Post-Game: Flames play well, lose anyway


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(David Banks / USA Today Sports)

The Calgary Flames played their best hockey of the season over the last few games, beginning with a close victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Returning to the scene of them finding their game eight days ago, the Flames played a couple fabulous periods of hockey tonight.

Unfortunately, their effort was spoiled by inopportune (and borderline) penalty calls and an unraveling of their game in the third period. They lost 5-1 to Chicago, but the score in no way reflects the Flames’ effort.

THE RUNDOWN

The Flames might’ve had their best first period of the season tonight. They were all over a rather flat Chicago club. They generated a bunch of chances. They generated many turnovers. The power play looked decent in two opportunities but couldn’t score. Unfortunately, late in the period, after a borderline-dominant shift from the Matthew Tkachuk-Mikael Backlund-Michael Frolik line, Patrick Kane beat Brian Elliott with a shot from the high slot to make it 1-0. It was a shot just inside the far post that Elliott likely wants back. Thus, the Flames went into the break down a goal despite out-shooting Chicago 13-6.

The visitors continued their string of nice play in the second period. They continued to press and make some nice plays. Their penalty kill generated the tying goal from a familiar source: after a point shot shattered a defender’s stick, Backlund and Frolik went in on a 2-on-1. Backlund made a picturesque pass and Frolik tapped it past Corey Crawford for the short-handed goal to tie it at 1-1. The Flames had a few more chances as the period progressed, but couldn’t bury any of them. Shots were 13-9.

The game got away from the Flames in the third, and not for a lack of trying. A questionable penalty call on Sam Bennett gave the Blackhawks their fourth power play, and they finally solved Elliott with a nice redirection in the slot from Artem Anisimov to make it 2-1. From there, the Flames pressured but couldn’t do much of anything with their zone time. The Blackhawks extended their lead awhile later, as Deryk Engelland got caught pinching and left Tyler Motte one-on-one with T.J. Brodie. Motte beat Brodie on the outside and tucked the puck past Elliott with a really nice individual effort – made possible by Engelland getting caught – to make it 3-1.

An empty net goal by Artemi Panarin made it 4-1, and Niklas Hjalmarsson made it 5-1 on a defensive zone turnover off a bad clear attempt by Dennis Wideman (and was allowed to take a slapper on Elliott uncontested by any Flames player). Shots were 8-7 Calgary.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

Two big reasons: they couldn’t bury any of the chances they generated in the first two periods, and they couldn’t reel things in during the third period when things didn’t go either way. A penalty call went against them, they gave up a power play goal, and then they kept making small mistakes that resulted in three subsequent goals against.

And to spoil things for you? The Flames gave tons of offensive zone starts to their top six: they didn’t do much with it. They buried their bottom six, with each line getting zero offensive zone starts. None. They generated chances and moved the puck up the ice. Once again, the bottom six carried the mail.

Yikes.

THE TURNING POINT

It’s super-obvious, but Bennett’s penalty call was really borderline…and it resulted in yet another power play goal allowed off a deflection in the slot. The pressure on the Flames penalty kill is nice to see after the passivity of Jacques Cloutier’s kill, but that pressure really opens up a lane for tip-ins from the slot that teams have repeatedly taken advantage of.

RED WARRIOR

Backlund was a beast, as is usual. Let’s give it to him. Honourable mention to Frolik, who had the flu and also played well and scored a goal.

THE NUMBERS

(Percentages are even strength. Game score is overall.)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Ferland 72.0 0.0 0.500
Stajan 71.4 0.0 0.355
Hamilton 69.4 0.0 0.775
Bouma 68.2 0.0 0.550
Jokipakka 68.0 20.0 0.500
Frolik 65.0 0.0 1.565
Tkachuk 63.2 0.0 0.550
Backlund 60.0 0.0 1.145
Brodie 59.5 72.7 0.350
Brouwer 56.5 60.0 0.175
Versteeg 55.6 66.7 0.470
Monahan 55.0 100 -0.085
Wideman 50.0 55.6 0.550
Engelland 50.0 50.0 -0.325
Gaudreau 45.5 100 0.000
Giordano 44.8 62.5 -0.100
Chiasson 44.4 100 -0.135
Bennett 42.9 66.7 -0.170
Elliott -1.300

THIS AND THAT

Matthew Tkachuk collided awkwardly with a Hawks player late in the third and missed a couple shifts as he went to the Flames room to be evaluated. Given the score, he didn’t return, but it’s not clear if it’s anything significant.

The crowd, crew and basically everybody involved in the game in Chicago were distracted, as Game 6 of the World Series was occurring concurrent with this game. The Cubs won, forcing a seventh game tomorrow at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

(Go Cubs!)

