Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Coyotes 2, Flames 0 post-game embers: Prove something

Something’s off.

Feel of the game

The Flames got off to an absolutely fantastic start. They controlled play, and their first powerplay was full of chances – a total 180 from how they performed the previous night against the Golden Knights. But they couldn’t score, and the Coyotes struck first on a two-on-one, and after that, the Flames just didn’t look anywhere near as dominant. They still looked like the better team, but nothing was going for them the entire game. Combine that with the Coyotes getting back into it after their first goal, looking a lot more like equal participants than objects to be run over, and… yeah.

Ryan and I were talking around the end of the second period, and I think it helped me figure out what I’m feeling when watching the Flames as of late: they’re going through the motions. They’re a legitimately good team, so they rarely get full on dominated, and always set themselves up for one chance or another, whether it be through the fourth line’s hustle or the top players simply knowing where they need to be, but they don’t get much beyond that. The fourth line is the fourth line because, for as much respect they deserve for going for it, they aren’t as talented. And the fire seems to be gone from the top guys.

They look good, but they just aren’t doing anything with it.

Once the Coyotes scored their second goal, that seemed to be it. And it was. If you wanted one moral victory out of this game, though, the Flames not giving up an empty net goal despite pulling their goalie with 4:30 to go was kind of impressive. Not as impressive when you take the Coyotes’ ineptitude at scoring on the empty net into account, though – and then remember that the Flames got shut out by those guys.

The good news

The fourth line did that thing again in which they have an awesome shift trying to create chances, Matthew Tkachuk has seemed a little more engaged than before these past couple of games (though still paling compared to his linemates), and I’m still enjoying Oscar Fantenberg as a depth option.

Not giving up an empty net goal despite the amount of time the Coyotes had to do something with it was legitimately cool. It became a game-within-the-game for me, watching, since I’d already conceded the Flames were going to lose: how impressive an effort at keepaway was that? It’d be like if the Flames were protecting a one-goal lead, but on hard mode. Except for the part in which they got shut out. But seriously, that was nice.

The bad news

Not that anybody really had a banner night, but Noah Hanifin had a pretty rough game in particular: failing to block the pass on the two-on-one that led to the Coyotes’ first goal, and both falling on and being a little pushed into his goalie on the second goal. He’s still only 22, but he’s a 22-year-old with over 300 games of NHL experience. It was almost kind of like those moments at the start of the season when the Valimaki-Andersson pairing had its struggles, except not, because this is his fourth season in the NHL. Not that he caused the two-on-one himself or was solely responsible for the puck staying in his own zone, but as a line of defence, he wasn’t good enough on those plays.

The Sharks are now a point back of the Flames with a game in hand. That’s bad. The Flames went from this close to having a +50 goal differential to following back below +40. Also bad. Their substantial lead is gone, and with it, so, apparently, is their enthusiasm? Against the Wild, they were trying pretty hard to tie the game back up; in the three games since then, they’ve, well, skated through the motions.

Numbers of note

58% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF on the night, including a 71.43% third period. It’s probably worth noting that for all the Flames’ struggles, Darcy Kuemper did have a legitimately good game. That’s just getting overshadowed because the Flames don’t look as dangerous as they should have been. At all.

42.86% – Case in point, the Flames’ 5v5 HDCF. They had an overall dominant game but paled in comparison when it came to high danger chances. Cycling the puck is great and all but way more is needed. In the third period, the Flames’ 5v5 corsi events for were 20-8. High-danger, they were outchanced 3-4. How does that happen?

80% – Rasmus Andersson had an impressive individual performance, though, with an 80% 5v5 CF. And no, I wouldn’t be bringing this up if his HDCF wasn’t just as impressive: 100%.

20+ minutes – Four Flames got over 20 minutes in ice time: the top line, plus Mark Giordano. Tkachuk got 19:39. all of the other forwards were relatively low on the ice time scale, but it still does, in part, beg the question: when’s the top line gonna start doing something meaningful again with all those minutes?

Final thought

I know there’s a fair bit of talk from all sides – the players themselves, the fandom, probably everybody – that at least they’re getting this level of play out of the way now, and not in April. But… what if they aren’t? We saw in December, January, and parts of February, the Flames were winning games they didn’t deserve to win. The motto then was similar: “at least they’re playing poorly now, maybe by March they won’t be.” Well, it’s March. And, uh. It looks like their continuing weaker play has caught up with them.

There’s still a lot of hope for the future, but maybe it’s time to start considering said weaker play was who they were all along, at least for this year. I think we all knew, deep down, they weren’t as good as they looked – but it’d be really nice to be proven wrong any time now.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    Where has the scoring gone? The top line looks totally lost. Everyone rips Chucky for his skating, but Monny has looked slow and behind the play for weeks now. Johnny has been indecisive and stripped of the the puck more often then not. Maybe its time to break them up.

