Post-Game: A statement game

My thought this morning at the Saddledome was that tonight’s game with the New York Rangers could be a statement game for the Calgary Flames. My thought process was that the Flames would either grind out a close victory over a superior opponent – making the statement that they can, indeed, hang with the big kids if they knuckle down – or that they would lose a very one-sided game – making the statement that they cannot yet hang with the NHL’s big guns.

Well, we have our statement: the Flames were out-matched, out-worked and out-played in a very one-sided 4-1 loss to the Rangers. They’re first team in the National Hockey League with 10 regulation losses this season.

THE RUNDOWN

The Flames didn’t get off to a very good start, gang. Six and a half minutes in, Brian Elliott let in one he probably wants back (and that goal basically set the tone for the hockey that followed). Michael Grabner corraled an errant Troy Brouwer pass and went down the right wing on a rush. Dougie Hamilton played the pass, so Grabner shot the puck low glove-side…and beat Elliott to make it 1-0.

The Rangers doubled their lead five and a half minutes later, as a Deryk Engelland clearing attempt got intercepted by the Rangers and they went to work. Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan combined on a passing sequence down low that absolutely baffled young Brett Kulak, and Stepan tapped it in to make it 2-0. Shots were 10-9 for the locals in the period.

The second was much like the first, though the Flames had a few good chances here and there. Calgary had some pressure after a broken stick by a Rangers defender resulted in an odd-man situation in their end. But the Flames couldn’t turn zone time into any golden chances. After the ensuing face-off, the play went the other way and Ryan McDonagh found a seam and put a great pass onto Jimmy Vesey’s stick (through Kulak’s legs) for the redirect and the 3-0 lead.

The Rangers continued their nice puck control, and made it 4-0 a few minutes later after another nice passing sequence in the Flames end. Their second line (and third defensive pair) put on a clinic, with nice short passes that just baffled the Flames, who kept running around trying to block passes to no avail. Mats Zuccarello put the puck right on Pavel Buchnevich’s stick for an easy tap into an open net. Shots were 11-10 for the Rangers.

The locals finally got on the board in the third, and all it took was back-to-back power plays. For the first time since October 25, a span of 28 advantages (at home), the Flames finally scored on the power play. T.J. Brodie sauntered in from the point and found Micheal Ferland at the front of the net for a nifty redirect to cut the Rangers lead to 4-1. But that was all the Flames could muster. Shots were 16-8 in the final frame in favour of Calgary, but much of that was score effect and few of the shots were overly dangerous.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

What’s the old saying? They are who were thought they were. This goes for the Rangers, too.

The visiting side was full marks tonight. Obviously hoping to make up for a sub-par showing at home against Vancouver in their last outing, they capitalized on all of Calgary’s mistakes and made few mistakes of their own. They are who we thought they were: a really good hockey team.

That said, the Flames are also who we thought they are: a team prone to errors, and that seemingly loses a ton of confidence when they get down a goal. (Or two.) They had very little push-back after the first goal, and almost none after the other Rangers markers.

THE TURNING POINT

For a team that was 1-8-0 heading into tonight when giving up the first goal, the Grabner goal on Elliott’s glove side six minutes into the game was a back-breaker. The Flames were going to need heroic goaltending to stand a chance in this one, and that first goal told the assembled crowd in the Saddledome that probably wasn’t going to happen.

RED WARRIOR

Let’s go with Ferland, who scored the lone Flames goal and crashed and banged his way around during this one.

THE NUMBERS

(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall.)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Monahan 82.1 88.9 1.570
Wideman 78.4 66.7 1.775
Gaudreau 77.4 88.9 1.425
Giordano 74.4 60.0 1.550
Chiasson 71.0 88.9 1.040
Brouwer 64.7 66.7 0.625
Ferland 59.3 44.4 1.050
Brodie 58.6 63.6 1.625
Bennett 57.9 70.0 0.310
Frolik 57.1 28.6 0.115
Backlund 51.9 28.6 0.180
Stajan 47.1 62.5 -0.380
Engelland 45.5 66.7 -0.325
Kulak 45.2 50.0 -0.675
F.Hamilton 45.0 33.3 -0.475
Shinkaruk 45.0 0.0 -0.175
D.Hamilton 42.9 55.6 -0.025
Vey 40.0 0.0 -0.400
Elliott -0.600

THIS AND THAT

For some reason things got rather hot and heavy on the Kiss Cam tonight at the ‘Dome…

Stajan played on the left side of the third line for the evening, and Glen Gulutzan threw out all sorts of defensive combinations depending on the score and situation.

Tonight was just the fourth game this in which the Flames didn’t give up a power play goal. It was also just the fourth game this season in which they’ve scored a power play goal.

QUOTEABLE

“We’re fragile right now. To see that go in, spot ’em one right there when we felt we were off to a good start and had some energy in front of our own fans, it’s deflating.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on the first goal from the Rangers.

We didn’t play near the game that we needed to play. That’s on us. That’s on the coaching staff and that’s on myself. We need to take a look at it and try to just build.” – Gulutzan on his team’s approach to the game.

ELSEWHERE

Dillon Dube finally made his season debut for the Kelowna Rockets tonight. He had three assists and Kelowna won 7-1 over Prince Albert.

Matt Phillips scored once again for the Victoria Royals. It was his 12th goal in 19 games. Victoria lost, though.

The Stockton Heat beat San Antonio 3-0. David Rittich had a shutout and Mark Jankowski extended his points streak to seven games.

