It was obvious heading into this week that tonight’s homestand capper against the St. Louis Blues would be a tough match-up for the Calgary Flames. The Blues are good, deep and well-coached and the Flames have been struggling.
This one wasn’t ugly, but it was definitely hard to watch. Despite a fairly strong goaltending performance by Chad Johnson, all the warts of the 2016-17 Flames were on full display during a 6-4 loss to the Blues.
The opening period was poor for the locals, who allowed the Blues to dictate the pace. With Sam Bennett in the box early for holding, David Perron got a nice deflection in the slot and redirected it past Chad Johnson to make it 1-0. Nothing much else happened in the first. The Flames had a power play, but they generated three not-very-dangerous shots and the Blues never looked in danger. Shots were 13-8 for St. Louis.
The pace picked up and things opened up quite a bit in the second, but not entirely in ways that benefited Calgary. After a few chances end-to-end, the Flames too advantage of a defensive lapse by the Blues as Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg went in on a 2-on-1. One nice Brouwer pass (and Versteeg one-timer) later, the game was all tied up at 1-1. Things got better for the locals, as 35 seconds later they were the beneficiaries of a big gaffe by Jake Allen. Matt Stajan entered the zone and made a nice pass to Micheal Ferland just inside the blueline. Ferland hucked the puck at the goal and Allen couldn’t handle it, squeaking between his pads and giving the Flames a 2-1 lead.
But that would not last. 3:26 later, the Blues tied it up off a nice individual effort by Perron (taking advantage of a gap in defensive coverage). Perron drove the front of the net and Johnson made a great sprawling leg save. Unfortunately, the rebounding careened right to Perron and he roofed the puck over Johnson to make it 2-2. The Flames had a power play and a chance to restore their lead. They looked a lot better than on their first advantage, but just couldn’t get a great chance. The play went the other way and Mark Giordano took a double-minor on an odd-man rush: two minutes for holding and two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct (presumably for arguing the call).
On their man advantage the Blues spent 1:58 continuously in the Flames end passing the puck around (and chasing down loose pucks) and finally Paul Stastny deflected a puck from the slot past Johnson to make it 3-2. Giordano was victimized again before the period was done, getting turnstiled by Nail Yakupov at the defensive blueline. Yakupov then waited out Dennis Wideman (who was doing his best Ian White Starfish) and made a gorgeous pass to Patrick Berglund for a chip shot over Johnson to make the lead 4-2. Shots were 14-10 St. Louis in the second.
The final frame was more of the same. The Flames were okay at even strength, but the Blues were playing with a comfortable lead and were able to make the Flames pay for their miscues. A bad pass by Dougie Hamilton was intercepted by the Blues, leading to an odd-man rush and an easy top-shelf goal for Perron to cap off his hat trick. Giordano scored off a one-timer midway through the period to draw the Flames closer. Versteeg added his second of the game with a nice one-timer off a face-off win to make it 5-4. The Flames pressed late (by drawing a penalty and pulling their goalie), but Alex Steen added an empty-netter to polish things off. Shots were 13-9 for the Blues in the third.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
Lots of reasons.
At even strength, they were soundly out-played and out-chanced. They were fortunate to be ahead in even strength scoring (4-3), as they had to be very opportunistic and take advantage of some shakiness from Allen. Johnson was the main difference in “regular,” non-special teams play.
But the Flames were not good at all on special teams. The Blues had two power play goals. The Flames had none. The Blues seemed poised and dangerous with the man advantage. The Flames seemed skittish and unsure of what to do with the puck.
The result? A fairly resounding victory for the Blues.
THE TURNING POINT
Without a doubt, it’s the Giordano double minor in the second period. The Flames lost one of their best penalty killers (and their on-ice leader) and the Blues got 1:58 of continuous zone time. The resulting ability to pass and get comfortable in the Flames zone resulted in a second Blues PP goal and a lead that they never relinquished.
Chad Johnson was Calgary’s best player.
He gave them a chance to win. His goals against were (in order): a PP tip in the slot, a great individual effort by Perron after a great initial save, another PP tip in the slot, bad defensive reads by Giordano and Wideman, and a bad pass by Hamilton leading to an odd-man rush. He made 34 other saves.
The fourth line (Ferland, Stajan and Freddie Hamilton) was also consistently good, as was the Versteeg/Bennett/Brouwer line in flashes here and there.
(Percentages are even strength. Game score is overall.)
THIS AND THAT
T.J. Brodie was on the ice for 5 Blues goals. Johnny Gaudreau was on for 4.
The Flames have allowed power play goals against in 5 of 6 games and scored power play goals in just a single game this season.
The Adirondack Thunder lost in overtime (but got a point). They have points from each of their first three outings (2-0-1).
Eetu Tuulola returned from his shoulder injury. He didn’t factor into the score sheet but Everett beat Victoria 3-1.
“I don’t know what else to say. I think that game’s, that’s on me.
It’s a lot to do with me as a leader, taking a terrible penalty there. I
thought the fourth goal was directly a bad play by me again. So those
type of things, you can’t have happen, especially as a guy who plays a
lot of minutes and I really let our team now. Pretty disappointed in
myself tonight.” – Flames captain Mark Giordano on his performance in the game.
“I thought he played well. He gave us a chance. He made some saves. And we hung him out to dry. Pretty simple.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on Chad Johnson’s performance.
The Flames (1-4-1) practice tomorrow, then jet off to the Windy City. They play Chicago on Monday night and St. Louis again on Tuesday night.