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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Post-Game: Sub-par special teams, sharp Sharks sink Flames

The Calgary Flames returned home on Thursday night after a brief trip to the Twin Cities. The Flames came in playing some of their most consistent hockey of the season, posting points in four consecutive games. But the locals were at the Jekyll and Hyde best against the San Jose Sharks; good in the first and third periods but awful in the second, and strong at even strength but dicey with their special teams.

A late goal sunk the Flames as they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Sharks, but they were fortunate to be in a position to get points given how uneven they played.

The Rundown

The Flames went up in the first period, scoring first for the first time in awhile. Sharks blueliner Tim Heed threw a muffin up the middle in his own end. Michael Frolik grabbed it, walked in and put it between Aaron Dell’s legs to make it 1-0. But the lead did not last the period, as Chris Tierney drove the net and Mike Smith made a dandy poke check… but the puck went right to Timo Meier, who put the puck in the open net to tie the game 1-1. Shots were 13-9 Flames, scoring chances were 8-6 Flames.

The Sharks were all over the Flames in the second period, as the home side had one of their flatter periods of the season. Their power play was awful, barely able to gain the offensive zone – even on a five-on-three. There was a stretch where the first line was hemmed into their own zone for long enough for the Sharks to get a complete line change without losing puck possession. That was followed by Mike Smith getting called for tripping, and that was followed by Tierney jamming home a rebound after an initial shot by Kevin Labanc to make it 2-1.  Shots were 14-10 Sharks, but scoring chances were 8-4 Flames.

The locals woke up in the third period and made a game of it. Garnet Hathaway stole the puck at the Sharks blueline and began a two-on-two rush. The Sharks were all over Hathaway, but he shuffled a pass to Johnny Gaudreau for a tap-in goal and a 2-2 tie. But just when it seemed like the Flames would be headed to overtime once again, disaster struck. Gaudreau fell in the Sharks zone and instead of chipping the puck deep, he shuffled it up the middle. That gave the Sharks an odd-man rush and Joonas Donskoi jammed the puck past Smith to give the Sharks a 3-2 lead. The Flames pulled their goalie but could not tie the game. Shots were 11-6 Flames, scoring chances were 13-4 Flames.

Why The Flames Lost

The Flames weren’t amazing overall in the second period, but that isn’t what sunk ’em. Their bad power plays were what sunk ’em. They had 3:34 of power play time during this game, including 38 seconds of a two-man advantage. They had three shots on the power play and zero during their five-on-three. The Sharks had as many shots on net during Calgary’s power plays as the Flames did.

When your special teams can’t give you an advantage during close divisional games, you have a big, big problem.

Red Warrior

Let’s go with Smith. He took the blame for the loss following the game due to allowing the late goal to trickle through him, but he was rock-solid otherwise and gave the team a chance to win.

The Turning Point

Gaudreau blowing a tire after turning back towards the offensive blueline late in the third period was a small moment, but it gave the Sharks momentum and numbers and, ultimately, a win.

The Numbers

(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Hamonic 68.8 77.8 0.825
Brodie 65.5 77.8 0.550
Bennett 65.0 100 0.450
Tkachuk 63.9 66.7 1.025
Frolik 63.9 66.7 1.980
Brouwer 62.5 40.0 0.350
Backlund 60.5 50.0 0.690
Jankowski 60.0 83.3 0.560
Hathaway 58.6 80.0 1.000
Giordano 57.7 61.5 0.900
Hamilton 56.0 61.5 0.500
Stajan 53.9 0.0 0.145
Gaudreau 50.0 68.8 1.050
Monahan 50.0 83.3 -0.020
Kulak 45.5 57.1 0.000
Stone 45.5 57.1 -0.225
Ferland 43.5 62.5 -0.300
Lazar 33.3 0.0 -0.160
Smith 0.350
Rittich

This and That

Flames coach Glen Gulutzan swapped Gaudreau and Sam Bennett late in the second period. His rationale was that the Monahan line wasn’t generating much and that they could use someone like Bennett who could win some physical battles. Both line seemed to have a good third period, so it wasn’t a bad move.

Quotable

“You can’t turn back with three minutes left, you can’t turn back. You have to play forward. You can’t turn back. We needed to get points. We needed to take that into overtime and get the points.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on Johnny Gaudreau’s turnover late in the game.

