Tuesday: Vancouver Canucks @ CGY
A strong opening forty minutes was not enough to sink the Vancouver Canucks last night, as the Calgary Flames fell 5-3 to their Pacific Division rivals. It was a tough loss for the Flames who dominated possession and scoring chances the whole night. Jacob Markstrom was the difference in the game stopping 29 of 32 shots, the majority of them coming at key times during the contest. The Flames were subject to an overturned Sean Monahan goal early on after a coach’s challenge for offside. Unfortunately, each mistake the Flames made seemed to end up costing them. They lost the special teams battle in more ways than one, surrendering two power play goals and a shorthanded goal. The Canucks were only able to muster 21 shots on net during the game which, combined with another sub-par performance from Mike Smith, was enough to earn the win. All in all, this is one of those games the Flames should have won easily, but just couldn’t do it.
Flames Player of the Game
We are going back to back with Micheal Ferland as the Player of the Game. His play has significantly turned around the last few games and he now is noticeable during every shift. His incredible solo effort leading to the third Flames goal should cement his place as the first line RW for a few more games at least. After such an underwhelming start to the season, Ferland now has five points (3G 2A) in his last five games.
Bill: Bill has been placed on the IR retroactive to November 3rd. He is out with an upper body injury suffered while looking at his exam calendar.
John: After missing what was for sure one of the most exciting Flames games of the year on Sunday, I was ecstatic to see what the team had to show me last night. Safe to say it was underwhelming. The contrast between the opening 40 minutes and final 20 was a night and day comparison. The Flames should have been up by a couple of goals heading into the 3rd period, yet were tied. Looking at some of the advanced stats from last night, Calgary only had three players below a CF% of 50%. Even so, the lowest of the trio, Curtis Lazar, was only a 45% CF at 5v5. Compared to the Canucks, where only a single player, Derrick Pouliot, was above 50%. What makes matters even worse is that Calgary had no players with a OZS% of less than 50%. Not only were the Flames dominating the possession game, but yet found themselves starting in the Canucks zone more often than not. Its a disappointing outcome, but if the Flames should be able to bounce back from this.
What can help them bounce back? Some bottom six scoring. This is the talk of the town recently, but it’s frankly embarrassing that the forwards in question have been held scoreless. Mark Jankowski gets the obvious pass because he is still adjusting to the NHL game, and is playing in a third line center role. He will be looked on to score in the future, but for the meantime any offensive production from him is simply a bonus. Jaromir Jagr gets a temporary pass because he just returned from IR and is only in the bottom six because of Micheal Ferland’s strong play. He was brought in to score goals though, so he needs to light the lamp soon. Kris Versteeg has the lone goal so far out of this group, but with prime power play time we expect there to be a at least a few more. Then there is Sam Bennett. You have to feel for him, he has had some quality chances. We may end up looking back and saying “remember when he was held goalless through 15 games, how stupid were we to doubt him?”, but for the moment its unacceptable. Curtis Lazar is almost overlooked for his poor output because of Bennett. Lazar also received a two year bridge deal this summer, and outside of the LA Game, he has been virtually invisible. If he wants to show the team he is an NHLer, he needs to pick up the slack from the other players. Tanner Glass shouldn’t be playing, or scoring goals for that matter, and Freddie Hamilton hasn’t played enough games to have any goals on his resume. That being said the final two candidates are the most egregious in my opinion. Matt Stajan and Troy Brouwer are being paid a combined $7,625,000 per year to do what they do. With prospects who are able to play the exact same role as them, it’s truly unfortunate they are still on the 23 man roster. Leadership qualities aside, this is a business, and the business is to win hockey games. So far these two haven’t done enough to help win any hockey games. Frankly, I would love for all of these forwards to rebound as I am an optimist, but so far their play has left me a tad pessimistic. Ill leave you with a post game quote from Glen Gulutzan, as he is able to summarize my thoughts the best:
#Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan, asked about the scoring chances his 3rd & 4th lines generated. *Shrugs* "They've gotta score."
— Ryan Pike (@RyanNPike) November 8, 2017
Karim: Gulutzan seems to know exactly what it will take to start winning again: bottom-six scoring. It’s a little crazy to think the Flames still have just one goal from their third and fourth lines with 15 games or ~20% of the season behind them. Last night’s game was just one of those games, and though the Canucks are extremely lucky to have walked away with a win, the Flames do need to be better. Smith looked decidedly mortal and to overcome goaltending deficiencies which, after a blazing start is inevitable, it is crucial that the Flames find scoring throughout the lineup. That being said, I do think it is only a matter of time before the third line breaks out with a massive performance. The Bennett-Jankowski-Jagr trio looked excellent; they created chances, had several extended shifts of offensive pressure, protected the puck well, displayed some speed, and really went to work when they had possession in the offensive zone. Bennett may be the most unlucky player in the NHL right now, but it just can’t last. Even Versteeg had one of his better games of the year. Last night may not have ended the way it should have, but there was definitely some improvement from the bottom-six.
After escaping with a few wins earlier in the season that the Flames probably didn’t deserve, they were bound to have a game like this one where they dominated and ended up losing. With 65% CF, 67% scoring chances, and 65% high danger chances, the Flames should have been able to light Markstrom up. Credit where credit is due, though, he stole the game just like Smith has done for the Flames on many a night. Detroit won’t be an easy out on Thursday, but if the Flames play the same way they did last night they should be able to get back into the win column.
Game data courtesy:
Thursday: Detroit Red Wings @ CGY