Carolina Hurricanes vs CGY
Coming off a four day break, the Calgary Flames were not ready for this one. The Carolina Hurricanes were better in almost every aspect of the game, out shooting the Flames 33-26 and winning the game by a final score of 2-1. Jeff Skinner gave the Flames a serious scare when his shot off an offensive zone faceoff was blocked by Kris Versteeg, resulting in the Flames forward falling to the ice in pain, unable to get up. Because of a questionable rule, the play was allowed to continue. Versteeg remained down for 11 seconds, after which Skinner wired a one timer straight into his head. Versteeg was helped off the ice and miraculously made a return later in the game. Skinner made things worse as he got the Canes on the board shortly after with a huge slapshot that beat Mike Smith far side. The Flames’ addiction to taking minor penalties was on full display once again as they made six trips to the sin bin, Justin Williams cashing in on one of them in the third which made the it a 2-0 game and essentially sealed the deal. Sean Monahan would spoil Scott Darling‘s shutout bid late in the period but it was too little too late for a Flames team that really didn’t deserve this one at all.
Flames Player of the Game
Once again, Mike Smith was clearly the best player for the Flames in this one. If it weren’t for him, this game would have been over before it started. He’s continually proven that he can anchor the net and give the Flames a chance to win every single night if only he had some help up front every now and again.
Bill: Remember that dreaded bye-week last season when the Flames returned to a beating from Arizona? Last night had a similar feel, albeit the Hurricanes are arguably a much better team than Arizona was. With the except of the 3M line, none of the other forward lines entered the third period with a positive CF%. However, whatever Gulutzan did to inspire his first line during the second intermission must have worked, as Johnny Gaudreau, Jaromir Jagr, and Monahan spent most of the third period with the puck at 5v5 and finished the game with good possession metrics. The downside to this is that playing while trailing will obviously lead to a push, but it was good to see that they got moving and pushed when there was pressure. For what it’s worth, the top six forwards and top four defensemen all ended the game with a positive or even CF% at 5v5. The players that carry the team did exactly that. Mikael Backlund, tasked with hard minutes, had the worst 5v5 CF% of the group, breaking even with 11 shots attempts for and against. Unfortunately, with the relatively good performance from the first two lines, came an implosion of shot attempts against from the bottom two. Among them, Matt Stajan was the best forward in terms of CF%, with 30.8%. That’s nearly a 20% dropoff from Backlund. A gap that large effectively negates home advantage if Bill Peters could match his top lines against the Flames bottom six. Also, the third defensive pairing was horrific in their play, Matt Bartkowski and Michael Stone had 5v5 CF% of 10.5% and 6.3% respectively. When player ends a game with numbers that low, they better be volunteering to be healthy scratches next game so that they can think about how they actually let their entire team down. Notice how this entire time I only pulled 5v5 stats? That’s the optimist in me trying to see how the Flames fare in an even game. They’re still taking too many penalties and it’s a big cause for concern. However, the whistles last night did seem to blow in favour of the Hurricanes, as Carolina seemed to get away with a few calls: holding the stick at the end of the second and a goaltender interference that led to Williams’ game winning goal. However, it doesn’t excuse the Flames from their sloppiness. They have to clean up the game and play as if they’ll never be given the benefit of the doubt. We’re preaching to the choir here but they need to get disciplined and they have to do so sooner rather than later.
John: After last nights loss the Flames have some serious questions to face moving forward. People wonder when Eddie Lack may get a start, but speaking frankly, with the Flames current defensive breakdown, Smith is our only savior. Besides the top line and top defensive pairing, everyone on the team boasted a ZS% of less than 50% (both 5v5 and all situations). That is to be expected of the top line, but to see some players, such as Sam Bennett and Michael Ferland, sport percentages less than 17% – you can easily come to the conclusion that the Flames are spending too much time in their own zone. You don’t even need to watch the game to understand that. With this increase in zone time, opposing teams have been hammering Mike Smith and the defensive corps have given up an insane amount of shots against. This cannot be sustained. Before the season everyone was boasting that this was the best top five out of any team, but so far this can’t be true from a defensive perspective. Further to Bill’s point, Stone and Bartowski, once again, produced dangerously low. They also both stood like totem polls while Jeff Skinner was given time and space to score the opening goal. Glen Gulutzan may have changed the lines a couple of times, but he has iced nearly the same group of players through seven games. It is time for some new blood in the lineup. Mark Jankowski and Brett Kulak have waited and they should be given their shot.
Karim: The Flames are lucky to have four wins on the season. They’ve relied much too heavily on Smith and have taken far too many minor penalties to win in this league. This game was frustrating to watch, with Calgary failing to generate any sustained offense for basically the whole game. That being said, you can’t expect to fair very well when you take six minors and spend so much time in your own zone killing penalties. If the Flames intend on putting together a winning season, they need to clean up their discipline and they need to do it fast. Another serious issue for the Flames right now is Bennett. He has looked absolutely abysmal and I’m tired of this forced experiment of playing him at center. It isn’t working and it’s time to bump him to the wing. Jankowski deserves a chance to play in the NHL and he cannot be a downgrade on Bennett with how terrible Bennett has been through the first seven games. Thank the hockey gods for Smith, who has stood on his head game in and game out. Enough negatives, though, let’s look at some positives too. Jagr made his debut on the top line alongside Monahan and Gaudreau and boy did he look good. Jagr seems to be returning to his former self at an exponential rate. He generated a lot of great chances for his linemates and had several scoring chances of his own. It looks like he’ll be there for a while. Have faith, Flames fans, they’ll be okay.
Saturday: Minnesota Wild @ CGY