“Tonight, close game, you’ve got to be at your best. Second goal, it was a penalty because I trip a guy and the last goal, it’s gotta be stopped. It’s a stoppable puck and a controllable puck. It’s on me tonight.” – Flames goalie Mike Smith on his performance.

Up Next

The Flames (16-13-3) practice tomorrow. They’ll host the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.

  • Skylardog

    Flames now 7 games under 500 in the GG era. However, very slowly but surely, my focus is changing from GG to BT. The deployment mistakes just can’t happen at this level, especially for this long. Either BT is dictating Brouwer going out on the PP to try and raise his value, or the mistakes have happened too many times and the GM needs to see it for what it is and make a coaching change. EIther way, it is now on BT.

    Hoping Ken King is a FN reader.

  • Chucky

    If the Flames do not make a change to the PP for the next game then the coaching staff has decided that they want an early exit. To continue with the same system and personnel for this long makes then look just plain stupid. After this embarrassment to continue with the same old brands then as either insane or subversive. reason says subversive so the question has to be “is the draft really that good?”.

      • McRib

        Imagine if the Islanders get a Top. 3 pick, plus two second rounders for Travis Hamonic, a basic stay-at-home 5-6 defender. When I first heard what we sent the other way I thoughti heard it was two second rounders and I was kind of like “well that’s a little steep, but I can live with it”. Then I heard there was ALSO a first, that wasn’t lottery protected!?!?!

  • Calgarycandle

    Hathaway remains one bright light. Can’t think of many others on the night–perhaps Harmonic who seems to be coming around. Nashville, Van in Van and St. Louis–this could be a difficult stretch.

    • everton fc

      Hathaway will continue to be this type of player. Note, too, naysayers… Five points in nine games. An assist w/Gaudreau. Drawing penalties. Gritty, with speed.

      We preferred Lazar, as an organization. Lazar cost us a 2nd. Lazar has no goals and four assists, in 23 games. We gave away a 2nd for a player who never proved himself, who would never fit in as a centre here – so was basically a RW option – when we had Hathaway already in house. Brutal mistake.

  • Mickey O

    The second period overall might have been the worst display of hockey from the Flames all season, yet somehow we won the scoring chances 8-4?!

    The 5v5 numbers remain strong, I guess. But that doesn’t mean squat if the PP is so bad that it is truly painful to watch, and gives the other team a big lift when they inevitably kill it off.

  • Skylardog

    Just watched GGs post game interview. Extreme concern.

    The goal is not to win, but to pick up points. “You have to get that game to overtime.” This comment scares me.

    Pro Sports is about winning. Goal setting is about setting your goals high, and then doing everything in your power to achieve the goal. You often fail on hitting your target, but you move forward.

    If the goal is to get a point, then play for a bonus, you will miss that goal more than you hit it. Aim for a tie, you will get one half the time, and fall short and lose the other half.

    And he said we can’t dominate, its not possible. Teams are too good. The best to expect is to play even.

    You aim to win EVERY GAME, and you Aim to win EVERY GAME IN REGULATION. A tie right now gives a point to the team you are battling with for a playoff spot. You just can’t give points away.

    He is aiming for average. And you know what average is – right.

    Its the absolute best of the worst.
    Its also the worst of the best.

    The game is over in the GG era. Vegas won tonight, and it was exciting to watch. I think I am done until GG, and probably BT are gone.

    You can all cheer now in the hopes my dog’s face never crosses this blog again. (I wonder if I can stay away?)

    • Lucky 13

      Don’t go Skylardog, you just need a laugh.

      I’ll tell you a story that happened to my wife and I a few months back.
      My wife’s still horrified, but I think it’s hilarious. Go figure.
      I’m glad she doesn’t read FN.

      So we were getting ready to go out for a nice dinner and we called a cab to pick us up. Our fat feline (cat , not wife) decided to scoot back into the house while the cab arrived.
      I had to go back inside and take it back outside so it wouldn’t chase our damn bird (budgie) all night.

      My wife apologized to the cab driver telling him that I was saying goodbye to her mother. I guess she didn’t want the driver to think the house was empty?!

      A few minutes passed before I could get the cat and I hurriedly got into the cab.

