Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Post-Game: Flames sunk by Isles

The Calgary Flames returned home on Sunday evening, and Mike Smith was back between the pipes. What could have been a time for celebration turned into a night of melancholy and frustration, as the Flames once again threw 50 pucks on net but couldn’t enough goals to win. They dropped a 5-2 decision to the visiting New York Islanders, somewhat dousing the embers of their flickering playoff hopes.

The Rundown

This game didn’t start out too well for the home side, as the Islanders scored on their second and third shots of the game. Off a face-off loss in the Flames zone, bodies piled up in front of the net and Nick Leddy’s wrister beat Mike Smith through oodles of traffic (and a deflection) to make it 1-0. On the very next shift, Johnny Boychuk held in a shot that rimmed around the boards, then flung it towards the net. Troy Brouwer attempted to swat the shot down, but only ended up turning it into a knuckleball that eluded Smith’s glove hand to make it 2-0. But the Flames answered back, as Johnny Gaudreau accepted a Sean Monahan pass and beat Christopher Gibson short-side (over the shoulder) to make it 2-1.

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But the Islanders made their lead two goals again a few minutes later, as Jordan Eberle tipped a Boychuk point shot only to be stoned by Smith. But the rebound went right to Eberle, who tucked it past Smith in one smooth motion to make it 3-1. Shots were 13-7 Flames and scoring chances 8-7 Flames.

Life got tougher for the Flames in the opening minute of the second period. Smith made an initial save on Boychuk, but the rebound was kicked right to Anders Lee for a no-doubt wrister into an open net and a 4-1 Islanders lead just 50 seconds into the period. The Flames had some decent looks for the remainder of the period, but couldn’t bury anything. Shots were 19-12 Flames, but scoring chances were 11-10 Islanders.

The Flames made it close midway through the third, as Mark Giordano entered the Islanders zone as the trailing man and got a shot off. The shot wasn’t corralled by Gibson and a scramble ended with Gibson nudging the puck into his own net to make it 4-2. But that was as close as the Flames got, and Lee added an empty-netter late to make it 5-2. Shots were 19-4 Flames and chances were 9-2 Flames.

Why The Flames Lost

It’s easy to point the finger at the goaltender, but take a look at the first three Islanders goals: a face-off loss and tons of traffic on a shot that went off Mark Jankowski’s foot, a Brouwer deflection against his own goaltender, and the defense failing to tie up Eberle on both the tip and the immediate rebound. It’s tough to win when there’s not much cohesion between the goaltender and the guys in front of him.

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And beyond their defensive zone play on the goals against, the Flames didn’t do a great job of making their lives easier in other ways. They didn’t win a ton of battles. They didn’t generate much in the way of secondary scoring chances – there was a lot of “one shot, and then the Islanders clear the zone” on the evening. And despite having several lengthy power plays, they couldn’t translate power plays into goals or even much momentum.

Red Warrior

Giordano was full of piss and vinegar on this evening, especially in the second half of the game when the team was chasing.

The Turning Point

Let’s go with the Eberle goal to make it 3-1. The Flames had just gotten one back and were only down by a goal. But there’s a world of difference between needing a bounce to get a game tied and needing two. On a night where it was incredibly difficult to beat the Islanders’ goalie, going down two goals after one period was just too tall an order for the home side.

The Numbers

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

Player Corsi
Stone 72.7 50.0 0.575
Tkachuk 72.2 85.7 0.940
Backlund 70.0 100 0.870
Bennett 68.4 66.7 0.445
Lazar 68.0 37.5 0.545
Kulak 66.7 50.0 0.275
Frolik 65.6 100 0.860
Brodie 65.3 71.4 1.075
Hamonic 63.8 76.9 1.075
Gaudreau 62.2 71.4 2.225
Monahan 61.9 75.0 1.705
Jankowski 61.1 71.4 0.060
Brouwer 60.0 50.0 0.400
Giordano 58.7 78.6 1.500
Stajan 58.3 28.6 0.095
Hamilton 57.4 73.3 1.250
Ferland 55.3 69.2 0.650
Hathaway 47.4 60.0 -0.025
Smith -0.800

This and That

Adam Fox had a goal and an assist as Harvard won their winner-take-all playoff game against Dartmouth. They advance to the semi-final game against Clarkson next weekend.

Matthew Tkachuk left the game late in the third period after he went down awkwardly in a collision with Mat Barzal. He went to the Flames locker room and didn’t return. Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan had no updates on his status following the game.

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“I thought we had some chances there, too. I didn’t like it early. I thought earlier we could’ve been better. Later we got better but we couldn’t score. The power play, most teams generate some zone time. We’ve got to find a way to get those second chances. We had a high tip and we didn’t get to the rebound and the second chances. That’s where you score. Two of their goals were rebounds, we gotta get those.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on his team’s power play.

