The Calgary Flames returned to action after a four day break when they hosted the Carolina Hurricanes. The Flames played, at times, like they were still on a vacation. The home side played roughly 45 uninspired minutes of penalty-filled hockey before finally making a late push, but they dropped the game by a 2-1 score to the Hurricanes.
It’s their second home loss in three games at the Saddledome this season.
The Flames sure looked like a team that had four days off in the opening period. The team struggled with exiting their zone with much efficiency, and on several occasions were hemmed into the own end – if you’re thinking to yourself that it was probably some combination of the third defensive pairing and fourth line, you’re right. The Flames were on defense for much of the period, occasionally creating bursts of offensive zone time that didn’t amount to a heck of a lot. Shots were 9-8 Flames, but scoring chances were 9-6 Hurricanes – Carolina missed the net a lot in the opening period.
Carolina had a power play carry over into the second period, beginning a theme. The Flames penalty kill was good throughout the three penalties they faced in the second – by which I mean Mike Smith was pretty good. After a penalty was fully killed, though, Carolina struck: Johnny Gaudreau was stripped of the puck just inside the Flames blueline and Jeff Skinner leaned into a slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle that beat Smith just inside the far post to make it 1-0. The Flames, again, couldn’t create a ton off the rush this frame. Shots were 15-6 Carolina and scoring chances were 8-5 Carolina.
A scrum at the end of the second period led to a Carolina power play to begin the third. Justin Williams was given way too much space and beat Smith in-close with a wrister to make it 2-0. From there, Carolina played prevent defense and the Flames gradually, finally, found their game. In garbage time Sean Monahan scored one to break the shutout, Jaromir Jagr won a corner battle and cycled the puck. But despite that late push, it was too little, too late. Shots were 11-10 Flames and scoring chances were 7-3 Flames, but y’know… score effects.
Why The Flames Lost
Take your pick!
- They were awful defensively, frequently getting stuck in their own end and failing to clear their end.
- They took a ton of penalties, predominantly in the defensive zone.
- They didn’t generate much of anything off the rush.
In short: they looked like an uncoordinated, undisciplined heap of players rather than an organized 20-man unit for the majority of the game.
Mike Smith. For the upteenth time this season, it wasn’t even close.
The Monahan line woke up in the third period and scored a goal, so they were okay overall.
The Turning Point
The Skinner goal, even though it only made it 1-0, was a back-breaker. The Flames looked ugly to that point and were probably hoping that a good penalty kill could give them some momentum. Because of a bit of sloppy defensive work by their skaters, it didn’t. Carolina didn’t look back from there.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)
What the Hell, Refs?
Kris Versteeg left the game midway through the first period in a scary, scary situation. Off a faceoff, Versteeg blocked a Jeff Skinner shot with his right knee and dropped. Then, the game wasn’t whistled down until after he blocked another Skinner shot with his head – the shot shattered his helmet. Remarkably, he was fine and actually returned to the game after clearing the concussion protocols.
The play wasn’t whistled down under NHL Rule 8.1, which gives discretion to officials to whistle down a play if there’s a “seriously injured” player on the ice.
From Rule 8.1 (Injured Players) in the NHL Rulebook. pic.twitter.com/Sdmk3lusNB
— Ryan Pike (@RyanNPike) October 20, 2017
“It’s kind of a dangerous rule, in a sense,” said Versteeg after the game. “But it’s an understandable rule. You don’t want to blow it. I know I’ve been fortunate to score on those plays sometimes and unfortunate at times. It’s just kind of tough.”
Glen Gulutzan had some choice words after the game.
“We just didn’t execute. They’re a quick team so you’ve got to execute quicker. I thought we looked slow at times tonight. We didn’t, not until late in the third, did we try to move the puck. That’s what happens when teams hold the lead, but we need to play that game a little bit earlier. I thought we were non-chalant with some of our breakouts. We could’ve been more direct. We couldn’t get any rhythm with the penalties and I don’t think we were very good at executing.” – Gulutzan on his team’s difficulty getting out of their own end.
“We’re in the exact same situation as we were last year at this time. The only difference is we’re getting better goaltending and better specialty teams. That’s the only difference int he two starts to the season. For us, right now, it feels like to me, you give everybody a fair shake coming into a new season… It feels like to me it’s the same guys taking penalties, the same types of penalties, and those guys are gonna dress but unfortunately they’re going to lose some of their prime real estate ice time because we’ll just clean it up with the guys that can control themselves.” – Gulutzan on his team’s tendencies.
“What’s disappointing is we’re doing the exact same thing that we should’ve learned from last year, and did learn from in the second half of the season, basically after 15 or 20 games on we learned. We’re right back to where we started. Hopefully it doesn’t take us 15 games to get out of it, but we’re going to get out of it.” – Gulutzan on disappointment with the game’s result.
“I felt like they forechecked very hard. And us, as forwards, we didn’t help our defense. We were too high and we didn’t get the puck, but it was our fault because they forechecked so hard and we were too high. We should come back a little bit lower, even if you won’t have breakaway, you can get the puck and play together. We were too spread.” – Flames forward Jaromir Jagr on his team’s performance.
The Flames (4-3-0) are back in action on Saturday night when they host the Minnesota Wild.