      I told my wife as the cab was pulling away , “I got the fat cow, but not until I poked her from under the bed with a clothes hanger, she tried to scratch me like last time, but I put her in a blanket and put her fat ass outside. She better not sh^t in the vegetable garden like last time!”

      Her face went five shades of red…

      The cab driver never spoke an entire word all the way to the restaurant!

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Skylardog, you once said a loss is a step in the right direction.

      I disagree.

      Do you actually believe Treliving is going to fire Gully during the season?

      He’s not.

      So here we are. Go Flames.

      • The GREAT WW

        Normally I would say the odds on GG getting fired at mid season are around 50%, but BT has put tremendous pressure on himself by trading away our first round pick.

        ANYTHING outside of a playoff appearance this year will get BT himself fired……

        GG and crew are on borrowed time…..

        WW

    • Brownblazer

      I agree that you don’t play for the win, but GG as right to call out Johnny on that risky play at that point of the game. At that point of the game (3 minutes left you don’t have time for a comeback and the other team can play in conservative shut down mode) Johnny needs to get it deep and not make him or the d vulnerable to a peal back so high in the zone that creates a situation for our d to be flat footed. That move is extremely high risk and I would argue it wasn’t a great way to create an offensive chance at any point in the game. This is a case of Johnny trying to do too much. Again.

      • trox

        The coach is never right to call out a player in front of the media. Do it one on one. In front of the media, he should have defended Johnny saying it was a trip, even if he didn’t really believe it was. Johnny knows he made a mistake. There is zero upside in doing it publicly, and the downside is our best player gets pi$$ed off and starts thinking about a trade.

    • Rudy27

      I think you are not taking GG’s comment in full context. The point is, there’s only about 2 minutes left in a tied game. Sure you should try to score and win it in regulation, especially against a division rival. But trying too hard to make something out of nothing (Gaudreau’s 1 on 5 at the blue line) was bad hockey. If there’s nothing there, dump it deep and re-group.

  • Cheeky

    GG’s remarks say it all – he wants to just coast it to overtime and get a point or 2 (because in 3 on 3 it’s the players and not the coaches that win it). I want a coach that says “F@ck overtime, I want to win it before then!” Also throwing your best player under the bus (even if he did gaffe it) isn’t strong leadership…

  • flames2015

    What exactly did they practice in the powerplay? Entries looked exactly the same. Getting zero shots on a 5 on 3 looked the same.

    GG is slow to react to seemingly everything. The lines have been pretty stalemate for the last while for offense. Instead of mixing up the lines for the start of the game, he only does it in the 3rd when its too late. Shake up the lines and get them some practice time

  • RKD

    Yes we lost but since the Philly game 10 days ago, the Flames have allowed 3 goals or fewer in the last 5 games. Brodie doesn’t look like a hot mess out there and Hamilton has massively cut down on the giveaways and turnovers.

    • McRib

      I honesty don’t mind this team at all, outside of Brouwer, Stajan, Stone to a lesser extent (mostly just playing over Andersson, who I believe is NHL ready), but I just can’t stand how this team is coached.

      When I think we should put out our third line we put out our second line, when I want our second line we put out our fourth line, when we should double shift the first we don’t and put out whatever line is the coldest. I have never in my life seen a coach who is worse at reading his players and the game, especially at home where he overthinks last change completely. GG just trys to overcomplicate everything he does, coaching isn’t rocket science, though he thinks it is. It explains why we have gotten off to slow starts two years in a row. GG comes up with some crazy ideas over the summer and then they simply them and then wala things begin to turn around.

      • Rudy27

        The away team submits their starting line up first, and we come back with starting our 4th line! Yikes!!! Are they trying to trade Brouwer and touting him as a 1st liner???

  • McRib

    I can maybe understand why some fans don’t LOVE Dougie Hamilton, as he can have a highly visible defensive zone turnover from time to time, but no one I know can freaking understand why our best point shooter isn’t on PP1. GG did the same thing last year for the first half of the season, then they put in Hamilton as the anchor on PP1 and he was basically a point per game guy in the last 25+ games.

    I love TJ Brodie and am glad he has bounced back, but he can’t shoot the puck to save his life, no way should he be on PP1 over Hamilton. Troy Brouwer is inexcusable on the PP1, but so is the lack of Dougie Hamilton.

