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Photo Credit: Brad Mills / USA Today Sports

Post-Game: Capitol Disappointment

In the classic Simpsons episode “Bart Carny,” a character exclaims at the episode’s climax: “There’s no shame being beaten by the best.” I couldn’t help but think of that quote during tonight’s game between the Calgary Flames and the Washington Capitals.

The Flames have been white-hot lately, losing just three games in regulation since late January. The Capitals, on the other hand, are one of the top teams in the entire NHL and have been all season. Down a couple of regulars, the Flames weren’t quite good enough to hang with Washington en route to a 4-2 loss.

There’s no shame being beaten by the best. Especially if they’re not from the Western Conference.

THE RUNDOWN

Despite playing without Matthew Tkachuk and Micheal Ferland, the Flames hung in there during the first period. They got caught early, though, as Evgeni Kuznetsov scored just after getting out of the penalty box following a roughing minor (Troy Brouwer got nabbed at the same time) to make it 1-0. The Flames answered back pretty quickly afterwards, with a nice Johnny Gaudreau pass getting buried by Sean Monahan to make it 1-1.

Shots were 12-12 in the first.

Washington came out of the locker room in the second period seemingly bewildered that they were tied with Calgary. They shelled Brian Elliott for much of the period. For much of the period, Elliott made the first save and the Flames cleared it out. Unfortunately, the Capitals broke through late. T.J. Oshie finished off a really nice passing sequence involving Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to make it 2-1. Dougie Hamilton got nabbed in the final minute for tripping Ovechkin and Kevin Shattenkirk scored on the ensuing power play to make it 3-1. Shots were 20-6 Washington.

The Flames tried to get back into it in the third, eventually getting close after Troy Brouwer (!) finished off a really nice pass from Deryk Engelland (!) to make it 3-2.

Unfortunately, that’s as close as the Flames got. Mark Giordano got tossed in the penalty box for a puck over glass infraction and Ovechkin’s one-timer made it 4-2. Shots were 13-8 Flames.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

Honestly? Washington’s just better and deeper. The Flames hung in there for the first half of the game, but Washington was just too good and too deep. The Flames took too many penalties, allowed too many power play goals and just couldn’t generate nearly enough five on five to make up for it.

Silver lining? This was a game they were reasonably expected to lose, and could’ve gotten blown out in given they were short two key players. They hung in there, which is almost like a victory. Almost.

THE TURNING POINT

Goals in the final minute of a period are awful to give up. Shattenkirk’s power play marker made it 3-1 and gave the Capitals a ton of breathing room heading into the final 20 minutes.

RED WARRIOR

Elliott held ’em in, bless his heart. He was easily the best Flames player, though the usual suspects (Backlund, Frolik, D.Hamilton, Giordano) were also pretty good. Also surprisingly good? Sam Bennett, whose performance suggests that maybe it’s his regular linemates that are causing his bad underlyings this season. (Looking at you, Troy.)

THE NUMBERS

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

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Bennett 70.3 20.0 0.950
Frolik 70.0 16.7 1.250
D.Hamilton 68.2 12.5 1.025
Giordano 68.2 14.3 1.050
Backlund 65.9 16.7 0.700
Chiasson 50.0 70.0 0.775
Gaudreau 47.4 60.0 0.800
Monahan 47.4 60.0 0.895
Brodie 45.5 66.7 0.075
Stone 43.8 72.7 -0.375
Versteeg 42.9 33.3 0.770
Brouwer 41.7 37.5 0.625
Stajan 38.1 42.9 -0.205
Engelland 31.4 25.0 0.350
Bartkowski 30.3 25.0 -0.650
F.Hamilton 27.3 25.0 -0.165
Lazar 15.4 25.0 -0.600
Bouma 15.4 40.0 -0.525
Elliott 0.600

THIS AND THAT

MAGIC NUMBERS

Stick-tap to our pal (and yours) Pat Steinberg for busting out the slide-ruler to do the initial calculations on these!

The Flames magic number to clinch a playoff spot began the night at 5. They lost, so that number doesn’t change.

UP NEXT

The Flames (41-28-4) are off to Nashville! They practice tomorrow, then play the Predators on Thursday night.

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  • The Doctor

    The timing of those penalties to Gio and Dougie was obviously unfortunate. Tough road trip that they have here: the Caps, followed by two uber-motivated opponents who are fighting for playoff positioning and playing well these days.

    • Burning Ring of Fire

      If Brouwer wasn’t in the line up, Lance would be the next whipping boy to feel the wrath of fans. He really doesnt do much, especially for what he is paid.

      • BeerCorsi

        It’s funny because so many people defended that contract and dismissed the discouraging sh% and analytics are the same people who did the same with the Brouwer contract and the Lazar one. People just keep hitching their wagons to the intangibles and grit these players have. The Brouwer contract is so bad and going to get so much worse that it saves Bouma and most likely Lazar from the criticism they’d likely get.