  • Day1-Cfan

    So much for the optimism.
    It would be a shame if they donk off (poker player talk) home ice advantage though, wouldn’t it?
    Man I sure love the way that #4 plays the game! Just WOW.
    On to the next one. Look out Las Vegas!

    • Beer League Coach

      First round, second round, Western Conference final. It doesn’t matter what order. At the end of a playoff series you want to play that song “Another one bites the dust.” If you want to be the best you have to beat the best.
      Getting a higher draft pick is irrelevant when you are not picking in the top 5. After that you get to pick who ever you think is the best 2nd round pick.

  • Honkydonk

    Tre brought in better plug fillers but the same problems exist. If our top line doesn’t score we lose. If Johnny doesn’t drive play we lose.

    That is my whole problem with this team. We are at salary cap and have no scorers? No playmakers? The last 20 games chucky hasn’t been driving play or scoring like he’s an $8 million guy.

    Backlund and Frolik again are playing like a third line shut down pair. And lindholm has gone cold also.

  • Off the wall

    It’s all WW fault.
    We were 7-0 when he was in Cancun. Now that he’s back, we’re 0-4. Talk about bringing back bad luck, even my new Lindholm jersey can’t break the curse.

    Get WW Mexican citizenship. Let him play Pool Bingo all day.

    Problem solved! ?

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Wow, are they ever out of sync, where is the structure gone, poor exits, poor passing, poor decision making. Looked like a fire drill out there, where have my other Flames gone, who are these imposters.
    Other teams are cranking it up and we’re going in the other direction. I sure hope this is just a pre playoff slump….

  • MDG1600

    Flames scored zero goals and you choose to single out Hanifin for having a bad night? Total BS and missing the obvious which is that Calgary is having trouble scoring the greasy, dirty goals that are often the only way in playoff style hockey.

  • Raffydog

    I cringe at the thought that Tkachuk is going to be rewarded with almost ten million next year for one of the most uninspired seasons ever seen. What a boat anchor of a contract that will be. Flames will be screwed for years on that one.

  • Joel Ottos Jock

    This is what a team without a legitimate #1 centerman looks like. This is what a team without toughness looks like. This is what a team without goaltending looks like. I really hope that 1st round pick was worth keeping. Hope BT makes a couple significant roster moves this off season, the holes are glaring and quite obvious. I think it would be worthwhile to see what Tkchcuk could fetch via trade.

    • Skylardog

      You can’t fix everything at any one time, so you take your opportunities and you move the ship forward when the chances arise.

      Doing nothing at the deadline was a mistake. It is one of the best times of the year to pry away and pick up players that may or may not be available. I would buy leaving it alone if Tre was not even discussing deals on the day, but he was, and he had a deal in place. To end up empty handed is a lack of planning on his part. Zucker should have been done an hour before the deadline, not seconds after.

      But then again, a deal like Hayes to Winnipeg should have been done by 8AM when it became clear the ask for Stone was too high. Plan B, or C, or D has to be ready to go long before you realize plan A is off the table.

      And as far as goalies go, you know Smith is gone at season’s end. Why not fill that spot at the TDL? Even just a minor league deal to get a guy that could replace Gillies would have been a must in my books.

      • benfr

        Teams tend to over pay for players at the trade deadline. They overpay for draft picks at the draft. Alternatively you can get better value by being a contrarian on both situations but that is very difficult for a contending team.
        I still think overpaying at the TDL is a mistake unless you want to go all in (like Columbus) and mortgage the future.
        Short term and long term needs should be balanced if you want to extend your contending window for more than 1 year.

  • Hockeyfan

    and a lot of you laughed when i wanted Stone and Duchene for backs the sweet and useless, TJ and picks or sam. Team looks beaten now that compete level has been raised, not to mention scared. Think how much better we would be with those 2 additions. Still think there is a room issue right now pertaining to MT and his upcoming contract.

    • Skylardog

      Even I believe the ask for Stone was too high. Any deal that included Valimaki was too expensive, let alone adding picks and another player.

      Ottawa had zero interest in Backs or TJ. They were looking for youth.

      • Kevin R

        Knights lost a pretty big piece in Brannstrom to get Stone & then sign him for $9.5 mill per???? He isnt worth anything close to that & his numbers historically dont come close to over what he’s currently getting. Me & Mickey have been preaching a functional knuckle dragger & if a guy like Kassian was available for a 3rd or 4th rounder, we should have brought him in. There was nothing Tre could do on the goalie side of it. We have to go with what we got. I like that Prout is a tough Hombre but we cant afford to have him take a regular spot back there come playoff time. Everyone threw up when we were excited about possibly signing Reaves but honestly, I think Gaudreau & a few of our other top line guys would be playing with a lot more confidence when the intensity & nastiness rises this time of year. Maybe its time to rest & alternate 1 or 2 of our top guys each game & let the likes of Lazar & Reichel, Prout & Stone get into some of the dirty stuff. Instead of killing ourselves to win the division, maybe embrace the fact we play Vegas & get guys rested & healthy.

