Post-Game: Preds prey on sloppy Flames

The Calgary Flames hosted the Nashville Predators at the Saddledome tonight in what was a big game for the playoff aspirations of both clubs. The Predators played a measured, composed, playoff-like game for the majority of the contest. The Flames? Not so much.

The home side was equal parts shaky, sloppy and out of sync en route to a 4-3 loss to their Western Conference rivals. The score is a bit flattering, as all three Calgary goals came at the tail-end of this contest.

THE RUNDOWN

The opening frame began sleepily, with both teams not playing a particularly high-octane style of hockey. (They combined for 8 shots in the first 11 minutes.) Nashville opened the scoring about five minutes in during some four-on-four play. The Flames got crossed up in their coverage and a rebound went right to James Neal, who beat Chad Johnson between the legs from the slot to make it 1-0. The Flames had a lengthy stretch of power play time, but couldn’t get anything past Juuse Saros. Shots were 14-9 for the home side in the first.

The second period was a bit disjointed, with Nashville looking for openings and the Flames desperately trying not to give them too much (while trying to generate offense themselves). After an offensive zone face-off win turned into a Dennis Wideman point shot that missed the net by a considerable margin, the Predators took the puck the other way. Harry Zolnierczyk drew the defensemen over to him on his zone entry, then tossed the puck to the center lane for a pinching Ryan Ellis on a partial breakaway. Ellis’ shot hit Johnson’s glove and trickled into the net to make it 2-0.

The Flames gave the Predators three power plays in the second. They were fairly capable at avoiding good chances on their first two kills. On the third kill, Ellis was given a ton of time and space after a zone entry so he calmly skated towards the high slot and beat Johnson with a point shot to make it 3-0. Victor Arvidsson had a nice screen on Johnson and the Flames goalie got a piece of it, but it trickled through him. Shots were 7-5 Nashville in the second period.

If the Predators were going to be felled by score effects in the third period, they didn’t show it until the last half of the period. They kept carrying the play for the most part, though it was fairly obvious that they were saving some energy for their game on Friday in Edmonton. Filip Forsberg made it 4-0 on a breakaway caused by unique circumstances; Johnny Gaudreau had taken a delayed penalty and Dougie Hamilton cheated to the left side of the ice to support Mark GIordano on a neutral zone puck battle – leaving Forsberg completely open for the eventual game winner.

The Flames finally broke Saros’ shutout attempt with just under four minutes remaining, as Kris Versteeg scored on a late power play to make it 4-1. They scored again on the very next shift, as Michael Frolik scored with a wrister from the point with Matthew Tkachuk screening the goalie to make it 4-2 – the goal was originally waved off for goalie interference, but replays revealed that Tkachuk didn’t make contact with Saros. After an extremely long 6-on-5 shift in the Predators zone, Sean Monahan scored at the side of the net (shoveling in a rebound) to make it 4-3. The Flames pressed late, but just didn’t have enough time to generate anything else. Shots were 16-5 Flames in the final period.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

They weren’t particularly good at any aspect of their game.

At even strength they didn’t generate a heck of a lot and struggled to gain the Predators zone and establish pressure. Their power play had a few good looks in the first, but the Predators quickly figured out how to disrupt their zone entries and they couldn’t get much going after that. Their penalty kill was decent, but gave Ellis way too much room to operate on Nashville’s third goal.

They seemed to get things together late, but it’s hard to give them credit for five minutes of desperation when they didn’t have any to speak of until Nashville stopped caring about this game.

THE TURNING POINT

The Flames played okay in the second period and almost managed to get to the locker room down a pair. Then they took a defensive zone penalty, giving the Predators a late period advantage, and Nashville made them pay for it. It made it 3-0 and despite their late push, the Flames never really seemed in the game after that point.

RED WARRIOR

He struggled mightily through the first two periods, but this was arguably one of Monahan’s best games of the season. He had a ton of shots and seemed to be a man possessed in the final 10 minutes of this game. Whole lot of good it did in the grand scheme of things, but you’d hope he can build off of this game.

All-in-all, though, it’s hard to say anybody was especially good in a game where the team only showed up for the final five minutes.

