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Penguins 9, Flames 1 post-game embers: Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder

Wow.

Feel of the game

Here’s the thing: it wasn’t that bad of a start. It really, really wasn’t. The Flames didn’t score, but they had their chances: the kind that, if they kept at it long enough, eventually, they would start going in. (Is this a little too 2017-18? Sorry.) It’s just, the Penguins scored first.

And then they scored again. And again. And again. And again. And again. Poor defence combined with absolutely atrocious goaltending, and on the other end of the ice Matt Murray actually made these things I have been told are called “saves”, and it just gave the Flames absolutely nothing to work with. Their skaters might have had a chance to claw their way back into the game after the first period – and hell, they tried – but everything, including themselves, let them down. And then, by the time things had calmed down, there was just no point.

This isn’t the kind of game you can really lay on one person without being horribly unfair. Teams don’t lose by this kind of margin without nearly everybody being abhorrent. The good news is it’s unlikely to happen again; the bad news is that it happened at all.

The Flames started this game with a +5 goal differential. They ended it at -3. Repugnant.

The good news

Say what you will – and oh, god, it’s all pretty bad – but the Flames did have some pretty solid scoring chances. They didn’t come out flat, they came to play. Granted, that went away once everything went horribly wrong, but at least the start of the game seemed like it would be different, the smallest and most tepid of baby steps.

Dillon Dube looked legit. At a time in which his ice time is dropping and he seems to playing on the fourth line more often than not, he’s the one skater you could point to and probably say, “Yeah, he had a good game.” Three shots on net, and a couple of really high end scoring chances. I guess it’s a good thing he didn’t get his first NHL goal in this one, too, because who wants that memory? But on Thursday, Dube did remind us why he made the team.

Juuso Valimaki was spared.

They weren’t shut out, which is cool?

It was already off the rails by the time he came in, and he did end up giving up three goals anyway, but David Rittich calmed the game down. Which I guess is bad news if you wanted 10…

The bad news

So. You can’t blame this kind of effort all on one person. But also, Mike Smith. Yeah, he didn’t get much help from his defence, but you know how the Flames have been a mess in their own end (a little more on that later Friday)? And there’s an air of, “Well, what do you expect Smith to do?” The first thing: make saves, like Rittich was able to in all three of his starts this season. He’s played all of 26 games; this is not a high bar. The second thing: stop giving the other team free goals. Goal one, cover your net. Goal three, rebound. Goal four, rebound. Goal five, breakaway, but did he get smaller? Goal two was a stupid penalty and then a tip and goal six was a clean breakaway, but just… make the save. Make a save.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the defensive play, and we’ve seen that through the better part of 10 games now. Who could have possibly thought that trading away a top pairing defenceman and not getting one in return would have backfired? Totally unforeseeable. The Flames were betting on TJ Brodie rebounding to his form from literal years ago. So far, he has not. And with an untrustworthy 36-year-old goalie and fast and loose laissez faire who needs to backcheck or cover a man or do literally anything style of play going on, well, it’s surprising it’s taken 10 games to get this result.

You might even be able to argue that the game against the Canadiens could have been this game against the Penguins if Smith had started instead of Rittich. Also, quite frankly, down 6-0… the time to pull Smith was after the first period. If you were going to leave him out to dry, why not do it the whole game instead of putting the one innocent party in? If he wanted to stay in and that’s why he did, why not own that? What did Rittich do to deserve this, is what I’m asking.

The Flames went zero-for-three on the powerplay. They went zero-for-two on the penalty kill. Their powerplay is now 24th in the NHL and their penalty kill 26th. So were they planning on getting better at any point or…

Numbers of note

8 – So they lost by a touchdown and a two-point convert, and yeah, it’s a little frustrating because it’s been a long time since they’ve lost two meaningful games in a row, and they probably should have clinched the West by now, but the previous games they were just a single touchdown away from taking it, and that’s with a truly absurd amount of injuries, like the entire starting receiving core is gone and Eric Rogers and Lemar Durant still missed a lot of playing time before this season due to serious injuries, so hopefully it’ll be fine and the losses weren’t ultimately that bad– WAIT that’s the Stamps. Losing by eight points in a football game is not as bad. Also those guys lost their last two games by five points each. Losing by eight goals in hockey is actually very very very bad, my mistake.

