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About Last Night #72: Flames’ playoff hopes all but extinguished by San Jose

In what was one of the most important games of the season for the Calgary Flames, the home team, yet again, completely crumbled against the visiting San Jose Sharks. Trailing the Sharks by only five points entering the night, the Flames pretty much eliminated themselves from the playoff contention, losing 7-4 to their Pacific Division counterparts.

The goals came quickly and often, as the teams were engaged in back and forth battle for the first half of the game. With the Flames leading 3-2 midway through the second period, San Jose took the reigns and scored four straight to end the hopes of a Flames comeback.

Troy Brouwer, Mark Jankowski, Johnny Gaudreau, and Micheal Ferland were the goal scorers for the Flames, but they all were outmatched by Evander Kane who scored four of his own. Mike Smith had another putrid outing, allowing six goals on only twenty shots and was yanked early in the third period after allowing the sixth Sharks goal.

Questionable coaching decisions and the inability to hold a lead sunk this team for what seems like the 72nd time this season. It’s not over until it is over, but the Flames are on life support at the moment and need plenty of help to get off.

Player of the Game: Micheal Ferland

Statistical Breakdown

Team Stats

All Situations 5v5 SVA 5v5
CF 52.3% 50.0% 44.7%
SCF 48.3% 44.9% 39.5%
HDCF 50.0% 40.9% 34.8%

5v5 Player Stats

  • Sean Monahan posted a team high CF% of 60.7%.
  • The top pairing of Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano were close behind Monahan at 60.0% and 59.5% respectively.
  • The third pairing was submerged all night, with Brett Kulak and Micheal Stone posting CF%’s of 33.3% and 30.3% respectively. Stone’s possession rating being the lowest in the game.
  • Jannik Hansen posted a game high 68.2% CF% at 5v5.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Thoughts on the Game

Where do I start? What another ghastly effort.

You could easily blame Smith for last night’s outcome, as he let in some terrible goals, but I am putting the blame on Gulutzan. He once again does not know when to pull the trigger on a goalie change. Every single person knew Smith wasn’t on his “A” game, and he probably would have pulled himself after the second period. Plain and simple, he was hung out to dry by his coach. The sixth goal not only kills his confidence, but also makes the game completely out of reach. I genuinely think I have used this exact same paragraph before this season, which makes it even more inexcusable on Gulutzan’s part.

Additionally, the decision to pull David Rittich from the net with six minutes to go luckily worked for the team. It was ballsy, and it paid off. Then the Flames took all the momentum and with four minutes remaining they were able to sustain a ton of offensive zone pressure. Yet, Gulutzan decided to pull Rittich again with the clock still having four minutes remaining, which ended up icing the game with an ENG against. When your team is on a roll, and there is plently of time left, I would say let them play at least until the 2:30 mark before pulling the goalie again. Pulling him too early, combined with the inability to hold the zone, causes for an extremely pointless remaining few minutes.

Lots of people keep saying that the Flames won’t make a coaching change at the end of the season, but I genuinely think that Gulutzan has coached his way out of his own job. When the general consensus after a game is “why didn’t GG do this?” or “why did GG do that?” it makes you wonder what the limit for management is on his coaching tenure. The team has improved in the majority of statistical categories under GG, but his inability to coach close games simply doesn’t make him a match for this team.

Of course if the Flames are able to win out and make a miraculous run, this all becomes a mute point. I just can’t actually see that happening. Last night’s game was the final nail in the coffin for the season in my opinion.

On a positive and personal note, I had tons of fun at the game last night. Thanks Matt Stajan!

Moving Forward

What needs to be fixed? Mike Smith.

He is 1-2-0 since returning from injury, which is less than ideal. To throw fuel on the fire, both losses are most definitely on his hands. Then again, the shutout against Edmonton was two points that he stole. He doesn’t seem to be his MVP self, or does he? It’s extremely hard to agree after last night. Regardless, it would make sense for Rittich to start in Vegas and have Smith finally have his homecoming against the Arizona Coyotes to get some consistency back in his game.

What needs to continue? Johnny Gaudreau. 

If there is one player on the team that gets a pass for last night, its Gaudreau. He looks to be putting this team on his back at the moment, and has been generating a consistent amount of offence the past eight games. The Flames need their best players at the moment, and Gaudreau is doing just that.

Next Game

The Flames head to the desert to take on the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday. They have lost both contests to them this season, and simply cannot afford to lose again. Vegas is currently prepping for a playoff run, which no one could have expected, and the Flames will hopefully face a strong team to give themselves some confidence in their remaining 10 games.

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