THE NUMBERS

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

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Tkachuk 83.3 80.0 1.175
Backlund 70.4 76.9 1.545
Brodie 66.7 72.7 0.350
Frolik 65.5 72.7 1.850
Stajan 65.0 60.0 0.090
Chiasson 64.7 50.0 0.460
Versteeg 64.3 80.0 1.610
Wideman 63.3 77.8 0.925
Gaudreau 56.3 81.3 0.825
Engelland 55.6 57.1 0.200
Giordano 55.0 73.3 0.150
Jokipakka 53.9 60.0 0.225
Brouwer 53.4 83.3 0.090
Monahan 53.3 76.9 1.750
D.Hamilton 52.8 69.2 1.425
Ferland 50.0 33.3 0.225
F.Hamilton 46.7 50.0 0.015
Bouma 43.8 50.0 0.175
Johnson -1.300

THIS AND THAT

The Gaudreau power play unit generated a few shots but nothing crazy-dangerous on the first power play. As they were changing units, Dougie Hamilton was tripped and the Flames had a 49 second five-on-three. The coaching staff put the unit that just failed to score back out and parked the unit that had (a) drawn the penalty and (b) scored twice in their last game. It was a strange decision by the coaching staff in a game defined by strange decisions by the Flames players.

In Sam Bennett’s absence (he was a healthy scratch), Gaudreau began the game on a line with Matt Stajan and Alex Chiasson. That combination lasted precisely one shift and then was abandoned.

QUOTABLE

“We were kind of waiting for something to happen instead of making it happen. They were trying to make it happen.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on the difference between his team’s start and Nashville’s start.

“It’s hard to explain. You’d think we weren’t in a playoff race, and that’s how we’re playing. We’ve got to realize where we’re at.” – Gulutzan on his team’s lack of consistency.

“It wasn’t good. We had a lot of power plays, we had a five-on-three, and those kind of things cost you when you don’t get momentum from it. So our power play has to be better there and obviously the simple little mistakes, we need to fix those to win games like that” – Monahan on his team’s first 55 minutes.

UP NEXT

The Flames (24-21-3) are back at practice tomorrow, then are back in game action on Saturday night for a gigantic Hockey Night in Canada showdown with the Edmonton Oilers.

  • calgaryfan

    losses to Canucks, Jets, Devils, Oilers and now Predators. Only 1 team above them in the standings. You get red warrior if you play 3 or 4 shifts at the end of the game!

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Ok….this time putting Chaisson on Johnny’s line is going to work…..trust me(GG’s pre game speach before every freaking game). To mix it up we will put Stajan up there…for all of 5 minutes.

    I miss the run and gun games with weaker possession numbers over this boring brand of hockey. We are falling behind and getting average goaltending and it is killing us.

  • The GREAT WW

    That was a crap first 57 minutes.

    Blame this loss on GG; the line blender started early and we never recovered. What is wrong with this guy; Stajan and Chiasson on the top line to start the game?!!!

    Fire this idiot and hire Gallant before it is too late…

    WW

  • CalgaryCandle

    Was this the best game to bench Bennett to send a long-term lesson given its crucial importance?

    It disrupted two of the four lines plus the PK which Bennett to my eyes has not been bad at.

    Is it time to reunite Johnny and Mony with Brouwer riding shotgun on right wing? Geadreau and Bennett has clearly not worked.

    Hartley was criticized a lot for his player usage but GG playing Chaisson on the 1B line over and over is more inexplicable.

    And isn’t it the coaches job to make sure his team comes out with energy? I’m starting to wonder about GG again. The last 10 games or so of on again off again hockey speaks to coaching from my viewpoint.

    GFG!

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Well at least we know we will have one player motivated for our biggest game of the year. Move him back to Left wing and watch him flourish. We need to blow up the lines in the spirit of balanced scoring.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        If any Flame player needs extra incentives to be motivated to play against the hated-Oilers, that player’s sorry ass should be sent to the KHL. To even hint that about Bennett is an insult to him and the org.

  • Pizanno

    4 minutes of intense catch-up do not excuse 56 minutes of being outmatched at home by a team beneath them in the standings who were playing without their top two defensemen and top goalie.

    Argh!!!!!!

  • Lucky 13

    It’s a good thing my mom is reading over my shoulder right now cuz I have a few nasty words in my head that want to leak out.

    Truly sick of this on/ off switch that characterizes the Flames.

    Two solid games followed by whatever this was… gotta go.. my kettle boilith over!

    Edit: is Derzie getting into my head?

    He’s starting to make sense

  • BobB

    Matt Stajan was not promoted to the top lne. Gaudreau started on the 4th line with Stajan and Chaisson.

    GG seems like a guy well prepared to die on his own sword.