58.26% – Because that’s what happens when you lose by eight goals and the other team can score at will and do whatever they want. You get an inflated pseudo-possession stat. Though the Flames actually were doing well in this department before the entire thing imploded.

13:24 – Dube’s ice time, including 2:49 of powerplay time, which was fifth most among all forwards. This was the second most total Dube has ever gotten to play in a game, the 3-0 win over Nashville being the most. Good for him!

18:54 – Travis Hamonic’s ice time in his return, third most among all defencemen, behind Mark Giordano and Noah Hanifin. Welcome back, we missed you, we got you one of the worst losses in franchise history as a gift.

0:00 – Giordano and Brodie spent literally zero seconds on the ice together.

.866 – Smith’s save percentage on the season. It’s been seven games. And not even seven full games, because he’s done such a poor job he’s gotten pulled twice already. He’s 36 and coming off of an injury that kept him out for a month back in February. I really, truly don’t know what the Flames are expecting from him anymore, but if it’s starting quality goaltending, I mean… they might want to reevaluate? (What’s that they had a whole offseason to do that and instead just focused on their forwards while weakening their defence and praying their poor quality goaltending from the end of the previous season would magically be good enough to get them in the playoffs without a single change there? Tight.)

5-5-0 – Hey, that’s the record they had through 10 games last year! But with an improved -3 goal differential, instead of -5. This is one of the best starts to a season the team has had this decade. Don’t you feel better now?

Final thought

It was one loss, but that’s the great part: it only counts as one. The Flames were not mathematically eliminated because they got blown out. The clock will reset and they’ll get to do it all over again another 72 times this year, and they will win some of those games, and they will lose some of them. The sky is not falling.

But you know, this is four brutal efforts in a row now, and the team is aware of this and yet they still keep doing it, and there are serious holes in their roster construction they both put there themselves and don’t have any real opportunity to fix, so maybe some people in charge might want to consider that for them, the sky might actually be falling.

  • thumz

    Have to hang this one mostly on Smith. That first goal was just terrible. Add the rebounds, pucks going right through him, and the lack of any quality saves.. he was brutal. I get that goalies have rough nights, but I’m more worried because he doesn’t look like he’s moving well out there. He looks like he’s lost hip mobility and now when he’s forced to move laterally, he just falls into his belly.
    I hope Treliving has a plan!

  • The Beej

    Would love to see these players man up and be honest with themselves.

    Then get together and take their pay from the last few days and give it back to fans that paid to see that horror show.

  • snotss

    the flames are a hurtin unit right now…everything is not working right now…put this loss behind them and soldier on..there is lots of hockey to play……….but man that was a ass kicking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Off the wall

    I love all the comments this morning. The pitchforks are out.

    This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a reflection of how much we love our team and how disappointed we are.( maybe understated)

    I’m going to take the emotions out of this and say, “ I’m glad it happened.” We played horrible in New York, yet we won. Thanks Rittich. We played horrible against Montreal, yet we only lost by ONE goal. Thanks Rittich.

    When you can get away with sloppy play and remain in the game, it creates a false sense of urgency. The game against Pittsburgh created the perfect scenario for real URGENCY. I’m ok with that.

    In a hurricane, there’s always calm before the storm.
    Well, we saw what the ‘Hurricane Pittsburgh’ did.

    Do you notice in times of disaster , that people usually come together to help one another? I think it’s our nature to pick each other up. I’m going to try and stay optimistic and believe that we will get this sorted out.

    You may disagree with me and that’s fine, however I believe this will be the turning point for the team. Maybe I’m wrong, however I still have hope.

    One really bad apple can spoil a bunch, but if you throw out the apple you can spare the rest.
    I’m hoping this bad apple of a game has seen its last. Throw it out, spare the rest of the season for building togetherness.

    How we achieve this is going to make us stronger in the long run.

    As Penn says, “ We got this”

    • Cfan in Van

      Agree, this is the only positive to a 9-1 drubbing. I said it in the post-game comments, but If this doesn’t bring them together after a humiliation like that, nothing ever will. I guess we’ll see how they react and respond.

    • deantheraven

      Kinda with ya, OTW, on the idea of this being a turning point. They’ve had them every year lately, or so it seems, but this is the earliest point in the season where thy sucked bad enough to get booed out of the ‘Dome.
      China challenge= bonding time
      Pittsburgh beat- down= Gut check time
      Hoping that by having it in October the get their collective poop in a group and turn the corner toward being all they can be.
      That is of course, dependent on whether this is “all they can be”.

