Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Canucks 4, Flames 3 (SO) post game embers: Should’ve been put away earlier

The Flames were the better team throughout the majority of the game, but a powerplay that couldn’t score and otherworldly goaltending from the opponent meant that they got fewer points than they deserved. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Feel of the game

The Flames came out slow to start, which has been their nasty habit of this season. The Canucks took an early lead just 44 seconds in with some fine passing. The team didn’t look like they knew what time the game started. Not really anything new.

As is usual, they woke up about 10 minutes into the game. The first line did what they do best, but the Canucks answered back. The Flames managed to escape the period tied, but seemed to have momentum heading into the next period.

Things really started to take off in the second. The Flames had the first 13 shots of the period and frustrated the Canucks at every opportunity. They battled to keep the puck in, broke up exit attempts, and generally did not allow the Canucks to get much further than the blue line.

But Jacob Markstrom came to play. No matter what the Flames threw at him, Markstrom saved damn near everything. They tried everything they could to put one past him, but the only guy on the Flames without a single NHL goal to his name managed to solve him on a pretty wicked shot. The team showed off why they’re one of the best goalscoring outfits in the league, but simply didn’t get the results they usually do when they play like this. They had plenty of chances to end it, but couldn’t.

The good news

I think I have to give a stick tap to the fourth line tonight. They didn’t play much, which is expected in close games like this, but they gave the team their only lead with a pretty tough shift, absolutely refusing to let the Canucks get the puck out of their zone. Extra kudos to Garnet Hathaway for forcing a turnover without a stick. The fourth line is certainly the Flames’ weakest offensive options, but they have done a great job in the past few games generating chances. Derek Ryan in particular has looked more confident and creative in the offensive zone. The Flames (usually) aren’t hurting for scoring, but to know that the fourth line can step up in close games is relieving. Andrew Mangiapane scored his first goal of his career, and it’s well deserved. His stints in the NHL have been somewhere between “amazing” and “invisible,” but have mostly leaned to the former in recent weeks. It’s nice to see him finally get rewarded for all the effort.

The penalty kill was excellent, as always. The team did a disservice to themselves by taking five penalties but they did well in making sure none of them came back to bite them. The Flames did a great job neutralizing the Canucks’ most dangerous weapons, especially during a tense 4v3 kill at the end of OT. Travis Hamonic, who is either unaware of or unfazed by the number of injuries he’s suffered this year due to pucks hitting him, put it all on the line to block shots.

Even in a loss like this, it’s great to see the team never folding. This was a frustrating one, and, even though it’s been said a million times, the 2017-18 version of this team would’ve probably been demoralized and eventually found a way to lose 6-3. This felt like a 2017-18 game in many respects, but it certainly didn’t look that way on the ice. The second period was pretty much perfect except for the fact that they emerged from it still tied. The Canucks just didn’t have any answers for the Flames besides the one named Jacob Markstrom.

The bad news

The powerplay was, once again, ineffective despite many opportunities against an opponent that was giving them a lot to work with. Part of that wasn’t their fault. They were generating chances (nine shots in five opportunities) and there’s not much you can do about a goalie that’s completely on his game, but they have to bury some of those shots. Going 0/5 on the powerplay is just sad, especially with a double minor, and it really kept the game closer than it should’ve been. This is the ninth – was the eighth – best powerplay in the league. It certainly hasn’t looked that way the past two games.

They were not great in the defensive zone, and even that feels like an understatement. The Flames gave the Canucks more grief than they could handle, but when they allow their opponent to do the same to them, it kind of undermines the good they’re doing in the offensive zone. The disparity between final shots was 45-27, but scoring chances were a closer 51-36, and in terms of high danger chances allowed, the margin is a closer 19-12. The Flames allowed the Canucks to take better chances than they deserved. You can’t fault the Canucks for being opportunistic, but you can certainly be disappointed with the Flames for giving them those opportunities.

Which is super weird given how good they are shorthanded. The Flames limited a Canucks powerplay loaded with dangerous weapons to just five shots in five powerplays. It’s baffling that this team can absolutely shut down (and sometimes even score against) their opponents when they’re outnumbered, but they look lost when they have to do the same thing at 5v5. This is a team that has made their name off of being able to routinely outscore their opponents, and you feel that they sometimes play like they can always do that. When they run into a hot goalie (ex. versus San Jose), they don’t have any answers.

David Rittich was not at his finest. The Josh Leivo goal was pretty weak, and so was the Brock Boeser goal. The defensive zone mismanagement certainly plays into this – they probably could’ve challenged Leivo a bit more, and certainly could’ve remembered that Boeser also exists – but those are shots that Rittich has saved all year. He certainly made his characteristic great stops, but the goals against were just weak. He’s proven time and time again that he deserves the net more often than Smith, but performances like his last two games give you goalie anxiety all over again.

