The Calgary Flames have lost three games in a row, their worst stretch of on-ice results since a four gaming losing streak in early January. But when you look at their last three games as a whole, they haven’t had their shows run by Colorado, Los Angeles or St. Louis.
Looking at the goals the Flames allowed, you can see one thing: the details of their game are slightly lacking, and in those instances the puck has often ended up in their net.
Colorado Avalanche 2, Calgary Flames 1 (Mar. 29)
This game was incredibly close at even strength. The Flames had an edge in high-danger chances (7-4) but Colorado had a slight scoring chance advantage (19-17). The difference in this game was a pair of Avalanche power play goals by Valeri Nichushkin.
On the first goal, the Flames almost got the entire penalty killer off. But Cale Makar got a shot on net that was tipped by Nichushkin on the door step. Chris Tanev comes off the slot area to challenge Makar’s shot (and nobody ends up taking Nichushkin, who sneaks into the slot area after Tanev has already crept out). It was a good read by Colorado’s players, but ideally somebody in red would be tangling with Nichushkin rather than giving him the tip.
The second power play goal was a bit of a nice execution by Colorado combined with a bit of scrambly PK play. Markstrom made the initial save off the zone entry, with the puck going into the corner and everybody in red following along with it. The puck went to the point to Mikko Rantanen, and his pass somehow found a path through Erik Gudbranson (and Chris Tanev) to Nichushkin for the redirect. The pass was pretty quick so perhaps the Flames defenders didn’t have time to prepare for it, but it’s something you would hope they would block.
Los Angeles Kings 3, Calgary Flames 2 [shootout] (Mar. 31)
The Kings game was the opposite of the Colorado game: the Flames had a scoring chance edge (30-22) but Los Angeles had more high-danger opportunities (13-8). Again, the details led to the Flames’ demise.
On the first goal, Johnny Gaudreau’s attempted dump-in before a line change was disrupted by Anze Kopitar. A couple passes later and Adrian Kempe sent in Alex Iafallo all alone (Rasmus Andersson was left alone to defend a de facto three-on-one rush) and Iafallo beat Markstrom. A better dump-in or a bit more attention to detail prior to the line change could’ve helped here.
The second Kings goal was a bit of nice execution by the Kings. Phillip Danault is left alone behind the net (Noah Hanifin opted to guard the front of the net, which is usually a good choice). Mikael Backlund doesn’t pick up on Viktor Arvidsson for a beat, and that momentary lapse is enough for Danault’s pass to just get past Backlund’s extended poke-check. Even if the Flames played this better, this is still a nice bit of execution.
St. Louis Blues 6, Calgary Flames 4 (Apr. 2)
The Flames had an edge in scoring chances (30-21) and high-danger chances (17-8) but the Blues managed to get the win off a few Flames lapses.
On the opening goal, the puck was bouncing around the corner and side boards for a bit, with the Flames unable to corral it. Justin Faulk’s point shot is tipped, as Robert Thomas whizzes in front of Noah Hanifin and gets the stick on it. (Hanifin really didn’t even have a chance to tie up Thomas, that’s how quickly he got into the spot.)
This was similar to Nichushkin’s first power play goal a couple games prior: the Flames killed off most of the penalty, but the Blues cashed in late. Brayden Schenn got a nice pass off from the corner, with Ryan O’Reilly finding a gap in Flames coverage, receiving the pass and getting a quick shot off on Markstrom. (This was some nice quick passing by St. Louis.)
On the second goal, the Blues won a face-off and just made a series of nice plays. They had a few chances to score and the Flames just couldn’t recover the puck (or clear it) after each chance, culminating with Faulk scoring. (David Perron’s pass got past Hanifin and Elias Lindholm, but everybody was in motion throughout the sequence and it was tough to track passes to intercept them.)
This one is probably the one they want back most, with the defensive coverage seeming like a classic “this guy scored” gaffe. Thomas entered the zone on the boards and got all the way below the circles. Everybody in red follows along, with Nathan Walker receiving a pass in the slot with nobody really around him. (Whoops.) Nikita Zadorov and Gudbranson attempt sliding blocks, but just after Walker gets his shot off that beats Markstrom.
The Blues also got two empty net goals that we’re not going to focus on.
Sum it up
As stated earlier: the Flames did not get their show run by any of the three teams they’ve lost to over the past few games. However, they made key mistakes at key times and the specific mistakes made life tougher for themselves (and the goaltender) than is ideal. A team that’s typically been stingy defensively because they’ve been so strong on the details has seen these gaffes result in goals against and a trio of losses.
With a four game Pacific road swing starting Monday in Los Angeles, the Flames have an immediate chance to get their house in order. Hopefully they can get back to what made them successful: beating teams with pace, structure, and executing the details of their system well.
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