Not only did the Flames not score five goals in the first period, but they got shut out for the first time this season. That’s quite a turn.
Feel of the game
Some days, you just never have it. This was one of those days. Maybe it’s because it was in Vegas, maybe they were just due for a “meh” game; either way, after what had been a back-and-forth first in which both teams had their fair share of chances (edge to Vegas), the Golden Knights took over. It didn’t seem over when they finally got on the board late in the second, but it definitely felt over once they made it a two-goal lead early in the third.
David Rittich had a strong game, but so did Marc-Andre Fleury, and aside from some chances from the top line, the first powerplay unit, and Dillon Dube at times, Fleury didn’t have as much to do.
Unfortunate an effort this lackadaisical came against a division rival, but the Flames weren’t only going to have good games the rest of the season. Every team has those games in which they just aren’t in. That was the Flames, at an earlier start time than normal, in a unique city. Oh well.
The good news
Even though Rittich got the loss, it would be rather difficult to really blame him on either goal scored against; a tip went in against him and a screened powerplay marker. He still gave the Flames a chance to win the entire night, and that’s really all you can ask of a goalie. He’s started four straight games now, and he’s had four great efforts – there’s little doubt as to who the Flames’ top goalie is.
TJ Brodie had the kind of game that reminded us why the Flames were comfortable pinning their hopes on him reuniting with Mark Giordano being a successful top pairing. He fell off the couple of seasons he couldn’t play on Giordano’s right side, but the years in which he did, he was often one of the few bright spots on the Flames. With Travis Hamonic shining as of late as well (coincidentally, they both had three shots each, second most on the Flames), the Flames look like they have a real top four defence – and that was a concern a dozen or so games ago. Much less so now.
This was just one game. The Flames have still had more good games than bad.
The bad news
James Neal only spent a year in Vegas, so it’s debatable how much of a “homecoming” this was for him, but he was an inaugural Golden Knight, so. Maybe that put extra pressure on him; who knows. But even though the entire team got shut out, it extends Neal’s point-less streak as well, and that isn’t going to lessen the scrutiny on him (besides, it’s not like the entire team was devoid of scoring chances, but he wasn’t exactly as inspiring as some others). The Flames probably weren’t going to score anyway, but his penalty at the end of the game was astoundingly unnecessary as well.
After a couple of games in which the Flames were able to jump out to early games and then coast to victory (or try to; the Jets didn’t exactly let that happen, though their lead was just sizeable enough), watching them kind of skate through the motions even though they didn’t have a goal was unfortunate.
The score could have been worse – don’t forget about the posts the Golden Knights hit, especially when Rittich left a wide open cage at the end of the first. The Flames didn’t play well, and losing by two goals didn’t really indicate how poor it got at times.
The Flames got shut out for the first time this season, which is just never fun in general.
Numbers of note
50% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF. They had a sub-50% first and second, but a 72% third. They were also trailing by two goals at that point.
1 – The number of times the Flames have been shut out this season. They still have two shutouts of their own, though: one against Nashville, and one against Los Angeles, so at least they’re ahead on that front.
75.3% – The Flames’ penalty killing percentage on the season. It’s ranked 25th in the NHL.
4 – Johnny Gaudreau picked up his first penalty minutes of the year. What a goon.
8:49 – Austin Czarnik had by far the least amount of ice time for the Flames; it feels like he’s only in when they have no other choice nowadays. Which is why I’m surprised the Flames recalled Ryan Lomberg – it doesn’t make much sense to dress him, especially with Garnet Hathaway already playing regularly. I thought they would have brought up Kerby Rychel or Curtis Lazar.
16:56 – Rasmus Andersson played the least out of all Flames defencemen, and that’s probably in part due to him not playing on the penalty kill. (Although seeing him out on the ice when the Flames have an extra attacker, again? Always heartwarming.) Giordano and Brodie were the only ones who got over 20 minutes.
.929% – Rittich’s save percentage. He still has a .930% on the season. The game against Chicago – in which the Blackhawks only bothered to take 15 shots on net – has been his only real “ehhh” game this season, knock on wood. He’s just so dang reliable.
Well, hopefully they’ll have a stronger effort next game. At least there’s no way any of them think this was acceptable, right? Though about a month ago they were in the midst of a poor stretch, maybe some sustained success through November can help them get back into gear a little quicker.