  • Derzie

    And just like that the blog is back to being armchair GMs and coaches. I’m an old guy. I’ve watched hockey since the 1960s. All of the things I enjoyed about it have slowly eroded away. Players and teams being synonymous. Rivalries. Respect for the game. Respect for each other. Knowing which teams were great. Which teams were good. Which teams were terrible. Team identities (tough team, skilled team, consistent team). Goal scoring. Physicality AND skill. Refs that knew how to ref. No loser points.

    The business of sports entertainment has destroyed the product. The reality is, only one team wins a championship every year. The joy of following a team comes from rooting for the players and members of that team. Not constantly trying to blame someone so they can be replaced by someone on another team. It’s all just so tiring.
    I keep coming back to hockey because I love it when it’s good, but right now, it’s just not good. Maybe it’s just me and other fans are fine. Maybe the younger fans love it. I hope they do because i did when I was young and it sticks with you for life.
    The start for the season, I expected a year as a bubble team. Win a good one, lose a tough one, lose an embarrassing one. Something I’d expect to see when you combine the rosters of the Flames & Hurricanes. Early games gave me some hope that this team was trending towards something better than that. Sadly, that optimism is gone. I see a team that is exactly what I expected/feared: bubble team, outside looking in.

    Also, my posts are clearly negative by design. Teams that I followed though my life I’ve stuck with through think and thin. I want them to be as good as they be. When I see things that don’t make sense I feel compelled to call them out. I don’t know a gd thing about hockey. I do know when something does or doesn’t’ make sense when facts are available. I don’t know how to fix it but there is lots of info out there about do’s and dont’s. Terliving has been s[pending a lot of time in the dont’s column. We are seeing the fruits of that. Also, Ken King is a living, breathing ‘don’t’. Needs to be gone yesterday.
    Thanks for giving me a rant forum. Derzie, out. Trash away.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      “Something I’d expect to see when you combine the rosters of the Flames & Hurricanes”.
      Pure gold sir.
      Filthy Oilers fans (like me) have seen our team deal with the identity/heart issue in the room and on the ice. Sometimes the “core” has just got to go for real change. Even if the players in the core are good. Say what you want about Taylor Hall, how good he is, and how we got fleeced in that trade, but it upgraded the team even though it was tough to cut bait. NHL players are human. Humans don’t always like each other. The Flames are playing like a bunch of dudes who don’t like each other. I suspect the room is fractured.

    • Luter 1

      Derzie, the problem is the game is almost orchestrated because most of them are multi-millionaires, no instantaneous fights, no open ice hits, it’s a lot of no-hit speedy almost European hockey that us North-Americans so despised 30 years ago. I agree it’s not the same game and the Flames are stuck in that rut of mediocrity mostly because in my opinion they have drafted poorly for decades and up until the last few years refuse to let young guys get a crack. We plodded along with the Stajans, Brouwers, now the Froliks and the Brodie’s (does he even like playing hockey?) while many wanted to rid ourselves of the Bennett’s, Janks, Kulaks, previously the Byron’s and the St. Louis’s. It’s a pattern I’ve seen on this team for way too long.

  • cjc

    This team’s only saving grace is that they play in the weak-ass Pacific, where San Jose is pretty much the only team you can be sure will make the playoffs. But what is the point of making the playoffs if you’re going to get drubbed in the second round at best?

    They’ve really painted themselves into a corner here with bad decision making. When one error is fixed, two more are made.

  • imeubu

    23 needs to do more than wait for opportunities and patrol
    93 is the best 6 on 5 talent on the team and never gets the chance
    Winning puck battles – worst in the league
    Reaching for the puck and your check rather than owning the space yourself
    Too much ice time given to those based on salary/media rather than grit and determination
    5, 11, 13, 19 are hockey players
    Not so sure about most of the others… simply out for a skate

  • calgaryfan

    It was ugly last night, total disappointment. The Flames have been a lazy bunch the last few games. They can be better and competitive. They are not Stanley cup contenders, too many holes in the roster. They need to change their attitude and realize they have to play hard, finish their checks and be a hard team to play against. It is all about attitude and not wanting to lose. All the ten bell scoring chances are from lazy play, anybody can skate hard, back check and cover someone. They just have to have the will. This team talks a lot about playing hard but never do, just shut up and show the fans on the ice.