“The desperation, the urgency just wasn’t there at the start. It got us behind the eight-ball. It’s tough to come back in this league. We threw everything at them, but it just wasn’t enough. It’s exhausting to try and chase the game, especially that early. That’s the way it went tonight.” – Mike Smith on his team’s performance.

Smith also had a great answer regarding what it’ll take the Flames to get into the post-season right now:

“You can’t win or lose a game on one shift. There’s been… I’ve been watching a lot of the games obviously, a lot of them from the press box. There’s times in games where it’s okay to try to make a fancy play and there’s other times in games where you just gotta put it in and grind. Gotta go to work, we’ve been saying it all year. It’s about doing the little things and building on the little things when you might not think they’re important things in the game, and they turn out to be the turning points in games. Those are the little things in games we need to build on and get everyone doing it, not just the grinders are blocking shots, we need everyone blocking shots. We need everyone doing the little things that it takes to win games. We do that, and we give ourselves a chance to get in there.”

The Drive to 96 (Points)

The Flames now have 78 points with 12 games remaining. They need 18 points over their remaining schedule – the equivalent of a 9-3-0 record – to hit the 96 point mark that’ll probably be the playoff cut-off.

Up Next

The Flames (34-26-10) practice tomorrow. They host Edmonton on Tuesday.

    • GetOn'Em

      Yes the system which goes hand in hand with the coach..but it is also the fact that a lot of these shots are not scoring chance or shots of quality. With out high end talent the quality of scoring chances and shots goes down. GG offense style is like playing the 6/49, just keep buying tickets (take shots from anywhere till one goes in)till you win.

      • McRib

        When you build a team full of mediocre scorers (outside of Monahan, Hamilton and sometimes Gio, Ferland, etc) this is what happens. Meanwhile Rasmus Andersson and his 102mph shot are sitting in the AHL. Spencer Foo would at this point also likely be a better option to Troy “I can only score on my own net” Brouwer.

        We honestly can’t muster more than two goals on a career AHLer?!?!? My entire life (born after the first cup) the Flames have built teams based off of bringing in “character” players, while every team winning in that time period always has a Patrick Kane, Phil Kessell, Corey Perry, Brad Marchand, etc. You need a few big egos on winning teams who aren’t afraid to be selfish when it matters most, plain and simple. I’ll tell you where only selecting “nice guys” and “playing for overtime” gets you in the grand scheme of things…. Outside of the playoffs looking in. When the Flames were winning we balanced egos like Gilmour and Fleury because they had the skills to pay the bills, since then all we have done is lose with “nice guys”.

  • MontanaMan

    A must win – and they didn’t. Team wasn’t ready to play, Smith looked bad and a team that should be hungry for a playoff spot got outplayed by a team that hadn’t won in 8 games. Doesn’t mean the playoffs are impossible but now you’re hoping for help and need to win most of your remaining games.

    • PlayitagainSam

      Like I said for the past couple of days. This team is not good enough to win unless the goaltending is standing on their head.
      Do we really still believe the BS about this team having a great defence? Fans and writers here keep giving excuses but our defence sucks!!

      • Franko J

        Sure does. Not only the D, but this group of forwards struggle as well in the defensive zone. What can we expect from this teamwhen they get constantly get out worked and lose more one on one battles than their opponent.

  • Calgarycandle

    This team can’t seem to stand good fortune like winning the last two games on the road. Lots of traditional bad outcomes in this game: falling behind early, not tightening up after Gaudreau made it 2-1, not scoring and building momentum on the PP. This is crunch time and Calgary didn’t perform in the crunch. Is it on the players? the coaches? the psychological fragility of the group management built. Ultimately there is only “team” although who this loss is on will dictate what needs to be done at the draft and in the off-season.

    • GetOn'Em

      They lack culture and leadership. It is so apparent. People cannot see past the good deeds #5 does in tge community to admit he is a sub par captain under GG.

        • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

          The question here can’t be about Gio. The guy wears his heart on his sleeve and gets into the guts of the game. The issue is about who on the room rips the boys a new one when they get too comfy and complacent? Ideally that is your captain but on this team it needs to be someone else. Next year it is Byng. Unfortunately it might be too late for someone else to find their voice.

        • GetOn'Em

          Whyy? Im a huge fan of Byng, Bennett, Dougie, Kohnny, Ferland, Backlund, Monny, Hamonic and a lot of prospects. Just because he wears the C means i need to cheer for him or like him.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          Don’t question Gio’s playing ability or his dedication to community service, but is he effective as a captain? Not so sure.

          Remember Theo Fleury captained the Flames for a couple of seasons when his personal life was in total disarray as he battled all the demons in his head. By far the best hockey player on those Flames teams but did he have the skill set at that time to be an effective captain? Not even close.

