88
Photo Credit: Candice Ward / USA Today Sports

Post-Game: Blown Lead Pushes Flames To The Brink

Game 3 between the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks was the 2016-17 Flames season in a nutshell. They played really well through the first 35 minutes of the game, giving themselves a 4-1 lead. Then they allowed a late goal and gradually their lead evaporated before their very eyes as Murphy’s Law reared its head in a big, big way.

The Flames lost a 5-4 overtime heartbreaker to the Ducks. You can say all you want about how the goals managed to get into the back of their net, but teams that succeed in the playoffs just don’t blow big leads. From the thrilling first period and a half to their defensive zone calamities, this game was a highlight reel for this year’s edition of the Flames – for better and for worse.

THE RUNDOWN

The first period was the start the Flames have needed all series. They got a ton of shots early. They skated really well in the first 10 or 12 minutes of the period. When they did, they gave the Ducks fits and generated a lot of scoring chances and penalties from their frustrated opponents.

Matt Bartkowski beat Nick Ritchie to a loose puck in the first two minutes and got knocked down, drawing an interference penalty. On the ensuing power play, Johnny Gaudreau corralled his own rebound and initiated a nice tic-tac-toe passing play by which Troy Brouwer found Sean Monahan out front for a tap-in and a 1-0 lead.

The Ducks killed off a Korbinian Holzer holding penalty, but after Hampus Lindholm crashed into Brian Elliott the Flames’ power play unit struck again. A T.J. Brodie point shot was followed by a goal-mouth scramble, which ended with Kris Versteeg knocking the loose puck past John Gibson to make it 2-0.

The Flames slowed down a tad as the period went on, and Nick Ritchie made it 2-1 by beating the Flames defenders to a big rebound off an Antoine Vermette wrister from way out. The Ducks couldn’t muster much more before the buzzer, though. Shots were 11-6 in the first in favour of the Flames.

The second period was fairly even early on, but the Flames took advantage of some chances early on to extend their lead. They made it 3-1 off a broken play and some heads up play by their blueliners. A T.J. Brodie point shot bounced off a defender and went right back to the point for Michael Stone to rifle through traffic and beat Gibson to make it 3-1.

Midway through the period, the Flames generated yet another power play with speed through the neutral zone. Holzer took a second minor of the game hooking Johnny Gaudreau on a partial breakaway. While the first (Brouwer) power play unit couldn’t generate very much, Sam Bennett made nice plays at both ends of the offensive zone to start and finish a scoring play. He dipsy-doodled into the zone at the blueline, dished the puck off, and then deflected Mark Giordano’s point shot past Gibson to make it 4-1 and end the Anaheim starter’s evening a tad early.

The Ducks got one back late in the period off a goal that Elliott probably wants back. Shea Theodore sauntered into the Flames zone and beat Elliott glove-side with a wrist shot from the circles to cut the Flames lead to 4-2. Shots were 13-8 in favour of Calgary in the second.

Anaheim built on their finish to the third by continuing to push the Flames, who went from playing an aggressive defensive period to hanging back. The Ducks made the most of the chances, much to the chagrin of the home crowd. Nate Thompson deflected a Hampus Lindholm point shot past Elliott, squeaking between his legs, to make it 4-3. Theodore got his second of the night a few minutes later, with his point shot eluding Elliott through traffic to make it 4-4. Elliott protested and seemed to think he was interfered with, but nobody was anywhere near him or the crease when the puck went in. Shots were 12-8 Anaheim in the third period.

90 seconds into bonus hockey, Corey Perry chucked a puck at the net. It bounced around, hit Stone in his backside and went past Elliott to end this one via a 5-4 score for the Ducks. It was the only shot on net in overtime.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

The Flames did a lot of good things for the first two periods. They skated well. They passed well. They won battles. They beat the Ducks to every loose puck. They drew penalties.

And then? They stopped doing those things, while the Ducks made a bunch of adjustments. The Flames stopped being able to clear out pucks with regularity. They stood around in the defensive zone and took away their goalie’s ability to track pucks. They stopped skating. They stopped winning battles. And their goaltender couldn’t come up with a save when his team needed him to late in the game.

The Flames were good enough to have a 4-1 lead by the midpoint of this game. After that? Due to what they stopped doing and how they didn’t adjust to what Anaheim was doing, they were bad enough to blow their lead to smithereens.

THE TURNING POINT

Can I cop out and just say “the third period”? The Flames went from flat to downright lacklustre right before our very eyes. As they did so, their lead collapsed like a poorly constructed house of cards.

If I have to pick a singular moment, let’s go with Theodore’s first goal. It was a floater that beat Elliott glove-side late in the second. It wasn’t even a terribly interesting scoring chance, but it seemed to indicate just how off his game Calgary’s top ‘tender was on this night. It ultimately turned out to be a portent of doom for the home side.

RED WARRIOR

Bennett was probably the best player in red tonight. His line (with Chiasson and Versteeg) was superb in the first two periods and pretty decent in the third. Everybody else? They were worse.

