Post-Game: Sometimes you lose


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(Anne-Marie Sorvin / USA Today Sports)

A National Hockey League season is long. The games are full of small places and wonky bounces. Sometimes a team plays really well but doesn’t get rewarded, often due to a really good goaltending performance. Yes, folks, sometimes you lose.

The Calgary Flames lost 4-2 tonight to the Vancouver Canucks. Don’t let the score fool you: they were by far the better team. But Ryan Miller was superb and that, along with a pair of disallowed shorthanded goals and some bad breaks, was the difference.

THE RUNDOWN

Things started off great for the Flames. In familiar fashion, the vaunted 3M Line opened the scoring and were able to do so on their first shift. After a Matthew Tkachuk dump-in from the neutral zone, the Flames out-hustled the Canucks and Mikael Backlund fed Michael Frolik in the slot for an easy tap-in and a 1-0 lead.

The Flames almost doubled their lead with a shorthanded rush that Lance Bouma scored on, but it was waved off because Matt Stajan made contact with Miller in the crease. Glen Gulutzan used his coach’s challenge, but it was not successful.

Vancouver tied the game before the end of the period, as Mark Giordano’s transition pass was cut off by the Canucks – Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Alex Chiasson were up by the blueline anticipating a head-manning pass – and Michael Chaput scored to make it 1-1. And to make matters worse, a bad pinch by Deryk Engelland led to a two-on-two rush where Loui Eriksson’s attempted pass to the slot bounced off Tyler Wotherspoon’s backside and beat Brian Elliott inside the far post to make it 2-1. Shots were 11-6 Flames in the opening period.

The Flames kept pushing in the second, out-shooting Vancouver 12-4. But they couldn’t score. They had another shorthanded goal called back as it was ruled that Miller was knocked into the net.

About a minute later, Markus Granlund scored on the power play – seemingly both Dennis Wideman and Lance Bouma neglected to cover him in the slot – to make it 3-1.

Granlund added his second of the game early in the third to make it 4-1 off a nice tip from the high slot that just beat Elliott – who was partially screened by both Dougie Hamilton and Giordano. Giordano had a particularly great woe is me expression after the goal.

Screen Shot 2017-01-06 at 10.10.04 PM

Frolik scored on a late power play to make it 4-2, but that was as close as the Flames got. Shots were 23-3 in the third. Yes. The Flames generated 23 shots in the third period and only scored once.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

Ryan Miller.

Seriously. He was good. The Flames had many chances. They had 46 shots on goal, tops for the season. They had several power plays. Gaudreau looked dangerous. They had multiple shorthanded chances. Things just didn’t go their way tonight. Close chances went into the Flames net and stayed out of the Canucks net. The primary reason for that was Miller.

If the Flames play like this, they win 99% of the time.

THE TURNING POINT

The second Granlund goal, the one that made it a 4-1 game, was the back-breaker for the visitors.

RED WARRIOR

We’ve done this a few times this year: joint Red Warrior to the 3M Line (Backlund, Tkachuk, Frolik). They generated the team’s only even strength goal and were pressing for much of the night.

Granted, aside from some wonky bounces – a puck off Wotherspoon’s backside, and a couple lapses in coverage – the Flames were really great tonight.

THE NUMBERS

(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Data via Natural Stat Trick.)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Wideman 90.3 69.2 1.775
Brodie 89.2 78.6 1.900
Monahan 88.9 83.3 1.145
Gaudreau 87.1 85.7 1.225
Frolik 85.0 62.5 2.575
Chiasson 82.8 76.9 0.925
D.Hamilton 75.8 62.5 0.875
F.Hamilton 75.0 66.7 0.545
Tkachuk 75.0 55.6 1.200
Backlund 75.0 55.6 2.230
Giordano 74.1 55.6 1.050
Bouma 73.3 75.0 0.490
Stajan 71.4 75.0 0.495
Bennett 71.4 60.0 0.270
Versteeg 68.4 60.0 0.550
Ferland 64.7 60.0 0.175
Engelland 61.1 77.8 0.175
Wotherspoon 56.3 71.4 0.250
Elliott -2.100

THIS AND THAT

UP NEXT

These same two teams are going to hop on a plane, fly to Calgary and then do it all again tomorrow night at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The puck drops at 8 p.m. MT and it’s the late game on Hockey Night in Canada.

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  • The GREAT WW

    Miller was good, but he was also very lucky (which is s very important part of a goalies game…) 2 disallowed goals, a couple of posts, 26 blocked shots…this game should have been 6-2 Flames.

    WW

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      That was painful to watch. You could tell early that it was not going to be our night. Johnny taps a 2 footer wide Chaisson hits the post, Bouma’s goal called back. We have had. A lot of lucky goals in the last couple weeks, we were bound to be on the wrong end at some point.

      My only concern is why Gio was so bad, Spoon made lots of rookie mistakes….I get it. What I don’t get is how Elliott continues to let in bad bounces more than most keepers. Is it a positioning thing?

  • calgaryfan

    Time for Elliott to become the backup and let Johnson run with the net. Elliott lacks confidence and seems unsure of himself. If the Flames want to make a run for the playoffs the coaches and Tre need to stop trying to pump Elliott’s tires and move on. He has won some games against lesser teams but has not looked strong. Ridiculous he gets all these starts while Johnson sits.

  • DeadRedRedemption

    I hate to say it, because I was a big Elliot fan, but it’s time to staple him to the bench.

    Yeah, he had a few wins tied together. Against inferior competition and he still didn’t look like a world beater.

    Tonight, he stopped just nine of 13 shots and any other night would have been pulled.

    I was really looking forward to having a solid number one in Elliot. For whatever reason he’s just not performing. At least Calgary won’t lose the draft pick for signing him at the end of the year.

    The only way for him to redeem himself is if the Flames make it into the post season and he’s somehow given the chance and he stands on his head.

    Please don’t fall apart now, Chad.

    GFG

    • Lucky 13

      Are you confusing us with Blue Jackets?
      I’m hoping we make the playoffs, let alone win the coveted Cup.

      Score aside, this was a very winnable game and we managed to lose.
      Sure Miller was good, however we didn’t do much to get in his space and when we did he pulled his acting tenure out of his pocket and got the calls.

      Gio was off, Moose looked unsure and incredibly deep in net.
      But hey weren’t our possession numbers great? No one had under 50 this game.
      Now if I was a stats guy and that’s all I read I would assume we clobbered the Nucks.

      Translation: stats don’t win games, players do and ours didn’t have the finish

      • OKG

        Posting a corsi over 50% in a given game isn’t the goal. Being able to consistently hang with and pressure good playoff teams is the goal and a long-term TEAM corsi around or above 53%, adjusted for score-effects, is the best indicator of and path to that goal. And it has historically required subtracting seemingly good players who don’t play “corsi hockey” (See Jack Johnson on L.A.) and adding players no matter how dubious that do (See Justin Schultz on Pittsburgh) and coaching changes favoring volume over finish. You need to win games to get to the playoffs but you need the capacity to win games the right way to get far in the playoffs.

  • flames2015

    Agreed with above comments, Miller outplayed Elliot and the canucks made the most of their opportunities. Can’t fault the boys on the effort, but they need to crash the canucks net tomorrow and watch those turnovers. So many shots were perimeter with no traffic. Johnson should have been given the chance to start the 3rd, we were still pushing the pace but if that pp goal doesn’t go in, maybe we had a better shot at a comeback. Hopefully Hathaway and Jokkipakaa draw back into the line up tmr.