        • Luter 1

          Same stuff I’ve been preaching since the season started, too much abuse of our talent with no pushback because we don’t really have a true tough intimidator, instead we are getting intimidated (Gaudreau, Mony)

      • Cfan in Van

        Skylar, full details of the Stone deal. 9.5M x 8 years, full NMC. And he makes 12.5M more over the course of the deal by playing in Nevada due to their tax laws, for anyone thinking we could have signed him to 9.5M in Calgary. The NMC is the kicker for me. That’s way too much.

    • Joel Ottos Jock

      I know it cannot be fixed over night..but Duchene would have filled the #1 center hole. Giving up Valimaki is not optimal but he is still a prospect, Duchene is a sure fire thing. Also the toughness could have easily been addressed with a 4th round draft pick or with many of thebtweeners. The goaltending hole also could have been upgraded with Jimmy Howard, heck even Kieth Kinkaid.

  • TKO

    Backlund is developing something of a nasty streak the last year or so, I like it

    Gaudreau is not holding on to the puck, but dishing it quickly whenever he has it.

    Totes had many shots from the slot while flames coast around the perimeter, except a couple who consistantly crash the net

  • jupiter

    Kept looking at the bench and expecting to see Gulutzan. High Corsi and everyone playing on the perimeter. And of course, the guy on the radio telling us how good the other Goalie is,right after we miss the net from 40 feet out.

    • Derzie

      This what the media in Carolina said we could expect from Peters. Kill it with fire. Perimeter hockey is keep away without getting points. No danger, no win.

  • CalgaryBornandRaised

    I’d like to think those 3 ridiculous trips to the East in Feb are the cause of this, but I have a sneaky suspicion our good luck has run out a bit

    We’ve been playing teams fighting for a playoff spot, or a Stanley Cup contender in the last 4 games, and each time they have won.

    I saw them give Tampa everything they could handle here in Calgary, so i think the real Calgary Flames is somewhere in the middle of that and what we see now

  • Flint

    Everyone is going to be talking about this and I’m not inclined to disagree. I’ve been saying it for months.

    Playing hockey is hard. It’s a daily beating. It isn’t so much the single day, but the accretion, and even more so when you’re small (or not heavy).

    This part of the season gets long, and the playoffs are a war. If you wanna play finesse hockey you have to have depth waiting in the wings to ease the load. Guys are going to arrive to the playoffs broken only to get shattered.

    It all adds up. That’s why in the old days teams wanted big tough guys to do the dishing instead of receiving. that may be out of date, fine. It may be gone, fine. You may hate that, FINE. But the beating these guys take day in and day out is reality and you have to have a plan for that. You can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist.

    • Kevin R

      Yup. We have 14 games left. I think Gio, Gaudreau, Monahan, Lindholm, Backlund, Hamonic, Tkachuk all need to get at least 4-5 games off in the next 14 to get them rest & heal if they are nursing minor injuries. Obviously not all at once, maybe rotation of two of them at a time. Let Bennett & Janko get some top PP time, Stone & Prout get some D time.
      It’s looking like we will collide with Vegas & we will need everyone battle station ready.

    • Luter 1

      It’s especiallly hard when you’re a smaller fast team that teams are now playing very aggressively because Calgary has no one to really answer the bell. I think Bennett and Hathaway are beat up and after that there is nothing really, Prout who should be sending the odd message.

  • Garry T

    1. Hanifin to press box with Reggy volunteering to mentor him for 3 games.
    Video room time with defensive coach showing him how good D play in
    their end. Priority to clear the net front and hit hard instead of girly
    2. Again, umpteenth time. Lose the drop pass, gain and control the zone.
    centres in front of the net. Wingers at the sides ready for the heavy play
    and garbage goals. Bang, bang, bang and into the net passing
    3. 5 man units playing hard. Gaining the zone and protecting in their zone as
    5 man units. Get Lanny in to mentor on top of the circle shooting.
    4. Play Lazar, bring up Quinne and Rychel and play them as a heavy line.
    5 From today on RR cycle for 3 days over the remainder of the season
    getting the boys some rest.
    6. Blood test each guy for oxygen levels and other things …. make sure they
    Are focused and fit. Blood will define issues.
    7. Shooting accuracy is a non entity. Correct that starting right now. I have
    never imagined hockey players as rocket scientists capable of analyzing
    their own games and getting extra shooting practice in, instead of video
    game time.
    8. One on one time discussing mental toughness and the desire to win.

    If you do not work at your game, someone else will and you will look back
    And ask yourself where your opportunity went. Being comfortable is not a good practice in this game.