117Matthew Tkachuk
Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports

Post-Game: Flames fail crucial test, pushed to brink of elimination

The Calgary Flames went into Game 4 against the Colorado Avalanche needing to play their best game of the series. They did so, but some bad habits crept into their game and they blew a 2-0 third period lead and lost 3-2 in overtime.

The Rundown

The opening period was played tightly defensively by both teams for the most part. Nobody scored. The Flames got pucks on net, largely from the perimeter. The Avalanche got pucks on net from closer in. Shots were 15-13 Avalanche and scoring chances 8-1 Avalanche.

The second period was WILD. There’s no other way to put it.

The Flames got the only goal of the second period on the power play. After Sean Monahan was high-sticked, the Flames went to work: they won the faceoff, Elias Lindholm whipped the puck towards the net and it deflected off Patrik Nemeth (battling with Matthew Tkachuk out front) and past Philipp Grubauer to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

As you would expect, the Avalanche reacted to being down a goal at home by making a push. They doubled up their forecheck and the Flames simultaneously began to have challenges exiting the zone, resulting in a lot of zone time for Colorado and a lot of good scoring chances. But Mike Smith was superb.

Shots were 17-12 Avalanche and chances 14-8 Avalanche in the second period.

The Avalanche continued to push in the third period, but the Flames continued to defend fairly well and weather the storm. The Mikael Backlund line chipped the puck into the Colorado zone and went to work cycling (and even got a partial line change in). Eventually Juuso Valimaki put a puck on net. Grubauer made the initial save, but Derek Ryan buried the rebound to give the Flames a 2-0 lead.

Colorado finally got on the board on a bit of shoddy defensive play by the Flames. Matt Calvert drove the net and got an initial chance that was stopped, but J.T. Compher jumped on the rebound and roofed it over a sprawling Smith to cut Calgary’s lead to 2-1.

But Mikael Backlund took a tripping penalty late in the third period and on the ensuing man advantage, Mikko Rantanen redirected a Nathan MacKinnon pass past Smith to tie the game at 2-2. Immediately afterwards the Flames took a puck over glass penalty but they killed it off.

Shots were 14-7 Avalanche in the third period and chances 8-6 Avalanche.

The Flames had opportunities in overtime, including a power play. But they couldn’t take advantage and Rantanen buried a Carl Soderberg feed on a three-on-three rush to give the Avalanche a 3-2 win in overtime.

Shots were 6-5 Avalanche and chances 7-5 Flames in overtime.

Why the Flames Lost

This was the first game of this series where you could argue the “real Calgary Flames” (or a reasonable facsimile) showed up. They didn’t play a perfect game, and in their own end they frequently resulted to Colorado pressure by flinging the puck towards the neutral zone (leading to more Avalanche pressure). But for much of this game their puck management and neutral zone play was miles ahead of where it was in Games 1, 2 and 3.

That said, the Flames still really weren’t in this game all that much. They were out-shot and out-chanced in every period of regulation and looked like they were hanging on for dear life. Their defensive zone play got gradually worse as the game went on and it seemed like the Avalanche just turned up the pressure until the Flames faded out.

Red Warrior

It’s gotta be Smith, once again, but the gap between him and his teammates wasn’t nearly as massive as it was in the previous three games.

The Turning Point

Take your pick!

  • Two penalties against in last three minutes of the game, including one that led to the game-tying goal.
  • Backlund not being able to roof a puck over a sprawling Grubauer in overtime.
  • The Flames’ PP looking extremely rough in overtime when their season was in the balance.

There were several times when this game was up for grabs. The Avalanche were the team that seemed more apt to taking it.

