94Mike Smith scored against
Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA Today Sports

Post-Game: Flames pummeled by pesky Penguins

The Calgary Flames returned home from a two game road trip and, unfortunately, brought their defensive troubles back with them. The Flames were extremely leaky defensively and didn’t get strong goaltending en route to a 9-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Rundown

The Flames got off to an energetic start in the opening frame, but the visitors opened the scoring. With a crowd of players in the slot, Sidney Crosby approached the Flames net from the side and – with Mike Smith covering the bottom 80% of the net – chipped the puck into the small space between the crossbar and Smith’s inside shoulder. It was a shot that maybe 5% of hockey players could make, and it made it 1-0 Penguins.

With Mark Jankowski in the penalty box, the potent Penguins power play converted. Evgeni Malkin’s shot from the top of the circles was tipped by Patric Hornqvist past Smith to make it 2-0. With 52 seconds left in the period the Penguins made it 3-0, as Noah Hanifin and Travis Hamonic both covered the potential pass recipients on a three-on two. Bryan Rust went “Okay, I’ll shoot it then…” and buried a big rebound that Smith spat back out. Shots were 14-10 Penguins in the first period, while chances were 8-7 Penguins.

Just 77 seconds into the second period the Penguins extended their lead. The Flames defenders got a bit lost in their own end and Smith booted out a rebound into the slot, so Phil Kessel grabbed it and buried it to make it 4-0. A little while later Hornqvist scored on another odd-man rush, opting to shoot from the face-off circle and his shot went through Smith to make it 5-0.

The Flames managed to generate a power play after Kessel was called for slashing, but they couldn’t generate anything and Kessel snuck behind the Flames defenders and scored on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box to make it 6-0. That spelled the end of Smith’s evening, as David Rittich came in to mop up.

Jack Johnson added a late power play goal, beating Rittich over his shoulder to make it 7-0. Shots were 15-13 Flames, scoring chances were 9-8 Flames.

Jake Guentzel redirected a Sidney Crosby wrist shot past Rittich midway through the third period to make it 8-0 for the visitors. James Neal beat Matt Murray with a knuckleball shot with two minutes left in regulation to make it 8-1, but that’s all the locals could muster.

Matt Cullen scored on the very next shift to make it 9-1. Shots were 14-9 Flames and chances were 12-7 Flames in the final frame.

Why the Flames Lost

On most nights, teams have their hands full with the Penguins because they’re a stacked hockey team.

On this night, the Flames played well below the standard they’re capable of playing at and the Penguins made them pay dearly for their sloppiness. Their defensive play wasn’t great. Their power play looked iffy. Their penalty kill gave up a goal. Smith’s rebound control and general comfort level between the pipes seemed off.

In short: the Flames lost because the Penguins were much, much better than them.

Red Warrior

We’re stretching here, but Noah Hanifin led the team in shots. That was notable.

Three Flames were not on the ice for an even strength goal against: Dillon Dube and Garnet Hathaway.

The Turning Point

The third Penguins goal was probably the back-breaker here, as the Flames had a chance to get to the intermission down only a pair of goals. Instead, they made their hill that much steeper to climb.

The first goal was a great Crosby shot. The second goal was a power play tip (against a scary-good PP unit). The third goal was one the Flames, as a team, really couldn’t afford to give up given the situation they found themselves in.

The Numbers

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

Player Corsi
For%
OZone
Start%
Game
Score
Backlund 69.7 100 0.270
Hamonic 67.4 57.1 1.125
Lindholm 66.7 66.7 0.640
Gaudreau 66.7 66.7 0.675
Hathaway 65.0 100 0.600
Hanifin 64.4 57.1 0.975
Frolik 61.1 83.3 0.225
Tkachuk 60.6 76.9 -0.175
Monahan 60.0 80.0 1.160
Giordano 57.1 62.5 0.100
Andersson 54.8 62.5 0.275
Dube 54.6 50.0 1.045
Czarnik 52.2 33.3 0.135
Stone 51.4 85.7 -0.350
Brodie 51.4 85.7 -0.125
Bennett 46.4 50.0 -0.240
Jankowski 42.9 66.7 -0.495
Neal 36.0 75.0 0.150
Smith -3.000
Rittich -1.050

This and That

This was Travis Hamonic’s first game back after missing eight games after fracturing his face in a fight on opening night. He wore a plastic facial shield and was generally fine.

At least it wasn’t pretzel night…

This game saw the Flames lose by the largest margin of defeat since Jan. 5, 2012, when they lost 9-0 to the Boston Bruins – Chris Butler was famously minus-7 in that game. It’s their most one-sided home loss since Dec. 4, 2000, when they lost 8-0 to the San Jose Sharks.

Up Next

The Flames (5-5-0) practice tomorrow, then prepare to play the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals on Saturday night.

  • Skylardog

    I asked for a trade and submitted my 12 team no trade list. The GM (Mrs Sky) told me I bought the red jersey and I had better wear it! Suspect I will be going nowhere – (Sigh).

    • Flint

      Yeah, well, look at the goalies (and this is coming from a oft goalie apologist)

      Smith is brutal right now, downright brutal, and I doubt anyone has an answer as to why, but they better find one quick.

