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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Sabres 4, Flames 3 (OT) post-game embers: Inopportune

Sometimes the game just goes against you. Usually it isn’t to the extent of a team’s final three shots all going in, though. The Sabres probably couldn’t repeat that even if they tried.

Feel of the game

Though both teams got chances to start the game, the Sabres were probably the better team of the two. It felt lucky that the Flames were able to exit the first period with a lead, the result of Mark Giordano refusing to let the clock run out and one of the timeliest goals Johnny Gaudreau has ever scored.

The Flames responded for the second period, though, largely controlling the start and almost gaining a multi-goal lead out of it. They were even closer when Gaudreau was dancing around everybody, only for the Flames to lose the puck and give up a breakaway goal, and suddenly, the game turned into one in which neither team would quite go away.

With the way the Flames had been playing in the second carrying into the third, though, it felt as though it was the Flames’ game to lose when Matthew Tkachuk restored the lead. The Sabres scoring soon after allowed the spectre of overtime to descend on the arena, one that was shattered when they took their first lead of the game – and restored when Noah Hanifin got things tied back up soon after that. Thereafter, it was all Linus Ullmark denying the Flames with desperation saves, David Rittich having very little to do, and just a kind of hollow result in getting the game to overtime: really? That’s all the Flames could manage?

Jack Eichel getting that much time and space speaks for itself, but at least this time it wasn’t a goal off of trying to have a winger win three straight faceoffs on the penalty kill. That made it sting a whole lot less.

The good news

If there’s one bit of positive reinforcement this game can bring for the Flames, it’s that you play until the whistle and/or buzzer. Giordano very easily could have just killed time off of the clock at the end of the first period when the puck was cleared from the offensive zone. He shot the puck back up in there, though, and the Flames got a goal out of it. The immediate gratification of knowing you made the right call has to feel good – and it’s a sign that it makes no sense to give up on any play, no matter what the clock says.

Gaudreau only had a two-point night (only!), but his skills with the puck on a string were on full display once again. It’s just absurd what he can do, and the sheer tenacity he has to match his abilities. Throw in all of the goals he’s scoring for someone not exactly known as a shooter, and the Flames have an absolute gem on offence. We already knew that – but getting to see it on full display, pretty much every game? We’re spoiled. (To counter that, and to line up with recent themes: how amazing would it have been to see Gaudreau and Jarome Iginla play together? If only. Maybe an alumni game much further down the road can give us that.)

This is going purely by the eye test, but Noah Hanifin looks like he’s been having some better games as of late. Him with Rasmus Andersson is an interesting pairing (and I recall that duo being an absolute beast at keeping the puck in the zone in an earlier game against the Oilers). He stepped up in a big way offensively with his goal – one of those posts that finally went in – and seemed to have a couple of strong defensive plays I don’t think he quite had down in prior games.

The bad news

The Sabres scoring three goals on their final three shots of the game – the only shots they took through the third period and overtime, at that – is… bad. It’s also partly just pure dumb luck the Flames were on the wrong end of, and it isn’t something that’s likely to happen again, but that it happened at all has to be demoralizing. Rittich had to be better, but at the same time, the goals against were the result of an uncharacteristic Elias Lindholm giveaway and an unfortunate deflection off of Michael Frolik’s stick. The Sabres probably wouldn’t be able to recreate those conditions if they tried. But if it boosts spirits to know that keeping the play going at the end of the first period resulted in a goal, I’m not quite sure what it does to know that the loss came from some of the flukiest moments possible. Split-second decisions resulting in defensive lapses were key contributors to the loss. They’re going to happen, but to the extent they did in this game was just awful.

Brief comment on questionable refereeing: nothing as egregious as not understanding when to blow the play dead for a powerplay, but not calling infractions the Sabres were committing on the Flames as the game wound down wasn’t a great look. Tkachuk was right to be angry at the end of regulation; it’s tough to see how the Flames could have played with that. They were controlling play through the third – the team that controls plays tends to force the other team into taking penalties through that. That only works if those penalties are actually called. And the Flames had a pretty good powerplay on the night; it could’ve been the difference.

Numbers of note

57.78% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF on the night. They had really, really good second and third periods.

21-3 – The Flames’ 5v5 corsi events compared to the Sabres’ in the third period alone. Buffalo only had two shots on net that entire period. Both went in. They only had one extra corsi event at 5v5. That’s just… yikes.

4 – Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Mark Jankowski led the way for the Flames with four shots on net each.