The Numbers

(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Natural Stat Trick)

Player Corsi
Valimaki 65.4 60.0 1.400
Andersson 62.5 60.0 1.075
Tkachuk 52.8 20.0 0.950
Frolik 46.7 25.0 0.150
Backlund 46.3 20.0 -0.255
Monahan 44.7 41.2 0.240
Gaudreau 40.0 41.2 -0.200
Neal 38.5 60.0 -0.425
Lindholm 37.1 35.3 0.395
Brodie 36.4 23.5 -0.575
Ryan 34.8 50.0 0.750
Giordano 34.8 23.5 0.425
Mangiapane 34.6 40.0 -0.275
Hanifin 33.3 42.9 -1.150
Bennett 33.3 62.5 -0.675
Jankowski 31.8 55.6 -0.500
Hamonic 29.8 46.2 -0.900
Hathaway 26.7 50.0 -0.225
Smith 2.650

This and That

Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk was at the game.

Up Next

Game 5 of this Best-of-Seven series goes Friday night at 8 p.m. MT at the Saddledome.

  • Captain Ron

    Backlund was a disaster tonight. He single handed cost the Flames the game. Penalty, Missed chance to score when he couldn’t raise the effing puck a foot, then watches Rantanen score the winner without even trying to stop him.
    Valimaki was fine and he should never be scratched again.
    The road ahead is extremely difficult now and the odds of coming back are tiny.
    Our top line is not a top line. Johnny and Monahan can’t hang in these games.

  • thumz

    Neal is soooo slow out there. I like his experience in the playoffs, but it’s time for someone who can skate.

    Backlund… oh my lord! That tripping penalty, not scoring on the open cage, and then just watching rantanen bury the winner. Brutal.

    Paging Monahan. Yes Sean Monahan. Please try to attend the next hockey game.

    Smith was lights out. Atta boy!

  • HowToActuallyMakeTheFlamesWin

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you

    “This IS The Lineup Calgary Needs To Play To Win The Next Game 4, Listen and WIN or Ignore and Lose, The definition of insanity is the doing the same thing over and expecting different results.

    Gaudreau – Tkachuk – Bennett

    Neal – Monahan – Frolik

    Mangiapane – Backlund – Lindholm

    Jankowski – Ryan – Hathaway

    Giordano – Hamonic
    Hanifin – Andersson
    Valimaki – Brodie”

  • Hockey4life

    My heart is shattered tonight. I don’t want to give up yet but my gut knows this series is over. Calgary hasn’t looked in it from the get go. I was so excited for playoffs this year. I want to lash out because I’m angry, frustrated, disappointed. I just want things to feel how they did in ‘04. That team was all heart. It’s missing from this one. Life is so much bigger then hockey but at moments like this it’s feels so empty. Maybe I just need sleep, or maybe it’s that I’m a die hard fan who wants them to succeed so damn bad. This one just hurts.

  • slapshot444

    If they don’t bench Neil for Friday the coach has no balls. Worst player on the ice. He tries hard but SLOW and doesn’t win puck battles. Off the island and over to BT to find a resolution.

  • KeepitReal

    Whenever James KovaNeal is on the ice I find myself slouching down in my chair, partially covering my face, like I did when I first saw Aliens in the theater. You just knew that greasy space lizard was lurking nearby and was going to show up and cause problems.

  • Juan Valdez

    Almost a carbon copy of game two. You’d think they’d find a way to dial up the intensity instead of sitting back and letting MacKinnon bend them over.

  • oddclod

    5 of your top 9 are completely vacant and don’t seem to care. That’s what I’ll reflect. I’ll tune in if there’s a game 6. There’s so much more to do with my time. Maybe I can slam my head in the door jam for a few hours between cleaning bathrooms with a toothbrush.

  • Speed Kills

    Maybe “saving energy & staying healthy” for a long playoff run is not the greatest playoff Idea? Maybe controlled aggression (Skating Hard at least) and sacrifice is a better way to win in the short term which leads to a long playoff run? This team needs a heart transplant with a heart that dosen’t know how to quit and peel off from battles on the ice. One should not have to yell “Skate” and “Hit Them”(you know, finish a check or pin them along the boards) over and over again at ones team during the playoffs!
    I do truly hope these guys can win at least one more at home, if for nothing else but for the Fans and some kind of pride in themselves. Sadly, I’m doubtful they can overcome and do this.

  • oddclod

    TRE. Please bag us Ferly, Duche, Hall and Kreider.