  • VoRaCS

    Despite the improved talent and better goaltending, the Flames keep falling short and are often frustrating, if not painful, to watch. I’m not sure why so many feel that it is only GG’s fault. I admit that I am not a fan of his style, systems, and personnel choices, but I think others higher up the food chain are, perhaps, even more to blame. This team (which includes its prospects) has the potential to be significantly better, but the power play is currently its biggest weakness. Why keep using Brouwer when that has clearly not worked? And why must they have the rigid mindset that only players who have practiced their particular system for hours can be effective? If that were the case, then there is no realistic quick fix to the problem. How frustrating will things get if we don’t make the playoffs and our traded first round pick comes back to bite us in the arse?

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        Maybe. It could be an organizational thing. A message to other ACTUALLY good UFA’s that Calgary might go after in the off season that if they sign you, you will be given EVERY SINGLE opportunity to succeed. Twice. Maybe three times. Who knows.

        Maybe it has something to do with Troy’s relationship with Gully. Like, Troy is always the first one to compliment his hair, and he sounds really genuine about it. Maybe he knew a guy who knew a guy who knew DiCaprio’s stylist and put him in touch.

        That sh!t would get you WELDED to GG’s PP.

        Just ballin’ up some spit here.

      • Rudy27

        Management can’t admit Brouwer was a mistake. He’s still playing for the team and trying his hardest. What would a statement like that do to morale (of not just Brouwer, but the whole team)? Regardless of who your players are, they are going to be a team if they stick together and play as a team. No superstars on Vegas, but look how they are playing as a team.

  • The Sultan

    Well, when is enough… enough? I mean seriously… it absolutely boggles my mind that this team is legitamately set back and at a disadvantage when playing on the powerplay. Gulutzan needed to go a long time ago but now it’s on BT for letting this clown show of a circus carry on for as long as it has. We’ll address it next game. Next game. We’ve got to be better. Next game. This has been going on for months now and nothing has changed. The way this team plays is a joke and it’s only a matter of time before Edmonton and Vancouver, as well as all the other teams around us pass us and the Flames fall into the basement.

    It’s hard to care about this team when a vast majority of fans accept mediocrity as okay. That’s millenials for you nowadays, everybody gets a participation ribbon and a pat on the back. Oh, they’ve been playing good the last few games. No. No they haven’t. If they were playing good they’d be on a five game winning streak. The fans don’t care. The city doesn’t care. The coaches don’t care. And the owners don’t care. God, 1989, come back.

    • The Sultan

      Correction: the only other teams around us are Anaheim (who we are tied with in points at 35), and Colorado, who are sitting at 32. And of course, other than the aformentioned Oilers and Canucks, there’s the lofty Coyotes at the very bottom.

      At least we’re marginally better than those teams, right?

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      “That’s millenials for you nowadays, everybody gets a participation ribbon and a pat on the back.”

      This…what the hell is this? Where does this come from? How the hell does this relate to hockey? This is just entitled subjective childish crap posted…why? So you can sound clever? “Oh, MY generation…” Any sentence that begins like that is stupid.

      You’re discriminating against humans because of when they were born. Humans who made it to the NHL, btw, while you made it to the comment section of a hockey blog.

      “I what to win all the games now!!!” Here’s a rattle. Go play in the corner.

        • BringtheFire 2.0

          Out of all the posters on here I’m the only one who actually reads everything. Other people read my posts and know I’m right and can’t handle it so they attack me instead of what I’m saying because they can’t attack what I’m saying because I’m right.

          Did you follow all that?

          You know, like you just did.

  • ThisBigMouthIsRight

    Nice post game interview GG, its so reassuring to know “its a tough league to win in” … Everyone needs to just relax, watch some post game video and talk about what they can do better. be calm, pass the puck a lot, stay on the perimeter, pass the puck back, curl and cough the puck up, keep the D between the blue line and center ice, Don’t engage in the O-zone, be safe. Don’t Worry, being a bubble team (or less) is OK, its a hard league to win in! Yup~! All the Way To The Cup!

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      Meh, I’m sure that’s the exact same Strategy & Leadership utilized by Peter Laviolette(NSH), Mike Sullivan(PIT), Jon Cooper(TB), Gerard Gallant(VGK) and Mike Babcock(TO) to their players all the time! No Biggy! “We’ll try to get them next time”. if its not to tough.