      Here’s one: Don’t start the game by daring the best player in the world over the last decade to perfectly execute a shot he’s done dozens of times before.

      Especially don’t do it if you’re going to do it so half-assed said superstar could have J.Neal’d it and it still would have gone in.

  • Korcan

    What we witnessed tonight was a Flames team that continued playing the same way they had in their two previous games. The only difference was Pittsburgh’s skill level is far above that of Montreal and NYR. When you give them grade A opportunities, they bury them.

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    I m just glad I didn’t watch the game instead decided to sleep. I m in eastern time. I guess nothing change defensively instead the goaltending got worse? I remember BP saying before the season began “ if they didn’t get the system in training camp then it’s on coaching staff” and yesterday Derek wills saying on Fan 960 “ it’s a new system “? It’s going to be long October. And now I m debating if I even watch Saturday’s game.

  • cjc

    I would have been okay seeing the L if this team even tried, but it is the same problems as last year, the same band aid solutions from the GM, the same terrible goaltending. The last 3 games have been unwatchable.

  • oddclod

    When forwards walk in off the half boards untouched on 3 of nine goals, your goalie is left out to dry when your defence are blocking out their assignments, when your defence is backing in too deep on every rush, this means your forwards are not in the game. It’s called back pressure. When forwards are playing as a unit supporting the D, pressing the backs of incoming forwards, pressuring them in a way they can’t make plays. This forward group is playing shinny. Simple. This is the problem. Best player in the world who has a backhand like a sniper’s wrister started the game like a God. The forwards did nothing to tighten up and help out. They just floated. Zero chance in the AHL or any league to make the playoffs when you play like shinny. Not hard to fix if u start benching notables.

  • oddclod

    All issues aside, a hockey fan and Canadian. Sidney Crosby in his prime is a beautiful thing. Did he not score two of the sikkest goals in back to back nights? Captain Canada indeed. Shame on the NHL for not giving me another olympics to remember. 😛

      • Beer_League_Ringer

        Sorry, I normally don’t troll, but that comment is so dumb… McDavid who?
        Y’know, that Connor kid is pretty good at hockey. I heard he is the back-to-back Art Ross winner. I also heard that he got the same # of goals vs. the Pens than the entire Flames team did… Hacking on Connor (or any top player) after such an unmitigated dismantling at home and 3rd horrible game in a row is so YYC-typical. Good luck with the Caps tomorrow. Maybe a Flames “star”, or “leader” will show up and put the team on his back like Connor does nightly for his team. Lastly, the Caps are one of the largest, toughest teams in the NHL, so be prepared to get beaten on the scoreboard and run out of your own rink physically.

  • herringchoker

    Folks, relax……this is a long game not a short one.

    Move Lindholm to center the first line. I think you try Czarnek on that first line. I think Monahan cleans up alot of Gaudreau dipsy doddling but, I personally think that we can have a smaller first line as long as its all about speed. I’d even look at sending Dube down and bringing up Foo. Monahan is too slow to be playing with Gaudreau now.

    Get Bennett up higher in the rotation. I know blah, blah, stats blah, blah. He is one of the few guys crashing and banging and playing with passion this season. I would absolutely create a Chucky-Monahan-Bennett second line. Bennett likes to control the puck. Chucky is more of a passer than a shooter and likes to crash the net, Monahan makes a living cleaning up rebounds. Plus Monahan is 6’3. He used to be a bad ass in junior. He needs to find that part of his game. These guys will be a possession nightmare.

    You move Backlund to the third line. You move Janko away from center. Janko is for sure suffering from a sophmore slump. He will be better on a more defensive line. Neal rounds out that line. He will come around…..its typical vet type stuff…..slow to start.

    I think you move Frolik to the 4th line LW and you roll with Ryan-Hathaway

    I think you bring up Foo…..maybe switch him and Czarnek

    I also think you put Ritchie in and if he plays well you play him again and again and again until he fails. You send a message to Smith if you want you net back you are going to have to take it. If we continue to struggle you trade Brodie and whatever it takes for a Goalie before Christmas.

    Gaudreau-Lindholm-Czarnek
    Chucky-Monahan-Bennett
    Janko-Backlund-Neal
    Frolik-Ryan-Hathaway/Foo/Mangiapane

  • herringchoker

    These are desperate times.

    I’d also consider trying Bennett back at center (only if its on a top line where he has a chance to succeed). Leave the Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm line alone. Then create a Tkuchuk-Bennett-Neal second line. Still move Backlund to the 3rd line with Janko and Czarnek and have Frolik-Ryan-Hathaway

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm
    Tkuchuk-Bennett-Neal
    Janko-Backlund-Czarnek
    Hathaway-Ryan-Frolik

  • Greatsave

    Those O-Zone start numbers seem off. All but one Flame had a majority of their starts in the O-Zone? I didn’t watch the game but that doesn’t jive with a 9-1 loss. Are you sure it’s not flipped around, like D-Zone starts?

    “Three Flames were not on the ice for an even strength goal against: Dillon Dube and Garnet Hathaway.” I got a chuckle out of this one.

    Looks like the Flames’ sloppiness is contagious. I know the loss probably put you in a bad mood, but tighten it up, Ryan!