    • The Doctor

      A scoring RW and one with some offensive flair is sorely needed on the third line. Hathaway should only be a fourth line forward in this league and on this team.

      • GetOn'Em

        Why not the first line and put Ferland on the third where he is better suited..Backlund could puck up the defensive game there and put Lazar on the RW getting rid of Frolik.and then with Byng with Bennett and Janko could be a great second line with grut and a scoring punch. Dreaming right now but a guy like Cam Atkinson or Artemi Pannarin with Johnny and Monny would be sick. 4th line of Hathaway, Shore, Brouwer would be tip top in these 420 glazed eyes….

    • PlayitagainSam

      Treleving failed miserably at the trade deadline.He could have tried to improve the team and any way you look at it he failed. The first ax to fall will be Gulutzan ,even though he does not have the right mix on this team.
      Treleving is really to blame though.

      • Franko J

        Treliving failed at the draft last year, not addressing the glaring need for a quality RW. Then again who should have the Flames targeted and traded for instead of Hamonic? Just asking.

    • With Respect

      What like right now? next season maybe but with what? we have no picks in the 1st 2nd 3rd 5th and gave up a second round pick in 2019. BT is out of ammo took his shot with Hamonic and Smith. Really like Hamonic just too much future for him and now it looks like a lottery pick ouch.

  • Big jim

    When we have defenders in Stockton that have 60 plus points together (t spoon and raz) why did they not get a chance to play in Calgary. T spoon is better defensively than kulak or Stone . T spoon and raz have been better offensively this year too. Together they mesh really well , so please tell me why they have gotten nhl chance? They playing against the top AHL forwards, which is not much different than playing bottom nhl forwards so they can easily hold there own. Please share your thoughts on this missed opportunity.

  • loudogYYC

    This question has probably been asked before, but why is GG giving the 3M line so many o-zone FO’s? That line thrives on moving the puck out of their own zone and into the attack. Why does this coach always look to get things done the hard way when the answer is right there in front of him.

  • The Doctor

    Our power play is too slow and predictable with its puck movement right now. It’s not horrible, but one of the reasons we couldn’t get anything past Gibson tonight is that he was in position almost 100 percent of the time. And that’s a function of us not passing and moving the puck quickly enough. The top power plays do that and execute things like give and gos that throw the other team off balance and generate quality opportunities.

    And that one play we’re doing a lot where we’re behind the red line and center it trying to jam it in — it’s not really a high percentage play. You’re just throwing the puck willy Nilly into a traffic jam. Most of the time the other team has a 50 percent chance of getting the puck or at least deflecting it away. There’s a reason why Scotty Bowman called blind centering

  • FL?MES

    You know what, whether we make the playoffs or not I’m not too bothered. We have a solid core of players and a GM who I expect is not very happy at this time (given some of his recent press comments). I anticipate some big changes in the offseason. Everything will work out fine.

    This coming from a fan who suffered through the 8-2 drubbing in Detroit this season.

  • FL?MES

    Oh, and by the way, picking up dog ? during the 3rd period did make me feel better than watching the rest of the game. I know my dog felt better and it felt good to be an upright citizen and properly dispose of the ?.

    Geez, I’m starting to come across like OTW. Better stopped or I’ll get banned – stick to hockey talk!

  • RKD

    Flames were brutal, Gulutzan needs to be fired, trade Brodie and Stone in the offseason for two scoring forwards. Not enough guys who can finish, way too many passengers, bottom six is brutal. They can have 1000 shot attempts for all I care, Isles who are further back played with more urgency.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    The Flames have their warts but Gio’s leadership and Tre’s competency are the last things we should be concerned about. Gio oozes character and leadership. Just because we don’t hear about player only meetings does not mean they have not taken place. As for our GM, I can’t remember when this team has had a more active and dialled in GM. I will take a GM that swings for the fences over one that sits on his hands any day.

    People tend to forgot, Tre was able to trade for Hamilton and Hamonic who were highly sought after by more desirable teams. Remember, Calgary along with Edmonton and Winnipeg typically lead the no trade lists for most players. So to blame Tre for doing what other Flame GMs couldn’t or wouldn’t do is ridiculous

    Leadership may start from the top but it needs to be consistent throughout the team. Outside of the Buffalo and Ottawa games, how many ” big games or must win games” have the Flames won this year? This lack of preparedness is systemic. The players have a responsibility to work hard in practices while coming to the games ” in the right frame of mind”. But it is the responsibility of the coaching staff to prepare and train the players to ramp up their games so they can peak in the “big games or must win games”

    The players owed Mike Smith more than what they gave today. It is the coaches job to manage the players and manage the game. Mike Smith has been our MVP and without him there is no playoff race… so he gets a pass. It is desperation time none of the lines have been a consistent threat so blow them up. Don’t expect the team’s fortunes to improve by tinkering with the fourth line that plays 7 minutes. The Saddledome fans did their part tonight but had very little to work with.