9 – Gaudreau’s current point streak, during which he’s scored 20 points. Just four players have 70+ points so far this season; he’s tied for second place with 71.

359 in 360 – It’s not a matter of if Gaudreau will be a career point-per-game player at this stage of his career, it’s a matter of when. He was that close to hitting it in game 360 in overtime. I’m especially curious to see how long he’ll be able to keep it up. There are only five players in the NHL presently who are career point-per-game guys, minimum 500 points scored – maybe Gaudreau will one day join that list?

12:39 – Maybe something to watch out for, but Oliver Kylington only got 12:39 in ice time, compared to Dalton Prout’s 16:14 (13:18 when you take away special teams time). Not that Travis Hamonic’s return (whenever it is – hopefully soon, for the sakes of all involved) is likely to mean Kylington would sit for Prout, but thinking more along the line of just which defencemen the Flames might be targeting to bolster their depth by the trade deadline.

Final thought

Well, that was a weird way to lose a game. It’s fine, though – the Flames may have fared better with Hamonic’s services, but they still did alright against a decent opponent with a shorthanded roster. And got a point out of it. And it’s not like they’re competing with an eastern team for any kind of playoff spot, so it’s not the worst opponent they could have lost to. They were going to lose at some point; hopefully next outing will be better.

  • redwhiteblack

    Vegas and San Jose both lost. Would have been great to get the justified 2 points but at least we got 1 more than the teams behind us did. Weird 3rd period for Rittich.

  • Flamesfansince04

    “The immediate gratification of knowing you made the right call has to feel good – and it’s a sign that it makes no sense to give up on any play, no matter what the clock says”

    Question, would you even take seconds to look at the clock in the heat of an NHL power play? Obviously Gio nor Gaudreau did, so good on em!

    GFG can’t wait for the Edmonton game.

  • Off the wall

    I don’t think you can blame the officiating last night Ari. I know Tkachuk was hurt on the play, and it should have been a penalty. However, our 3rd goal by Hanifin came right after Lindholm cross- checked a Buffalo player, resulting in him falling to the ice and out of the play.

    It was our defensive gaffes that resulted in the loss, not so much as the missed calls.

    • Cfan in Van

      The one that had me pissed, was the holding/hooking call on Backs in the third. It looked to me like it was Back’s stick that was actually being held, and the Dome exploded in boos when the replay was shown… Anyone else with info to the contrary? That looked like a total blown call to me. But yeah, overall the reffing wasn’t horrible, we’ve seen worse.

      • Derian Hatcher

        I feel that reffing in the NHL overall is extremely poor. The amount of calls in every game i watch where the so-called referee is looking directly at the infraction but refuses to call a penalty calls into question the integrity of the ref, and the league itself. It’s ridiculous and laughable. If it’s a penalty call it!

        Meanwhile, Bettman and Colin Campbell do their best impersonation of the Iraqi Communications minister “Our game is fine, the players love it, the fans love it and we are perfect in every way. There is no need for improvements in any part of out game” Dumber and dumber.

        Rant over –

        • Off the wall

          Derian, the ‘Baghdad Bob’ reference was funny!

          One of his quotes, “ Ignore the tanks and shelling, we are in full control “

          Seems like a perfect analogy..

      • Porcupine at a balloon party

        Cfan, they actually called high sticking on that Play. Bad call imo, but after the guy was hooking Backlund and stick was stuck, appeared that Backlunds stick swings around and clipped Buffalo guy on helmet

        • Cfan in Van

          Porcupine, right, thanks? At the time I knew it was high sticking call, but forgot that part morning. I didn’t notice on the replay that he had clipped the player after the swing. Still BS, as you say, because it wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t need to yank his stick back from the guy.

  • Heeeeere’s Johnny

    Interesting that Corey Pronman over at The Athletic ranks MEP ahead of Dube as a prospect. In fact he ranks MEP in the top 50 prospects overall.

  • Jobu

    To the fan sitting in front of Jobu who got tossed midway through the third.

    Sorry that happened to you man. It wasn’t deserved and was quite frankly rediculous. But some Jobu words of wisdom for you: Never poke the bear. You asked for it and you got it!

  • calgaryfan

    The Sabres have a talented young team, the Flames played too loose against them. Two goals against on turnovers. First Sabre goal Gio passes puck into Monahan skates just inside Sabres blueline, Brodie not covering, breakaway goal against. Lindholm giveaway another goal. Easy plays to clean up going forward.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    @Ari

    Officiating: I think it was Lindy (maybe Chucky) who cross checked a dude in the face and that wasn’t called either, and that resulted in a goal seconds later.

