ALN_33_Boxscore

The Calgary Flames played host to the conference leading Nashville Predators last night. Unable to solve Pekka Rinne (or the iron which they hit four times), the Nashville goaltender earned the team’s second consecutive shutout, winning the game 2-0. The Flames played a strong game yet again, but their inability to capitalize on several powerplay opportunities including an extended 1:48 5on3 ultimately torched their hopes of winning. That two man advantage was a result of Austin Watson catching Garnet Hathaway with a late hit to the shoulder/head area. He was given a five minute major and a game misconduct. Troy Brouwer came to Hathaway’s defense and dropped the gloves with Watson, but was given an instigator minor as well. The Predators scored on the ensuing 4on4. The Flames are now 11th in the West and have to jump three teams to get back into a wild card spot. Points have been hard to come by lately, and the Flames are quickly falling behind in a very tight conference.

Statistical Breakdown

Team Stats

All Situations 5v5 SVA 5v5
CF 58.4% 52.0% 47.7%
SCF 59.7% 53.1% 47.9%
HDCF 63.0% 57.1% 51.6%

5v5 Player Stats

Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Player of the Game

It’s tough to give kudos to anyone last night solely because they were so dreadful on the powerplay and just couldn’t hit the net at 5on5. Brett KuBrett Kulaklak made an incredible defensive play to break up a Predators 2on1 opportunity and it’s this superb play that earns him POTG honours. He’s really come into his own the past few weeks, solidifying himself on the Flames’ defense corps. He’s been a rare bright spot lately and it’s nice to see a home grown talent rise the way he has.

Thoughts on the Game

 

Karim: The Flames are a frustrating team. They may have played a strong game at 5on5 and may have had the majority of the scoring chances, but at the end of the day if they can’t score, what’s the point? The prevailing opinion lately (myself included) has been that the Flames will be just fine because they’ve been able to generate high quality chances and control play against almost any opponent. Sure the pucks weren’t going in and the powerplay wasn’t great, but they’ll figure it out!

Well, they’re losing ground quickly in the Western Conference and nowadays waiting for a team to “figure it out” isn’t an option. Let’s not beat around the bush and say that they’re losing games because they can’t score on the powerplay. That simply isn’t true. Mike Smith, who was easily the team’s best player early on, has been pretty awful lately. He let in two extremely soft goals to San Jose on Thursday, and wasn’t overly sharp in last night’s contest either. He’s been shaky the past couple weeks and he needs to be better. If it was Brian Elliott in net, fans would be losing their minds right now. Smith is lucky that he was so good in October because it’s giving him the benefit of the doubt here, something Elliott never had.

The Flames can’t just not score on the powerplay, they also can’t score at even strength. They may have a .990 PDO at this point in the season, but they need to learn how to puck in the net and they need to do it fast. There is no room for error this season. The absence of a first round pick means that missing the playoffs isn’t an option, and my belief that this team can earn a postseason berth dwindles every time they don’t pick up points in games they should have.

Moving Forward

What needs to be fixed? The Powerplay.

Again, not much more to say about this. Take Brouwer off the first unit and replace him with Dougie Hamilton, give Tkachuk more powerplay time in general, and stop being so predictable. Seriously, how can it still be this bad?

What needs to continue? The Penalty Kill. 

According to Kelly Hrudey on HNIC last night, the Flames’ penalty kill is actually tops in the league in the last few weeks. An area that was under scrutiny for a large portion of the year has resolved itself into a strength for this team. If they aren’t scoring with the man advantage, at least they aren’t letting too many in when shorthanded.

Next Game

ALN_33_NextGame

The Flames are back at it again tonight as the host the Vancouver Canucks. This is another proverbial four point game and the Flames desperately need to walk away with a regulation win. David Rittich will start.

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