You really have to hand it to them: the Flames do begin each season consistently.
Feel of the game
Well, they came out looking exactly like the team that lost to the Avalanche six months prior. Case in point, they iced the puck and took a penalty before 10 seconds had even passed in this one. If you really want to relive the pain, you can probably read any of our recaps from April and get an accurate sense of what the first period was like (briefly: sloppy, uncoordinated, couldn’t get the puck, couldn’t get out of the defensive zone). They were out-shot 13-3 (9-2 at 5v5) in the first and somehow escaped with only a 2-1 deficit, so big thanks to David Rittich.
After the first, things gradually improved for the Flames. I would definitely say they were the better team after 20 minutes, but they lacked the lethal element that allowed them to overcome poor starts last season. They had those moments where it looked like they were just about to level things up, but really couldn’t sustain it long enough for them to actually matter. A lot of that was due to the Avalanche refusing to hunker down and try and survive a signature late Flames onslaught, applying pressure whenever they got the opportunity. Both of these teams played like they were losing, even though only one of them actually was.
Throughout the entire game, it really did feel like Colorado could just take over whenever they felt like it, and the Flames provided them with plenty of opportunities.
The good news
Hockey is back, and it is still fun to watch hockey. That is good no matter what, and the game was an exciting one even if the Flames were on the losing end of it.
The Flames had good games from some of the usual suspects, namely Rittich, Johnny Gaudreau, and Mark Giordano. Big Save Dave prevented this game from being a disaster early on, and kept the team in it even when the team wasn’t reciprocating that feeling. Gaudreau and Giordano were in top form; they just need the rest of the roster to catch up.
The power play scored two goals, which is nice for a unit I usually dread. Both goals came from the first unit (first line, Giordano, and Matthew Tkachuk), and both came from getting the puck to the net and letting someone whack it in. It’s a very simple formula, which they seemed to abandon at times for whatever reason.
If we’re seeing this game as an extension of the playoff series, the Flames didn’t crumple up after the Avs took control early on. That’s an early notch in the moral victory column.
The bad news
Game one aside, it was a pretty sloppy game for the Flames. They missed passes, bobbled the puck at the blueline, overskated pucks, committed turnovers, the whole shebang. Those issues were made worse because of the very opportunistic Avalanche, who never really gave the Flames a chance to recover. I don’t want to make sweeping declarations after one game of hockey, but that’s something that other teams are going to notice about the Flames. They finished first in the West, and others are going to be eager to take them down through any means necessary. If it’s by exploiting those minor sloppy moments, the Flames are going to see more games like this.
As good as the power play was, it really does not help if the penalty kill is equally as bad. The refs were trash and called anything, but the Flames didn’t really do themselves any favours by looking lost whenever they were down a man. The Avs answered the Flames’ two power play goals with two of their own (arguably three; JT Compher’s second period goal came seconds after Oliver Kylington’s penalty expired, and the Flames defender maybe was the only one trying to prevent it with a mad dash from the penalty box to try and break up the play), wiping out one of the only good things the Flames were doing all game.
And whatever this was:
This is a Nathan MacKinnon Appreciation Account pic.twitter.com/kNxmdyU9qh
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) October 4, 2019
We all make our mental mistakes. How does everyone forget about one of the game’s best players?
Numbers of note
100- The number of multi-point games Johnny Gaudreau has now after his goal and assist tonight.
50%- The Flames’ power play success rate, tied for first in the league.
66.67%- The Flames’ penalty kill success rate, tied for fourth worst in the league. Early season stats are fun.
66.67%- This time, for 5v5 CF% leader, Mark Jankowski. He only played 4:43 of 5v5 time though, spending a lot of his night on the PK, which forced his line to play less. Shame, because linemates Andrew Mangiapane (64.71%) and Austin Czarnik (60.00%) were doing well.
3:55– Czarnik’s time on ice, mostly hampered because of two pretty brutal hits while he was going for pucks in the corner. When he came back, it was the third period and the bench was shortened.
24:04- Giordano’s time on ice, the leader on the team. Didn’t look a day over 29 out there.
17- Milan Lucic’s number and the number of penalty minutes he had, all coming on that fight with Nikita Zadorov
- What was Lucic doing as the extra attacker? I don’t really have an answer other than he was probably the freshest guy out there due to being in the box for the majority of the third. Even so, why?
- I don’t really have anything to say about Lucic nullifying a 5 on 3 with an instigator other than it was pretty dumb. He stood up for a teammate, which is what he was brought in to do, and did it at the one moment where it both did and did not make sense to do that. I would’ve liked the two man advantage, seemed a bit more helpful to the team in that situation.
- Mikael Backlund still looks a little bit injured.
- The refs were really blowing their whistles tonight, calling every knicky-knacky thing they could. And then, nothing in the third period.
- Also the high stick goal not being called is just… I really don’t know. What are the refs looking at, because it’s certainly not the game.
It’s game one of 82. Things weren’t going to be perfect, as the past decade of opening games has shown us.
But that shouldn’t shield the Flames from criticism. They didn’t look as good as they could be, and Vancouver is another team with offensive talent that could give them a headache if they aren’t ready to go from puck drop.