QUOTEABLE

“The most frustrating thing for me is we made the exact same mistake on the penalty kill that we did the night before, which we addressed this morning. That’s the most frustrating.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on the go-ahead goal by Chicago on the power play that swung the game.

UP NEXT

The Flames hop on a jet plane and head off to San Jose, where they’ll continue their road trip on Thursday evening when they face the Sharks.

  • Canadian Hockey Fan

    Elliott is garbage. He’s had a few good games, but that’s it. His save percentage is still below 900. He’s a completely different net minder without the defense he had in St. Louis. I’d start Johnson next game. Not sure why Gulutzan still has Chiasson on the first line. The guy is nothing more than a fourth liner. He’s been an anchor on the first line. They better start making changes or their season will be lost real fast.

  • smatic10

    We played great for 2.5 periods. Crawford was a wall. But a lot of our shots were shot directly at him so we perhaps made him look unbeatable. This score is not indicative of how we played. Turning point was definitely the Bennett penalty (which I agree was borderline) but still, it wasn’t an advisable move by him to go for a bit hit at that moment in the game. And we just unraveled after that and didn’t stick to the game plan.

    This team does not seem to have the killer instinct to score goals which is so crucial in games like this when the chances are there. People can say that Johnny and Monny didn’t show up, but they’re trying out there. You can see it. They’re not getting any bounces and Chiasson isn’t the ideal winger. He’s doing the dirty work well but he doesn’t seem to want to get shots on net.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that if our powerplay was DECENT (forget good, just decent for now), our record would be above 0.500. It’s crazy how so many of our losses are because of our inability to score on the man advantage. Playoffs may seem like a reach already, but with 70+ games left, if the PP can turn it around, we can pile up W’s.

    Last thing, I pointed it out during pre-season as well but Brodie seriously has not looked like himself AT ALL. He’s losing a lot of puck battles. This is sometimes even when Engelland isn’t near the puck. Something’s up with him.

    • Dan the flames fan

      I want to also note that I think that it was not the borderline penalty that was the “counterweight”. It was the numerous non-calls on Gaudreau’s. HE is effective when he gains space. BUT when he is slashed and/or tripped numerous times per game without any regard from the refs; I don’t care how good you are, you’ll be compromised.

    • McRib

      No one had more ice time at their respective positions than Giordano and Gaudreau who both lost the Corsi battles. This team is currently being sunk by its best players not its worst, which I think is a positive sign because it can’t stay this way for ever. Credit to players like Matt Stajan who have played their a**es off this year for the club when top flight players like Brodie (playing with Engelland doesn’t help), Giordano, Monahan and Gaudreau have done relatively nothing, at least regularly. I was never a fan of Bob Hartley, but one thing was for certain “star players” always showed up for him (even if he was way too hard on rookies and other valuable fringe players). It kind of seems like the opposite under GG, where all the energy players love him and the stars are still coming around.

      One thing is for certain we are not going anywhere with our PP the way it is, in today’s game where offense is always at a premium the man advantage is everything.

  • McRib

    “Michael Ferland 72% Corsi For”, please get Ferland to the first line immediately. I missed the first two periods today, so I only saw the bad parts it seems.

    • Captain Ron

      The best part of the game was the first 50 minutes or so. The Flames had no problem hanging with the Hawks and dominated play at times. Crawford was also really good tonight. As usual our PP was ineffective when they really needed a goal from it. The game fell apart after the Bennett penalty (which was really a questionable call in my opinion) and the Hawks scored on the PP. Nonetheless there was still lots of time left for them to tie the game but they didn’t come through. The score did not accurately reflect how the game was played though. The Flames had to open up the game a bit trying to tie it and the Hawks were able to run up the score.

      Ferland and Chiasson should change positions in the lineup just for starters and I really need to see Ferland start to score on his chances. He is too quick to pass the puck off at times.

      The PP is on life support and needs help RFN.

      Dump Cameron before the road trip is over.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    Flames disappointing but seem like they are trying. Will help when Johnny, Mony, and Brodie at full speed…wonder if something wrong (injury?) with Brodie also or just bad luck from Engelland partnership. Odd to say, but perhaps Backlund and Frolik should be our top line as they generate chances all the time.