    Gotta be fair.

  • buts

    BSD struggled in the second half possibly sue to a lack of shots. Hey we can’t win em all. We need a few minor roster tweaks before a run. BT can’t waist career years from his 5 best players. The time is now ….waiting for next year is always a gamble.

    • Jim Red Deer

      Minor roaster tweaks? We have 6 forwards that can’t score. This team has way too many players with minor league shots. They look like C Lazar who couldn’t break a pane of glass with his shot.

      • buts

        All it takes is one guy to bring a line down at the nhl level. If we had a solid 2 centre and winger to play with Tkachuk then put Backlund as a 3c we would have the top 2 lines in the league a top shutdown line with Backlund and frolik. Jankowski, Ryan and anyone would make a top 4 line. Unstoppable we would be.

  • calgaryfan

    BSD is not going to stand on his head making saves every game and he shouldn’t have too. He made the saves he should have, and I think there were a few goal posts also. The Flames need to be better in front of him.

    • Raffydog

      He has been letting in a bunch of softies lately, and he was terrible last night. However he has stolen a bunch of games this year so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Just hope it’s not a sign of things to come.

      • cberg

        Let’s see: breakaway, tip at the last moment, fully screened, great shot in close… Raffy, you crack me up. MAYBE 1 softie. Do you think that people will accept your comment just because you say it?

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    BSD has allowed goals on the last 2 breakaways that he has faced after looking impenetrable earlier in the year. I did not expect someone like a Rodrigues to score when Rittich shuts down players like Draisaitl and Pettersen on breakaways.

    There are a few chinks in the armour starting to show, late goals after his team has scored the insurance goal. Long screened shots tend to be a problem for Rittich more than other goalies. Part of the reason has to be that our D is too soft to push traffic out of the way…Gio and Prout are the only ones that do it.

    Rittich game has slipped a bit but even when he is not at his best he gives the team a chance to win. The D has to help him see pucks. Finally, I am in the camp of bringing Lazar up at the expense of Czar or Mangi neither of which have earned a regular spot.

    • KootenayFlamesFan

      Amen to bringing up Lazar. I haven’t seen enough bad games from Rittich to say there is a problem I still see a confident goalie. In my opinion the team was giving Buffalo WAY too much room last night. Rittich has been amazing up to now but no goalie is going to stop all of those glorious chances – Team needs to buckle down and play D.

    • calgaryfan

      Johnny has trouble scoring on breakaways, so what does that say. Maybe Rodrigues is great on breakaways or maybe he was just lucky. No goalie stops every breakaway. I never fault a goalie for getting scored on during a breakaway, if he makes the save huge bonus. The 5 players in front of the goalie are the problem.

  • Getpucksdeep

    The parity in the league today and we can thank the cap after all these years, means on any given night just about anyone can surprise someone else. Only my wife thinks they will win every game. Just last year we’d have been thrilled if they had 7 of 8 points in the first 4 games of a home stand. They are 30-13-5 which is almost surreal but the team is real and its a youthful core that should keep these guys top 5 for the next 4-5 seasons! 30 wins vs just 13 regulation losses! I’m in “what me worry?” mode. Heck just watching Gaudreau every night is a treat in itself.

  • Chucky

    A few things that showed up last night.
    BSD cannot consistently stop what he does not see so he needs a little bit of help clearing the front of the net.
    Prout is not that bad probably better defensively than Wideman was at the end.
    Mangiapanie must have put on some weight over the summer because he actually muscled some guys off the puck.
    Hanifin seems to be over his recent gaff fest.
    Anderson is better than third pairing time. (That did not just show up last night)

  • freethe flames

    Anyone have any thought on the trade between the Wild and Canes? Niderreiter of Rask; two struggling players who need a new home. If neither work out we have a struggling forward who could use a new home and I would take either of these guys over him.

  • freethe flames

    The Flames are currently 2 points up on the Sharks with a game in hand and 5 points up on the Knights with a game in hand; sweep the 3 games before the allstar break and be in first place. Did anyone really expect the Flames to be in that position at the start of the season? Most of us hoped be be in a wild card position if we were honest. Think how many people thought we had lost the trade with Carolina; lots.

    • Getpucksdeep

      I’m always an optimist and unabashed fan. I kinda figured they’d be in the top 3 in the division and wouldn’t have to fight for a wild card against the “better” central division. I’m wrong a lot! Currently sitting in the West’s catbird seat with 30 wins is gravy.