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.

  • Honkydonk

    This team has played 3 nhl games in 18 days folks. That’s what’s going on here. They need to ramp up from where they were prior to the useless all star break.

  • freethe flames

    Is a shake up looming? Whether it be a trade or some line juggling is something up.

    It was nice to see Mangiapane score and a I’m glad that CT recognized the effort by Hathaway to create the play that led to the goal.

    By the way in case anyone missed it the Heat won a game 6-2 and it was actually Gilles with the win.

    • Speed Kills

      I’m not sure BT is planing anything at the TDL, I’ve been following who has scouts at games… and the Flames have not been scouting Any games at all… Unless they already know who they want? they definitely don’t seem to be to concerned or actively looking to bring in a rental at this point.

  • 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!

  • Jobu

    For a team with this many goals, we sure like to try the five hole a lot on shootouts and breakaways.
    We haven’t won a shootout yet this year – luckily we haven’t got the shootout much at all this season.

  • Sir ryosus

    Dang fellas, this is a long season.with so many here singing praises last week and calling for blood and heads this week. I’m at a loss is this a fan site or I bi-polar chat room. Yes we lost a CPL games we wanted this week but it wasn’t lack of effort or chances.

    Enjoy the ride this year. I don’t think they will win it all this year but hope for a deep enough run the boys can see what it takes to win 4 rounds of playoff hockey. Thankfully our window is opening ( as long as someone steps up for older gio) – he’s been amazing this year but can see pace is getting tougher.

    I’ve really enjoy watching flames this year but still not a believer.

  • Honkydonk

    Last time I checked Washington capitals who won the cup last year didn’t win every in season game.

    When we lose we lose the right way. Good win Canucks your goalie stole this one

    • The Iggy complex

      Good thing not every one panics. I guess no contender teams go through a few rough patches or lose a couple games in a row through out the season?

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Your words of consolation sound good in the regular season, but they will sting mightily if you dare say them in the playoffs. It’s the third time this season that Markstrom has beaten the Flames. He has made Johnny look stupid, Monahan look old and Chucky look invisible. This cat has got into the heads of the Flames.

      • The Iggy complex

        He is a goalie making saves. Some goalies just have a teams number for a few games. It happens. Playoffs are a whole new story. But what’s the point of even watching playoffs. According to all the negative Nancies since the flames lost two in a row they will suck in the playoffs

    • Skylardog

      Keep in mind that Boeser didn’t score 29 in 62 games last season because he was lucky. He pops that type of goal on NHL goalies on a regular basis.

      Pure goal scorers have a disguised release that makes it very difficult to pick up and stop. It is also why others have shot after shot and have difficulty scoring despite all of the “grade A” chances (just thinking of Backlund at this point).

      We have about 2 weeks to figure out whether we are in a funk, or are seeing a concerning slide, especially when it comes to goaltending. Ritter snapped back very well last night after the first goal, and held us in early when the Canucks were dominating for the first 5 or so minutes.

      Even that second goal was a difficult save with sticks, legs, and bodies going all over the place on a darn good shot.

      Yes we want him to get both of those, and maybe he should have. But could we not lose our man on the faceoff please, and remember that there are 4 guys on the ice when we are playing 4v4.

      How do schedulers give you 10 days off, then 4 days between games after only being back for 2?

    • Flaming Duck

      Even top tier goalies average only around 8 strong starts out of 10. Hopefully that is all this is and he works it through his system before April. Heck the whole team needs to work their current malaise out before April, they have not looked great for a while.

      • Flint

        Wrong. Top Tier goalies average about 6,5 quality starts out of 10 games. No goalie in the last ten years that has played more than 20 games has a quality start % of 80. Not even close. The highest last time I looked (about two weeks ago) was still Antti Raanta at 66%.

        David RIttich has a very, very, very high Quality start % something around 62% this year and is top ten in the league by that measure. Last game was bad luck (a 50/50 play and then he gets pulled)

        Just breathe everyone. Goalies gonna let in goals.

    • buts

      Totally agree random as I’ve said before how can anyone on FN feel comfortable going into the playoffs with an unproven Rittich and an over the hill Smith. We are in trouble boys and girls as in playoff hockey 1 soft goal is the difference between winning and losing. Brodie, Neal,Smith and frolik make almost what 18-19 million a year and bring nothing that guys making way less can’t do better. It’s time to make some moves to make goaltending better, toughen the blue line and bolster our second line as MT is being dragged down by Frolik.

  • Skylardog

    A little sad to see us lose twice while Stockton was in town and on the road for a game in Vancouver. Especially given SF’s love for goalies, not their best body of work in those 2 games.

    SF has an absolute love for hockey that is infectious. It is born from watching the guys develop their trade in the AHL, and as a result, he has a special place in his heart for the guys that have toiled and developed down there. It is easy to be a fan when you live in the town and get all the hype in a hockey mad market where the talk is of NHL stars. It is quite another thing, when your devotion is to a game in a hot climate, where the “stars” are guys that may never make it to the big time.

    Make sure next time, likely next season, you come out and enjoy an evening with the Finests when they come up. You will enjoy the night immensely, and get a real grass roots appreciation for the game. It is a very unique perspective (saying that in a good way).

    Travel home safely.

      • Off the wall

        Cheers to that Skylar!
        It’s funny, but every time I’ve been to a Canucks- Flames game the Flames haven’t lost.
        Poor SF and Mrs Finest must be wondering about Canadian Hospitality from our Flames team?

        Technically we did get a point, although a shootout isn’t a great way to settle a tie game. Extending it to 10 minutes 3on 3 would probably eliminate the need for shootouts, which would be fine with me. Perhaps using Neal as our last shooter isn’t the best idea either..

