Who are the Calgary Flames this season? It’s unlikely they’re as bad as they were last night, but that might have been a statement type of game for them – for all the wrong reasons.
Feel of the game
There are bad starts, and then there is whatever that was in which Tyler Toffoli took a lead that the Kings would never relinquish. For a team that had been shut out in back-to-back games, Calgary seemingly had no interest in putting any pressure on them. True, 5v5 play in the first period wasn’t all that bad, but they were let down by their special teams in ways that would only magnify later on in the game.
Then came the second period. It’s unfathomable that the Flames gave up 20 shots to Los Angeles in a single period for the second time in 11 days. Where was the effort? Where was the emotion? Obviously, no one on Calgary enjoyed what happened during that period, but it at times felt like the only ones who were actively fighting against it were Bill Peters and David Rittich, the latter getting in trouble for how heated he got.
It’s a shame, because it was such an unfortunate bounce that got the Kings another immediate goal to start a period. However, it was absolutely deflating, and there was no coming back. An uncharacteristic giveaway from Mark Giordano on the power play – leading to a shorthanded goal against – should have signaled that this one was not going to get better.
It got rough and chippy in the third. On one hand, it’s great to see the team absolutely hate going through this and wanting to finally fight back. On the other, the game is lost at that point, and you’re asking for trouble for a team that can only afford to have one Michael Stone as a healthy scratch. What’s the point of digging yourself deeper into a hole if there’s an injury or a suspension? Perhaps the better way to respond to this is to actually show up for the start of the game in Anaheim. You don’t change seasons in garbage time.
The good news
Cam Talbot looked sharp in relief of Rittich, who himself was giving a huge effort to keep the Flames in this one. Bill Peters seems to want to get more playtime for Talbot, which has been made difficult with the otherwise strong play of Rittich. Not that it meant much in this one, but it was nice that he stopped the bleeding.
Mikael Backlund scored a nice goal on a penalty shot to ensure the Flames didn’t get shut out. If there was one skater to me that wanted to make a difference on the scoresheet last night, it was Backlund. He led the Flames in both scoring chances and high danger scoring chances, and the patience on his goal is something worth fixating on in the good news section because lordy there ain’t much else. It’s likely why he got bumped to the top line to start the third.
The bad news
Without harping on things that have already been discussed, there was a lot of bad news from the game. Both sides of the specials teams let in goals. The second power play in particular just does not seem threatening whatsoever.
It’s tough to see Rittich get yanked, but it made sense. I can’t remember the last time I saw a goalie take multiple penalties in a game, and his fiery side was starting to come out in ways that probably made Peters worry.
Where was Milan Lucic when things started going sideways? Isn’t this what the team brought him in for? On one hand, Lucic definitely deserved to get stuck on the bench when Peters shortened it, but on the other, that’s supposed to be a situation in which he can “do his role” and he finished the night with just a single hit and a lot of sour glares.
That second period was the first time this season where I wanted to turn off the television (but I didn’t, because I am a dutiful blogger who is a glutton for punishment).
Numbers of note
2 – Number of shorthanded goals the Flames have already given up this season in just nine games. Last season total, they had seven against.
86.5% – Success rate on the penalty kill. Despite having a terrible special teams night, the Flames are somehow sixth overall on the PK? That just doesn’t seem real.
55% – Flames won 55% of the face-offs tonight, bringing their total up to 48.3% on the season, which ranks in the bottom third. Face-offs aren’t all that helpful as a predictive stat, but it’s a known fact that Peters places a high value on winning them so you have to imagine he’s at least pleased with that aspect from tonight.
5:19 – The time that Gaudreau, Monahan, and Lindholm spent together at 5v5, making them the only forward line to crack over five minutes together. Peters had the blender on high last night.
Today marks Calgary’s seventh game in 11 days, and regardless of how they perform, you have to think there’s some big changes on the horizon for a team that’s been embarrassed twice now by a probably bottom-five team.