Well, if you didn’t want the game to go to overtime, you definitely got your wish.
A most impressive collapse indeed
Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
Two minutes to go. A one-goal lead. It’s not ideal, but it’s set for a regulation win, and riding a four-game losing streak, not to mention the opponent being a divisional rival, it is a breath of fresh air. They’d controlled the game, for the most part. The finish line was within sight, and the outcome was going to be positive.
And then Michael Frolik tried to pass the puck back to T.J. Brodie, missed his mark, caught an unaware Mike Smith, and set him up to be left helpless by a rebound that never should have happened.
And then it was over. Frolik gets a modicum of forgiveness because he hasn’t played in a month, but still, Glen Gulutzan deployed his defensive line and one of them just ruined it.
Seemingly shellshocked – they had not even two minutes of clean, smart hockey to go – the Knights got the puck back into the offensive zone. Jonathan Marchessault danced around Mark Giordano, popped the puck over a Smith who seemed unsure of what to do, and all of the good work the Flames had done over the course of 58 minutes was completely undone. Nothing really signified that more than Giordano, down from Marchessault getting around him, gently setting his head down on the ice and just… lying there. Only for a second, but that was a defeated man.
Still 96 seconds to try to tie it back up, but nah. They weren’t doing that. That was never going to happen. And to be fair, it’s hard to see any other team in that kind of situation rallying to tie it back up, not after literally giving the game away.
But they were the ones who gave it away in the first place. Was it on purpose? No. Was it incredibly unfortunate? Yes. But none of that matters, because the Flames, of their own volition, destroyed their shot at a clean win. Vegas didn’t make them do that. Vegas didn’t put any pressure on them to force it. They did it to themselves.
Everything good was undone
Sam Bennett finally scored again, snapping a six-game pointless drought. It probably shouldn’t have gone in, but it did.
Matthew Tkachuk picked up where he left off from before the All-Star Break, continuing to make his case that he might just be the best skater on the roster, completely embarrassing Marc-Andre Fleury. There are mind games that piss off the opponent and then there are the ones that turn into goals and the latter is so much better.
Smith had another decent outing. Not spectacular, but he didn’t really need to be in this one.
The Flames showed they could go toe-to-toe with the top team in their division, one of the best in the NHL. For the vast majority of that game, they were never out of it. They played well.
And absolutely none of it mattered because they got nothing out of the effort. They have spent too many assets for moral victories to count in any capacity this season. Gradual on-ice improvements mean nothing if they come away from them with nothing. It’s great to see Frolik back. It’s great to see Bennett get back on the scoresheet. It’s great to see just how great Tkachuk can be. It’s great to see the Flames hanging in there with a top-level opponent. All of those things are, truly, great.
The Flames have won 25 of the 50 games they’ve played. Their goal differential is zero. They are a .500 team in every way but the loser point.
With a .580 points percentage, they sit fourth in their division, 10th in their conference. They are not out of the playoff chase yet, not by a long shot. There are still two months and change to go and a lot is going to happen over that time.
It took a seven-game win streak to make them look like they belonged in the postseason and since then they’ve done nothing but cough up mediocre one-goal leads, do absolutely nothing to build on any of it, and just look like a team content to plod along to the status quo. Two weeks ago they looked like they had it in them to have a perfect January; they finished it 6-5, with a five-game losing streak. (I’m done acknowledging loser points.) This is an absolutely hysterical slide from a team that spent most of its assets to build this: a .500 team that can maybe eek out a playoff game win or two if they even make it that far, and nothing more.
They’re 8-9 against their division this season. They are failures. There’s always the “we’ll see how they respond next game” moment but… who cares, really?