Golden Knights 2, Flames 1 post-game embers: Meh

Winning games is going to be tough if that’s how they’re going to play.

Feel of the game

Early on, it was evident that David Rittich was ready for this one. He was tested throughout the game, and answered to the challenge just about every time. There was only so much he could do on the Golden Knights’ first goal – the Flames’ second penalty kill of the period in which they were completely unable to get a handle on the puck, allowing Vegas a great shot that beat him. The Flames looked to tie the game soon after, but for a goaltending interference ruling on a coach’s challenge; otherwise, the first penalty seemed to be a set up for what the game would be: sluggish, uncoordinated, and rarely dangerous.

The Flames did, occasionally, try to counter, though. And after two absolutely abhorrent powerplays of their own, a Travis Hamonic bullet tied the game. But otherwise, the Flames didn’t really do much of note; the Golden Knights seemed to have little to no trouble in picking the Flames’ pockets or intercepting their passes. One team appeared to be paying attention, and other than Rittich, the other team looked completely disinterested. A brief four-on-four and some additional Matthew Tkachuk shenanigans livened things up heading into the third, at least.

Where the Flames looked a little better, but still didn’t do enough. Rittich got too bold with the puck, but continued making saves – at least until a tough Deryk Engelland shot, which gave the Golden Knights the lead. The Flames tried to respond, but couldn’t get anything dangerous going; it was clear the game was over once Vegas scored, though at least they didn’t give up the empty netter, and were able to apply some sustained pressure.

Also, not that the Flames are at fault for not picking up Mark Stone, since the asking price was rather expensive, but… uh, wow. He’s really rather good.

The good news

Sometimes goalies have good games, sometimes goalies have bad games. Rittich has had some poor games in his latest stretch, but he was easily the best Flame of the night. He wasn’t panic-inducing – at least not until the third period when he started aggressively trying to play the puck, setting up Vegas for some prime scoring chances, passing the puck across his own net for some reason, and coming that close to taking a delay of game penalty – and he looked up to the task. He wasn’t at fault on either of the goals that made their way past him. The Flames were rewarded for showing further faith in him with a good goaltending performance, so here’s to hoping that carries forward.

The fourth line had a pretty monstrous shift in the first period. You’re really not in that bad of a spot when that particular trio of players can cycle the puck so well. The Flames did have their occasional moments of completely tiring the Golden Knights out, even if they didn’t exactly result in anything.

Hamonic wasn’t great on the first goal against, but it is cool to see him have a career year in goalscoring. He’s probably not going to have a 30-point season again like he did in 2014-15, but a 20-point season is certainly possible. And it’s nice to see him get rewarded for that shot of his – he’s been breaking it out more often as of late.

The bad news

The only Flames goal that counted came at the very end of the powerplay, but still – the Flames’ first two powerplays were atrocious. Just absolutely horrible. They’re tied for the 10th best man advantage in the NHL, but you would not have known that watching this game: the Flames could barely enter the zone and seemed to give up more chances than they created. It was painful to watch. Not that they really had a great night overall, but the powerplays were a special level of awful.

What’s worse: standing out so poorly, or appearing so lackadaisical that you barely register at all? The Flames’ powerplay was the former, but most of the rest of their play was the latter. The Golden Knights had way too easy a time disrupting their attack or outright taking the puck from them. They had their dangerous moments here and there, but they completely fell off as the game proceeded, like they just weren’t interested in trying to win this one. And unlike the game against Toronto in which every bounce possible went against them, this was a completely winnable game – and they threw it away.

What is goaltender interference? Kudos to Rittich for picking up on the apparent fact that if the Flames score and the other goalie throws a fit the goal will get called back; too bad it didn’t work for him since there was no possible way a Golden Knight could have interfered with him, unlike the challenges Devan Dubnyk and Marc-Andre Fleury threw out there in the past three games. But seriously… what was Tkachuk supposed to do there? Is he responsible for Fleury’s stick now? Are players not allowed at the top of the crease anymore? It made absolutely no sense – he didn’t do anything. And between these past couple of instances, it’s absurd how long the officials have to take to try to find something to call back. I like FP Santangelo’s take for baseball, and see no reason why it shouldn’t apply to hockey, or all forms of sports video review: there should be a time limit on reviewing plays. If you can’t find good reason to overturn a call within a set amount of time, then the play was close enough to whatever the original call was that it should stand. It’s like the officials are deliberately hunting to justify the goalie’s outrage, that the goalie absolutely has to be right, and it’s stupid.

Numbers of note

50.54% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF on the night. More telling, though? The Golden Knights had CFs over 60% in the final two periods. The Flames had five high-danger corsi events for at 5v5 in the first period, and only one each in the final two periods. That’s a really tough way to win.

6, 5 – Mark Giordano and Tkachuk led the Flames in shots by a fair margin. Tkachuk actually looked more involved in the game than he has in some time, although a lot of that was due to extra curricular activities than anything else. Still, offensive involvement is good.

7 minutes – Roughly the time Andrew Mangiapane played with Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund at 5v5. Of the three, he was definitely the least noticeable. He eventually rejoined his usual linemates for the rest of the game. It’s not a bad experiment in theory, though – the team as a whole just looked pretty off, which is hardly on him.

Final thought

The Flames were not as good as their seven-game winning streak and they are not as bad their current three-game losing streak. They still have a lead on the Sharks for top spot in the division, though it is precarious. If they falter further, they play Vegas in the playoffs – so let’s see how they respond when they see them again on Sunday.

