and we’ve got to do it
as a group. We’re trying to make plays that aren’t there and we’ve got
to make those simple plays and work hard.” – Flames center Sean Monahan on the power play struggles.
“We got to be there. We got to be in the crease, and when pucks are thrown on the net it’s those little one on one battles you’ve got to win. If you’re not going to win those, you definitely don’t have a very good chance of winning the game.” – Monahan on generating second chances on the power play.
“I think we did a good job on it. They’ve got of different guys that are good on the power play, a lot of big shots, some guys that are good in front of the net, some guys that work the half wall well. And I think we did a good job of pressuring down. The big thing for us is making those plays, when the puck’s being fought for or 50/50 it seems like we’re able to make those little pop plays using the extra guy and get it down the ice more often than not rather than just rim it up the wall into shinpads.” – Carolina forward Lee Stempniak on his team’s penalty killing on the evening.
The Flames (1-3-1) have a day off tomorrow, and then it’s back into the fray against a really tough opponent in the visiting St. Louis Blues on Saturday night. (And then it’s on the road to face Chicago on Monday and St. Louis again on Tuesday.)