Post-Game: Missed opportunities in Manhattan


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(Adam Hunger / USA Today Sports)

Let’s be blunt here: afternoon games aren’t usually that good. It’s obvious watching them that both teams are out of their comfort zones, having their usual routines knocked off-kilter by a strange start time. The Calgary Flames had a nice opportunity to capture some points this afternoon against a New York Rangers team that wasn’t its usual scary self.

However, the Flames blew a first period lead and then trailed much of the rest of the way, primarily on the back of a few costly unforced errors in their own end. They dropped a 4-3 afternoon decision to the Rangers.

THE RUNDOWN

The first period was quite disjointed, with each team seemingly tripping over themselves in the neutral zone. That meant shots and chances were at a premium. The Flames managed to open the scoring on the power play. Henrik Lundqvist tried to clear the puck out of his zone after a dump-in, but Matthew Tkachuk held it in and served it up for a Dougie Hamilton point shot to make it 1-0 after a deflection off a defender.

The lead didn’t last, though, as the Rangers connected on their own power play. Brian Elliott made a nice save on an initial shot by Derek Stepan, but Rick Nash was left wide open at the side of the net to tap in the rebound and tie the game at 1-1. (Remember the phrase “left wide open” because it’ll come up again.) Shots were 15-13 Rangers in the opening frame.

Neither side scored in the second period. The Flames had more jump than they had in the first period, but they couldn’t bury anything. The period itself wasn’t all that entertaining as a result, as neither side really generated much in the way of nice scoring chances. Shots were 8-6 Calgary. The Rangers did beat Elliott at the very end of the period, but it was judged to have been ever-so-slightly after the final horn.

The Rangers kept pressing as the third period began, overrunning the third line (Kris Versteeg, Alex Chiasson and Sam Bennett) early in the period. The Flames lost track of their coverage a bit and that allowed Michael Grabner to score off a one-timer to make it 2-1 – literally every Flames player was on the other half of the zone, leaving Grabner wide open. The top line answered back for the Flames shortly afterwards though; a Johnny Gaudreau shot was blocked, but careened right to Troy Brouwer for a tap in to make it 2-2.

But shortly after that goal, Versteeg was thrown out of the game after a fight with Pavel Buchnevich because his jersey wasn’t tied down. Shortly after that penalty shortened Calgary’s bench, Chris Kreider beat Brian Elliott with a wrister from the top of the circles – a goal Elliott probably wants back – to make it 3-2. Later in the period the Rangers made it 4-2 off another scrambley defensive zone shift that allowed Jesper Fast plenty of time and space to tuck the puck past Elliott.

The Flames answered back, though; Mikael Backlund grabbed an errant Rangers pass and his wrister was redirected by Tkachuk past Lundqvist to make it 4-3.

That’s as close as Calgary got, though. Shots were 11-11 in the final 20 minutes.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

They just weren’t quite good enough in their own end. They allowed three goals where the guy who scored was left all alone in front. And on the other goal, Dennis Wideman kept backing up and allowed Kreider to get a shot away rather than going after him and eliminating the lane.

The Flames had plenty of pep in their step, particularly in the final two periods, but the Rangers were the better team defensively – despite having two big giveaways lead to goals on their side – and that was enough for them to capture two points.

THE TURNING POINT

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 2.10.46 PM

The Versteeg-Bennett-Chiasson line was buzzing for two periods but couldn’t find the back of the net. They were caught flat-footed on the second Rangers goal, but the Flames were really hurt by Versteeg getting the game misconduct in the third. His absence made the Flames that much shallower and easier to match up against as the Rangers clung to their lead.

RED WARRIOR

The 3M Line were all good today after a few games of unspectacular play. All three deserve praise.

Honourable mention to young Dougie Hamilton, who was easily Calgary’s best blueliner on this occasion.