  • Newbietwo

    The team overall showed fight but I’m sorry as they say small legs can’t beat the bolt.. chemistry is needed and individual accountability
    1. Bennett’s penalty was a terrible call and overall the refs did not have a good game at all.. refs in fact missed three flames tripping calls and two of them on mr hockey
    2. I need to say this mr hockey needs to show more fight in him.. positionally he is all over the place and he’s not skating and giving it a real go both with and without the puck!! That being said however it is now clear that the ownes on that line doesn’t just sit with him.. overall his line barely makes time in the o zone period and him specifically am. It holding onto the puck like he used to and it shows.. he’s quick pass first mentality needs to change. It is clear the balance of playmaker and shooter Hudler really did help that line significantly.. Chiason on that line isn’t the key it just isn’t and we have a major gap on our top line
    3. What the hell is up with Monohan.. I’ve seen dump trucks faster and he sure isn’t using his legs at all.. he’s reaching for the puck constantly and not play making..
    4. Brodie this season has had a number of bad games and bad choices and it seems like it’s coming mostly from him playing on his left side which he hasn’t done much for years but again it seems the constant with those struggling is a lack of mentality and not using their legs!!
    5. It is statement time.. sit some players Mony and Johnny and stop hand holding.. they earn a lot of money to deliver and they are failing at their jobs and needs to learn to be accountable for their results.. same goes with our power play.. stop entering the zone in the same way it obviously hasn’t worked yet

  • DeadRedRedemption

    GG and staff have got to go.

    He’s got to wear out Tre’s patience at some point. We have good players, but our key players aren’t adapting to GG’s system well. Johnny, Money, Gio, Brodie all struggling.

    Fro and Backhand doing well.

    The system has to be built as much around the players, as the players need learn to play a system.

    Loosen the reigns on the play makers. Let them be creative.

  • JoelOttosJock

    I’d love to see a huge shake up..this is going to be a perennial flames team of the past..just miss the playoffs but not be bad enough for a great draft pick. As much as I love hating on Stajan, he isn’t anywhere near the problem. Looks like Giordano and Brodie are finally being exposed for what they really are..a far change from those arguing they were good enough to be on the past team Canada at the world Cup of hockey. This team needs a shake up..not sure if gull is the right guy for the bench boss. But shake it up..make a big move..

  • dontcryWOLF88

    It’s been said, but I cant help but say it again.

    The first line needs to get going ASAP. Whats the deal? I watched Gaudreau show up almost every single shift for meaningless World Cup games….but now he cant do it for the team paying him 6.5 MILLION dollars a year? Get your shit together, man. Unacceptable. Monahan as well. I am sick of hearing how they are really great guys, and really want to win. Show it in the game, I could care less about what happens in the locker room.

    Sigh. Deep breaths. I love you Flames, and always will. However, you need to find ways to win- even when stupid refs put your own stick up your a#@.

    When your third line is consistently playing like its actually your first line, there is something wrong. I dont think its the coaching staff, honestly. I think this boils down to psychological issues. And who knows, if any Flames players happen to be reading this- I beleive in you guys, and think you are actually really close to being the team you should be. No more excuses though.

  • calgaryfan

    getting rid of some pricey bad contracts at the end of the year, hope Gio and Monahan contracts don’t end up being the same for the next 6 and 7 years. Tired of hearing excuses, this team is just not good.

  • FOS

    Until Johnny and Monny decide they should start playing this is how it’s going to be. Our best player are the 3rd and 4th lines because our top line isn’t doing anything. Surely they should be in the swing of things by now. Even with all the line changes they should be good enough to do something on their own, they have before.

  • ThisBigMouthIsRight

    You have to wonder how BT & Upper management are sleeping these days? All the good work fixing the holes from last year only to stumble flat out of the gate Again this year. At what point do they collectively figure out that they have had enough and pull the plug or do they just grin & bare it and take another top 6 draft pick? They seem to be very quiet thus far. At how many games in do they step in or do they just stay the course and sit back and grimace. This Flames Team is Too Good to be So Bad! Something isn’t right and it isn’t going to fix itself! 2 solid games in 11 isn’t cutting it! Go Flames pls get it together!

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Wow. Guys, relax a bit maybe. Its a weird year in the Western Conference. Nobody is killing it at this point. There are currently 5 teams out of 14 with a record above 0.500. Three points more and we would be tied for 2nd in the CONFERENCE.

    Pretty doom and gloom considering all that, id say.

    I agree with a lot of what was said above though. Maybe we should just go ahead and swap Gaudreau and Monahan on the 1st line for Backlund and Frolik? They are killing it right now. Might send the right message to the former to get it together?

    • Greatsave

      Three points more and we would be tied for 2nd in the CONFERENCE.

      How so? Minnesota and Chicago are tied for 2nd with 13 points and the Flames only have 9.

      Also, the Flames have played the most games in the league with 11. It’s already difficult enough to make up points with the current points system, but even harder when you’ve already played more games than everyone else.

      I agree we should stay level-headed, but the Flames are through 1/8 of their schedule, and they’ll have to be well above .500 (by any measure of .500) for the remaining 7/8 to even be thinking about playoff hockey.

      • dontcryWOLF88

        Yup, my basic math failed on that one. In my defence, I wrote that at 220AM after a marathon session of work.

        However, 4 points back from that position, rather than 3 back, hardly changes the point. I also recognize other teams in the conference have a game, or two in hand.

