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About Last Night #51: Lightning strikes twice, Flames find another spectacular way to lose

After suffering one of their most devastating losses of the season against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday, the Calgary Flames faced a tough rebound game as the Tampa Bay Lightning rolled into town. Facing the best team in the league is never an easy task, but on the heels of a five game losing streak it becomes even tougher.

In what was one of the more exciting contests of the season, the Flames and Lightning traded all sorts of opportunities during the first two periods. The offensive chances were at the forefront, but the physicality did not go unnoticed. Calgary was able to build a two goal lead after Matt Stajan scored his second of the season, but a Tampa marker 20 seconds later moved the Lightning to within one. Once the dust settled, the Flames held the lead heading into the third period.

Stop if you’ve heard that one before.

The final 20 minutes can only be described as an unraveling of epic proportions.

The tying marker would come only twelve seconds into the third period, followed by three more to earn Tampa the 7-4 victory, and handing the Flames their sixth straight loss. Tampa scored five unanswered goals after Stajan’s marker, which ended up chasing Mike Smith in what was probably his worst outing of the season.

The Flames are in a devastating funk. With their next two games against the Chicago Blackhawks in a home-and-home series, Calgary will face an opponent that is also chasing a playoff spot. They need to snap out of whatever they are going through, and they need to do it fast.

Statistical Breakdown

Team Stats

All Situations 5v5 SVA 5v5
CF 55.3% 56.5% 55.0%
SCF 56.9% 58.8% 55.8%
HDCF 54.8% 52.2% 49.5%

5v5 Player Stats

  • Stajan, Curtis Lazar, and Garnet Hathaway paced the team in CF% with 70.0%, 68.4%, and 65.0% respectively.
  • The third pairing of Brett Kulak and Micheal Stone were chasing the majority of the game. They sported CF%’s of 48.2% and 46.4%, while combining for a -9 relative Corsi differential.
  • Sam Bennett was the worst Flames forward in terms of possession with a 46.2% CF.
  • Tampa Bay only had four payers with a +50% CF%, with the highest being Cory Conacher at 57.9%
  • Victor Hedman posted the worst CF% on the team with 36.5%.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Player of the Game

The entire fourth line of Stajan, Lazar, and Hathaway are sharing this honor. In a night of lows, they were by far the bright spot. Generating tons of offensive zone time in limited zone starts, the fourth line dominated their opponents and were able to contribute a goal as well. Hopefully not an aberration, the Flames need more strong collective performances from their bottom six.

Thoughts on the Game

John: Smith had his worst outing of the season by far, no question about it. On a night that celebrated his January play, we expected more from the team’s MVP naturally. If you are here for a Smith lashing, then you should go somewhere else. He has saved this teams season countless times that any flack he receives is completely unwarranted. After allowing the fifth goal, he looked directly to the bench. He knew it wasn’t his night. It’s frankly upsetting to see the amount of ire being directed towards him from the fan base. If there is one player on this team that will bounce-back the most, it would be #41.

Glen Gulutzan didn’t coach a strong game and Kent Wilson used a single tweet to summarize the main issues I had with his performance behind the bench:

The Flames hadn’t suffered a regulation loss when leading after two period during Gulutzan’s tenure, until the past two games. Both games could have been slightly changed had Gultuzan refocused his team. Against Vegas, he should have called a timeout after the tying goal. Against Tampa, he should have called a timeout after the fifth goal, or even sooner. The Flames looked to be in control, and like a light switch they started to collapse. Tactics like this could have benefited the team during the short term, but looming issues still remain.

It seems to be short stretches of play during games that sink the team. They can play amazing for 45, 50, 55, or even 58 minutes and yet all it takes is for a quick mental blank to doom their chances. These small gaps in judgement seem to be the turning points in the past six games, and need to be quickly forgotten if they want to alter their course. The Flames need a solid 60, or more, minutes of hockey strung together in a row to get back to their January play.

Moving Forward

What needs to continue? Getting the lead. 

The Flames have been able to score the first goal in the past six games, something they have always struggled with. Unfortunately…

What needs to be fixed? Holding the lead.

Since a PP goal was scored, it gets a temporary removal from this category. After losing leads in the previous five games, the Flames couldn’t buck the trend this time around. In fact, they were even able to get their first two goal lead since the five day break yet still succumbed to the Lightning. Full credit to Tampa Bay, as they are a fantastic team, but the Flames seem to be too comfortable with the lead. Calgary immediately takes their foot off the pedal and have suffered dearly for it. They may not have given up after allowing the seventh goal, but the damage was already done. Getting the lead seems to be easy for the team now, it’s just keeping it that was that’s the problem.

Next Game

The Flames will face Chicago twice in three days. The Blackhawks sit three points behind Calgary in the Western Conference, also fighting for their playoff lives. Calgary could either distance themselves even further from Chicago, or find themselves behind them after the two game series. The Flames catch a bit of a break as Corey Crawford is still on the injured reserve, so look to Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass to potentially split the starts.

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