  • Off the wall

    Last night I played hockey. I was sick, but I played anyway. I love it so much, I’m willing to beat my lungs up over it.

    Ironically, I had my best game. My first hat trick of the season.
    I’m not the strongest skater on the team, so I decided to play my position as best as I could (RW) and within my limitations.

    We created a strong forecheck, two in deep, the 3rd high. We hemmed in the opposing team all night. They had some really good players on the opposing team , a much better record than us— however they were not able to get much going. That’s what proper forechecking does- disrupts breakouts. Forces the opposing team to make quick decisions, often resulting in bad decisions. Our D pinched when we got possession in the offensive zone. It was a fun game for us. Everyone was positive on the bench.

    But it didn’t start out like that. We were down 3-0 to start. Our goaltending struggled the first 10 minutes, letting in some softies.

    We didn’t get down. We just kept pushing until I actually had a weird goal to get us going. It was off the right wall – I spun and I threw it at the net, hoping for a rebound. It went between the goalies legs and we were back in it. 3-1

    After that we kept the pressure up. Short shifts, relentless forechecking. Within 20 minutes we were up by 1. Momentum is a funny thing. You can feel it. It gives you energy. It feeds your tired body. Even a sick one.

    I’m not going to tell you the final score, however we won by a fair margin. Two of us got hat tricks.

    We’re by no means a great team, however we all played really well after the first 10 minutes.

    Our goaltending settled down after the first 3 he let in. Our defence pinched when necessary, but didn’t gamble if we didn’t have possession. It was by far our best game of the year.

    Our record is .500 Nothing great, but not horrible either.

    We’re not always going to have the best game, however ATTITUDES go a long way in creating a winning attitude.

    I hope that our Flames start (real) bonding after this loss- cuz the attitude of each player makes such a difference when you’re down.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      I’m pretty sure people are just trashing you because, but thanks for the story! Momentum is absolutely huge in sports. Its all those intangibles we seem to consistently be missing–the kind that makes the Canadiens and other teams with less skill have a winning record.

      Its chemistry, it’s team spirit (we before I), it’s a mental game above a physical game at times.

      • Off the wall

        Thanks McGrattan. I’m not here for cheers anyway. Just putting my own perspective on how I see things. I love our Flames too much to give up on them.

        We have an angry mob. They’re deflated and morally deprived of hope. I can’t blame them. Nor should we.

        I could easily say, the Flames suck and we should just fold. Perhaps even tank.

        That might make the members happy, but it doesn’t fit my own views.

        Besides, I believe you made the correct assumption that our mental makeup is the element that we’re missing. I agree.

        Given the propensity for so many High Danger Scoring Chances Against, it means our structure ( mental) is lacking.

        It’s never too late to admit, nor address this. Even if the sky seems to be falling..

    • everton fc

      Not sure why you got the trashes here. It’s all about attitude. Positive Mental Attitude. And leadership.

      Where are our leaders?

      Peters inherited a fair amount of “primmadonas”. That’s how I see it.

      Sorry I couldn’t play you that country song you requested last evening, but seems the “medicinal” whiskey worked much better! 🙂

  • Brownblazer

    A few reasons why I think this one got away from us:

    1. Pens capitalized on scoring chances, partly (mostly) because of poor goal tending – but also because of poor positioning by some of our d (see Hanifin, Brodie and Stone).

    2. Unfortunately our confidence is fragile. The goals right at the end of the 1st and at the beginning of the 2nd absolutely deflated our confidence.

    3. Hanifin made poor choices on the first three goals – especially goals 2 and 3. Watch the reply on the pk 2nd goal. No one is taking the lane between Malkin’s shot and Hornqvist’s tip – that’s Hanifin’s lane. With the third goal Hanifin takes the person (Simon) who made the drop pass rather than the puck carrier. Which opens things totally up for Rust. Young d man making poor choices, but our goaltending (Smith) doesn’t back him up.

    4. Monahan doesn’t have his mojo right now. Neither does Johnny (last two games) and a lot of other flames players, particularly forwards, so we’re not burying our chances. (Dube might not have mojo, but man has he had a lot of chances he hasn’t finished).