        The point here is that its not like Calgary has completely fumbled at this point. As well, and luckily I might add, lots of perennial contenders are having similar issues at this point in the season.

        Ducks: 4-5-2 for 10 pts /11 GP
        Kings: 4-6-0 for 8 pts /10 GP

        Stars: 3-4-2 for 8 pts /9 GP
        Predators: 3-5-1 for 7 pnts/ 9 GP

        FLAMES: 4-6-1 for 9 pts / 11GP

        Give those other teams all the points possible for the games in hand and you get,

        Ducks: 11 pts (same)
        Kings: 10 pts (+2)

        Stars: 12 pts (+4)
        Predators: 11 pts (+4)

        If I could go back to my unknowing self before this season started and say that after 11 games the Flames were within 3 points of all those teams, I would not think “oh boy, this teams season is on the express lane to the tee-box”.

        Sports teams involve human beings, and so by nature, are prone to defying our careful expectationas. As much as we all want to see the Flames kill it every single night, that really doesn’t matter much. Making the playoffs is a matter of maintaining a pace of point production that is RELATIVELY higher than the other teams you are competing against. In that regard, the Flames are by no means at the level of classification some suggest here: dire straights.

        Do they need to improve? Yup. Can they do that? Yup. I take comfort, though, knowing that other teams, who are very much used to winning, and expected to win, are also having troubles at this point in the season.

        One game at a time gents, we all feel the frustration.

  • brodiegio4life

    please change the d pairings now, and please get chiasson off of the first line he is in no way a top 6 player… I swear he goes offside at least 5 times a game. Ferland has played well all year why is he still on the 4th line and chiasson is on the first line? Regardless this team is going nowhere as long as it’s top players keep playing like they are now. The first line has been nonexistent all year and gio and Brodie have both struggled for most of the year.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      I don’t think that Brodie and Gio forgot how to play defense. What we are seeing is a Brodie playing on his opposite side to usual and Gio being paired with Wideman. On one hand Brodie has to rely on Engelland covering back for any rushes. On another hand Gio has to balance Wideman’s slowness and lack of creativity (stretch pass?) with the need for offense.

      Chiasson is a big forward, and while he is not any slower than Monahan, is out of position. He is a N-S player, and doesn’t know when to stop at the side of the net. Versteeg would be the right type of player for creativity. Ferland offers a similar skill to Chaisson, but is defensively better.

    • Jakethesnail

      The one legitimate winger you have is Frolik . I know they don’t want to split up pairs and he has been playing well with Backlund, but give him a chance on the first line wing position.what do you have to lose? If it doesn’t work out, so be it , you are no worse off.

      • trox

        The problem with that is Frolik/Backlund is the only forward combo working right now, so breaking it up is potentially catastrophic. Versteeg and Ferland can’t possibly be a worse option than Chiasson, so one of them should be slotted in on the top line and given a few games to make things happen.

  • FL@med

    “Made possible by Engellend getting caught” Holy crap… Let the guy go, jeez. Why are you always ragging on him? Sure , he can be an anchor, but it’s not always his fault. Maybe Brodie should’ve stopped the guy from scoring? When Brodie doesn’t defend properly it’s a “nice individual effort” but when Engellend does something wrong it’s entirely his fault?

  • MWflames

    I only saw a few minutes of this game, but it’s definitely time to shake things up amongst the forwards.

    Gaudreau/Bennett/Brouwer
    Tkatchuk/backlund/frolik
    Ferland/Monahan/chaisson
    Bouma/Stajan/Versteeg

    I wouldn’t even be upset if they scratched Monahan. I’d like to think his back spams are still causing him problems, but he simply not playing well.

    For the last time, stop playing crap defensemen so much…

  • Derzie

    McRib called it on the systems. The coaches system seem to be built around starless plugger teams. Lunchbucket players (Stajan, Bouma, Engl) have success and lunchbucket with skill (Ferland, Backlund, Frolik) too thrive. The high skill players don’t have a role it seems or the support pieces to enable their role. Compare Hudler & Chiasson and it’s clear that the 1st line is setup to fail. These systems & personnel problems are long term issues. Serious step back this year. Big GM misstep in hiring coaches that need different players whereas he should have hired a coach for the players he has and will pursue.

  • Petzl

    How the fuck does GG justify playing his best/hottest players 10 minutes a night while feeding the ice cold first line 15+ minutes? I’m mystified, the bench decisions are completely retarded.

    Bennett played with Johnny for half a shift and I was amazed at how well Monahan was skating in that shift (it wasn’t Monahan to my surprise…)

  • Greatsave

    A couple losses and the doomsayers are out of the woodwork again. And to think they’re only two games removed from the “dizzying heights of .500”!