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About Last Night #70: Different night, same perplexing result for the Flames

The Calgary Flames returned to the Scotiabank Saddledome to take on the struggling New York Islanders Sunday evening. Fresh off a successful road trip, where the Flames earned five of a possible six points, Calgary’s recent success did not help foreshadow Sunday’s outcome. In what was simply another disappointing effort on home ice, Calgary coughed up the lead early and never turned the tide, falling 5-2.

The seeds were planted for an easy two points for the Flames. A home game against a team that had lost eight straight contests seemed to be the perfect situation for season MVP Mike Smith to return to action. Unfortunately it was his counterpart, Christopher Gibson, that stole the show. Stopping 50 of 52 shots he faced, Gibson was simply unbeatable and was the sole factor for the Islanders earning the road victory.

Smith was shaky in his first start in exactly one month, allowing four goals on 26 shots. He can’t, and shouldn’t, be blamed for the loss as a cavalcade of errors allowed the majority of the goals against. Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano netted the markers for the Flames, who also went 0/4 on the man advantage.

It was simply more of the same from the Flames last night. They dominated their opponents for the majority of game time, had countless scoring chances and shots, and endured questionable officiating yet again. If you wanted to sum up the Flames season into one game, look no further than this game.

The Flames remain on home ice for the next two games, as they welcome two Pacific Division rivals that are guaranteed to be must win games.

Player of the Game: Johnny Gaudreau

Statistical Breakdown

Team Stats

All Situations 5v5 SVA 5v5
CF 66.2% 62.9% 55.0%
SCF 64.1% 57.5% 49.3%
HDCF 62.1% 57.1% 48.5%

5v5 Player Stats

  • Micheal Stone posted a game high CF% of 73.9%, followed closely by Matthew Tkachuk at 72.2%.
  • The Flames had 16 players post +50.0% CF%’s, with 12 being above 60.0%
  • Only one player having a negative possession rating: Garnet Hathaway. Even so, his 47.4% rating was done in the least amount of 5v5 ice time.
  • The Islanders only had two players with a positive possession rating: Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd.
  • Thomas Hickey posted a putrid CF% of 16.7%, a game low.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Thoughts on the Game

Just another one of those nights. It has simply just become incomprehensible to explain how the Flames continue to lose games that they dominate. Full credit goes to Gibson, who put forth one of the most dominant backup performances I have seen in recent memory.

Lots to dissect from last night’s game, so let’s start with the positives. Great to see Smith back in the net.

Now to the negatives.

Great to see the Flames spend the opening five minutes of the game pinned in their own zone, allowing Smith to easily adjust to the speed of an NHL contest after missing a month. Of course they picked up their effort afterwards, but the damage was already done. Failed clearing attempts, being out-muscled by their opponents, and failing to neutralize rebounds were just a handful of issues the Flames faced in the opening twenty minutes. They had the effort to make a comeback, but without their collapse early in this game it easily could have gone the other way. Even Smith agreed with this observation, did I mention how great it is to have him back?

What may have been the greatest missed opportunity for the team, was the fact they went 0/4 on the PP against the league’s second worst PK. It took the Flames a whopping 1:15 to finally set up one of their PP’s, which generated no chances. In fact the greatest chance that came on the Flames PP, was a shorthanded breakaway for the Islanders. For an area that looked unstoppable a few weeks ago, the PP has simply reverted back to the mess it used to be. The Flames have only scored one PPG in the month of March. That stat will not translate into wins if we continue to see the same results as last night.

After the Ottawa game, I briefly touched upon a Kris Versteeg for Hathaway swap. This could not come any quicker, as Hathaway may have had one of his worst outings as a Flame. On the opening goal, he was easily laid out the ice which allowed his man to screen Smith. Later in the game, he decided to drop his gloves in the offensive zone. Yes this lead to a PP for the Flames, as his opponent took an additional minor, but right as he decided to engage in the fight, Dougie Hamilton had a glorious scoring opportunity. I say you let whatever beef you have go, and save it for when your team does not have possession in the offensive zone. Hathaway was on the only player below a 50% CF%, and was clearly stapled to the bench during an extremely productive third period.

Finally, as previously mentioned, the Flames seem to be unable to convert strong a strong possession game into victories. With last night’s 62.9% CF% at 5v5, the Flames posted their 5th highest CF% of the season. What is more interesting:

The Flames two highest CF% games this season came during blowout losses. In addition to last night’s game, that is a possible six points they easily should have acquired. How helpful would those be at this point in the season?

To make matters even worse, Tkachuk left during the third period in what appeared to be some sort of head injury. There has still be no update on his status, but if there is one player this team cannot afford to lose it would be Tkachuk. Here’s to hoping he is back in the lineup as soon as possible.

It is just one loss, no need to completely panic, but this was an avoidable defeat that should have gone the Flames way.

Moving Forward

What needs to be fixed? Shooting Properly.

The Flames had 52 SOG last night. Good effort right? What if you knew they had 94 shot attempts? Does your optimism shrink? What if you knew the Flames now have 1025 missed shots on the season? The team continues to lead the league in missed shots, and by a sizable margin. The Flames need to be getting more pucks on net, plain and simple.

What needs to continue? Possession. 

Calgary has won the possession battle it’s last 10 games, which is a positive trend. The results have not been as favorable as they should be, but the Flames now sit 3rd in the league in terms of CF% this season. Controlling the puck is key if the Flames want to see some results. If they can turn around their ability to get pucks on net, they already have a strong foundation in terms of possession to help that happen.

Next Game

The Battle of Alberta is next up on the plate for the Flames, as the Edmonton Oilers roll into town. The Flames will face their provincial rivals twice this month, and those are four points that are must haves. The Flames have had a rough go as of late in the Battle, but getting that monkey off their backs would be huge in terms of the teams’ confidence for the rest of the season. The Oilers are not a playoff team, and Calgary cannot afford to lose those types of games anymore.

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