The Calgary Flames went into the holiday break on a down note. A superb second period push wasn’t enough to overcome a slow start and some general puck management deficiencies. They dropped a 3-1 decision to the visiting St. Louis Blues.
The Flames were sloppy in the first period. Their puck management wasn’t great and they lacked jump in their step. The Blues opened the scoring on a weird goal that took advantage of the Flames’ lack of jump. On a 50/50 battle the puck was launched high into the air. It landed right at the feet of David Perron and, with the Flames defenders caught off-guard, he fired it at Mike Smith. The puck beat Smith short-side to make it 1-0.
The Blues made it 2-0 on a power play later in the period. With Sam Bennett in the box Smith made the initial save on a Patrick Maroon wrap-around, but the rebound went right to Tyler Bozak and he launched the puck over a sprawling Smith to double the visitors’ lead.
But the Flames answered back late in the period with a dandy power play goal of their own. Seven seconds into their man advantage, some tic-tac-toe passing off a face-off win allowed Matthew Tkachuk to bury an Elias Lindholm feed to cut the deficit to 2-1.
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) December 22, 2018
Shots were 12-9 Blues in the first, but scoring chances were even at 4-4.
Neither team scored in the second period, but the Flames were much better than in the first period and really carried the play. The Blues didn’t get a shot on goal for the first 11 minutes of the period and the Flames were unlucky not to tie the game. Shots were 13-5 Flames and chances 17-3 Flames.
The Blues added to their lead early in the second. The initial shot from Ivan Barbashev was stopped by Smith, but the rebound went into the slot. Rasmus Andersson couldn’t grab it and Oskar Sundqvist beat Smith to make it 3-1.
The Flames pressed, but couldn’t answer back. Shots were 10-7 Blues and chances 6-3 Blues in the third period.
Why the Flames Lost
Let’s get this out of the way: Smith wasn’t great. On all three goals you can point out things he didn’t do great – the Perron shot went through him and on the other two his rebound control led to second chances.
But on all three goals, the Flames’ defensive zone (and team) play is just as much to blame. The Flames were sloppy and their puck management was all over the place. They made life tough on themselves and their goaltender by playing too loose and it ended up costing them two points.
Johnny Gaudreau was skating well and generated a ton of strong scoring chances, especially in the second period. He was the victim of some bad puck luck, but he looked very good.
The Turning Point
The Flames opened the third period down a goal but with a ton of momentum on their side, but Sundqvist’s goal really let the air out of the balloon. They just couldn’t muster enough when down a pair to claw their way back.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.Hockey)
This and That
The Flames goal song is now “Taking Care of Business.” It was previously a remix of AC/DC’s “TNT.”
Bill Peters shuffled lines early in this game. He swapped James Neal and Sam Bennett midway through the first period, putting Bennett with Mark Jankowski and Michael Frolik and Neal with Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund.
The Flames (22-12-3) are off for their Christmas break. They’re back in action on Dec. 27 when they visit the Winnipeg Jets.