    • Atomic Clown

      Washington is ridiculously deep. Holtby is ungodly good. I knew we’d lose because of the Caps PP. And yes, Bartkowski got absolutely shelled Everytime he was on the ice. I don’t know why he gets any offensive starts whatsoever

    • McRib

      Please oh please give Rasmus Andersson a chance instead of Bartkowski. Considering they burned a callup for Andersson we should see him in at some point this year.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        There was one play that Bart made on a 3 on 3 where he left his man to
        Take the puck carrier only to interfere with his defensive partner. It stood out to me as a real junior mistake at this level. I am not sure that he is as much of an improvement over Kulak and Joki, and only slightly better than Grossman. Great goaltending can hide a lot of warts. IMO once Rasmus gets into the line up….he will be too solid to take out.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Hate to pile on… But Bartkowski does not pass the eye test. He can’t seem to get out of his own zone and is guilty of fumbling the puck repeatedly. I will take Lazar’snumbers with a grain of salt…he was not as strong as he was in the first game. He made some poor reads but was likely trying to do too much.

  • kittensandcookies

    I’m not even mad.

    The Caps had to elevate their game to beat the Flames. They were on cruise control the first half of the game and then realized they had to step it up if they were going to win tonight.

  • BeerCorsi

    The Flames just don’t have the depth at the moment to sustain their level of play when they get a few injuries. They’re still a really good team and they still need to do some building. A game like tonight does highlight how important this offseason is.

    I would say that going from a mid-level contender to a bonafide cup contender is one of the toughest things to do. You’re trying to move the needle but you can’t at this point add another superstar or franchise player that could easily do it. You have to do it with smart little moves and find value in those depth players.

    A formidable 3rd line and another possession driving defensemen and this team could be the best team in the West. The Flames time is absolutely now starting next season.

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    Overall, not a bad road game. Caps are pretty good but they didn’t dominate us IMHO. Was Gio’s DOG penalty legit?? The NHL needs a BizHub swing camera at their games cuz I thought that one was a little fishy. Chiassons Corsica numbers look good but if he’s a first liner on your team, you’very got some depth problems. He needs to remember that he’s not a rusher but rather a crusher first and foremost. I don’t think d-men fear his forecheck like they should. They need to hear footsteps when he’s on the ice.

    Oh well, pack up, move on, and let’s get back on track.

    GFG

  • McRib

    Sam Bennett led all skaters with a Corsi For of 70.3%… Good to know that he can be highly effective when he has capable linemates. However even I must admit he is starting to look more and more like an NHL winger rather than a Centre.

  • Lucky 13

    Two of the most unlikely players to combine for a goal. I am still dumbfounded as to that slick -no look pass from Engelland to Brouwer for the tap in. I rubbed my eyes 3 times and laughed my ass off for a few moments.
    That was as sweet of a pass as I’ve seen.
    And credit to Brouwer, his stick was on the ice. Did Brouwer actually expect that pass? I guess so. I didn’t.

    We certainly missed our mouth guard malaise Tkachuk out there. That kid isn’t easily replaceable. Same with Ferland and his “Tasmanian Devil” play buzzing around.
    Bennett looked strong and confident, nice to see that from him.
    I feel bad for Elliott, he was as good as you could expect. He kept the game close.

    Hoping for a great game against the Predators next.
    Only 5 and we’re in!

  • McRib

    I’m not going to lose sleep over the Curtis Lazar deal (what’s a second rounder), but this is turning out even worse than I thought. I’ve never been a fan of Lazar dating back to his WHL days, as I always believed he was overrated because of his “character”, but not having any waiver exception makes this deal a real stinker. If there was ever an underrated argument to not rush players it would be to keep waiver eligibility for longer.

    Lazar is nowhere close to being NHL ready, even if someday he does end up as a bottom six forward (doubtful), how is he going to improve sitting in the press box instead of developing in the minors like he should? I also hope this doesn’t stop much more talented players like Jankowski, Mangiapane, Klimchuk, etc from getting a call-up down the road as well.

    I’m still a big fan of BT, but the Brower and Lazar acquisitions, two deals formed out of nepotism because of pre-established relationships have not gone well. Dear BT please go back to acquiring players you don’t already have a relationship with in the future, thanks.

  • Despo

    After a tough first 11 minutes where the Caps had about 9 or 10 shots we played a pretty good road game. Even for most parts of the 2nd we’ve played quite good despite not buring our chances. If Backs scores on his break or Frolik on the SH 2-on-1 ….
    So or so I liked the effort especially if you consider that we’ve played with guys in the line-up who played their first games in weeks and with a little bit more luck Gio scores the 3:3 tie and we steal a point. Now focus on the next two far more important games.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Barry Trotz used home ice last change and killed the Flames where they are most weak; Flames depth was exposed. Especially in light of loosing Ferland and Tkatchuk, which made it worse.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I can’t see another big free agent splash this off-season as we’ve seen recently (unless Brouwer is taken by Vegas or moved somehow). We need the cap space for future re-ups and keeping core players like Backlund and Tkachuk. I can see BT re-signing Stone to Engelland money and then using farm depth. Once Stajan and Bouma contracts expire, we’ll see even more farm depth. Something like this two seasons from now:
    Gaudreau/Monahan/Ferland
    Tkachuk/Backlund/Frolik
    Shinkaruk/Bennett/Lazar
    Klimchuk/Jankowski/Brouwer
    Gio/Hamilton
    Brodie/Andersson
    Kylington/Stone

  • Hemi-97

    Oiler fan here. Just my opinion but I think Edmonton has the best shot to finish second if not first in the game Pacific Division.
    They play ANA and COL on the road today and Thursday, then at home against COL, LA, SJ, ANA, back on road to LA, SJ, VAN and finish the season at home versus VAN on April 9th.They are 25-9-6 versus the West. They are 14-4-3 versus the Pacific.
    It looks as though they have the best schedule on paper but saying that they still have to win the games.