Post-Game: bad bounces sink good effort

Let’s be blunt here: the Calgary Flames have been inconsistent this season. Good performances have been followed by woeful ones, to the point where I’m sure many people who follow this club half-expected them to perform terribly tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks. The law of the season for these guys has been two steps forward, one step back, and they had two good outings so far this week. They were due for a bad one.

Well, the Flames lost tonight by a 3-2 score to the Blackhawks. But the Flames were up to the challenge and only took the L by virtue of some bounces and some nice special teams shooting by Chicago. They did not take the expected slide back into their bad habits and that alone represents a big step forward for this club.

THE RUNDOWN

The locals were on their heels a bit to begin the game, as Chicago brought their legs with them on the plane trip from Winnipeg. They weren’t amazing, but they were enough to hem the Flames in their own end for awhile. The Flames had a few chances but couldn’t bury ’em, and Chicago opened the scoring as T.J. Brodie got caught on a pinch and Ryan Hartman was able to out-race Dennis Wideman for a loose puck (and a breakaway) to make it 1-0. Aside from that, the Flames never seemed too panicked in their own end, even when they were stuck in the mud there. Shots were 11-9 Calgary in the opening 20 minutes.

The Flames looked good early in the second, but nearly got scored on after a really wacky scramble in the crease that ended up with Chad Johnson’s stick on the far side of the face-off circle.

Calgary tied the game up off a really nice rush initiated by Brodie (after he stole a puck from Patrick Kane). Brodie carried the puck into the zone on a 2-on-1 and fed the puck across the slot. Duncan Keith was guarding the other Flame on the rush, but the Brodie pass careened off his backside (his butt) and bounced around the goal-mouth. Corey Crawford lost track of the puck and Sam Bennett poked it into the net to make it 1-1.

Ffeeds it to slot but it careens off Duncan Keith’s backside and creates absolute mayhem and confusion in the Hawks crease. Bennett poked in a loose puck to tie the game.

Brodie was the architect of another nice rush that led to another goal a few minutes later. Up on the rush with the entire Bennett/Monahan/Brouwer line, Brodie initiated a passing sequence that was supposed to end with a Troy Brouwer tap-in. “Unfortunately,” Sean Monahan’s pass to Brouwer out front deflected off Gustav Forsling’s back skate and into the net to make it 2-1. Chicago answered back before the period ended, though, as Keith Seabrook was left generally unattended and leaned into a nice shot that beat Johnson top-corner to make it 2-2. Shots were 9-9 in the second.

For the second consecutive period, chaos and confusion reigned in the Flames zone early in the third. And it almost cost ’em an early goal.

Just when it seemed like this game was destined for additional hockey, Artemi Panarin’s whistler of a slap shot was stopped by Johnson…but it was knocked into the air and Marian Hossa deflected the puck in as it fell back to the ice to make it 3-2. The call on the ice couldn’t be reviewed (to challenge either goalie interference or a high stick on the play) because the Flames used their timeout earlier in the period, but after seeing the replays it probably wouldn’t have been overturned anyway. Shots were 10-6 Calgary in the final frame.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

They played just poorly enough that the bounces costed them two points. Look at the three goals against: a defensive lapse that allowed Hartman to get into a foot-race with Wideman, a laser-beam of a PP shot by Seabrook, and a higher slapper by Panarin that takes a wacky bounce and gets deflected in. (For the record, the Flames felt that it was tipped with a high stick and they would’ve challenged had they a timeout remaining to do so.)

But look at Calgary’s defensive zone play. The team’s signature in their own end – sheer, unabashed panic – is seemingly gone. They seemed mature and poised in their own end, and they didn’t give up big chances or take bad defensive zone penalties when they did get hemmed in. For a team that was basically a fire drill defensively for much of October, that’s an encouraging sign.

Johnson had a nice assessment of it after the game: “I thought we played really well defensively. I said the last couple games, everybody’s had a lot more confidence in our group. Everybody’s a lot better defensively and we’re trusting that I’m going to make saves when there’s saves to be made, guys are gonna block shots, more and more structure, there’s confidence I think as a group defensively and that shows.”

THE TURNING POINT

It is, of course, Chicago’s game-winning goal. The Flames pressed afterward, but didn’t have enough time to get a late goal of their own.

RED WARRIOR

Brodie didn’t get assists on Calgary’s first two goals, but if there was any justice in the hockey world he would have. He was huge in creating both of those scoring sequences, and was generally crisp, clean and dangerous all evening.

Monahan and Bennett were also quite good.

