Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Post-Game: How the Habs stole Christmas

The Calgary Flames have traditionally been a very good team in the game before Christmas. Remember Johnny Gaudreau’s hat trick in 2014 against Los Angeles? Remember his 2015 hat trick against Winnipeg? Remember other games where the Flames won decisively in their final game before the holiday break?

Well, the only thing decisive about this game was how flat the Flames looked compared to the visiting Montreal Canadiens. The Flames were out-battled and out-worked in effectively every game situation en route to a 3-2 loss to the Habs at the Saddledome.

The Rundown

Carey Price opened the game with a couple great saves on Mikael Backlund and T.J. Brodie 20 seconds into the first period. The Habs went the other way and Max Pacioretty danced around Brodie and beat Mike Smith with a backhander, but the goal was successfully challenged by the Flames on the basis of being off-side on the zone entry. The Habs kept pressing, though, and eventually got the first goal. The Flames failed to clear the offensive zone and Jordie Benn’s wrister from the point through traffic – and tipped by Byron Froese – beat Smith to make it 1-0. Shots were 11-10 Montreal, scoring chances were 11-7 Montreal.

Montreal doubled their lead in the second period, as their fourth line had a really nice effort. On a dump-in, Froese out-battled the Flames defenders in the corner to retrieve the puck, then fired the puck at the Flames net. The puck was saved by Smith, but bounced out and was batted in by Nicolas Deslauriers to make it 2-0. Shots were 12-7 Montreal, but Flames had a slight 6-5 scoring chance edge.

The Flames opened the third by killing off a penalty that they took in the dying moments of the second, but they gave up the eventual game-winner on the shift following the penalty kill. Artturi Lehkonen attempted a wrap-around that bounced across the goal-mouth – between three Flames players – and ended on the stick of Brendan Gallagher for a tap-in goal and a 3-0 lead. The Flames answered back midway through the period with a weird goal; Michael Frolik’s slap shot clanged off the far post, but Micheal Ferland snuck in behind Carey Price and tapped in the loose puck to make it 3-1. Matthew Tkachuk scored on a late power play to make it 3-2, but that’s as close as the Flames got. Shots were 12-6 Montreal, while scoring chances were 11-9 Montreal.

Why The Flames Lost

They weren’t very good at all tonight. They lost the majority of their 50/50 battles – if you check the tape on all three goals against, you can trace them all to broken plays and lost opportunities in their own end – and they generated next to nothing on the rush.

A team that has been seemingly defined by their lunch-bucket mentality and “playing the game the right way” got completely and utterly outworked for two and a half periods. That’s almost always a recipe for an L.

Red Warrior

The only Flames that had more than two shots on goal were Mikael Backlund and Sam Bennett, so they split this award by default. Smith was also fairly good for a guy that gave up three goals.

The Turning Point

The 2-0 goal completely took the wind out of the Flames’ sails. It was another battle lost and a nice secondary effort from Deslauriers to battle his way to the net-front for the rebound.

The Numbers

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

Player Corsi
Frolik 66.7 80.0 1.425
Giordano 65.5 54.6 0.600
F.Hamilton 60.0 66.7 -0.050
Ferland 60.0 55.6 1.260
D.Hamilton 57.9 50.0 0.550
Backlund 55.6 50.0 0.950
Stajan 54.6 75.0 0.040
Tkachuk 51.7 50.0 0.725
Brouwer 50.0 60.0 0.105
Monahan 47.4 55.6 0.500
Jankowski 45.5 46.2 -0.225
Stone 45.0 70.0 -0.375
Brodie 43.8 70.0 -0.200
Hathaway 43.6 50.0 -0.400
Bartkowski 43.5 40.0 -0.150
Kulak 41.7 36.4 -0.350
Gaudreau 39.1 36.4 0.300
Bennett 38.5 53.9 -0.250
Smith 1.100

This and That

Here’s a look (via our pal Mike Pfeil) of Andrew Shaw’s first period penalty against Mike Smith. He was given a tripping call for this collision, which led to some loud, mixed reactions from the Saddledome crowd.

Shaw definitely makes contact with Smith’s legs, but Smith definitely added a bit of showmanship to the tumble.

The Stockton Heat beat Tucson 4-1 in a key Pacific Division battle down in the desert.


“We were out-worked tonight. I thought we were out-battled in the trenches and that’s something that we wanted to take advantage of. We knew that they clutter up the neutral zone, it’s hard to get through. They do a good job of being above us all night. But what we wanted to be a trench game, we lost. And there’s no system for out-worked.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on his team’s performance.

“They out-worked us all night. Finally, last 10 minutes we got one and we started moving our feet a bit more, but that’s just because it’s a 3-0 game we’re pushing. But we got out-worked, out-battled. They played a good game. They came in with a road mindset, a battle mindset, and we didn’t match it. That’s the bottom line.” – Flames captain Mark Giordano on the loss.

“That’s what happens when you’re playing bingo balls and you’ve got nobody going. You can’t bench everybody. You’re trying to find some spark, and that’s what I was doing.” – Gulutzan on the line adjustments he made in the second part of the game. He broke up the Jankowski line for part of the second, then put them back together for the third and disassembled the 3M Line instead.

