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Ducks 5, Flames 4 (OT) post-game embers: What is there to say?

Three games, the Flames have been the better team.

Three times, they’ve lost.

Well, let’s have at ’em

I do not blame the officials. I go out of my way to avoid blaming the officials. And really, how can you when the Flames didn’t have to kill a single penalty, and got five powerplays of their own? It looked like the tide had turned on that front, at least for a home game.

And sure, it was penalties that hurt them in the first two games. But the possibility of killing them always exists. Ultimately, it’s up to the team to do just that – and they can control their own play on the ice.

But between calling off Alex Chiasson’s goal in Game 2, and deciding Nate Thompson’s goal in Game 3 wasn’t the result of a high stick – only the officials can control that (by calling the plays in favour of the Ducks on the ice first, and by the war room¬†essentially shrugging after minutes-long reviews to go with them). The only last gasp option after all that would be to challenge the call, but what would be the point of that after such a long review had already taken place?

That’s where you can’t win. Penalties get called all the time, penalties get missed all the time – but video review is supposed to get things right.

Video review that would have the Flames at least in overtime in Game 2, and winning Game 3, instead playing directly into the opposition’s hands – and giving them two wins instead. You go back two years, to Sam Bennett’s non-goal in a different Game 3 against the Ducks, and it’s good enough to leave you feeling defeated – and you’re just a fan. Your actions don’t mean anything in this space.

So I can’t imagine what calls like that, in particular, would do to the players.

As I’ve seen it put like this time and time again elsewhere: you can beat the Ducks. But you can’t beat the Ducks AND the officials.

Where’d Game 1 Brian Elliott go?

Game 1 was a display of excellent goaltending from both goalies, with Brian Elliott ultimately the better over his counterpart John Gibson despite the loss. Gibson was serving up rebounds the Flames didn’t capitalize on, while Elliott kept his team solidly in it, and couldn’t be blamed for anything that went past him.

Pucks are still bouncing off of Elliott’s defencemen and in, but the stellar play from Game 1 has been gone since the puck dropped in Game 2. The latest two losses would be fair to pin on him. Had he been sharper to start Game 2, the Ducks don’t jump out to that early lead, and then Flames maybe take it. And had he been able to do literally anything in Game 3 – especially after being gifted a three-goal lead – then the Flames aren’t in a 3-0 hole.

Elliott absolutely takes the blame on this one. He himself has admitted as much. He faced 27 shots; he let in five goals. Gibson faced 16 shots; he let in four goals. Jonathan Bernier faced 16 shots and stopped all of them.

That leaves a question for both teams: who starts the next game? Do the Ducks go back to Gibson? And do the Flames go back to Elliott, even after the past two performances?

The Ducks can afford to guess wrong. The Flames can’t. And before deciding, remember: the last time Johnson posted a save percentage above .900 was Feb. 24, and he hasn’t played a full game since March 23.

Not that the skaters are blameless

In the first period, the Flames had a 5v5 CF of 58.33%.

In the second period, it was 55.56%.

In the third period, 42.86%.

They had a two-goal lead – what should have been a three-goal lead, were it not for that late-period collapse – and couldn’t hold it. That’s what this comes down to. Was Elliott poor? Yes. Would he have had the chance to be poor if the team in front of him had played better? No. The Flames stopped doing what they had been so successful in doing the first two periods, the Ducks took over, and that cost them.

As if their end to the second period wasn’t a strong enough hint that they wouldn’t survive if they kept playing that way, they had to go and test the theory.

It’s hard to maintain that pace for an entire game. And if you’re so inclined, you can give credit to the Ducks for pushing back and forcing it to be a game again. They had a role in their win, too; it wasn’t just the Flames giving away another game as a collective unit.

Except, you know… it kind of was.

And at even strength…

The Ducks were undisciplined. They committed a number of infractions in the game – whether self-inflicted or play that the Flames’ at-the-time superiority forced them into – and three out of five times, the Flames made them pay.

They needed that. They absolutely needed that. Even the Ducks couldn’t do that when they had seven powerplays to work with. The Flames forced the Ducks into taking penalties and used it to draw blood, and that is a crucial factor that deservedly got them the upper hand in the game.

They also only scored once at even strength, a Michael Stone bomb that went ripping past Gibson. For every other scoring attempt they had – and at 5v5, it was 22-17 for the Flames – they simply could not get it done.

