Picture this. After the COVID-19 pandemic is over, you’re at a movie theatre with a freshly-bought ticket to go see the new Top Gun reboot or something.
Unsurprisingly, you want a snack of some kind to tide you over while you stare at your phone during the
endless, soul-crushing advertisement parade pre-show. The lines at the actual concessions are way too long and the movie starts in 10 minutes. You’re not in a position to wait.
You look around. There are three vending machines lining the wall outside the IMAX theatre entrance. (Is IMAX still a thing? Movie-going feels like such a long-forgotten practice after the last year). You saunter over to the candy machine and take out the toonie that’s been stowing away in your jeans for three weeks.
Obviously, you want that last bag of peanut M&Ms limply hanging forward from one of the machine’s spring-shaped dispensing mechanisms. You insert your toonie into the proper slot, notice the marked $6.50 price, grumble a bit, and take out a $5 from your wallet. There goes half your last bottle depot haul.
Still, things are going well. There’s one bag left of the candy you want, and all you need to do is enter the right number into the machine’s keypad. You even put seven whole bucks into the machine when the candy only cost $6.50! Hmm, looks like the peanut M&Ms are in slot B6.
On Sunday, the Calgary Flames went to the movie theatre. They found the candy they wanted in the vending machine and spotted a $10 bill poking out from underneath the vending machine. They were in a perfect position to get those peanut M&Ms and enjoy a good night of fun entertainment.
Then, after inserting the money, they made two quick mistakes. Instead of pressing the “B” and “6” buttons, they somehow found buttons marked “ß” and “&” and ended up dispensing a roll of petrified Necco Wafers from 1958. Those two errors sabotaged a good start and resulted in things quickly turning against them. Aren’t fresh Necco Wafers bad enough?
The Flames genuinely began Sunday’s contest against the Ottawa Senators by playing some pretty good hockey. They pushed all the right buttons to start, quickly drawing two penalties and firing a lot of shots towards Sens goalie Matt Murray.
The home side generated 71.16% of the expected goals at 5v5 in the first period. They really needed a goal to reinforce their good play and give their goaltender a cushion.
Instead, they made a couple of gaffes in quick succession and went down 2-0 by the first intermission.
The Flames got rattled. Even after they scored early in the middle frame to make it 2-1, they continued to swim against the pace of play and quickly conceded another goal. The Flames had a four-minute power play opportunity in the second period and it took them until nearly three minutes had rolled off the penalty before they recorded a shot on net.
After playing some confident hockey in the first period, the Flames controlled only 27.13% of the expected goals in period two and surrendered four high-danger chances. They emerged from the middle 20 still down by two goals.
Jacob Markstrom looked uneasy at times in Sunday’s game. The 30-year-old goaltender made his second consecutive start in a back-to-back situation after missing six games to injury, and he made multiple mistakes while leaving his crease to play the puck.
The Flames battled back into the game admirably in the third period, generating 25 shot attempts at 5v5 compared to just four for Ottawa (and receiving three more power plays). Shortly after Noah Hanifin tied the game with just 7:43 to play in regulation, Markstrom almost gave the lead right back to Ottawa.
Suffice to say, the veteran puck-stopper owes rookie defenseman Juuso Valimaki a round of post-pandemic drinks. Or, perhaps, a bag of peanut M&Ms.
Johnny Gaudreau scored his team-leading 11th goal to cut Ottawa’s lead down to 3-2 early in the third period. The power play marker came on a rebound of an Andrew Mangiapane shot; Gaudreau picked up the puck in the dirty area in front of Murray and fired it home. Gaudreau ranked second among all Flames on Sunday with an on-ice expected goals rate of 89.32% at 5v5.
This game went to overtime, which was largely uneventful, before ending in a shootout. Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Andrew Mangiapane shot for Calgary; Tkachuk scored, while the other three (even the usually automatic Monahan) could not. Josh Norris and Artem Anisimov missed for Ottawa but Tim Stützle and Drake Batherson scored to seal the win.
Flames assistant coach Ryan Huska remained in command of the team’s bench for the second consecutive game. Assuming all goes smoothly with COVID protocols, Darryl Sutter will be in charge of Tuesday’s practice and at the helm for Thursday’s clash with the Montreal Canadiens.
The Three Gould Stars
It’s a play on my last name, see.
These “Gould Stars” will be used to recognize players who were noticeable—for reasons both good and bad—in the game being discussed. This is not a list of the three best players.
- Gould Star One: The Flames dressed Zac Rinaldo for the second time this season on Sunday. He played just 2:13 and got into a fight with the Senators’ Austin Watson. Yeah, sure, grit and all that, but perhaps the Flames should look into dressing more forwards who can create plays in the offensive zone on a consistent basis.
- Gould Star Two: Derek Ryan was elevated to the Flames’ top-six in this game, skating on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. The Flames made this change as a result of scratching Josh Leivo for no apparent reason, but Ryan still fared very well with his new unit. Ryan finished Sunday’s game with a 90.2% on-ice expected goals rate at 5v5.
- Gould Star Three: Nikita Nesterov picked up his first point as a Flame on Sunday, recording a secondary assist on Mark Giordano’s second-period goal. Nesterov played 12:03 for Calgary at even strength and performed reasonably well, putting up a 75.5% on-ice expected goals rate. Still, it would be nice to see Oliver Kylington given a bit more rope on that bottom pair.
By the time the Flames play their next game, Darryl Sutter will be in town and ready to take over head coaching duties. They’re set to do battle with the 11-6-6 Montreal Canadiens on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. MT.
The game will take place at the Scotiabank Saddledome and will be broadcast on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.