Calgary Flames Post-Game: Fading Flames fail to take bite out of Chicago

Photo credit:Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
5 months ago
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The Calgary Flames headed to Chicago on Sunday afternoon looking to finish off a four game road trip against a really injury-ravaged Blackhawks team. Unfortunately, the Flames made too many puck management gaffes at key times and couldn’t score their way out of their mistakes.
The Flames head home below the .500 mark after a 4-3 road loss to Chicago.

The rundown

The Flames got behind the eight-ball early. After a scoring chance at one end, the Blackhawks took the puck up ice. Colin Blackwell made a nice move to fake one direction, get Nick DeSimone to bite on that move, and then cut around DeSimone. That gave Blackwell the space to make a nice shot and beat Dan Vladar inside the far post to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
Very quickly, the Flames answered back… on a scoring play that ended up being overturned. Jonathan Huberdeau put a great pass into the net-front area, and Elias Lindholm redirected it on net and it ended up going in after Petr Mrazek couldn’t quite hold onto it.
But the goal was challenged and overturned because Mrazek’s pad was hit by Lindholm on the play and spun him around, leading to the puck squirting into the net.
But midway through the period, the Flames answered back to tie it up for real. The Flames did a nice job with puck retrieval after a dump-in play into the Chicago zone. That led to a quick bit of passing and movement in the slot and, combined with Mrazek wandering out of his crease, it facilitated a Noah Hanifin pass to Nazem Kadri for a back-door tap-in to make it a 1-1 game.
First period shots were 7-5 Flames (all at five-on-five) and, via Natural Stat Trick, five-on-five scoring chances were 7-2 Flames (high-dangers were 5-1 Flames).
The Flames went up early in the second period on a power play. A goal-mouth frenzy in front of Mrazek somehow didn’t result in a Flames goal – Mrazek’s energy could best be described as “dog with peanut butter on the roof of its mouth” – but the Flames held onto the puck and kept cycling it. Andrew Mangiapane attempted a pass to the front of the net, but it went off defender Connor Murphy’s skate and into the Chicago net to give the Flames a 2-1 lead.
Both teams responded after the Flames took the lead: Chicago seemed to find another gear, while the Flames seemed to fade a bit energy-wise. The Blackhawks had a bunch of chances and, combined with some favourable bounces, were rewarded with a pair of goals scored just 2:40 apart.
After Jason Dickinson won an offensive zone draw, the Blackhawks passed the puck around down low in the zone a bit. Philipp Kurashev’s shot on net glanced off Rasmus Andersson’s stick and slightly changed direction, eluding Vladar short-side to tie the game at 2-2.
Chicago then took the lead. Nikita Zaitsev got the puck at the point on a cycle play. There were a lot of players standing around for both teams, especially in the slot area. So Zaitsev fired the puck into the slot area, where it bonked off DeSimone’s skate and into the Flames net to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead.
Second period shots were 14-12 Flames (12-11 Blackhawks at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 11-6 Blackhawks (high-dangers were 4-2 Flames).
The Flames pressed through much of the third period, but Chicago scored the period’s first goal on a power play as the period began to wind down.
A Chicago dump-in on a power play was deflected by Zach Sanford into the slot for Blackwell, who fired a quick shot that beat Vladar to make it a 4-2 Chicago lead.
But 42 seconds after that, the Flames responded back. On a nice little battling and cycling sequence, Kadri got the puck deep in the Chicago zone to Mrazek’s left and opted to shoot, seemingly surprising Mrazek, who didn’t fully have the post sealed off. It went in, cutting Chicago’s lead to 4-3.
But that was as close as the Flames could get. Chicago held on for the 4-3 victory.
Third period shots were 10-3 Flames (3-2 Flames at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 2-2 (high-dangers were 1-0 Flames).

Why the Flames lost

Let’s get this out of the way first: yeah, the Flames are in kind of a crappy part of their schedule. Since Dec. 31, this was their fifth game in five cities over eight days. Every team has to go through a bizarre stretch of games and travel, and this is arguably the Flames’ worst stretch. Teams that make the playoffs tend to overcome the travel headaches. When you consider the quality of their opposition, this was a winnable game. (Heck, the Flames opened as a betting favourite on Betway even as a road team on a back-to-back.)
In games like this, when a team’s gas tank is getting low, they have to rely on their structure and systems. The Flames didn’t do a very good job of that, as things tended to get a bit scrambly and players weren’t able to move and execute – and the Flames’ system is predicated on movement, pace and execution. A similar second-half fade occurred against the Flyers. You can mention the schedule all you want, but the simple fact is the Flames just weren’t good enough to beat a really depleted Chicago team.
A year ago, games like this were the reason the Flames missed the playoffs. History has a way of repeating itself.
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Red Warrior

Let’s give it to Vladar, who was really sharp throughout this game and was victimized a bit by some iffy defensive play at key times.
And quietly, Huberdeau (two assists) and Kadri (two goals) had pretty effective afternoons.

Turning point

The Flames had a 2-1 lead in the early second period, then allowed two goals in a 2:40 span and just could not rally back.

This and that

AHL call-up Yan Kuznetsov was scratched for the second consecutive game. He was called up before the Philadelphia game due to Dennis Gilbert being unavailable due to injury.

Up next

The Flames (17-18-5) are headed home. They host the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

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