THE NUMBERS

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

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Versteeg 77.3 75.0 0.660
Bennett 76.7 57.1 0.885
Chiasson 69.0 66.7 0.315
Giordano 67.5 41.7 0.950
Tkachuk 64.5 33.3 2.050
Backlund 63.6 33.3 2.355
Frolik 60.6 33.3 0.800
Hamilton 60.5 41.7 1.675
Engelland 55.6 50.0 0.200
Wideman 54.6 53.9 0.225
Jokipakka 53.9 50.0 0.075
Brouwer 51.4 55.6 1.150
Brodie 48.5 53.9 -0.150
Monahan 46.9 62.5 0.510
Gaudreau 42.9 62.5 0.525
Stajan 42.9 33.3 -0.390
Ferland 41.2 33.3 0.125
Bouma 38.9 33.3 -0.200
Elliott -0.200

THIS AND THAT

The Flames haven’t won in Madison Square Garden since 2008.

UP NEXT

The Flames (27-25-3) are back at it on Tuesday night when they head to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins.

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  • TurkeyLips

    Why oh what is Sam Bennet?

    He is a space cadet, floating far, far away through stratospheric orbit.

    His high player number, running counter to unwritten Flames tradition, makes his comet-like trajectory all the more noticeable to management’s ever watchful eyes.

    Hey Sam, while you go check out the dark side of the Moon, do us all a favour and use its gravity to slingshot your dear self back to homebase.

    Homebase back here at ground level is where we play “level-headed” hockey.

  • freethe flames

    Sometimes you play reasonably well and loss. Turnovers(Stajan on the 4th goal) and poor zone coverage especially on the 3rd goal did us in. They played hard, they did not quite and they stood up for themselves and each other; that made it enjoyable. But in the end we are not good enough to beat the top end teams unless we are nearly perfect and today we not.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      The Flames were the better team for most of the game. Lundquist picked this game to turn his game around. We had so many good opportunities to take a 2-1 lead but once again lacked timely finishing and timely goaltending. They never quit and stood up for each other which is all we can hope for.

  • The Sultan

    I live south of Calgary and know some guys who have hung out with Dennis Wideman. They took him out to go hunting coyotes and apparently his shot isn’t just terrible on the ice. Didn’t pay for gas, didn’t pay for beer, wife was mad at him. Now I’m not saying Dennis Wideman isn’t a good person. I don’t personally know him.

    BUT.

    Anyone with half a brain and a working eye could tell you that he doesn’t belong in the NHL anymore. His sloppy defensive play aside, his offense has completely dried up due to the fact that he can’t hit the net, and the puck rings around the boards and effectively ends any scoring chance the Flames might have had.

    Management, Burke, Treliving, Gulutzan, please please please please PLEASE find Dennis Wideman a permanent seat in the pressbox.

      • cjc

        I can’t see ownership being upset if the team wins. That said, it’s Gulutzan’s decision who to play each night and, frankly, nobody gets why Wideman has had such a long leash this year.

  • The Sultan

    Also, the Rangers are not necessarily an elite NHL team. This was a very winnable game. Nash is old, Lundqvist is no longer a perennial Vezina candidate. The Flames lost this game due to the old chess adage: the board is set, the mistakes are all waiting to be made.

    The Flames lost this game not because the Rangers were the better team or were better defensively, they lost this game because the Flames beat themselves.

  • The Sultan

    Anybody who down votes any of my comments loves Dennis Wideman and shouldn’t be a Flames fan. And shouldn’t be on Flamesnation. Sorry. Let me rephrase what I meant.

    Oh, good try boys we’ll get them next time. Great effort. Couldn’t have done anything any better. We’ll make the playoffs next year. Or the year after. Yay team. Go team. Go Wideman. Go #1 goaltender Brian Elliot. Yaaaasss teamwork.

    • dontcryWOLF88

      Sultan, I recommend not turning to the internet for self-validation.

      I think the softy on elliot was the turning point. Stajan had a shit game also. i know every body loves Stajan, but his tripping penalty led to the first rangers PP goal. Then he directly causes the 4th as well.

      Hey FN writers. How about we just decide beforehand how we will blame all future losses on Wideman? …or has that already been done? …you guys blamed him, for that 3rd goal when elliot should have had that. Then no mention at all of stajan and his fails? That is big time selective bias, and its long past predictable.

    • dontcryWOLF88

      Sultan, I recommend not turning to the internet for self-validation.