UP NEXT

The Flames have two days of practice ahead of them before jetting off to the Twin Cities to face the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. They’re back in action at home on Wednesday evening when they host the Arizona Coyotes.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Funny how none of the boo hoos here mentioned that the Flames were yet again without their three heart and soul guys last night. I guess that because there isn’t an advanced stat that measures grit, you creeps discount it,

    Loved that the Flames won the 3rd period and lost with class, no quitting when they were down by 4 and no goonery to vent their loss. Funny how all the GG haters failed to acknowledge that too.

    GG, by the way, ain’t goin’ nowhere. He is the product of Tre’s most laborious task as GM. For no nothing fans to continue to snipe at and hurl bombs at GG is totally disrespectful to Tre. How many of you were pissing on Tre when he got two high draft picks for the now long retired cowboy or committed grand larceny in the Hamilton heist or burned Nill in the Russell deal or fleeced the Blues for Elliott or got the 3rd best player in last June’s draft with the 6th pick? If you can trust Tre with managing the assets of the team, why do you treat him like a complete bozo when it comes to hiring a coach?

    No, Tre hiring GG was not a case of giving a job to his old drinking buddy. He hired the best man for the job.

    The Flames were a true longshot to make the playoffs before the season started, so those thought otherwise were guilty of unrealistic expectations. Before Game 1 I had the Flames pegged as a bottom 5 team. Hell, when they played Vancouver in Game 3 I seriously asked the question if this match was between the two teams that would finish 29th and 30th. The Flames are not ready to challenge for the playoffs at this stage of their growth. Why is this so hard for so many to get? You might not like it. I know I don’t, but it is a necessary stage in the evolution of the team becoming relevant again. No quick fixes or shortcuts when building a winning pro sports team.

    In Tre we trust!!

    • Hags491

      Let’s see:
      Hamilton has sucked since he’s been here.
      Elliott was good because he played in front of the Blues D.
      Russell should still be here. Widely reported that the players wanted him back.
      Picking Tkachuk only happened because all the other teams didn’t. That takes no skill.
      Tre chose the wrong guy to coach this team.
      What’d I miss?

      • Derzie

        You missed Chiasson, Vey, Byron, Setoguci, Grossmann, 3-headed goalies, keeping Johnny out by sweating the contract, Mason Raymond, Brandon Bollig, Hiller, Bouma’s contract, fire Hartley without a replacement, GG, Cameron, Ramo. He’s done some good stuff (like Frolik) but right now we are where we are under his watch. Oh, and we are at the Cap in 29th place.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Yours is the same idiotic mentality that led the Whalers’ brain trust to dump Pronger after 2 seasons. What’s the deal with zero patience for defencemen chosen in the first round? Thank God Fletcher was GM and not you when young Al Macinnis was finding his game during his first several seasons.

        Elliott cost very little, has a very cap friendly contract and is holding down the fort until next season when Long Jon will be NHL ready. Getting Elliott was a brilliant move by Tre.

        Other than you and crazy Lubo, does anybody seriously think the Flames should have re-signed Russell? His sabermetrics were a nightmare!

        A GM should be in the business of making the team a winner, not making the team a country club for its players.

        Tre tilted the draft in the Flames’ favour. He confounded that dumb Finn GM so that in a blind panic he took that man-child from the QMJHL and all the pieces fell into place just as Tre had predicted they would in the war room during their mock drafts. Knock the Finn for a loop and old Baldero in Edmonton and addle minded Benning will react. That is the difference between proact and react. Tre was proactive and the dolts in Columbus, Edmonton and Vancouver were reactive.

        Tre hired the best man available as coach after the longest, most expensive and most exhaustive coaching search in the storied history of the Flames.

        It seems you’ve missed a lot. OPEN YOUR DAMN EYES!

  • Avalain

    Ok, I’m a bit upset about this season so far, but what exactly is the point of firing the coach at this point? You think that bringing in a coach that no one wanted this season will get everyone going? Plus a new coach with a new system could start everyone at the beginning again. No, I think that any chance we have for the season depends on GG, and if we keep going the way we have been, we might be picking 1st overall. Changing coaches right now isn’t worth it.

  • freethe flames

    Good news is the Heat won 3-0. Rittiche with the shut out. Does anyone know why Gilles did not dress for either game? Janko another assist. Spoon with a goal and an assist. Prybil with a goal.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    I’d like to see Brian Burke take more of a hands-on approach with this team.

    Look at the miracle he pulled in Anaheim with the Ducks. All he inherited when he began working was Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Andy MacDonald, Dustin Penner, Chris Kunitz, Joffrey Lupul and some other key trade chips like Ladislav Smid, plus he had Scott Niedermayer wanting to finish his career playing with his brother and Teemu Selanne only wanting to go to the Ducks and Burke was able to turn THAT team into a winner…after Chris Pronger demanded a trade out of Edmonton.

    I’m telling you guys, you have a genius in your midst and you’re not even using him.

  • snotss

    what a dismal hockey team!!!! there are holes everywhere the blame has to pointed directly at management….every thing they try’d in the off season has blown up in there faces…poor coach choice…numerous personal blunders…questionable free agents,i could go on and on…but being a flame fan means you have to put up with long playoff droughts lots of early playoff eliminations….many coaches….sub par talent………….king has been around for how long???so we can’t blame him for earlier screw ups the fans of flames hockey deserve better…flamefans are incredible to put up the crap year in and year out…just really fed up again!!!!!!