The Calgary Flames returned home after a successful six game road trip to play host to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. The Flames have struggled on home ice this season, which makes it even more difficult after a longer road trip. What made matter even more trying was that the game was against a Florida team desperately fighting for their playoff lives.
With both Pacific Division teams already winning earlier in the day, Calgary desperately needed a win to keep pace. Unfortunately, the Flames put forth another dismal home ice performance, dropping this contest 6-3.
The goals came early and often, with the Panthers scoring over a minute into the game and eventually chasing starting goaltender David Rittich. Jon Gillies came in to replace Rittich, who allowed four goals on fifteen shots, midway through the second period. Gillies fared slightly better, but still allowed an additional two goals in his first appearance since his recall.
Both teams combined for 11 minor penalties and 52 PIM overall, in a spirited affair. Special teams was the theme of the evening, with both teams scoring a pair of PP goals and allowing plenty of opportunity for more. Unfortunately, the Panthers won the eventual battle, as they went 5/7 on the PK, stymieing the Flames in the third period.
If there was a a silver lining last night, it would undoubtedly be in the form of Dougie Hamilton. In his 400th NHL game, Hamilton scored his first career hat trick, two of which came on the power play. He now seems to be a fixture on the first PP unit and deservedly so.
With the loss, the Flames drop out of a playoff spot yet again. They also now sit at 13-14-3 on home ice this season with eleven games remaining at the Saddledome.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Johnny Gaudreau and Micheal Ferland both posted CF%’s of 68.2%, the highest among Flames skaters.
- The 3M had one of their worst outings of the season, all posting CF%’s below 44.0%.
- Ryan Lomberg, limited to only 6:03 of 5v5 ice time, had a game worst 25.0% CF%.
- In addition to his hat trick, Hamilton posted the third highest CF% on the team at 61.9%
- Derek MacKenzie was the best player in the game, in terms of CF%, with a strong 72.7%
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Player of the Game
There is really no debate here, as Hamilton easily takes home the player of the game honors. With his hat trick of goals, in addition to 21:39 in ice time, Hamilton was the sole reason the Flames were even in the conversation last night. Gulutzan is finally utilizing Hamilton in key roles across the ice and he has earned the success over the past few games. In a lopsided affair, how amazing was it to hear “Dougie” chants plastered across the Saddledome last night late in the third? He has come a long way since being the scapegoat early in his Flames tenure, and he showed how valuable he can be moving forward.
Thoughts on the Game
Last night was an extremely poor effort by the Flames. Many look to the notion that the Flames had some sort of “road trip hangover”, but in reality the effort was just not there. The opening goal by the Panthers completely deflated the slight momentum the Flames may have had, and they simply never got it back.
They looked listless, lazy, and simply uninterested during the course of the game. Coming off of what was easily their best outings of the season against the Predators, the Flames fell flat on their face. The two PPG scored by the Panthers came off of penalties that could have easily been avoided. Calgary was just a step behind of Florida the entire night across all areas of the ice. With both teams fighting for playoff spots, it was clear who had more of the fight in them.
You can’t really fault Rittich for his play last night, but you also can in a sense. I believe that Rittich perfectly exemplifies everything right and wrong about the Flames goaltending over the past few seasons. He can easily make some of the most outstanding saves you have witnessed, but at the same time can allow far too many pancakes. Lets take the second goal for example. Moments before allowing a soft shot to go by him, Rittich made a ridiculous goal line glove save which easily could have been the highlight of the night. Not many will remember such an individual effort after he was pulled a few goals later. The same relationship was seen in the Nashville game, with the disastrous giveaway and then closing miracle saves. Not many will remember the costly giveaway when all is said and done due to the team winning and the game clinching save.
Consistency will be the key for Rittich moving forward. I expect him to start Monday afternoon, but he needs to adjust his game fully to the NHL level so these fluctuations in play are not a constant.
Lomberg was also an interesting case, and has been for a few games now. No one can fault him on his drive and passion, but sometimes the game has to come first. I am sure he will be an extremely serviceable NHLer someday, but right now he seems to be costing the team a bit more than he should be. He was stapled to the bench last night after dropping the mits, and had Gaudreau covering his shifts. You could easily view that as an upgrade, but at the same time is there not another player who could fill that role and earn his playing time? I have nothing against Lomberg, as he is extremely fun to watch, but during this time of the season I think the role should be filled more appropriately.
What needs to be fixed? Home Ice Play.
The Flames sit well below .500 on home ice, with a 13-14-3 record at the Saddledome. That is the 8th worst home ice record in the league, with many of the teams around the Flames sitting near the bottom of their respective conferences. Playing at home was never an issue for this team in the past, but it has to be concerning they can’t get the job done in front of their fans. With 11 games remaining this season on home ice, the Flames drastically need to get back on track in Calgary or else this will be the stat most scrutinized in the off season.
What also needs to be fixed? Giveaways.
Not many positives from last night, so we focus on another area that needs improvement. The Flames gave away the puck 14 times last night, to Florida’s five. None of these turnovers directly led to goals, but some did change the flow of the sequence eventually leading to sustained zone time for the Panthers. Calgary’s passing looked sloppy and this is an area that desperately needs to be fixed. Florida didn’t directly capitalize on some of these plays, but other teams will for sure.
The Flames are back in action on Monday, in a rare afternoon affair in Calgary. They play host to the visiting Boston Bruins, who they most recently lost to on Tuesday night. The Bruins are coming off a confusing loss to the Vancouver Canucks and will be highly motivated to bounce back. Both teams will be hungry for a better performance after rough Saturday nights.