The Stockton Heat hosted the San Jose Barracuda for the second straight Saturday, Oct. 20. San Jose came into the game undefeated in regulation in five games (4-0-0-1) while Stockton limped in on the back of a 1-2-1-0 record.
Saturday, 10/20: San Jose Barracuda
Here are the line combos as they started the game, during which they stayed intact throughout most of it.
Offensively, Stockton did nothing to help themselves in the first two periods where they generated only 12 shots total and only ONE in the middle frame. Defensively they played better than in the past but still trailed 1-0 after the second on a defensive breakdown by Matt Taormina, which led to a breakaway goal in the first.
Jon Gillies was busy stopping 22 of the 23 shots he faced, while the defense cleared away pucks that were kicked away, keeping secondary shots to a minimum.
Andrew Mangiapane finally got off the schneid with a nice deke through the five-hole to even the score with just over 18 minutes left. Five minutes later, San Jose found Gillies’ weak spot, as a shot beat him glove-side high. With just six minutes to play, a review proved that the puck crossed the line in a scrum in front of the net, extending San Jose’s lead to three. Twenty seconds later another glove-side high goal by the Barracuda virtually sealed the Heat’s fate. Stockton closed the gap in the last minute to play on a late 6-on-4 power play goal by Glenn Gawdin but San Jose ended the scoring with an empty net goal in the waning seconds.
SUNDAY, 10/21: at San Jose Barracuda
Stockton took the 90-minute bus ride to SAP Center to face the Barracuda for the third time in eight days. I listened to the game while watching the Flames on NHL TV. Tyler Parsons made a return to the net. Stockton came out fast with two big goals in the first. Mangiapane got his second goal in as many days, this time from Oliver Kylington and Tyler Graovac. Less than two minutes later, it was Mangiapane setting up Graovac who buried the puck for a two-goal lead.
Spencer Foo got into the act with a power play goal midway in the second, as Graovac racked up his third point of the game. A defensive breakdown by the Heat sprung a San Jose player coming out of the penalty box on a breakaway and broke up Parsons’ shutout. With just over a minute left in the period, the Barracuda struck again when the defense turned over a puck and left a San Jose player one-on-one against Parsons. The period ended 3-2 Heat.
In the third, the Heat held San Jose to only eight shots and the last two minutes of 6-on-5 to secure their first regulation win and handed San Jose their first defeat in regulation. Parsons has won two games for the Heat in his short career, both on San Jose ice. The Heat are 2-3-1-0 and in fifth place in the West out of seven teams.
Special teams did a nice job, going 6-for-6, including a minute of 5-on-3 Saturday, and 3-for-3 on Sunday on the penalty kill. A power play goal in each game makes for special teams clicking.
Defensively, Matt Taormina and Rinat Valiev made their Stockton debuts. Both were steady in the defensive zone but looked a little rusty from their time off the ice. I thought Oliver Kylington and Adam Ollas-Mattsson had their strongest games of the season, but while they were more physical than in past games, I wish both would finish their checks more.
It was nice to see Mangiapane get going. That forehand/backhand move on Saturday was sweet. In these last two games, he was around the puck more than he has been all season. I hope this broke the seal and he will start potting more. This team needs him to perform.
The power play units on Saturday lined up like this:
Now for the disappointing news.
I, along with most people here on FlamesNation, had high expectations for this team. Through six games, this team is nowhere near ready to challenge for a playoff spot. They still need defensive help. They still need to stay out of the box. They need to play fast, but controlled. They need to survey the ice and not just take the first option that is open to them.
Stevie Wonder thinks this team has too many blind passes. I counted at least a dozen no-look pass attempts that never found their intended target, but instead found a San Jose stick in the Heat defensive zone. Instead of either skating the puck out of the zone or taking the safe closer pass to the player coming up the middle, this team is still in love with the cross-ice, east-west pass. Please clean this up.
I know I beat this to death, but I am not the only one who is pointing out Gillies’ issue. This is from the Heat’s official game notes (I bolded for effect):
- San Jose Goal: F Jayden Halbgewachs (3) partial breakaway from the blueline in on the transition is shot over the goalie’s blocker hand side (Letunov, Sandberg assists) (12:48)
- San Jose Goal: F Maxim Letunov (3) shot over the glove hand from the bottom of the right circle (Halbgewachs, Sandberg assists) (8:26)
- San Jose Goal: F Filip Sandberg (1) shot from the right circle beats the goalie over his glove hand side (Letunov, Wood assists) (14:32)
I listened to Cail MacLean’s interview on Facebook Live on the way home Saturday night, on where the team is through five games:
“I think at this point you look at it and say, okay, where are we in the process? How are we handling our respective areas? Whether it’s our five-on-five game, special teams, just the overall feel for the team. I think we have areas we need to work on, but we understand that it is going to be a process through the season, so there’s going to be bumps along the way… We want to come step by step tomorrow and put a good game under our belt and move from there.”
The “overall feel for the team”? MacLean coached most of these guys in training camp. The team is a month into the season and had a full week to prepare for the same team they lost to last Saturday. This was straight out of the conversation between Nuke LaLoosh and Crash Davis in Bull Durham: boring canned answers that don’t really address the question. Come on, the fans deserve better than that.
The Heat are on the road next week, taking on San Diego on Friday and Bakersfield on Saturday. The Heat are not the only ones on the road, as Mrs. Finest and I are taking in the Knights/Lightning game next Friday. But don’t worry, as I’ll be back for the game on Halloween against Bakersfield and Saturday, Nov. 3 against the sorely missed Tyler Wotherspoon and the San Antonio Rampage.