  • freethe flames

    Take a breath folks and see our team for what it is; a bubble team. Blame the coach for bad lines sure; but he can only shuffle an incomplete deck so many ways and try and make a winning hand. The truth of the matter is we are team in transition from a rebuild trying to be a playoff team and we are at least 2 high end forwards short(Versteeg and Brouwer are not the answer) and a 4th defender short; with no one on the farm beating the door down to fill those spots. No one. There are guys there who may be ready next year but at this moment are not ready.

    If you want this team to be a playoff team these year then BT needs to bring in some new cards to fill out the deck and that may be costly. To get to be a real playoff team something like this needs to happen:

    Johnny/Monny/???

    3M line

    Bennett/????/Brouwer

    Ferland/Stajan/Chaisson

    Versteeg/Hathaway in the press box.

    Hamilton/Gio

    ???/TJ

    Engs/JJ or Kulak

    That means you have Bouma, Hamilton, Wideman, the press box gang, prospects and draft picks to acquire expiring contracts that might make your team better for a playoff push. Whose out there that would foot this bill? Or realize and be comfortable with what we are and move our own expiring contracts for late round draft picks and B prospects.

    • cjc

      This.

      If we had another top-flight RW and Gulutzan was still playing Chiasson on the top line, I’d be worried. Otherwise it’s gonna be some combination of Chiasson/Versteeg/Brouwer/Ferland filling that top line RW spot. It’s all been tried, none of them have worked.

      Kulak needs to get some reps in though.

  • cjc

    People are panicking again.

    Where is this team? A few games above .500

    Where should this team be, given their personnel and experience? A few games above .500

    It wasn’t a great game, but they did respond. Score effects, sure, but I’ll take score effects over no effects at all.

    Every young team has to deal with adversity, there will be bumps on the road.

  • Looch#27

    I feel your pain Calgary I really do! I was worried(excited) that GG was going to be your version of Dallas Eakins but that is clearly not the case as like most rebuilding teams you lack depth and that’s something any oiler fan can relate to. Wow I came to gloat about your loss to Nashville but instead offer hope, looking forward to Saturday night guys! The return of meaningful games in the BOA this late in the year is nothing short of awesome!!!! And as long as you have Burke your team well always be incomplete he’s most definitely your guys KLowe with over inflated ego for absolutely no reason seeya Saturday night!!!

    P.S had to finish with an insult 😉

  • PrairieStew

    Lots of gloating Oiler fans here today. You guys probably think your team is home and cooled for the playoffs. Look at the standings again. As of this morning the Oilers have exactly one more win than Calgary. Look at the schedule. Back to backs tonight and tomorrow and then again next week vs Anaheim and SJ. Another road B2B in two weeks in Nashville and Carolina. Games against Minnesota, Montreal and Chicago before Valentines Day. Talbot on pace to play 73 games after 56 last year and just 36 the year before. Do you think he can maintain that ?

    • Lucky 13

      @Oilertown having a hey day with this. It’s like when a cat sees spilled milk…they gotta lap it up before it vanishes. I’m with you on this, if they (Oilers) think it’s a cake walk to the post season, they might just be in for a surprise.
      Although I don’t wish any ill will toward them, 10 years of waiting can be daunting for any fan. It’s the milk moustache that bugs me. At least wipe it off after gorging. See @HOMER for tips.

      >

      No reply necessary Oilertown, you’ll probably be deleted again!
      Welcome to Flames Nation

  • Greatsave

    To be exactly fair, Gaudreau played two shifts with Stajan and Chiasson in the first, and one more in the second.

    And for most of the rest of the game, Gaudreau was on a line with Monahan and Brouwer. Exactly what I asked for before the game in the Chiasson article’s comments section.

    Am I disappointed Gulutzan started Gaudreau with Stajan and Chiasson? Absolutely. But I’m glad he didn’t stick to his guns on that.

    I hear too much bitching and moaning here about Gulutzan not adjusting. And then I hear bitching and moaning when he does adjust. You can’t have it both ways, people.

  • Greatsave

    To be exactly fair, Gaudreau played two shifts with Stajan and Chiasson in the first, and one more in the second.

    And for most of the rest of the game, Gaudreau was on a line with Monahan and Brouwer. Exactly what I asked for before the game in the Chiasson article’s comments section.

    Am I disappointed Gulutzan started Gaudreau with Stajan and Chiasson? Absolutely. But I’m glad he didn’t stick to his guns on that.

    I hear too much b*tching and moaning here about Gulutzan not adjusting. And then I hear b*tching and moaning when he does adjust. You can’t have it both ways, people.