    Anyone can go away not named Smith, Ritter, Gio, Bennett, Byng, Mangi, Ryan, Lindholm, Hath, Hamonic, Hanifin, Rass, Vali, Kylington.

    And to the morons that cut me down for reminding them of Smitty’s TEAM CANADA PEDIGREE, at least now you know. He may not want to come back to this tho.

    • Morons are the ones that cherry picks stats when it’s convenient. Sound like someone? Smith is very good this series so far. He was absolute garbage for half to 3/4 of the year. You look to be the only person living in La La land that wanted to give him a pass on it. Who cares that he played for Canada years ago before he was 34-35 years old? I mean yes it means he was a good player to get there but you realize it is 2019? Or because you played at a “high level” 20 years ago it makes you a goalie whisperer? I would still be pretty hesitant to resign him. You’d probably give him a 4 year 6 million/year no movement contract. Me? Maybe a 1 year at 2.5.

    • SGRietzey

      The Smith thing, again? Let it go, already – everyone’s happy he’s playing well, and despite what you seem to believe, no fan of this team wants or hopes for him to fail, not even his staunchest critics. Do you think people would rather he falter and be the reason for a loss, just so they can say “I told you so”? Come on. The fact that he’s had 4 stellar games is awesome, and good on him if they can pull off a minor miracle and make a comeback. If they somehow manage to get out of this round and go a couple rounds further? Even better. Go out with a bang, enjoy the moment as a playoff hero, maybe even come back at a (drastically) reduced salary to be the backup and mentor for one more year. But you keep screaming “PEDIGREE” as if it erases the fact that his performance fell off a cliff over the last 12 months, aside from the last month or so and 4 playoff games. I hope the irony of you calling everyone else a moron for pointing this out isn’t lost on you.

  • I thought they played well enough to win. So did the Avs. Could have gone either way. It was a lot better than last game. I do think the reffing was terrible. Weak calls seem to go against the Flames. Not sure why….

    • Albertabeef

      Do we still believe in the “Wideman Effect”? And I never thought I could hate another player as much as Bertuzzi, and then Mr. Wideman shows up and lumbers a zebra. Totally not cool.

  • Tkachuk'sLisp

    I wouldn’t be mad if the Flames got rid of Monahan for an actual no. 1 center. You know, one that can do more than score from the slot. I’m waiting for the “Monahan played with 8 broken bones and 16 sports hernias” presser after the season.

    Just win the next one at home. If they’re gonna lose, lose on the road.

    • sRo

      Monahan, Brodie/Kylington + a pick for Malkin. I know he’s older but I’d do it in a heartbeat. Malkin probably has 3-4 good years left. Monahan will NEVER be a no. 1 centre. Slow, can’t defend, can’t hit, not physical at all. Take him off Gaudreau’s line and he’d be as productive as Neal was this year.

    • Albertabeef

      For the record, the Flames moved to town when I was 7 years old. I have been blessed in that I have seen some awesome Flames hockey. I have also seen a lot of garbage hockey too over the years. But no matter how mad I get at my Flames, I will never give up on them. I may have no faith in love or humanity, but life without Flames hockey is not worth living.

  • FlamesFan27

    There was a crazy stat shown before this game. In the first 3 games, Colorado had 52 chances off the rush. Flames had 13. Last nights game was more even than that, but still pretty slanted to the better skating team.

    • Speed Kills

      When you’re coached to back in and play a prevent – D game this will happen… So will losing these games… Just a poor game plan from the beginning…. Playing that style was not what got the Flames to be Western Conference Champs… Now its in their heads and its Over…

  • TheWheeze

    A good point was made here. I was going to make it to during the last few regular season games. Sitting guys and taking it easy to “save” them for the playoffs. Taking your foot off the gas is never a good idea, Full out. All the time. You can’t coast. Ever. Lesson learned, Bill.

    • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

      I was nervous the minute they started doing this, this exact maneuver has haunted the Stampeders in the playoff forever. This is why us and Tampa Bay are getting crushed in the playoffs we just coasted in and met up against two really hot teams.

      I am also really starting to think that we had as many points as we did this year because of a really easy Pacific Division.