Remember that the Sharks were the ones projected to win the division from early on. The Flames have kept the title for most of the season. Don’t let the unexpected shift your expectations; this is only the beginning.

  • Off the wall

    If this is what playoffs is going to look like, then we’re going to need to be better at back-checking.

    Watch the 4th line, they not only forecheck but back-check. That’s what all 4 lines should be doing. It’s no wonder our 4th line hemmed in Vegas.

    Did you notice how many takeaways Vegas had? Stone is really good at this. Lift the oppositions stick, it works!
    I watched him do it 3 times, on 3 different occasions.

    Yeah, Stone is really good. But in honesty, everyone was doing it with the Vegas team.

    That’s good coaching.

    If we want to get back to scoring goals, our team must pay attention to the little details, like above. That’s how we’re going to win low scoring games.

    Cause turnovers, not create them! Good thing we have 15 more games left.

    Now would be a great time to execute those details..

    • Cfan in Van

      Agreed. This isn’t completely on the first line, but Lindholm is good at the back-check for the most part, and I certainly recall JG being a lot more relentless in that respect around the 1/3 mark in the season. Since he became a bit of a break-away king after that point, it seems to me he’s constantly emphasizing that play and just waiting near center ice. It’s not just him, but I’ve noticed quite a shift in his priorities. Maybe their just more obvious when he’s not bringing dominance in the offensive zone…

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I’m sorry but if I am paying a player 9.5 million per year he better be doing more than lifting sticks. I was one of many that were hoping we landed Stone but despite making the team better he has not helped much on the score board. They have won every game since they traded and signed him but he looks slow on a fast team. I am not worried about playing Vegas, we are playing our worst hockey of the season and essentially tied the with their prized signing.

  • Zalapski

    I think it’s time to move Monny down the lineup. He is useless without JG on his wing. Truly, he was a 20 goal rookie in his first year. I don’t see him doing anything now without JG feeding him. He’s invisible for huge swaths of the season. He’s not physical, not a good playmaker and doesn’t do enough on defense to have any value when he’s not scoring.

  • Derzie

    This season is new territory & really weird.

    If you are being honest, if you watch every Flames game and don’t pay attention to the stats or standings, where would you place them in your mind? Top 10? Top 20? Bubble team? 1st in the West?

    If you are in the ‘1st in the West’ state of mind, I’d like to know what would make you feel that way. This team seems so flawed at times, I find it hard to believe that this represents the best the western NHL has had to offer at this point. To me, they are not an elite behaving team. I don’t think they really frighten other teams with their skills. They just feel like a pretty decent team, overall.
    Read the comments here on FN to see what I mean. if you read the comments before looking at the score last night or the standings & stats, you’d think we got destroyed, Monahan & JG has 10 or 15 goals each and we were fighting for a wild card spot. I wonder if other fanbases feel similarly. Watching every game and finding fault with the human stars of their local team. If we get into the playoff, we won’t win a game. If we win a game, we won’t win a round. if we win a round, no next round. Win next round, no cup. Win cup, big drop off next year. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    The whole point is, let’s support the team. They’ve exceeded expectations for many, let’s watch how it plays out and enjoy the ride.

    (oh, and Bettman and his reffing buddies can go straight to hll)

    • deantheraven

      I’m with you, Derzie. A bit surprised to see the return of the “critical, disappointed” tone or Ari’s article. For moment I wondered if we watched the same game.
      The coach, the players to a man thought it was a prety even game. Take out the no-goal and it might’ve been a different game
      SOG= 38VGK-34 CGY
      FO%= CGY 53/47
      Shots, Hits, blocks, PIMs, all pretty even.
      In fact official line has CGY with a 5-9 GVA advantage. Peters actually called out the refs and I side with him. Of course i always do…
      I watched a well played battle for two points between two contenders who look like they might be doing this again, real soon, and again in a month or so.
      You’re right, Derzie. It seems it’s only here where you can find mostly criticism and no silver linings or other reasons for optimism.
      Getting tired…

  • Jessemadnote

    Golden Knights are gonna be spending 23 million on their second line for the next 3 seasons. Elias Lindholm will outscore Mark Stone for the next 6 years at less than half the price.

  • Luter 1

    We have the same issue we have had all season and it’s only getting tougher. We have no one on this team to give our skilled players some room to operate. No one on this team scares the opposition and both Johnny and Mony are paying the price. In the last 2 minutes it was beyond ridiculous and the refs put their blinders on as Gaudreau was hooked, held and blatantly tripped. Someone should have knocked Eakins block off as he’ll now feel like he can pull that crap next game. Bennett for one needs to get back to banging and crashing and quit carrying the puck so much. Hathaway doesn’t start hitting he’ll soon also be sitting in the press box. Boys you need to play your roles, right now they’re not.
    Prout has been ok actually but again tuning someone in real good would be a boost to the teams confidence in a big way, drop the mitts big fella!

  • snotss

    the game had slight playoff feel to it…big line can’t seem to find the net again!!! the remaining games will all be like last nights game and that scares the crap out of me………this team is soft..they better score a ton of goals if they hope to win one playoff game let alone a series

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Here’s a thought, Rittich is a pretty good goalie a stopping pucks he can see so why not focus on getting defenders that make his life easier by clearing bodies. Prout does it, Hamonic does it, Gio can do it, Brodie no, Ras no, Hanafin no, Kjillington no, and Stone can do it.