It was Retro Night down at the Scotiabank Saddledome tonight. The Calgary Flames wore retro uniforms. They had retro graphics. They even brought back their old in-game announcer Russ Peake for an authentic old-timey feel.
They unfortunately even got a retro result, getting clobbered by the Edmonton Oilers by a 7-3 score to allow the Oilers to sweep the Battle of Alberta season series for the first time in over a decade. In arguably the Flames’ biggest game of the season – and a game they needed to have in order to keep pace in the playoff race with the teams chasing them – they fell utterly, embarrassingly flat.
For a team that talked about lacking oomph to their starts and needing to find desperation after their stinker against Nashville, the Flames sure did come out of the starting blocks rather flat again. Unfortunately for them, the Oilers are a bit more offensively potent than Nashville was on Thursday. The Oilers scored three goals in the first 5:58 of this game.
Anton Slepyshev opened the scoring on the Oilers’ second shot of the game off a scrambly face-off loss by the Flames. Slepshev’s shot beat Johnson through the legs to make it 1-0. The Flames had a few chances in the Oilers end, but two goals in 36 seconds ended Johnson’s night. Edmonton’s third shot of the game turned into a goal by a result of shot shoddy defensive coverage, with Dennis Wideman and T.J. Brodie chasing players around in their end and leaving Mark Letestu wide open for a nice pass and tap-in. Jordan Eberle beat Johnson short-side on his glove side off the rush (on Edmonton’s fourth shot) to make it 3-0.
Shots were 13-8 for the Flames, but they didn’t have many dangerous scoring chances.
The carnage continued in the second period. After a Flames power play that didn’t look too great, the Oilers got Connor McDavid out against Calgary’s fourth line. It ended as you would expect it would, with a wrister from the high slot to make it 4-0. The Oilers made it 5-0 later in the period off another defensive lapse by the Wideman and Brodie pairing, leaving Matt Benning wide-open to make a nice slap-pass to Jordan Eberle for a nice tip-in goal.
The Flames broke Laurent Brossoit’s shutout bid on the power play, as Matthew Tkachuk tipped a Dougie Hamilton point shot in to make it 5-1. But Tkachuk took a minor on the very next shift and Oscar Klefbom scored on a point shot through traffic to make it 6-1. Shots were 16-15 Flames in the second. Yes, even with score effects rearing their head throughout the entire period.
The Flames scored an early shorthanded goal to improve the score slightly, as Sean Monahan stole the puck in the neutral zone and beat Brossoit with a wrister to make it 6-2. Lance Bouma tipped in a Brodie point shot to make it 6-3 late, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored on an empty net late to make it 7-3 and finish the Flames off.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
The key to the majority of Calgary’s victories this season has been the play of Johnson. When he’s been in, he’s generally been good enough. Not great, but good enough to give them a chance. He was bad early and the Flames never, ever recovered.
That’s not to say that he was the only reason they lost tonight. 14 of the team’s 18 skaters (and both of their goalies) were on the ice for goals against tonight and when you break down the goals against, four of the five even strength goals against were direct results of defensive breakdowns. But they needed saves to keep them afloat early. Johnson wasn’t able to get them against Florida. He wasn’t able to get them against Nashville. He wasn’t able to get them tonight.
THE TURNING POINT
The Flames were reeling and already down a pair in the first period when Johnson gave up one he probably needed to have, as Eberle beat him short-side on the rush. The Oilers were up 3-0 and just went into cruise control afterwards.
Can I go with “nobody?” I’m going with nobody. Nobody was very good tonight.
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) January 22, 2017
In the spirit of the Flames’ play tonight (especially the opening six minutes), I’ve decided not to go through the work of posting these. Besides, considering the score they were meaningless, anyway.
Instead, here’s which players were on the ice for how many goals against:
- 4: Bouma, Stajan
- 3: Johnson, Elliott, Wideman, Engelland, Ferland, Brodie
- 2: Jokipakka
- 1: Chiasson, Gaudreau, Versteeg, Bennett, Monahan, Brouwer, Giordano
- 0: Hamilton, Tkachuk, Frolik, Backlund
The Oilers did score an empty-netter and a power play goal, but yeesh.
THIS AND THAT
That’s a ref doing some game management, getting Tkachuk off the ice for 12 minutes. He’s a trouble magnet in a 6-1 game, the way he plays.
— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) January 22, 2017
Tkachuk was given a 10 minute misconduct after a scrum late in the second period that involved him engaging with McDavid. Given Tkachuk’s, uh, pugnacious nature, it was probably in everyone’s best interests to give him a chance to cool off a bit.
It’s just the third time ever the Flames have failed to get a win in the Battle of Alberta and the first time ever that they’ve lost every single game. In 1983-84 they had seven losses and a tie. In 2000-01 they had four losses and a tie.
In 245 minutes of the Battle of Alberta this season, #Flames had the lead for a grand total of 20:13.
— Wes Gilbertson (@WesGilbertson) January 22, 2017
Some choice excerpts from Glen Gulutzan’s post-game press conference:
“I don’t even know where to start… I think we’ve gotta re-look at everything. How we play without a lead is probably maybe the top thing on the list.” – on what tops the concerns list after this loss.
“I actually have no explanation for what our D were doing on the third goal. It was a complete mistake.” – on what happened on the third goal, after he recounted over-skating the puck after a face-off loss on the first Oilers goal and a defensive lapse leading to a nice pass on the second Oilers goal.
“It’s embarrassing. I don’t talk to the guys after the game, win or lose. I talk to them the next day. Certainly the coaches’ room, emotions are high, and it’s embarrassing. Our resolve to stick to it wasn’t there.” – on the team’s reaction to the loss.
The Flames (24-22-3) have a travel day tomorrow, as they jet off to scenic Toronto to kick off a three game road trip. Life doesn’t get easier for the local sports club, as they play three games in four nights in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa beginning on Monday evening.
Wish them luck.
In brighter news: the Calgary Inferno are playing on national television tomorrow! They play at 10:30 a.m. on Sportsnet West. Check it out and should you enjoy the game, please bug Sportsnet via the social media available to you so they have more games on television.