(Eric Bolte / USA Today Sports)
Early this season, the Calgary Flames were a bad team. They went on nice little runs here and there, but they couldn’t crack the .500 mark. Later on, they finally broke through and went on a run into a playoff spot. For weeks, they were a wildcard team that just couldn’t quite do enough to climb into a divisional playoff spot. They seemed destined to be in the wildcard mix until the end of the season.
Instead, the Flames have gone on one of the most mind-bogglingly bad runs we’ve seen in years. They lost another one-sided game tonight, dropping a 5-1 decision to the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Once flirting with a divisional playoff spot, they’ve crashed back down to .500.
Much like they did against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night, the Flames played a decent first period. They were structured. They were fairly poised. They couldn’t score on any of their (few) scoring chances. Then they gave up a goal late in the period to blow up any momentum they had. With 43 seconds remaining in the first, Andrew Shaw beat Chad Johnson to make it 1-0. As you’ll see below, Dennis Wideman and T.J. Brodie played this… oddly.
Shots were 11-7 Calgary, but they didn’t have a ton of good chances.
The wheels began to fall off in the second period for the Flames, right on schedule. Tomas Plekanec scored on a short-handed breakaway to make it 2-0. Johnny Gaudreau bobbled the puck at the Canadiens blueline, allowing Plekanec to skate in on a two-on-one and beat Johnson five-hole. Alex Radulov scored four minutes later on a power-play, off a nice cross-zone pass down low, to make it 3-0. Shots were 11-6 Calgary in the second.
The bleeding continued in the third period. The Flames went into a dump and chase routine and generated very little, as Montreal was perfectly content to collect the puck and cycle it calmly back into the neutral zone. Daniel Carr made it 4-0 off the rush, being left all alone after Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton got crossed up guarding Torrey Mitchell off the zone entry. Radulov got his second power play goal of the game walking calmly around Brodie and beating Johnson high while driving to the net to make it 5-0. Sam Bennett scored in the dying seconds of the game (on the power play) to ruin Carey Price’s shutout bid. Not that it mattered. Shots were 9-7 Calgary.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
Once again, the Flames didn’t generate much and it hurt ’em. But they also made a bunch of little mistakes against a much better team and it killed ’em. If they played a smart, structured game for 60 minutes against Montreal there was still a good chance they’d lose simply because Price is an elite goalie. But they were shaky with the puck and really didn’t do much with the puck in the offensive zone to make Montreal nervous.
Overall? Montreal’s a better team than the Flames, but they also made far fewer mistakes with the puck.
THE TURNING POINT
The shorthanded goal sunk these guys once again. They had a chance to tie the game on the power play. Instead, they ended up in a deeper hole than they began in. Once again, when things could go wrong for the Flames it did go around… and then snowballed.
Just like with the Edmonton game, I’m taking the option and going with “nobody.” Gaudreau skated well and was arguably the best player (along with maybe Mikael Backlund) at generating chances, but Gaudreau’s puck-handling gaffe led to a shortie.
In summation: nobody was all that good tonight. Again.
It seems like gremlins are in the system at the NHL website (and Natural Stat Trick) tonight, since as of this writing the NHL is saying there’s five minutes left in the third period of a game that’s been over for an hour.
So let’s skip the numbers tonight. The Flames out-shot (and out-Corsied) the Habs, but that’s what you should expect when one team is chasing for the final two periods.
THIS AND THAT
The Flames gave up the first goal for the ninth consecutive game.
Bennett’s third period goal was his first since December 27 against Colorado.
The Flames shuffled their lines around a lot in the third period to try to get something going. The most consistent lines were: Frolik-Backlund-Ferland, Gaudreau-Monahan-Versteeg, Tkachuk-Bennett-Brouwer, Bouma-Stajan-Chiasson. Defensive pairings didn’t really change around.
The Flames (24-24-3) take a train tonight to Ottawa and are off tomorrow. They’re back in action, if you can call it that, on Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators in their final game before the All-Star Break.
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