The Calgary Flames have made a lot of roster changes since the end of last season. But for a team with a lot of new pieces, they sure looked similar in Wednesday night’s opener against the Vancouver Canucks. A strong five-on-five performance was undone by a shoddy power play en route to a 5-2 loss to kick off the 2018-19 regular season.
The Flames had a lot of energy early on, but were sidelined by a flat early power play and a fight that resulted in them rolling with five defensemen for awhile. After another iffy power play the Canucks caught Michael Stone alone in his own end with a two-on-one.
Elias Pettersen had the puck and lasered it past Mike Smith to make it 1-0. Mikael Backlund and Dillon Dube had nice chances later in the period but couldn’t capitalize. Shots were 10-9 Vancouver and chances were 7-7.
Neither team scored in the second period. The Flames were full marks at even strength, but a couple of iffy power plays sapped their momentum. Shots were 9-5 Flames, but scoring chances were 14-4 in their favour as well.
The dam burst offensively in the third, but not in the visitors’ favour. Loui Eriksson’s shot through traffic was stopped, but Pettersson shuffled the rebound to Nikolai Goldobin for a tap-in goal to make it 2-0. 28 seconds later saw Erik Gudbranson’s point shot tipped by Jay Beagle, and the rebound went right to Brendan Leipsic for a tap-in to make it 3-0.
Matthew Tkachuk finally got the Flames on the board with an ugly one, firing a puck in off Jacob Markstrom from a bad angle to make it 3-1.
Matthew's first of the season pic.twitter.com/VChqgEZEJ7
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) October 4, 2018
But the Flames couldn’t score on a power play and Jake Virtanen beat out Mark Giordano for a loose puck and poked it through Smith’s five-hole to make it a 4-1 game. Sean Monahan scored on a net-front redirection to make it 4-2, but Tyler Motte added an empty net goal to ice this one at 5-2. Shots were 17-8 Flames and scoring chances 15-6 Flames.
Why the Flames Lost
They were zero-for-seven on the power play. 14 minutes of power play time resulted in six shots. Twice, they allowed the Canucks to score within 30 seconds of a failed power play opportunity. That’s the whole game right there.
Not re-writing the rules here, but you aren't going to score on the powerplay if you:
a) can't keep it in the zone
b) can't set up in the offensive zone
c) shoot the puck#Flames have three shots on four powerplay opportunities.
— Kristen Anderson (@KdotAnderson) October 4, 2018
They were good at generating chances and zone time at even strength, but were struggling at doing the same thing when they had more guys on the ice than the other team. They were out-battled on the power play and couldn’t translate their even strength prowess into more than a pair of goals.
Smith gave up four goals, but only one of them – Virtanen’s to make it 4-1 – was something he should have stopped. He was busy early on and held the Flames in this one.
And stick-tap to young Dillon Dube. He didn’t play a ton, but he drew two penalties and had a couple really nice scoring chances. He was arguably the team’s best skater through the first 40 minutes of this one.
The Turning Point
The third Canucks goal – their second allowed within a 28-second span – sunk the Flames. The eventual game-winner, it came as the Flames were on their heels and scrambling in their own end.
The Flames eventually found the scoresheet, but it was too little, too late.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5; data via Corsica.Hockey)
This and That
Travis Hamonic fought Erik Gudbranson after the Canucks defender hit Dillon Dube. Hamonic got clobbered with a punch and left the game for much of the first period, returning with a face shield on.
Renowned line-juggler Bill Peters juggled lines in his first game as Flames head coach. He swapped Austin Czarnik and Michael Frolik in the second period – Czarnik joined Backlund and Tkachuk, Frolik went with Bennett and Jankowski. In the third period, he swapped James Neal and Elias Lindholm – Neal played with Gaudreau and Monahan, Lindholm with Ryan and Dube.
These two teams will meet up again on Saturday night in Calgary for the Flames’ home opener.