The Calgary Flames played decently on Thursday night in San Jose, with their game-plan derailed by an injury to Michael Frolik. With a day to regroup before another key divisional game with the Anaheim Ducks, the hope was that they could figure out a plan to pick up more points. Instead, the Flames let points slip away by virtue of two pretty rough periods (and a strong second period that wasn’t able to salvage things).
They lost to the Ducks by a 2-1 score in a game where they just couldn’t get a heck of a lot going offensively.
The visitors looked every bit a group that played the night before in the first period. They gave up tons of chances. There were long stretches where they couldn’t get the puck across the offensive blueline. When they did so, they often did very little with it. Anaheim opened the scoring early in the period; a scoring chance for the Mikael Backlund line was stopped and the Ducks came back quickly the other way, with Cam Fowler taking advantage of some soft Flames defense from the Giordano/Hamilton pairing to beat Mike Smith to make it 1-0. Shots were 20-5 and scoring chances 10-4, both for Anaheim. The Flames were fortunate to escape down by just a goal.
If you were looking for desperation from the Flames, it came through in spades in the second period. They had fewer great scoring chances than the Ducks, but they had a ton of zone time. Shots were 11-7 and chances 17-4 in the second, both for Calgary. They scored the tying goal, and it wasn’t a particularly great one but it still counted. Matt Bartkowski laughed a puck at John Gibson from just inside the blueline, which Gibson booted out into the slot and Micheal Ferland, the last man from his line to get off for a change, buried the rebound to make it 1-1.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “live by the sword, die by the sword.” The Flames were alive entering the third period by the mercy of that rebound from Gibson. They began the third rather flat and the Ducks jumped all over them. The fourth line was hemmed into their own end after a defensive zone faceoff. Smith played the puck over the glass and took a minor penalty. The Flames lost the faceoff and six seconds after the PK began, they were down 2-1. They didn’t get a shot on goal until nearly 15 minutes into the third. They didn’t seem to recapture the desperation that they had in the second period until very late in the third. They lost 2-1. Shots were 13-7 and chances 8-6, both for the Ducks.
Why The Flames Lost
I completely get that the Flames played the night before. And that game was, in many ways, a physically-taxing trench war. They just lost a top six winger who was a glue guy in many, many ways. And they were playing a rested divisional rival in their barn.
But the level of execution in the first period and the level of desperation in the third period were pretty inexcusable. The Flames are a pretty veteran-laden team and coming out that flat seems like a team-wide failure and a complete waste of a really good goaltending performance by Smith. And despite playing a really awful first, they came into the third with the game completely up for grabs… and they couldn’t grab hold of it at all.
It’s gotta be Smith, who made 39 saves and had to stop a lot of really nice chances from the Ducks. The third line (Hathaway, Jankowski & Bennett) were also pretty decent.
The Turning Point
Rickard Rakell’s power play goal to make it 2-1 polished the Flames off.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)
This and That
The Stockton Heat dropped a 4-3 heartbreaker to the Ontario Reign, giving up the game-winner with 53 seconds left in regulation. Spencer Foo, Austin Carroll and Andrew Mangiapane scored.
Matthew Tkachuk fought Ryan Kesler early in the game. It was a fairly good fight by the standards of NHL fights.
Mike Ferland cussed on air twice in the span of about one second. That's a league leading cusses/60 pic.twitter.com/8w4o9KUzq1
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) December 30, 2017
The Flames (18-16-4) fly home tomorrow. They’ll host the Chicago Blackhawks to close out 2017 on New Year’s Eve.