The final game of the regular season for the Calgary Flames and the San Jose Sharks was an utterly meaningless affair for both sides. While points were given away that were reflected in the official NHL standings, both teams knew that they wouldn’t be moving up or down in the Western Conference playoff race regardless of whether they won or lost.
As a result, the game had all the flair and excitement of a preseason game. The Flames dropped a 3-1 decision to the Sharks. It was a game that was to be endured, not enjoyed.
The first period wasn’t very good. Both teams were bland and couldn’t connect on passes. Nobody scored. Shots were 6-5 Calgary.
There was more to talk about in the second period. Chris Tierney scored off a defensive lapse by the Flames; Sean Monahan couldn’t clear out a loose puck in the high slot, it got knocked around the Flames zone and Tierney wandered in and put it past Brian Elliott to make it 1-0.
The Sharks doubled the lead late in the period off another odd defensive play. Rasmus Andersson was covering the puck-carrier Tierney as he approached the Flames net. Dennis Wideman was also following Tierney instead of watching his man, so Mikkel Boedker was able to accept a pass and beat a sprawling Elliott to make it 2-0.
The Flames did manage to get on the board, though, off a scrambley play in front of Aaron Dell. An initial chance was stopped, but Matthew Tkachuk shuffled the loose puck to Curtis Lazar for a one-timer goal and cut the Sharks lead to 2-1.
Curtis Lazar's first as a Flame.
You can see the excitement of never having to play with Chris Neil again in his eyes. pic.twitter.com/gW8p0zLG32
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) April 9, 2017
Shots were 12-9 Sharks.
David Rittich came in for the third period, replacing Elliott (probably to rest the Flames starter). The defensive pairings were also shuffled, with Andersson put with Dougie Hamilton and Wideman put with Matt Bartkowski. The Flames had some nice chances early in the period but couldn’t score. On a Sharks power play, a double deflection beat Rittich to make it 3-1. Marc-Eduoard Vlasic’s initial shot was first deflected by Dennis Wideman and then by Sharks rookie Danny O’Regan and beat Rittich. Calgary couldn’t muster anything else. Shots were 10-6 Sharks.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
The Sharks had two power plays and scored once. The Flames had three power plays and never scored. That’s basically the game right there, with the Flames bobbling the puck on their man advantages and the Sharks looking dangerous. Having a Brent Burns on the point definitely helps.
Defensively, the Flames were much worse than the Sharks in terms of sloppiness. The Flames frequently failed to get the puck out of their own end, which led to a lot of running around and giving up secondary chances.
THE TURNING POINT
It’s obvious, but the Flames were pressing and seemed poised to get a goal before the Sharks made it 3-1 on the power play. After that, they didn’t have much fight left in ’em.
Lazar replaced Mikael Backlund on the 3M Line tonight. His face-off numbers weren’t great, but he was one of the few Flames that seemed emotionally engaged in the game and he seemed like he was working his tail off. It was good to see him get a goal.
Heck, the entire 2M (and Lazar) line was good considering their circumstances.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Data via Natural Stat Trick.)
THIS AND THAT
Tkachuk’s assist on Lazar’s goal gave him 35 on the season, triggering an entry-level bonus of $212,500.
Hamilton’s assist on Lazar’s goal was his 50th point of the season.
David Rittich made 9 saves on 10 shots in his NHL debut. He seemed to have some rebound control issues from time to time.
Rasmus Andersson was -1 in 18:33 in his debut. He looked shaky with Wideman, but pretty good with Dougie Hamilton in the third period.
The Flames (45-33-4) head home tonight and begin to prepare. What for? Why, the Stanley Cup playoffs, of course, which begin on Wednesday league-wide. Their opponents (and the first round schedule) are still to be determined.
GETAWAY WITH AMA