    • Chucky

      The only thing that a Flames fan can take from that presser is that the coach has no answers relating to changes that will result in wins. If the guy in charge cannot offer a plan to get out of difficulties get a new guy.

  • The GREAT WW

    I don’t think BT is going to make a coaching change until after Christmas for humanitarian reasons….unfortunately by then it may be too late.

    BT has shown he is a procrastinator; He has really put himself and the team in a terrible position waiting this long…

    WW

  • The GREAT WW

    In 2013 GG was fired from Dallas as head coach after 48 games in his second season with a .500 record.

    If BT waits this long we will be out of the playoffs in a year we have no first or second round picks…..

    Unfortunately BT will also be fired at the end of this year….

    WW

  • KeepitReal

    Didn’t see the game. Sounds like a lot of the same old stuff. Down low coverage has more holes than swiss cheese. PP is Putrid Play. And a whole bunch of West teams won last nite. Except the cOilers. The one silver lining from these efforts.

  • The GREAT WW

    I LOVED it when Cameron had his white board out with a minute left and down a goal.

    I would pay good money to see what was on it and what that moron was telling the players…..

    WW

  • everton fc

    We lose 3-2. Not a blow-out. We are still on the cusp of the playoffs. We are right in the mix. Still, many here – myself included – can feel the lethargy, the settling for a tie, the “okay” with average, with mediocrity. GG’s a nice guy. He’s no Vince Lombardi.

    We need a Vince Lombardi.

    Skylardog’s comment below; “This”;
    “*7 games under 500 in regulation in the GG era”

    This is the problem. Our roster isn’t bad, “on paper”. Our goaltending, which is the only reason we are above .500, and not in lottery territory, is dependable, now that Rittich is proving himself. The problems:

    1. A GM who’s traded all our picks for players the organization already had on the farm. We didn’t need Lazar, and one of the farmhands could have worked well, versus Hamonic.
    2. Brouwer’s contract. Unacceptable mistake, and in a timeframe way too close to #1, above.
    3. The hiring of GG, his “System”, and his staff. This is on BT, I am certain. GG’s “System” has screwed up Brodie, badly.

    These three mistakes alone, all “recent”, too “recent”, will not bode well for Burke, BT and GG. If we don’t make the playoffs, all need to go. With the arena rubbish in the mix, dumping the front office and coaching staff is dramatic, but perhaps a necessary dramatic. Hiring Burke was a huge mistake.

    What may happen, given our front office is so tied tot he Coyotes (one of the worst teams for a while, now) is they’ll lool to Tippett, as saviour. I’d prefer Daryl. The latter would be a real dice-roll – how would guys like Gaudreau, Dougie, Bennett, Jagr, respond to Daryl?? But something may have to change.

    • Cfan in Van

      I don’t have any easy answers for a coaching change, but I don’t want Darryl. He’s a much tougher character, but he’s a dump/chase meat and potatoes, old school coach, and the Flames line-up isn’t comprised of the type of players that would be conducive to that style.

    • Carl the tooth

      If we had darrrl Sutter he would have signed everyone to 7 years no trade clauses. And given them twice the salary . We just got out of sutters mess he left . Trevling has been hit and miss ,but I believe he’s a smart guy and learning from mistakes .
      We still have a lot of Talent up and coming thanks to a lot of moves by Trevling and scouting.
      Bennett looked good last night he was flying ,hopefully this is the Bennett we see from now on .

  • Cfan in Van

    I started watching with about 10min left in the first… Great, they’re winning. Then just as it’s been most of the season when I watch, the start to loose momentum, get sloppy, and then the tying goal.

    Second period, unbearable to watch, same old crap, a power play that’s actually a disadvantage, and sloppy give-aways. Turned the TV to something else so me and my better half can watch something less depressing over dinner.
    I peaked back in the 3rd, just to see… Well, tie game. Guess I better see this through. Not worth my time. I swear I’m cursed, and never get the see the games where the Flames are consistant. I mostly get the Jekyl/Hyde games, and miss the good ones.

    If they don’t make some kind of change to amend the power play (at least shuffle out Cameron), I may be done for the season. I truly believe this team has the players to allow them to do so much better. Maybe not conference best, but way better than they are. I’ve been really patient with GG and his crew, but they’re not going anywhere without serious changes.