THE NUMBERS

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

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Monahan 64.5 50.0 2.950
Bennett 60.0 50.0 2.910
D.Hamilton 59.0 60.0 1.425
Brouwer 57.6 50.0 1.915
Giordano 56.8 54.6 0.875
Chiasson 54.6 62.5 0.150
Kulak 50.0 58.3 0.075
Engelland 50.0 58.3 0.025
Stajan 46.2 62.5 -0.260
Ferland 45.0 44.4 0.150
F.Hamilton 44.4 66.7 -0.140
Vey 44.4 44.4 0.220
Hathaway 42.1 42.9 -0.055
Backlund 37.9 45.5 -0.045
Tkachuk 36.7 45.5 -0.335
Brodie 33.3 35.7 -0.100
Frolik 32.3 45.5 -0.760
Wideman 28.6 38.5 -0.350
Johnson -0.150

THIS AND THAT

The Flames power play had some nice chances, but lacked some finish. One big challenge for them is the presence of Linden Vey on the unit that has Monahan, Brouwer, Brodie and Hamilton. It’s a challenge because Vey isn’t quite as offensively gifted than his linemates, and he’s primarily on the PP to facilitate quick one-timers with his right shot.

Are you checking out our Twitter moments during games? Do it, or else Mike will be sad. Don’t make Mike sad!

ELSEWHERE

Adam Fox had two assists in Harvard’s 5-2 win over Boston College.

Dillon Dube had his first goal of the season for Kelowna and it was a dandy.

QUOTEABLE

“I thought we played well. Needed a little bit more out of our specialty teams, but I thought overall we played a good game. It’s just unfortunate what happened at the end.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan assesses his team’s performance against Chicago.

“He did a good play. He pulled it, and it was right in that shoulder pocket there. That’s a tough one for me. I just tried to get a piece of it and try to get as much as I can, again, kinda lucky, it goes right up and then drops behind me. I don’t know who put it in or what happened. After I made the save, I didn’t know where it was. You don’t want to let a goal in with three minutes left. It’s a lucky, lucky goal. Just gotta move on.” – Flames goalie Chad Johnson on Chicago’s game-winning goal.

“I think we did a pretty good job containing them, keeping them on the outside and they didn’t get too many good looks. That was a positive we can take, for sure..” – Flames winger Sam Bennett on the club’s improved defensive zone play against Chicago.

UP NEXT

The Flames (7-11-1) hit the road for their longest road trip of the season starting tomorrow. They’ll play in Detroit on Sunday. They’re back at home on November 30 when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

  • Canadian Hockey Fan

    I want to know one thing. What did the Flames ever see in Dave Cameron? The Flames PP is awful and he’s a big reason why. Both the Cameron and Gulutzan hires were questionable at the time, and look even worse now. I know its still early, but I miss Hartley’s Flames. Would have liked to see them give him one more chance with suitable goaltenders.

    • The GREAT WW

      Cameron is in charge of 2 things:

      1. The power play.

      2. Pulling the goalie.

      Both results are near the bottom of the league…..

      Smarten up BT!!!

      WW

    • The Sultan

      I say a lot of stupid crap sometimes but never, ever will I jump back on the Bob Hartley train. HE GOT FIRED BECAUSE HE SUCKS. STOP SAYING BRING BACK HARTLEY.

      • Canadian Hockey Fan

        So I guess Hartley sucked when he won the 2001 Stanley Cup with a mostly over 30 Avalanche team, and won the Jack Adams in 2015, giving the Flames there first playoff appearance since 2009.

        • Jakethesnail

          So 1 playoff appearances in the last seven years just proves anyone can pull a rabbit out of a hat once in a while. We’re having a tough go up north right now but still 1 game over .500. Both teams have to turn it around but I see Calgary headed for 1 playoff appearances in the last 8 years, with Johnny hockey out things just got a little tougher, unless Sean Monahan can get on track.

          When Nuge, Eberle ,and Hall signed those $6ml deals they still got their points. Monahan is on pace for 27 points. Those are brutal numbers.

  • The GREAT WW

    That goal was a high stick AND goalie interference……

    I guess THAT’S why you don’t burn your time out with 10 minutes left…..

    Another loss on GG…

    WW

    • Avalain

      Looking at the replays, it definitely went off a high stick. The thing is that I don’t believe that the stick belonged to Hosea, unfortunately. The goalie interference seems valid though. You see Johnson reaching back for the puck and he can’t because Hosea is in the way.