The Ducks could. Five times. And as much as the goaltending deserves the blame, as much as the skaters do too, that was the difference. The Flames got their chances, but couldn’t actually capitalize unless they had the man advantage. And everything just went right for the Ducks – and they didn’t need a single penalty called in their favour to do it.

This is not a reflection of this team

So… who’s ready for a reverse sweep, eh? Wouldn’t that be something?

I genuinely don’t know how one goes from here. The Flames are down 3-0 in a series, and they have a -3 goal differential to show for it. Three other teams – Columbus, Minnesota, and Chicago – are also down 3-0 in their series, but they can’t say that. They have not lost each of their games by one goal. Their series are mathematically not as close as the Flames and Ducks have been.

If that makes the Flames the best among the losers… so be it, then? Half of the first round series are in danger of being sweeps, but the Flames, for their part, do not deserve to be in the position they are in. Individual mistakes have cost them, but they are not a team so bad that they should be down 3-0. There have been moments in which they’ve clearly dominated the Ducks, including most of this game. And then there’s a five-man line change, or a bad bounce or five, or a war room decision nobody can fathom… and they’re down 3-0, despite going toe-to-toe and hanging with the Ducks every step of the way.

Three one-goal games is not an indication of a team being outplayed. It’s simply not. It’s an indication of one team, between two evenly matched opponents, getting all of the bounces, having all of the luck (and then some) go their way.

So what’s the comfort, or solace, or silver lining to find in any of this?

Same as the last time.

This team has grown. This series and the one from 2015 aren’t even remotely the same. And you combine the lessons – the very, very hard lessons that have been learned over these past three games – with a smart offseason, and in October, this could be a dangerous group.

There are a lot of maybes there, but considering how everything has gone, there isn’t too much reason to think it won’t be done.

It stings now. But this is the long con. It stung in January, too – and they learned from that to have a chance at these new heartbreakers.

It has been a good season. It has been a good postseason. And it’s not over yet.

  • SeanforMVP

    For me the biggest disappointments this series have been elliot and johnny but lets be honest, the flames were not supposed to go on a run this year. So hopefully some of the guys take this disappointing playoffs and turn it into a productive summer and get better. But hey with all the bad luck going calgary’s way maybe the hockey gods have a miracle lined up for them

  • The Doctor

    I don’t think Elliot was as bad as the author makes out. A lot of those Ducks shots that went in were total seeing eye shots. A number of them over the series have been deflections, including more than one deflection off of Flames players. I think our failure to capitalize on chances has been way more of a factor. And I wish to God that Johnny Gaudreau would dial down on the trying to be fancy and just shoot the puck when he has daylight in front of him. Even Ferland was guilty of that last night — he had a clear shot at the net and instead made a stupid, unsuccessful passing attempt. It’s like he’s learning the wrong things from playing alongside Gaudreau.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      If you look back at Johnny’s shot from tha last few years it was deadly… Something happened after the injury and it was never the same…. This made him one dimensional and easy to defend. As for Ferland, the play you are referring to he was pressured on his backhand and clearly did not feel comfortable shooting.

  • Skylardog

    There has been no desperation, no urgency to ensure a win in any of the 3 games. Watch the Toronto and Ottawa series, both teams are doing whatever it takes to get a win. Pitt, Montreal, Edmonton, Nashville and St Louis are also paying the price. The Flames aren’t playing with an edge, a sense of do whatever it takes, get to the puck at all costs mentality.
    Frankly I think it is the result of being over-structured. I don’t even think the Ducks have that “urgency” that it takes to win the Cup. They have just shown a little more than the Flames have shown.
    This is exactly what I expected from them unfortunately. This years team has been about winning only when they get the goaltending. Without a 10 game and 6 game win streaks where goalies put up around 0.950 save percentages, this team doesn’t make the playoffs. And I am only talking about losing 4 of those games in the streaks (they won 6 of those 16 in OT or SOs) where Elliott or Johnson stole wins, and all of a sudden they are behind Winnipeg and LA. (I have goalies stealing 14 points in those 2 streaks, but 8 points was enough to be behind Winnipeg)
    And you all look at Gulutzan as the savior. Hartley gets the goaltending that Gulutzan got this year (which I know at times has been awful, but it has been a huge step up from last seasons mess) and Hartley makes the playoffs last year. Flames sit at 80 points if Elliot and Johnson don’t stand on their heads during the streaks.
    This is a good core, but the development has halted. Not even Tkachuk is the player he was at the start of the season. Gaudreau is not playing at his ability, Hamilton is playing below his talent level. Monahan can only score on the powerplay, Ferland is getting only 12:19 average ice time in the playoffs yet was the difference maker in 2015. Brodie is less than he was a year ago, Bennett has struggled all season. Gulutzan has taken a strong core and destroyed their development and confidence. If it was one player, then it is that player that has the issue, but it is almost the whole core that is faltering.

