The details sank the Calgary Flames against Vegas, and may have sunk their season
Photo credit:Brett Holmes-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike2 months ago
For the bulk of the past seven seasons, the Calgary Flames have been one of the top puck possession teams in the National Hockey League. When you have the puck a lot, though, the challenge is doing the right things with it. The devil, as they say, is in the details.
The frustrating thing for the 2022-23 edition of the Flames – for their players, management, fans and other onlookers – is that they’ve been a puck possession monster that unfortunately lacks the details to translate possession into dangerous possession. Thursday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights was a prime example of what’s ailed them all season.
Just look at the three goals the Flames allowed against Vegas.
On the first goal, the Flames were pressing but lost possession of the puck with a lot of players caught in the zone. Vegas made a couple quick passes – Alex Pietrangelo to Jack Eichel off the possession change, and Eichel to Jonathan Marchessault – while the alert Vegas forwards notice the possession change and start heading up ice. Nikita Zadorov is caught flat-footed momentarily and is chasing the play, and MacKenzie Weegar is in the unenviable position of defending a two-on-one rush.
Vegas executed very well on the sequence, first defending well enough to induce the Flames to turn the puck over in their zone, then moving the puck up ice. The Flames had the puck, for awhile, but just couldn’t do enough with it before they turned it over.
On the second goal, the Flames were in the midst of a change after losing puck possession. Shea Theodore notices oodles and oodles of ice open in the neutral zone and throws a pass up to Mike Amadio. Weegar jumps on to try to disrupt the breakaway while Dennis Gilbert chases Amadio up ice, but Amadio gets his own rebound.
Flat out, a bad line change that led directly to a goal.
The third Vegas goal, the eventual game-winner, was a play that Rasmus Andersson didn’t love. Andersson has the puck and is being chased by Nicolas Roy. Andersson spins and is about to attempt a pass up the wall to Nazem Kadri, who’s circling down from the blueline waiting to break out. Roy grabs Andersson’s arm, so Andersson can’t get any oomph on the pass attempt. It’s intercepted by Chandler Stephenson and a few quick passes – Stephenson to Kessel, Kessel to Roy – end up with Roy scoring on Markstrom in close.
Should Roy have been called for holding for grabbing Andersson’s arm? I’ve seen that called, but I’ve also seen it not called. Andersson noted to the media post-game that he thought it was a penalty, but he also noted that the play happened fast and declined to really criticize the officiating. It’s also worth noting that by the time Vegas intercepts the puck, Kadri is in the neutral zone already and that leaves Noah Hanifin and Andersson back to defend an immediate three-on-two sequence that ended in a goal.
The Flames didn’t lose to Vegas all that once. They had chances to win the hockey game, or at least draw closer, but they ended up losing the game by a thousand tiny cuts – and that’s probably quite the apt metaphor for their entire season. Their loss to the Golden Knights was their 42nd one-goal game this season, and their 27th loss in that scenario.
The Flames pulled Jacob Markstrom for the extra attacker with 2:15 left in regulation and the team trailing 3-2. Playing six-on-five, they leaned heavily on six skaters: Tyler Toffoli (2:01), Andrew Mangiapane (1:45), Kadri (1:31), Elias Lindholm (1:31), Weegar (1:23) and Zadorov (1:10) all played north of a minute. Blueliners Andersson (0:52) and Hanifin (0:43) also got into the mix. Touching the ice briefly were Mikael Backlund (0:33), Walker Duehr (0:33), Trevor Lewis (0:29), Jonathan Huberdeau (0:14) and Dillon Dube (0:13). Not playing at all were Blake Coleman, Nick Ritchie, Gilbert and Troy Stecher.
With the extra attacker, the Flames generated two shots (Mangiapane, Weegar), five shots that were blocked (Lucic, Weegar twice, Kadri twice) and two shots that missed the Vegas net (Mangiapane, Toffoli). Given the circumstances, facing a Vegas goaltender in Jonathan Quick who had hastily been pressed into service in relief of injured starter Logan Thompson late in the game, it’s hard not to look at the lack of a tying goal as a massive missed opportunity.
When the eulogy is written for the 2022-23 Flames season, attention will be paid to the several ways the Flames were founding lacking in these types of games. These types of games, collectively, are the primary reason they’re chasing the playoff teams with nine games remaining in their regular season calendar.
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