      I think the softy on elliot was the turning point. Stajan had a shit game also. i know every body loves Stajan, but his tripping penalty led to the first rangers PP goal. Then he directly causes the 4th as well.

      Hey FN writers. How about we just decide beforehand how we will blame all future losses on Wideman? …or has that already been done? …you guys blamed him, for that 3rd goal when elliot should have had that. Then no mention at all of stajan and his fails? That is big time selective bias, and its long past predictable.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Sultan, I recommend not turning to the internet for self-validation.

    I think the softy on elliot wasa major turning point. Although the most damaging flame today was Stajan, who had a terrible game. i know every body loves Stajan, but his tripping penalty led to the first rangers PP goal. Then he directly causes the 4th as well.

    Hey FN writers. How about we just decide beforehand how we will blame all future losses on Wideman? …or has that already been done? …you blamed him, for that 3rd goal when elliot should have had that. Then no mention at all of stajan and his fails? That is big time selective bias, and its long past predictable.

    • Stu Cazz

      Stajan is a sacred player in these parts…nice guy, hard worker tough personal circumstances a couple years ago..fact is that he should have been bought out last year..bad contract extension by Burke…the game has passed him long ago..he is slow and on pace to get less than 10 goals again…contending teams have productive 4th line centres….

      • dontcryWOLF88

        Dont get me wrong with that comment earlier. I think Stajan is worth having as a 4th line guy. But, as it turns out, he wound up being a key difference maker for all the wrong reasons. That can happen to anybody. However, when a guy luke Stajan has a bad game FN writers wont even mention it. Yet any tiny little thing that a guy like Wideman does wrong is exaggerated beyond beleif. I dont even like wideman as a player, but seriously he isnt as bad as people keep trying to say. Look at his advanced stats. Last I checked he was above Brodie and below Giordano in almost every category. Engellend and Kevin were last.

        Somebody made a comment on here earlier that I thought was really accurate. It was something like , “I thought advanced stats were supposed to take the bias out of it.” Well…that isnt how it works here at FN.

        Sorry, im going to stop. Im having a bad day, and am pissed the Flames lost that one. Need to go calm down.

        GFG

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Stajan was arguably our best player against NJ…he was flying. He made a few mistakes today which cost us…nothing more. These are common mistakes and sometimes they end up I the back of the net. IMO if we don’t make the playoffs it is directly due to us not getting enough loser points….the team up north has this figured out.

  • RKD

    Gulutzan’s use of Wideman is hurting this team, he has no business playing 22:50. The longer Wideman is on the ice the more of a liability he is. Are they showcasing him because it’s backfiring on us badly. We need way more from Sam Bennett, look at what Tkachuk is doing. Two different players but one wants it more, Tkachuk has surpassed all expectations. Bennett has played tough minutes been shuttled back and forth from C and LW but he sometimes has a defeated look on his face. He has so much talent to show us and i still believe he can.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Kris Russell served to divide Flames fan along traditional and advanced stats lines. Dennis Wideman unites us all; nobody believes his an NHLer anymore.

  • deantheraven

    A lot of Bennett- bashing today, not altogether unwarranted IMHO. Seeing Bennett’s troubles drag on so is cause for pause.

    What would anyone think about sending him to Stockton for a week? It’s been discussed here before. I’d be curious to see what others think should be done to shake him outta this funk.
    Plus, we could see what Jankowski looks like as a third line centre.

  • everton fc

    Sending Bennett down is not the answer. The answer may lie on left wing. You’d have to slot Stajan at centre (Hamilton’s the only other option, unless Bouma moves to centre), and retain Chiasson on RW. Then our forth line becomes Bouma-Hamilton-Ferland.

    That’s the only option, unless they recall Jankowski and play him as 4th line centre with Bouma and Ferland at the wings. Jankowski as a 3rd line centre? Not yet.

    Our cupboard down the middle is thin. We have to wrap our collective minds around the fact this is a very thin team, and to be where they are in the playoff chase, based on the fact Johnny and Sam aren’t scoring (nor Brouwer, Gio, and others, for most of the season) is actually amazing. Shows how great Backlund’s line has truly been.