    • T&A4Flames

      Jesus man, hit yourself and rethink things. You’re suggesting fire GG and bring back Hartley, trade Gaudreau, Monahan and Hamilton? You’re a fool if you think it’s only goaltending that held us back last year and got us in this year but only because of lucky 6 and 10 game streaks.
      Hamilton just had his best season and Johnny and Mony are more rounded players. All of which started the season off in a bad way. And Tkachuk is a 19 year old in his 1st NHL playoffs. He still plays as 1/3 of top shut down line so why would you expect a playoffs like some battle-tested vet player? Get over yourself and your crying.

      • Skylardog

        Never said hire Hartley, nor trade any one. Where did you get that from?
        Hamilton is a product of Gio, take Gio away and he flounders. Tkachuk has digressed since early season. No one believes Gaudreau is playing at his potential, no one. Last year, Manahan was being called a young Toews, no talk of that this year.
        Gulutzan is lost on the bench. He is nervous, indecisive, unable to provide the leadership needed when things start to turn bad. His player ice time management is horrid. Bartkowski is out on a shift right after the high stick goal when the team needs a rebound shift and to protect against a momentum swing. Ferland and Tkachuk, are getting 4th line minutes, although Tkachuk did better last night, while Brouwer and Chaisson get more than 15 a game. Stajan has played in the last 2 minutes when the Flames are down by one all season.
        And yes, goaltending was the difference last year in not making it (they were horrid last year) and making it this year (although rough start and at times, there were streaks where the goalies were unbelievable this year. Most of all during the streaks where Elliot was 0.943 and Johnson was a crazy 0.951. 6 OT and SO games and 2 – 1 goal games in the 2 streaks. One bad goal in each, or even a huge non-save, and they lose 6 wins, and go to OT 2 times instead of outright wins. That’s 12 to 14 points. All of it goaltending. They are the sole reason we have playoff hockey in this town this year.

        • T&A4Flames

          I’m not here to defend GG but your reasoning and general line of thinking needs to be questioned.
          Tkachuk has regressed. Really? Wow a 19 year old who we weren’t even sure would be on the big club this year has hit a small point of regression? OMG what a terrible coach. 19!l year olds don’t just hit rough patches unless they have aerie or coach, right?
          No one thinks Gaudreau or Monahan are playing to potential. Only, they’ve gotten better as the year has moved on haven’t they? Didn’t Mony just about hit similar #’s as last year? And with a horrible start to the year. Not to mention that he is also still just a kid. And Monahan is not looking like Toews? Well this year, Toews isn’t looking like Toews. Maybe GG wants Ferland playing with peak energy and thus the limited minutes. And the Goaltending ideas you have “1 bad goal or huge non-save”, are you serious? Those can go either way. So they wen the right way for a stretch. Yay us.
          As I said, I’m not so much defending GG as I am questioning your thought process, because I do question some of the personal and shifting decisions he has done. But you need to give the man his due in regards to turning the season around and making the playoffs. Just like you want to support the goaltending that got us here despite it looking pretty shoddy the last couple games.

  • TrevorKidd37

    For those defending Elliott, clearly you dont know a whole lot about rebound control. Brian has struggled with this all season. You cannot give up a goal, like the first goal scored on him last night. He faced a textbook wrist shot from just over the blueline and kicked out a huge rebound. The same thing happened in Game 1, as well as the ‘home and home’ against the Ducks at the end of the season.

    If we look at the starting goalies in this years playoffs, who would take Elliott over any of the other 15 tenders? There is a reason Elliott is the age he is and hasn’t established himself as a ‘true’ starting goalie. We took a chance on him this season at a relatively low cost; it did not work, and luckily we will be able to move on at the seasons end.