      As for our power play, I actually was quite impressed with it this time around. I mean, they didn’t score or anything, but they had solid chances. They actually looked decent. If they could play like that all the time they should be able to turn the power play around.

    • Justthateasy

      Exactly right. You hit the nail on the head. This coach for all the good things he’s doing in getting this team going pulls one bonehead move move after an other.
      A timeout for no apparent reason. Something wrong with the League too, in not allowing two chances. Complaining to the ref about slashing at the end of two uperiods it is quite late.

  • The Sultan

    How about stop shooting from the point? Out of all the high danger scoring areas, shooting the puck from the blue line is the absolute worst way to go about it. Especially because a) we can’t hit the net and b) the shot will get blocked anyways. This isn’t 2014 anymore.

    Also, biased or not, **** the refs. It all started with Wideman, who shouldn’t even be on this team. Then Gaudreau does his best “Stressed Out” cover of Minnesota’s 21 Pilots errrr 21 slashes. Goalie interference? High-sticking? Did they even review the play? Absolute pure grade A garbage from the NHL. Learn how to run a league Bettman.

  • flames2015

    On a postitive note, best game of the season for Monahan tonight. Good on draws and in on most of the best scoring chances. Good to see him stepping up with Johnny out.

  • DoubleDIon

    Wideman is awesome… Surely any of our AHL defensemen could play better than Wideman. He lacks the footspeed to play in my beer league and seems incapable of understanding the angles his slow behind needs to play. Sarich was slow as molasses but at least he understood angles.

    • OKG

      I disagree about angles. The difference between Wideman and Sarich is one guy is getting top pair shutdown duties while the other guy was mostly a third pair guy. The problem with this team is both Wideman and Engelland need to be playing third pair. As soon as one of them (or Jokipakka) is promoted to second pair or higher the team falls apart. The only guy I can think of that might be able to play top four for us is Kulak. Kulak-Brodie could be worth a shot. But would a Jokipakka-Wideman bottom pair work? Or a Jokipakka-Engelland bottom pair? Probably not.

  • ThisBigMouthIsRight

    Good Effort Tonight! Special teams(once-again) cost us the game… pls don’t take this as a dig at Vey… But wtf is he doing on the PP? wtf are the coaches thinking? Can Anyone Explain this brainstorm thinking to me? What Happened to the aggressive PK We were all suppose to be seeing this year, since when is backing up and standing still while waving your stick a smart way to defend? Speaking of defensive playing, to me Ferland looked totally lost in the D-zone tonight, that was a surprise to see. There also seemed to be way Too many “panic passes” tonight, simply passing without looking or just missing the intended target or trying one more fancy pass instead of crashing for the net. Meh~! Still better than the first 15 games. Have a great weekend everyone… Cheers!

  • Kensington

    Yes sign of a great team when we are happy with a strong effort in a losing cause! Low expectations result in low results. Losing in any form is not acceptable, until the Flames play this way they will not Win!

  • Jakethesnail

    I think this year is a wash for Calgary. Gaudreau having a poor start and now out 6-8 weeks . Monahan on pace for 27 points. The defense in turmoil and the goaltending below average.

    Get a decent pick this year and reset for next season.

  • freethe flames

    A question to ponder. What if the Bennett/Monahan/Brouwer line continues to play like it did last night and the Tkachuk/Backlund/Frolik line continues to play as it has all season; where do you play Johnny when he comes back? Do you break up the Bennett/Monahan/Browuer line just to get Johnny going? Is there a way to create another offensive line? Hopefully by the time Johnny comes back someone like Janko from the farm is ready to play at the NHL.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      What about Monny or Bennett on right wing?

      Gaudreau/Monny/Bennett

      Tkachuk/Backlund/Frolik

      Ferland/Stajan/Brouwer

      Bouma/Hamilton/Chiasson

      -Hathaway
      -Versteeg

      • freethe flames

        Does this not just leave us with 2 lines of production, although I see some potential with the third line. The issue remains that to move to the next level you need more production (talent)from your third line. In many ways that is supposed to be the Backs line.

    • The GREAT WW

      I feel bad for Chuk; playing with Backlund is destroying his point totals this year.

      Backlund is in track to score 4 goals this year….

      All those sweet feeds Chuk is giving Backlund, and no finish….

      WW

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    That was one of those heart breaker type games. You can all blame my wife… she wanted to go to bed and groaned about it going to OT and BAM… back of the net.

    Flames effort was there. They played a good Minny team hard for a defensive win and have played Chicago tough all year. I’m excited for the road trip. I’ll be happy with win two lose one for a while… we’re getting closer I can feel it.