  • Getpucksdeep

    I will admit I was wrong in stating at the beginning of the year that we would be alright in goal and had time for the young guys to develop. We have to expect a goalie to make a few key saves and keep games close. Smith did not do that in any way shape or form. Price and Murray did. It sure didn’t help that the Flames as a team spent the night stick checking but Smith was abysmal. I also recall clearly Treliving stating Hamonic and Stone’s great skills were “to be big enough keep opposition players faces pinned to the glass” while others retrieved the puck. That sure didn’t happen either. The club needs more physical type play and more snarl. And Rittich may be thrust into the starters role if Smith continues to fumble the ball.

  • Pete_R

    Terrible game, I think Smith is done, so hopefully Rittich can become a decent 1b? Otherwise this will be a long season.

    On a positive note, Darren Haynes had a great article back when Gulutzan started about how prettt much every team struggles for the first while under a new coach+system. I’m willing to give it to game 20 before I give up hope.

  • canadian1967

    I said it last season at one point, but “nice guys finish last” is a saying for a reason.
    We can either have a team full of nice guys who are winners in the Community or we can have a team of Winners who will do anything to win a hockey game.

    Sid is amazing. He sets the example for that team and the guys have no choice but to follow him because he is not just the best player on the team, but also the hardest working. Crosby is extremely difficult to play against, and Marshmallow Monahan could take a lesson about how to use his body more effectively.

    • KKisTHEproblem

      Its a good point how Crosby sets the example. Gio does a good job setting the example on the hard work part, I don’t think a lot of guys work harder. But it also seems like nobody’s following him. This has happened too may times in the last 3 years, there is seriously something wrong with the leadership. Could it be as many have said, too many nice guys? Does it seem like Gio grabs guys by the scruff of the neck and reems them out? I don’t think so. From outside the room, sure likes like we need a new captain to me

  • FlushedOut

    This isn’t an article, this is just a personal rant. Very disappointed the blog would publish this. Stick to making comments on the comment section if you are just going to rant

    • FlushedOut

      The only thing I agree with from this article is someone should be fired. And it’s the writer of this piece. Reporters are supposed to be objective. But c’mon make a save, what kind of objective writing is that

    • canadian1967

      Do you mean about the article, or about the Flames?
      I couldn’t care less about the article. I hardly ever finish reading one of hers anyway, but as for the “Team”, I am in a way feeling relief, because I was looking at buying tickets for last night, but my son deicded he didn’t want to go so I never bought them in the end.

      Good thing too. Obviously. If I had paid money to watch that GARBAGE last night I would be so much more upset today, and still I want to see somebodies head roll for that.

      The easiest one is Brodie. Just get rid of him, because it won’t affect anything negatively, it could ONLY work positively.

      And someone tell Monahan that Hockey is about more than Looking Cool.
      Tkachuk needs to meet him at the dressing room door and rip that Fuc*in’ A off Sean’s shirt and get it put onto Hamonics Chest. And while they’re at it someone needs to do the same to the A on Backlund. Give Backlunds A to the stick boy, because he probably cares more than Mikael does.

      Those guys aren’t leaders.
      If the Flames were a War Movie, Monahan and Backlund aren’t being played by John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. Monahan and Backlund are the weak/traitorous guys that when the Wayne or Eastwood Character calls them out and knocks them on their ass we all stand up and cheer!

      Tear this crap down.
      Monahan to TO for Nylander.
      Backlund to OTT for Stone
      Johnny and Gillies to PHI for Konecny, Sanheim and our goalie of the future Carter Hart.
      Frolik to Kladno for Freeeeeeeeee….

      If that’s too many moves, then I could live with the Monahan and Gaudreau moves.

  • Alberta Ice

    No excuses here for what we’ve seen, but having a team fly to China, fly home, fly out East, fly home, fly out East fly home about every two games – should this be a factor in the present equation mix or no? Does jet lag and scheduling play a factor in this record or no? Your input welcome. (Hey, the Oilers had a rough start after there little tryst to Europe too. They seem to be settling in better now with a longer home stand.)

  • The GRAND BALLSUCKER

    I didn’t think it was physically possible, but this both sucks and blows. Jesus must be spinning in his grave! From now on the rules of the dressing room are as follows: Talking out of turn…that’s a paddling. Looking out the window…that’s a paddling. Staring at my sandals…that’s a paddling. Paddling the team canoe…ooh, you better believe that’s a paddling!!!