    With potentially 1 game left in the season, i’d turn to Johnson or Gillies for Game 4. Sure, Johnson seems like the obvious choice, but consider that Gillies has been playing much more of late, and also is a big reason that Stockton snuck into the playoffs. That said, i’d lean towards Gillies for Game 4

  • Druds

    Oh man major whine….its the refs fault….but yet they gave us all the powerplays….its Elliotts fault but yet he got us to the playoffs…its the War Rooms fault…those guys in Toronto hate us…. WTF…. stop crying and man up. You are going to lose and thats that…no sense in making it even worse by such load of bull excuses.

    • Thatz Nuckin Futz

      You do know this is a ‘fan’ site where such things are discussed, complained about, & other such hyperbole. ‘Fan, is short for ‘fanatic’. If you want a Peace In The Middle East discussion, try CNN. Move along sunshine.

  • Azim

    It’s frustrating. Not that we’re losing but the way we’re losing. Reviews never going are way is one thing. But those bounces – it’s like the Hockey Gods are punishing the team for something (or for the entire ’14-15 season that they rewarded us) I’m sure in a few weeks or in the summer it won’t sting as much, and the players will learn from this bitter loss (you have to experience heartbreak to become a championship team), management will plug in our holes, coaching staff will re-evaluate what they could do differently, and next year we could all look at this season being a stepping-stone. Because this team has played well enough to win this series. But man, right now, it hurts.

    Maybe the hockey gods will change course and we start getting all the bounces and we make this a series. Or maybe that happens next season. At this point, I just want win and one more change to win in Anaheim.

  • gussey

    Flames fan living in Edmonton. For those of you in Calgary, be happy you only have to deal with the loss. I got Oiler fans surrounding me frothing at the mouth. I forgot what a cocky bunch they were over the past 10 years.

  • Justthateasy

    What else to say? How about boycotting the next game. If the NHL/Toronto can’t see stick above a guy’s head making contact with the puck then they don’t need an audience to watch this bush League.
    It looks like a high stick but you can prove it — Elliot Friedman. Give me a G-D break!
    Dollars to donuts nobody wants to go back to Anaheim so tomorrow will be all she wrote.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    This might be a little of side but given the player’s history I am Ok with it. When Bennett tagged Bieksa you could see he was reeling on the bench. As the elder statesman on the blue line, he was ripe to be knocked out of the game. It would have been really easy to send Ferland in to finish his night with some heavy clean body checks that only he can administer. With Bieksa out how would the young D make out.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    A little perspective….I love how Theodore, Anaheim’ 8th defender that is not quite good enough to make the ducks has more points than our prized highly paid winger.

    I am having a hard time defending Johnny this season especially in the playoffs. He never once demonstrated that he was capable of being a game breaker. I agree that he put the puck on the platter for his linemates who were unable to finish, but he is not the triple threat player that he was in his first 2 years. I remember reading that he never suffered any injuries in his hockey career so perhaps he never learned how to be mentally tough.

    It is time for him to commit to some serious diet and weight training this summer.

  • Alberta Ice

    I said earlier that midway through the 2015-16 year, the Ducks beat the Flames 1-0, and if memory serves me correct, the Ducks physically manhandled Johnny G. in that game. Many times the radio announcer said JG looked at the refs after being brutalized and nothing was called. Ever since that game, his effectiveness in goal scoring took a nosedive. (Then add the slashes and the broken finger this year from another team.) Is it any wonder he might be having indecisiveness issues against these same Ducks now? They just keep pushing the edges. Even after 3 penalties against them, the refs put away the whistles, and their onslaught of physical roughness continued. And maybe that is the cause of the psychological edge the Ducks have over the Flames year after year after year.

    • Alberta Ice

      On a side note, isn’t it interesting that transplanted Ducks are making their marks in this playoff season. For example, Patrick Maroon traded to the Oilers. Great pick up for them for physical presence around the net. Anderson in goal now for the Maple Leafs. He has been lights out and the Capitals must be getting psyched in these days too. And then I hear a lot about a guy named Sam Steele for the Regina Pats. Another Mighty Duck on the horizon? Please hand me an Alka-Seltzer.