        My phone battery is at 6%, my head is functioning about the same. Lost my glasses case and phone charger.. must have had more fun than I expected!

        Thanks to our resident experts from Stockton and fellow Flames fans for a most enjoyable evening together.

        My hair hurts..

        • Skylardog

          Way to make our visitors feel welcome!

          By working the next day, I got out of the night with not a single buzz going. Sounds like you have way more than that going on. May I recommend some water.

          Just replace the charger, don’t make the mistake of letting the wife know it went missing. Deny ever owning a case for your glasses.

  • First Name Unidentified

    As I had correctly pointed out that historically Flames have struggled to put up points after all-star breaks. Also Johnny has not performed as well as he normally does before the break.
    I’m proposing scrapping all star breaks in the middle of a season and organize it during or after the post season.

    • HOCKEY83

      The All-star game should be scrapped until they can come up with something that isn’t as embarrassing as what they got going on right now. It’s never been more of a joke.

  • 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.

  • Ben.

    Rittich had an off-night, Markstrom a super-on night. Not sure if Markstrom could maintain that in a playoff series.

    Picking Neal in shootout would’ve made BP look brilliant if he scored, worth a risk to jump-start a former high scorer?

    and better that flames hot streak cools temporarily now and then regains form heading into playoffs

    • KeepitReal

      “worth a risk to jump-start a former high scorer”. I hear ya. But we’ve been pumping air into a tire with a blown side wall all season. Not sure what the answer is. Best advice to Nil is 1) Skate to net. 2) Park there for as long as possible and screen goalie. 3) Hope puck deflects off your rear end. Repeat as needed.

  • The GREAT WW

    Which of our 4 young D would you trade if you had to trade one?

    I’m staring to think Hanifin, I have not seen enough of Vali but Hanifin seems like the weak link out of the 4…


    • Retire#14

      I move Brodie. Brodie has the Gio bump which is helping hide his flaws because people just look at his stats. He is also on a team friendly contract. He is a left shooting player playing g the right side. Moving Brodie allows Andersson to move up to partner with Giordano. Brodie also should bring the most return.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Been saying Hanifin for most of the year. He is terribly weak defensively and I don’t attribute this to his youth. Offensively he is fine, but unless the Flames re-position him as a forward, his defensive weakness will cost the team more than they benefit. His contract is favourable to trade as is his age and “potential.” He should bring back more n a trade than any other of the team’s defenders.

      Brodie could also be dealt and missed by no one except Gio, but Brodie doesn’t get you anywhere near what Hanifin should. If the Flames want a stud top 6 forward, a deal with Brodie as the centrepiece isn’t going to do it. A Hanifin-led deal should.

    • Skylardog

      Kylington played just 8:57 last night, has been sat in favour of Prout, has played less than Prout when they have played in the same game, saw limited icetime in a game where Hamonic was out despite there being only 5 defensemen, and played just 10:08 per game in the last 3 while even Prout played 13:39. Prout got those minutes against a tougher opponent, in a situation while we were down against San Jose, while Kylington got his low icetime against a much weaker Vancouver team in a game where the Flames were “in it.”

      It really doesn’t matter what any of us think. Kylington doesn’t have the full trust of Peters, and that alone tells you who is expendible.

      Ky is young, mobile, and on a very favourable contract for next year. This is a great prospect for team to pick up and improve their team in the long run. But for Calgary, with one of the top defense cores in the league, he is more than expendible; not only will he never be ahead of Vali, Hani, or Gio, he has not gained the full trust of Peters. That is not likely to change in the future any time soon.

      • Luter 1

        I’m not sure we have one of one of the top-defensive cores. Led by Gio who is a machine, Brodie-5th defenceman on most teams, Hanifin-soft as they come and known for giveaways, Hamonic- solid but unspectacular. Raz is coming along but not guaranteed a top 4, Kylington- Great skater, good shot – bright future. Would not get rid of him – easy replacement for overrated Brodie. Other than Gio the odd time none of these guys hit or have a mean streak. That’s why Kane loves playing against us, sets up shop and no one bothers him as he bangs them in from 3 feet.

        • Kzak

          I personally think Ando (Raz) is a guaranteed top-4 as early as next year. He’s confident with the puck, he rarely makes bonehead plays, he has a really good shot from the point, and he can skate. Not suggesting we should, but if we traded Brodie, I think Ando would slot it nicely beside Gio to not only be our number #1 pairing, but for him to mentor under Gio. He’s only 22 years old and I think he has a lot more to give.

          • Sir ryosus

            I like Raz I hope he goes all in on skating this summer just a little quicker and he could do top 4.
            Off topic.
            Really question hanifin decision making under pressure sometimes…. Don’t know how to work on that in off-season

      • BlueMoonNigel

        True that Ky is definitely not one of Peters’ pets. But Ky’s trade value is limited because of his small sample size in the NHL, so to trade him by thee TDL or the during the offseason would be selling short. I could see Ky being traded as part of package that would include a veteran, a draft pick or prospects, but such a deal would mask his true value. Having seen him play for a good chunk of the season, Flame fans know that Ky has a huge upside but I doubt that his worth to the Flames and his value on the trade market are anywhere near equal.

      • Albertabeef

        His time gets cut by situations on the ice. If he does not get any special teams time and the flames spend a lot of time up or down a man. BP also does not like to put a player out on the ice “cold” if they have been sitting on the bench for half a period. It’s just the way it is.

      • The Red Knight

        Kylington has a bright future, he is gonna be a good player , why would we trade our future? Keep all the prospects…. Brodie would be the guy to trade : and Frolik,

      • Justthateasy

        Agree on Brodie. He should be trade bait. He had a chance to crush Petterssen who’s about half his as he was flying by on the boards with the puck.
        Why is it Gio seems to be the only guy dishing it out.?