And the Flames need to figure that out. This is probably the worst stretch of hockey we’ve seen from Rittich, which is silly considering it’s two bad games. But just as the team doesn’t seem to have an answer for a good goalie, they also don’t seem to have one when their own perform below expectations. I think it’s a safe bet to think that the real Rittich re-emerges sometime soon. But do the Flames have a plan in case he doesn’t?

I don’t really care about the shootout, but James Neal? Really?

Numbers of note

59.34% – The Flames’ final 5v5 corsi. That includes a weak 41.18% in the first period, followed by a dominant 76.47% second period and a tamer 60.87% in the third.

74.29% – TJ Brodie’s 5v5 CF%. He was a low-key monster in the 26:22 he logged on the ice.

0.880 – Rittich’s save percentage. It’s his sixth worst start of the season.

5 – Shots by Mangiapane, good for third on the team (Johnny Gaudreau had seven, Sam Bennett six, and Matthew Tkachuk also had five), but he managed to accomplish that with only 7:45 in ice time, the least on the team. I can understand why Bill Peters doesn’t ice his fourth line in close games, and also why he may not bump up a rookie playing his 27th total NHL game, but he was feeling it and probably should’ve seen the ice a bit more. He’s been all about the offence dating back to his junior hockey days. Maybe it’s time to unleash it.

– Shots by the Canucks’ Boeser. The next closest on the Canucks was five players with two shots each. The Flames had five players with three shots apiece. It’s amazing how one sided this game was.

4 – Number of teeth lost by James Neal.

Final thoughts

The Flames have finally lost two games in a row, their first time since December (though they still haven’t lost two games in a row in regulation since November). They’re only up one point on the Sharks now, a team that has really started rolling as of late.

Albeit the Flames have a game in hand on their Californian rival, but they have to make good use of it. It’s certainly not getting easier, as next up is the only team better than the Flames, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The room for error is shrinking. Whatever the Flames have been since the All-Star/CBA mandated break is certainly not reflective of the team they’ve been all season. They need to snap out of it soon.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    For the Flames to be be considered a real contender they need to show that they can win a game 1-0 and I just don’t see that happening right now. We give up too many grade A chances. TB, Nash, NYI have shown they can shut a team down for the entire game.

    The bump back to Johnny is officially not working, the second PP entry of quick passing is much more effective. Johnny has been a give away machine in the last couple of games and Monny missing the net like he did last year at this time shows me he is not 100%.

    Johnny needs to hire a breakaway specialist that can teach him how to find the holes. Even Byron eventually figured it out so have no doubt Johnny can. These breakaways in the playoffs will be a deciding factor of how far we can go. Johnny doesn’t realize that goalies a terrorized when they see him coming in on a breakaway, all they can do is remind themselves to keep the 5 hole closed. It is time to use this to Johnny’s advantage, since a goalie has to protect the bottom of the net so there is plenty of room elsewhere.

  • freethe flames

    I was watching the Boston/Colorado game and during the 1st intermission one of the “talking heads” was discussing how goaltending analytics has changed how goaltenders are being coached. That crouched down hug the post is supposed to be better than doing what works for each goalie; no wonder some goalies seemed so screwed up. Something that has worked them all there careers is no being coached out of them.

    • Rocket66

      So who plays in net against Tampa
      Remember when Iginla would get pissed and play a hell of a game. Who is our iginla
      Russell blocking shots all night long. Who is our Russel
      Regher staying home and putting fear into the offense coming in

        • Sir ryosus

          Agreed Iggy. I read once with fancy stats to back up article – defensive dman and shot block Kings look sexy on paper but they do those things because they can’t clear the zone or drive play. Made sense to me then and still does today. That said a mean sob would be welcome if he can play.

      • freethe flames

        I suspect we see Rittich vs Tampa, Smith vs florida and Rittich for the final game unless Smith is awesome against Florida. The question is do they come home as the same team they started the road trip as?

  • BendingCorners

    February’s schedule is a tough one. Flames need to play better defensively, but three of their D (two rookies plus Hanifin) are prone to miscues. Rittich will need to recover his form.
    I was at the Vancouver game (club seats, gift from my son) and it was a fun game to watch, but Rittich was weak (early at least) and the PP1 unit looked like it was going for a family skate.
    Defense wins championships, so I’m looking for more intensity and better D-zone coverage and gap control the rest of the way.

  • Alberta Ice

    Gotta give full marks to the Canuck organization which was dead and buried at the start of the year. I like their work ethic, their Coach Green, the soon to be Calder Cup winning rookie of this year and the other one from last year, and finally, the guy who stole the point and game, Markstrom. As to the playoff race, I’d place all bets on the Blues, the Blackhawks, and the Canucks (in this order) of two of these three in making the wildcards. Canucks have the toughest road, but they are playing like they got nothing to lose. The Blues and Blackhawks who looked out of it have seemingly have turned it around. No doubt that motivates them. The Flames have lost some of their strut from the mandated break. Here’s hoping they can turn it around soon because the Sharks are coming on strong and soon will be the playoffs.

    • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

      St. Louis is a playoff lock now that they’re getting some goaltending. They’re a really legit team with the personal you need on every line.

  • Stockton's Finest

    Thanks to Freethe Flame, Skylardog, Ari, OTW, C-Fan in Van, and The Fall for making our two game road trip so memorable. All great people. Sorry that I brought “bad luck”, but I did see Mangiapane get his first goal (scored right in front of me) and Jankowski get 2 points.

    Time to wring out my liver for a few weeks and get back to my Heat who will be playing out their season. Hopefully they will produce a few Black Aces to help the Flames on their way to a Cup.

    Already looking forward to next year!

    • Albertabeef

      You mean Pavel Buchnevich? You want to to trade a top D and leave our D depth short for the playoffs? If you are going to get two for one I think one needs to be a good proven 3-5 spot D. If two of our main defencemen go down with injuries we are already screwed, don’t want to make it worse. At last I check our current second best farm D still doesn’t have an ELC yet. If he isn’t signed before the TDL he can’t be used for the playoffs if needed in an emergency. If I understand the rules right. Does not to be a whole lot of trust in the players we got from the Kulak trade either.
      Besides I like Brodie, he has put up some decent numbers for a D-man in his career. Nobody is perfect.

      • freethe flames

        I really don’t understand why AOM has not been signed to an ELC either. It’s not like the Flames don’t have cap space and or contract space. A head scratcher to me.

  • TKO

    Kent Wilson makes the case that the Flames should go all in on Stone – I agree, but suggest it would be a mistake to trade Jankowski – he is a very valuable middle 6 guy that continues to get better as a late bloomer I’s rather get rid of Frolik, even though I have a lot of time for Frolik – but with his agents comments, and Peters not seemingly to into him, Frolik would be a better trade piece,

    • freethe flames

      So using the Muzzin deal as it’s the only big deal that has been done would this get us Stone: 1st, Frolik, Czarnik and next years 3rd rounder(if we sign Stone). Maybe replace Czarnik with Mangiapane or dare I say Kylington(if it was Kylington I would want something else back as well)

      • everton fc

        But how do we sign Stone, who wants more than Tkachuk will ask for? Makes no sense, financially.

        The Sens are screwed because of Bobby Ryan’s contract. Zack Smith’s is another millstone. I think any team wanting one of Stone or Duchene, will have to consider Ryan, with the Sens eating cap. Stone’s future hinges on the Sens signing Duchene. At least that’s what I’ve read. If they can’t come to an agreement w/Duchene very soon, I suspect both will be gone, at the trade deadline.

        A look at Capfriendly shows the Sens in need of a goalie (Talbot?) One more year of Anderson at an inflated caphit… They, like the Kings out west, have badly managed their cap. If they can somehow dump Ryan’s albatross contract, or even Pageau’s and Smith’s at the deadline, they can re-sign Duchene, and maybe even Stone, though I’ll assume the latter wants out. They also have Ceci and White as RFA’s.

        And then there’s Dzingel…

        Glad we don’t have these issues. If we can move Czarnik’s contract, and replace Frolik with Zuccarello, I think we need do little else. The timing of a “big splash” doesn’t work, when we have to sign Tkachuk, Bennett, Rittich and Hathaway – and all four should be re-signed. I’d also look at Talbot off-season, if I were the Flames. Rittich/Talbot might not be a bad tandem. And, as much as I like the idea of Buchnevich, this team is all about chemistry; guys like Zuccarello and Nyquist (or Dzingel) are a better fit, when it comes to “the room”. At least that’s how I see it. (Another look at the Kings cap-situation; again, BT’s not put us in this type of deadly scenario).

        • freethe flames

          So Frolik’s cap hit $4.3 amd Czarnik is $1.25 so $5.5m. Where do we find the cap space? I honestly think the Flames will look to move 1 of Hammer or TJ and both are around $4m give or take so that’s $9.5+m. Bennett’s deal will not be a big addition nor will Hathaways; the one I worry about is the Rittich deal. Talbot had a great year 2 seasons ago but has struggled this year; at a low ball prove it contract he might be worth a look.

  • freethe flames

    Good Morning Flames Fans: What a great day in the Frozen North. Our team is in 1st place in the pacific and 1st in the west with a game in hand. On the remaining schedule we have 14 games left against non playoff teams, 9 against teams that will be in the play offs and the remainder against bubble teams. The fate of the team is in the hands of the players and coaches and somehow they have been a very good team this year. Does this team have it’s short comings; yes but despite these they remain in first place and control their own destiny. Despite the cold outside it’s still a great day to be a Flames fan.

  • The Red Knight

    That’s crazy I just said a few days ago ” maybe Neal needs to lose a tooth to get going “and the next game he gets his teeth knocked out, crazy coincidence, hopefully Neal gets on a roll now.