76Mikael Backlund
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today Sports

Post-Game: New look Flames have vintage performance in loss

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 Rundown

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.

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.

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.

Red Warrior

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.

The Numbers

(Percentage stats are 5-on-5; data via Corsica.Hockey)

Player Corsi
Backlund 84.6 60.0 0.325
Tkachuk 77.8 60.0 1.575
Frolik 76.2 33.3 0.485
Hamonic 76.0 33.3 0.700
Hanifin 75.0 33.3 1.950
Giordano 72.1 75.0 1.375
Gaudreau 70.0 63.6 1.375
Czarnik 68.4 85.7 1.235
Monahan 67.7 63.6 1.500
Neal 66.7 100 1.075
Brodie 66.7 81.8 1.050
Bennett 62.5 50.0 0.325
Jankowski 60.0 40.0 0.215
Lindholm 59.1 60.0 -0.140
Dube 57.1 100 0.390
Stone 50.0 70.0 -0.250
Ryan 40.0 100 0.045
Valimaki 33.3 100 -0.325
Smith -1.200

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.

Up Next

These two teams will meet up again on Saturday night in Calgary for the Flames’ home opener.

  • Vernon30

    In the third, in the last PP, it looked like they abandoned the “Gaudreau drop back and carry.” Once the did that, they gained access much easier. Flashbacks to last year. Let’s hope this is an aberration. Remember the Jets started 0-2 and looked lost last year. I think the Flames beat them 7-3 in their second game.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      On what planet can you favourably compare the Flames with the Jets? That’s like saying the Bombers are the equals of the Stamps because both clubs have lost to the Esks and Riders this season. It don’t make sense.

      • Vernon30

        Not really comparing the two, just pointing out that people were thinking the Jets started horribly last year, and looked much like the failed teams of years past. Only, they righted the ship and had a great year. I’m tired of being pessimistic about this franchise.

  • TheWheeze

    Why was Gretzky able to do what he did? Sure he had Kurri, but he also had Semenko who pistol whipped anyone who got near Gretz. There just is no debate about the reality. The game is changing. Speed and skill. Sure. But an undeniable fact is The Punisher will always be necessary even in today’s NHL.

  • RKD

    Lindholm needs to stickhandle less and shoot more and be more engaged, Neal was a big offseason signing who’s scored 20 goals the last 10 seasons should be on the top 2 lines not down on line 3. Dube keep your head up, no need for Hamonic to fight, Gudbrandson is out of his weight class and a goon. Czarnik and Dube had a lot of jump and good looks out there. Valimaki looked pretty good on the last pairing.

    • Cody95

      Keep your head up ? He didn’t even have the puck the hit was dirty af. We just need peluso in the lineup to teach players like gudbranson a lesson. Agreed on the rookies tho the future looks promising

  • Capro71

    Don’t feel inspired to buy NHL centre ice if that 55 minutes if mediocrity is what I’d be watching. For five minutes in the 3rd they looked ok. After the game was done.

  • Capro71

    Media response every year appears to be they’re still learning (insert coach)’s system. Every year? These guys need no excuses they need performance. Not impressive at all.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      The time consuming part of the process and the one which tees you and other fans off is that before the new system can be learned, the old system must be unlearned. Pro hockey players, like other pro athletes, are essentially very stupid creatures. You teach them to do something and when they can do it, they can do it in their sleep. They become so practiced at it that it becomes second nature. All good. The problem is when you try and re-educate them–tell them to forget what they had been doing and start doing things a new way. That can be a slow, agonizing process.