    • Kevin R

      Good post! I am sick & tired to going to way too many games to watch this team lose. Partly, we just don’t get too many breaks these days. I have resolved myself to the fact this just aint our year. Team needs big changes. Yes, people get way too hard about these draft picks. Once we get literally mathematically eliminated, this team will steam roll some games late in the year because they won’t be critical. So our pick will probably be in the 10th-12th range. Sucks. But we got Hamonic & we have had 3 years of Hamilton for basically nothing but picks. Someone tell me who is playing lights out in Boston from the picks we gave up? 3 years later, no one & the last 2 years, we have had the services of a top pairing D man. That is pretty damn good. But this team is just lost. Coach systems are not bringing out the best in too many of his players, but he has gotten good years out of Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk & Backlund. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to win in this league. We need more out of all the lines & need to utilize the strength that was perceived from our backend. We were supposed to be mobile but we sure didn’t play that way this year. Big changes coming.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Hamilton didn’t have a NMC contract as he was just finished his ELC when he was traded here. Hamonic was very public about his desire to play out west, so no way was he going to balk at being traded to Cal. The issue with Hamonic is what Tre paid to get him. The joke still making the rounds is that the only 2 GMs the snowman has been able to screw royally are Chia and Tre.

      Don’t think the Smith trade was a swing for the fence either as the Coyotes paid the Flames to take him off their hands.

      My take on Tre is that he is far from the brilliant GM so many here have made him out to be. Like all GMs, he has had his hits and misses. If the club fails to make the playoffs this season, Tre has to take a lot of the blame be it for the players he assembled or the coaching staff he hired. Does he get a mulligan if they don’t make the playoffs? I am pretty sure he will because the club cannot be changing GMs every few years and expect to have any semblance of stability. However, he should be given a very clear ultimatum for the 2018-2019 season–not making the playoffs is not an option and failing to comply will result in swift and severe consequences.

      • loudogYYC

        Flames have won 5 combined playoff games in the 2 seasons the Flames made the playoffs since Tre took over. His pick for coach has 0 playoff wins and his teams have proven to have an ugly proclivity for falling apart when games matter. GG is a good hockey guy but is no leader, he doesn’t know how to take command of a situation and I don’t see how he would command respect out of his players. If Treliving doesn’t fire him in the spring I don’t see how this team will get over the hump.

  • Korcan

    Two concerns: 1) two goals against in the first three minutes of period one, and another in the first minute of period two — this is a team that too often is not mentally prepaired entering games and periods. It is inexcusable considering the position they are in and it falls directly on the coaches. 2) Tkachuk down — he didn’t look good and i fear it may be a concusion. The last thing Calgary can afford is the loss of who is imo their most consistent and lately most impactful forward.

  • GetOn'Em

    Smith looked ordinary last night, while earlier in the season his extraordinary play masked so many glaring holes on this team. Brodie continies to be tidden like he is havinh the best season of his career, but his play is the opposite of this. Not sure what GG sees in Brodie this season, continuously putting Brodie out for tough minutes where Giordano and Hamilton are the obvious choice. This game was lost before the puck was dropped. It was lost with the starting line ups. I really hope the Flames lose the next few games and when the playoffs are out the window to the BostonPizzaKid and Glen’sHair that they call up, dress and play a line up along the lines of (variance of lines but this roster)
    Gaudreau Monahan Lazar
    Bennett Janko Tkchuck
    Ferland Backlund Mango
    Shinkurak Shore Poirer

    Giordano Anderrson
    Kulak Hamonic
    Wotherspoon Hamilton


    I would like to see how the team does without Brodie and Frolik in the line up. See if guys like Mango, Andersson, Wotherspoon, Poirer and Shinkurak are ready. If so or close noce Brodie and Frolik for picks or maybe a now RW. The lines could be blended but this roster.

  • Hockeyfan

    In gelman’s eyes it’s a win, Smith weak, with a 846 was it? That hammer trade looking worse by the day now, especially with A couple young uns ready on the farm. Does backs get the big $ if Byng isn’t on his line, would his stats be even worse? Fans will regret that signing a lot sooner than the 3 years i predicted, possibly as soon as next season. if they lose to the welfare disgraces up north, they are done.

  • oddclod

    At least we’re not Edmonton (sans Taylor Hall & Eberle) and have scoring outside of the first line. We’re only a coach away from next years playoffs. 50 shots is easy when you’re chasing. I’m sick of this coaching staff. Block shots or get the **** out of the way. Monohan let Eberle walk in unimpeded for the 3rd goal and it was game over. I never thought I’d miss Hartley. Brent Sutter would have this team flying. If Glen is coach next year, I’m (still) not watching games.