It’s easy enough to accept excuses when the Flames are playing a really talented team, or are completely taking it to a goalie who just so happens to be playing out of his mind. The Panthers are closer to the bottom of the standings than the top, and James Reimer wasn’t exactly challenged, so I don’t know how you take anything but a sense of urgency from this.
Feel of the game
It took a long time for anything of note to happen in the game, but at some point, the Panthers started taking over. The Flames felt more reactive than engaging, and while the Panthers were missing quite a few shots at least near the Flames’ net, the Flames actually creating scoring chances of their own seemed more like a quaint rarity.
Mike Smith played well when called upon, and couldn’t be held at fault for either of the goals against him. The rest of the Flames, meanwhile, waited until the third period to really get anything going. Two goals in 20 minutes in such a time frame was perfectly acceptable – and there’s something that will always feel uplifting about a late game-tying goal like Elias Lindholm’s, no matter how the team had played earlier in the game – but the first 40 minutes were a problem.
You’ll give some credit to the Flames for fighting through the apparent slog that took over their game, but it really wasn’t enough. Overtime was a disaster in and of itself for both teams – pucks bouncing over sticks (poor Matthew Tkachuk), skaters on both sides falling down – and the Flames just can’t win in the shootout this year, so, that was that.
What an underwhelming couple of hours. That was an entirely winnable game for the Flames, and they just shrugged a point away.
The good news
Smith wasn’t miraculous, but he did exactly what the Flames needed him to do, which is all you can really ask from your goalie. He kept them in the game, gave them a chance to win, and rarely had any frantic moments (you know the ones: in which he loses sight of the puck or just falls over hoping it would hit him. Those moments weren’t there). He even picked up an assist; there really wasn’t much more that could have been asked from him. Goaltending is still a big question mark for the Flames, but Smith giving them a chance to win – even if against a weaker team – is still a positive for a team that needs a few of those right now.
Rasmus. Andersson. We’ve been seeing him take to the ice late in games since October, and it continues to pay off. He’s taken quite a few shots from the point now that have really helped the team, from making the second powerplay unit look functional to keeping the puck in the zone to helping create game-tying goals (or outright scoring one himself). He’s 22! Worst case scenario is looking like he’s a reliable bottom pairing defenceman who can help out in dire situations. He’ll probably be better than that, and there are so many years ahead.
I do recall my initial impression of Derek Ryan being like “oh, a younger Matt Stajan, kind of,” but he’s been playing really well for a while now. (At the very least since we hit 2019, but probably earlier than that.) He doesn’t get much in the way of minutes, but he seems to have at least one or two moments a game in which he’s singlehandedly trying to create a goal. The effort is appreciated.
It’s cool to see Mark Jankowski score at 5v5 sometimes. Three points in his last four games.
There are no shootouts in the playoffs, so whatever. It’d be less whatever if the Flames were in danger of missing them, but they really aren’t, so.
The bad news
It took 40 minutes for the Flames to really get going. That’s bad. And that was really only acceptable in this game because the Panthers are, frankly, a lesser opponent. The game before this one, we saw the Flames play poorly and get absolutely demolished for it, because the Lightning are a really good team, and you can’t afford to play like that against them. I do think part of the reason this one partially worked out for the Flames was because their opponent wasn’t near the top of the league standings. That’s not exactly a recipe for success.
They had 43 shots on net, but very few of them seemed actually dangerous. Against the Canucks, you could tell Jacob Markstrom stole that game; in this one, James Reimer had to stop a lot of rubber, but he didn’t really have to do anything miraculous to get the win. That’s concerning in and of itself – that and the overpassing and the reluctance to take an actual dangerous shot at times.
The Flames went scoreless on the powerplay in four opportunities (including one for which they should have had some momentum for, since it came off of a failed coach’s challenge right after they tied the game). Against the Lightning, they went two-for-four, which is fine; against the Canucks, zero-for-five; against the Sharks, one-for-seven. They’re slumping on the man advantage and it is costing them in some cases.
Numbers of note
52.63% – The Flames’ 5v5 corsi on the night. They have a 75% third period to thank for that. They were underwater during the first two frames.
5-10 – According to Natural Stat Trick, the Flames had five high-danger corsi events at 5v5. The Panthers had 10. The Flames have 50 total 5v5 corsi events for, and the Panthers had 45. That disparity is… not great, let’s say.
22.4% – The Flames’ powerplay for the season, which is still ninth in the NHL. It’s a good man advantage, but it does need to get going again.
3 – Smith picked up his third assist of the season. For some context, Garnet Hathaway has two.
5 – Johnny Gaudreau and Michael Frolik led the way with five shots each. Sam Bennett was trying while on Mikael Backlund’s line, but Frolik just does seem to be the better fit.
29:23 – Mark Giordano’s ice time on the night, the most he’s played in a single game this season.
17:53 – A new career high in ice time for Jankowski. It’s two more seconds than his previous high, but still: he got a lot of minutes; more than Backlund, even, though that’s due to special teams. (He was also credited with five giveaways – far more than anyone else on the Flames.)
0.938% – Smith’s save percentage. He had a good game.
This stretch has been frustrating. The Flames should probably at least have a couple of extra points. They don’t, and it largely is their own fault. But the sky still isn’t falling. The Flames are still in first place in the Western Conference, with 75 points and a game in hand. Remember when they took over first in the West in December, and how that was a novelty in and of itself? Yeah, the gap has closed substantially, but they’re still there! Things will be fine.
But man they’ve really gotta start figuring out how to win games again. Five games left until the trade deadline. Gotta wonder just how much this first half of February has impacted management’s thoughts on what to do at the deadline, though.