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 64.7 100 1.160
Bennett 60.0 90.0 1.050
Engelland 58.1 58.3 -0.050
Chiasson 57.9 100 0.200
Bartkowski 54.6 58.3 0.025
Ferland 53.3 72.7 0.150
Monahan 50.0 60.0 1.725
Brodie 50.0 35.7 1.375
Stone 48.6 35.7 0.825
Tkachuk 48.3 10.0 -0.125
Gaudreau 47.2 64.3 0.650
Bouma 44.4 40.0 -0.250
Brouwer 42.9 30.0 0.710
Frolik 42.4 10.0 -0.025
Stajan 42.1 40.0 -0.290
Backlund 41.9 9.1 1.035
Giordano 40.5 64.3 0.300
Hamilton 39.5 64.3 -0.625
Elliott -1.400

THIS AND THAT

No Flames skater had a positive plus/minus:

  • Even: Brodie, Stone, Frolik
  • -1: Giordano, Versteeg, Backlund, Gaudreau, Bouma, Stajan, Tkachuk, Monahan, Brouwer Chiasson
  • -2: Hamilton, Engelland, Ferland
  • -3: Bartkowski

QUOTABLE

UP NEXT

The Flames practice tomorrow as they prepare for a big Game 4 showdown with the Ducks at the Saddledome on Wednesday evening with their playoff survival on the line.

  • Connor'sGotHart

    I don’t know what is happening with this comment section but it is all over the place. The order is terribly hard to follow. The order even changes from time to time.

    • Greg

      Ya, it’s not even showing all the comments now. It’s definitely killing the ability to have discussions. And it’s not like comment sections are some new innovation that are hard to design well still…

      • Not a First Tier Fan

        Wouldn’t expect Flames fans to understand. So here’s an explanation.

        The comments ‘pages’ fill with a set number of comments. (let’s say 50 for arguments sake…)

        When the first page fills, a new page is started. Until yesterday that page became populated with the oldest comments one at a time as new comments are entered, with the oldest comments page at front. So the oldest comments were shown first, in reverse order by date going down the page. The newest comments were put at back.

        Yesterday based on feedback they switched the setting so that it shows the newest comments at the front page. Oldest comments are now at the back. Comments in each page are still in reverse order by date, but now the pages are progressively older as you rifle through them. The first page still contains the ‘blank space’, or in other words a smaller number of comments as the others until it reaches the page limit and starts a new page.

        TL;DR – comments are in reverse chronological order in each page with the pages of older comments now at the back.

  • Connor'sGotHart

    TO BLUEMOONIGEL… at the beginning of the season it was painfully obvious that you were an Oiler fan then somewhere along the way your comments almost made me believe that you liked Calgary?
    However the last 3 weeks you have constantly taken jabs at almost every Flame and the team in general. If you’re a fan of the team then be a fan for real and not just when it feels good to be a Flames fan . As soon as Calgary started to slide at the end of the year you completely changed your tone. Quit being such a bandwagon jumper.

  • Greg

    I’m glad Elliot owned that after. I don’t like the way he reacts after goals – never looks calm and often looking for an excuse, and it’s concerning how often that excuse seems to be a teammate.

    Next year’s goal: even series with the Ducks, including a win at the Honda center, just so they aren’t in our heads come playoffs.

  • Rocket66

    Dear Johnny. Have you read the article about how Paul Byron is hitting. Did you ever see theo play. How about Marchand All small guys but played with a Set. You have talent and happy to see you on the flames. Maybe next week you could start adding some muscle to your body and watch how some of these guys play the game. You are not the only little guy in the league running around scared is only going to get you hurt Burke must have a soft spot for you I do too. But for the coaching staff and your selection of players /ice time etc I do not have a soft spot for you Let me guess now your going to change things up for next game sorry too late Maybe ferland is getting too much ice time and Brouwer needs more I predict a win next game and then lose in the pond next I believe flames have the pieces just not the proper management to utilize what they have

    • theartfuldodger

      Huh? Ferly has totally outplayed Brouwer except last night. Johnny threw a decent hit too. He needs to shoot the puck for pete sake not body check lol

  • Besides four unanswered goals in game 3 and unsteady goaltending by Elliott here’s some other reasons why the Flames are in this hole: The Pacific Division-winning Anaheim Ducks won the regular season series against the Calgary Flames with only one loss, in our barn of course, which they forgot about long ago. They are confident they are going to win whether or not they read their own press clippings which predicted them to win the series.

    Also, Randy Carlyle is an experienced playoff coach and he leads a core of players that has a lot of recent playoff experience while this is Glenn Gulutzan’s first playoff series as a NHL head coach, Mark Giordano’s first NHL playoffs since 2007.

  • snotss

    I guess you can say we made the playoffs……now management has a lot of work to do before next year…this team is no where near the top in the west ….lots of work to do!!!!!!. like all flame fans we will be watching to see if bb and bt have what it takes to really improve this team……do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • NickRash

    GG needs to coach better as well, Carlyle moved Rakell away from Getzlaf and put him with Perry, making GG choose which line to use Backlund against, he kept him on Getzlaf and the newly formed Rakell/Perry line proceeded to have their way with the Flames in the 3rd, did GG alter his lines at all to try to counter? he sure didn’t.