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 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.
Let’s go with Ferland, who scored the lone Flames goal and crashed and banged his way around during this one.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall.)
THIS AND THAT
For some reason things got rather hot and heavy on the Kiss Cam tonight at the ‘Dome…
My goodness. The kiss cam needs the old NC-17 rating tonight.
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) November 13, 2016
#Flames C Sam Bennett was just high-sticked and the PP has been so bad that I think I could hear fans saying ‘Please don’t be blood.’
— Wes Gilbertson (@WesGilbertson) November 13, 2016
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.
“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.
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.
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.