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Flames had their looks, but lacked execution against New Jersey

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Photo credit:Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
It’s often said that a team’s play turns around before their luck does on a losing streak. The Calgary Flames looked pretty good on Monday night against the New York Islanders but blew a third period lead, and they looked pretty good on Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils.
But the Flames are playing a style right now where looking pretty good just isn’t quite enough, and the Devils’ top offensive players executed better than theirs did in a 3-2 loss.
“We had a lot of chances,” said head coach Darryl Sutter following the game. “Really, right through our lineup. I think the two kids that went in gave us a good bump. We had a lot of good chances. They scored the goal to win it.”
Adam Ruzicka was used on the wing in training camp in a pre-season game and looked uncomfortable in the role. Forced into service due to an injury to Jonathan Huberdeau, Ruzicka stepped into Huberdeau’s spot on the wing alongside Tyler Toffoli and Elias Lindholm. He played 15:43 (11:46 at five-on-five) and had strong possession metrics – 81% expected goals for, 73% scoring chances for, 75% high-danger chances for – and an assist on Toffoli’s power play goal.
Dennis Gilbert came into the lineup on the third pair, swapping with Connor Mackey. Gilbert played 11:28 (11:16 at five-on-five), won a fight against Nathan Bastian, and had mixed metrics – 56% expected goals for, 43% scoring chances for and 67% high-danger chances for – something that tends to happen to guys that play low-event hockey. He gave the Flames quiet minutes, more or less what they needed from him.
The Flames, as a group, were solid. Missing four regulars – Huberdeau, Michael Stone, Chris Tanev and Oliver Kylington – and playing a really good Devils club in the second half of a back-to-back, they were competitive in five-on-five scoring chances (New Jersey led 19-17) and had a slim high-danger chance advantage (7-6 Calgary). Five-on-five expected goals were 2.31 Flames to 1.38 Devils. New Jersey out-scored them 2-0 in that situation.
That’s how she goes sometimes, especially during a losing skid. The Flames had a one goal lead in the first period. They had the game tied in the second period. They just couldn’t find a way to translate zone time and some good chances into the one goal they needed to turn the tide in New Jersey, while the other team found a way.
Sutter praised his team’s performance, characterizing it as “hard-fought.”
“It’s not about the effort,” said Sutter. “I don’t question the effort. It’s about the execution, and go from there.”
The Flames conclude their road trip on Thursday night against the Boston Bruins.

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