The Calgary Flames came into the Honda Center as the decided underdogs in their first round series with the Anaheim Ducks. They’re a wildcard team and the Ducks are a division winner. They’re young and relatively inexperienced, while the Ducks have played a lot of playoff hockey. The Ducks have seemed to play with maturity and poise down the stretch, while the Flames seemed to wilt at times.
Well, the teams were what we thought they would be in Game 1. The Flames took a bunch of undisciplined penalties that sapped them of momentum at the wrong times. Anaheim took the opening game of the series by a 3-2 score on the back of a pair of power play goals and a horrendous second period line change by the Flames.
The Flames started off their playoff year poorly. Within the first minute, Dougie Hamilton had taken an undisciplined tripping penalty after he stopped skating after calling the Ducks for a too many men violation. Unfortunately for him, the officials assigned to this game didn’t see a violation and he scrambled to get back into the play by hauling a Duck down. A point shot from Ryan Getzlaf deflected off Deryk Engelland five seconds into the power play and beat Brian Elliott to make it 1-0 Ducks just 52 seconds into the game. Ruh-roh.
Calgary clawed back, though. A nice shift from the 3M Line with a ton of pressure led to Michael Frolik drawing a slash from Ondrej Kase. After T.J. Brodie deftly intercepted an attempted clearing pass, a shot from the side boards from Kris Versteeg was redirected by Sean Monahan to make it 1-1.
What a beauty tip by Sean Monahan.
Heck of an effort by Brodie at the blueline. pic.twitter.com/tg9ZFpwBvg
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) April 14, 2017
Shots were 17-9 Anaheim in the first period. Combined, the teams had 6:20 of power play time in the period, and the period lacked much flow because of all the penalty calls.
It was a really tight second period, with both teams cutting out a lot of the hacking and whacking that characterized the first period. The Flames actually took a lead midway through the period, with some nice puck management by Hamilton and Versteeg leading to a really nice goal. Versteeg made a nice no-look back-pass to Sam Bennett for a tap-in in the slot to make it 2-1 Calgary.
BEHIND THE BACK FROM VERBEAUTIFUL TO SAMMY
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) April 14, 2017
But because it was Calgary in Anaheim, the lead did not last. A horrendous line change by the Bennett line (and the Deryk Engelland/Matt Bartkowski defensive pairing) led to a three-on-none break for the Ducks. Getzlaf’s initial shot was saved by a sprawling Elliott, but Rickard Rakell got a gimme on the rebound to make it 2-2.
Immediately after the tying goal, Hamilton took another minor penalty. The Flames killed it off, but on the ensuing offensive zone rush Lance Bouma barrelled into John Gibson and took a goalie interference minor. That led to a lengthy Ducks power play shift with roughly 1:20 of sustained pressure, culminating with Jakub Silfverberg beating Elliott with a shot between Michael Stone’s legs – with a potential partial screen from Stone – to make it 3-2 Anaheim. Shots were 13-11 Anaheim in the second.
Neither team scored in the third. The Flames couldn’t generate much of a push at even strength, but gained some momentum from a successful penalty kill late in the period. The Ducks took a pair of successive penalties in the late third and the Flames had a 1:14 five-on-three and then a lengthy power play with Elliott on the bench for the extra attacker. They couldn’t generate very much, with most of their shot attempts coming from the point. That was as close as they got. Shots were 12-11 Calgary in the third period.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
There are two big reasons.
First, the Flames took way too many penalties. They gave Anaheim seven power plays and those advantages led to two Ducks goals. That’s way too many, and often came at the wrong times and sapped the Flames of crucial momentum.
Second, the Flames special teams were pretty rough. Their penalty kill gave up two goals – one off a deflection by a defender and one off a partial screen – and they seemed to hang back and let Anaheim hold onto the puck on the perimeter. Anaheim never seemed scared that the Flames would pressure them, steal the puck and go the other way. But man, the Flames had a golden opportunity to tie the game late with 74 seconds of five-on-three time and they generated basically nothing. That’s completely unacceptable.
THE TURNING POINT
There’s a few possibilities, but I’ll narrow it down to two.
Bouma’s penalty was a dumb penalty to take at the precise wrong time. The Flames were reeling after the bad change led to the tying goal. Then they seemed to gain some momentum back with a nice penalty kill on Hamilton’s second penalty. Bouma’s minor set them back on their heels and Silfverberg’s goal put them right on their backsides.
But again, when you have a lengthy two man advantage, on the road, in the playoffs, in a one goal game, you need to score. And if you don’t score, you better make the goalie look like Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur had a goaltending child and he used supernatural powers to keep the puck out. They had a tremendous opportunity to draw even and the game was theirs for the taking: they didn’t take it.
Elliott made 38 saves and basically stood on his head for the whole game. The three goals against he gave up were: a tip off Engelland’s stick, a three-on-none rebound, and a shot between Stone’s legs with a likely partial screen. He didn’t really have a chance on any of ’em.
Honourable mention to Micheal Ferland, who had seven shots and was a force when he was on the ice.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Data via Natural Stat Trick.)
THIS AND THAT
Ferland had seven shots on goal, the most of any player in this game. He had no power play time. Zero minutes, zero seconds.
Flames lose 28th straight game in Anaheim … Canadian teams 0-5 to start the 2017 NHL playoffs … still better than last year
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 14, 2017
The Flames practice tomorrow and try to tie the series up on Saturday night. Game 2 goes at 8:30 p.m. on the CBC.
GETAWAY WITH AMA