Up Next

The Flames (18-15-3) are off the ice for a bit. They’re back on practice ice on Dec. 27 and then back in action on Dec. 28 when they visit the San Jose Sharks.

    • McRib

      GG has to be the worst coach I have ever seen for matching lines at home, we have two dominant shifts with the first and second line then what does he do when we have all the momentum? He puts on the fourth line for an offensive zone faceoff, when the third line has been our best line all night. I just don’t get it .

  • The GREAT WW

    I don’t get to watch every game because of work; what a piece of crap the first 55 minutes of this game was….

    We are in big trouble.
    Change coaches NOW!!!!


  • Rebuilds30

    I agree with Derzie and the GreatWW, Eastern Canadian teams always dominate the teams out here, and we all think Brendan Gallagher is so cute we would eat the corn kernels from his poo.

  • VK63

    Listless effort.
    Sad sad value for the in game expense.
    Just putrid.
    For me, this game hangs on leadership. Gio will walk out of this in his usual teflon manner but his steeds left on holidays BEFORE playing the game. Just brutal.

  • The GREAT WW

    Look at Corsi!!!!!!!!?

    Bennett was by far the most dangerous Flame on the ice tonight and he ended up with a team LOW 38.5????!!!!!

    Corsi is an absolute JOKE at evaluating player effectiveness.


  • Red Deer Flame

    I dont usually comment. But i do love to read this site. I think GG is a good coach, but i just dont think he is the right guy to take this group to the level they should be at.
    Games like tonites piss me off because their intensity just isnt there?? wtf
    If Dave Tippett is available, then they better go get him. This team is good, but they need a little Hartley style of inspiration sometimes.
    Good team but something is missing?

  • Stajanforadirtyboot

    So Glen always covers his mouth with that paper when he speaks like what he says matters. Tonight I noticed that the paper did not totally cover his mouth and I read his lips. Glen said and I quote ” I can count to potatoe”.

  • Trevy

    No identity, no consistency and no fight. I have no idea how hockey reporters were declaring our defense as one of the best in the league, it’s average at best. Treliving needs to tweak that back end and if that means moving Brodie, so be it. Most importantly, GG’s hour glass is down to a few grains left. He’s not the man to take this team to the next level. I’m hoping Treliving has Tippett on stand by

  • Roger the Shrubber

    I need to start archiving some of these posts. It’s so up-and-down here. When the Flames win or look good for a stretch its all sunshine and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Then, after playing 8-9 games of good (if not great) hockey, they play like they did tonight and the sky is falling.

    Say what you will about the first 20 games of Hamonic’s Flames career but over the past month or so he’s been steady back there. Treliving definitely spent too much on him considering he’s nowhere near the player Hamilton is or is going to end up being but he’s going to be a steady stay at home defenseman for the foreseeable future. Missing him tonight really hurt the team. I’m not even going to talk about the effort because it’s been hammered to death.

    I don’t think GG is a good coach because his player usage is garbage and he doesn’t seem to inspire the team. The second half of that is all perception because I don’t see what goes on in the locker room but something needs to change. I said it before: them playing well for a stretch of 3-4 games then taking one completely off (at home!) is the worst thing they can do. These guys apparently need a motivator and GG doesn’t appear to be that.

    • Chucky

      There is a good reason for the up and down. The team has the ability to dominate a team like the Blues so it is easy to believe they can be a contender. Then they come out flatish and the coach does everything in his power to remove any momentum, this causes the fan based to be depressed. It is one thing to try to beat the guys in the stripped shirts but nothing compared to beating the guy in the suit behind your own bench.

  • Skylardog

    Now half way through the critical 12 game stretch, that began Dec 12, against mostly conference rivals we are fighting for playoff spots with. So far 2-3-1. Montreal should have been free points in that run. Our only wins so far have been against Vancouver, who is not getting a playoff spot this year and facing a slew of injuries, and STL, who is also dealing with injuries and not likely one of the teams we need to beat out if we need a wildcard spot.

    We sit at 12-15 in regulation decisions, tied for 23rd in the league with Montreal and Florida who are also 12-15. Detroit is also 3 below 500 at 11-14 in 26th. None of those 3 are getting a playoff spot this year (unless Montreal goes on a run in a very weak Atlantic division). We are playing at a level with teams that are near the bottom of the NHL heap.

    In the Western Conference, only Edmonton and Arizona have worse regulation decision records. We are behind Colorado (13-15), Vancouver (14-16), and Anaheim (12-13).

    The next 6 games are against San Jose, 2 against Anaheim, Chicago, LA, and Minnesota. We are truly in a battle for playoff spots in 5 of those games. LA is already at the magical 12 over 500 mark, and only needs to go 500 the rest of the way and they will have a playoff spot.

    We need wins in the next 6, and really and truly, we need regulation wins. Can’t give points away to teams you are trying to beat out. Our OT and SO record is also starting to fade as we are just 1-3 in the last 4 OT/SO decisions. It was once an easy extra point for us when we went 6-0 early on in the season. Coaches are figuring out how to slow us down in OT.

    Just a question, but is 23rd in the NHL in regulation really good enough for this team? I think we all expected much, much more.

  • WillyWonka

    there’s no question they flames were gone for christmas before the game started.
    all we can hope is that they come back in time to catch the first game back against the sharks