Now it’s over.
The Calgary Flames rolled into Phoenix on Monday evening to face the lowly Arizona Coyotes. After suffering a shutout against the Knights in Vegas, the Flames desperately needed a win to keep their marginal playoff hopes alive.
You of course already know the story I am about to tell, as Calgary somehow was able to cough up a lead and lose big time. Finishing in a 5-2 defeat, Calgary suffered their third straight regulation loss. Their dreams of being playoff contenders are now safely buried in the desert sand, along with most likely some of their dignity.
Playing for the first time in Arizona since his trade, Mike Smith didn’t have his best game as a Flame, stopping 25 of 28 shots he faced. It was simply another ho-hum performance and wasn’t what the team needed at this point in the season. After starting against Vegas the previous evening, it was perplexing to see him back in the net and most likely wasn’t as sharp due to some sort of fatigue.
Sean Monahan and Dougie Hamilton netted the two goals for the Flames, with Hamilton now leading the NHL in goals by a defenceman. Rasmus Andersson played in his second game of the season, in place of the ailing TJ Brodie, and most likely didn’t blow many away. Micheal Ferland committed the costly turnover allowing the Coyotes to score the tying goal, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson netted his 100th NHL goal as the eventual game winner.
The Flames were able to fire 44 shots on goal, but found themselves following the exact same narrative as they have been this season. Beyond inconsistent, the Flames are absolutely toast now.
Player of the Game: Dougie Hamilton
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Hamilton led the team in terms of CF% at 5v5 with a game high 71.7%, narrowly edging out Matt Stajan at 70.6%.
- Hamilton’s defence partner, Mark Giordano, was close behind with a 68.4%.
- The entire third line of Chris Stewart, Ferland, and Mark Jankowski all posted CF%’s below 50%.
- Andersson, playing in his 3rd career NHL game, posted a team worst 36.0%
- Brendan Perlini led the Coyotes in CF% at 5v5 with 71.4%, only one of three players with a +50% CF%.
- Brad Richardson posted a game worst 31.6% CF%.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Thoughts on the Game
At this point in the season, my reaction to the past three games has been pure laughter. Normally I would be filled with exceeding amounts of rage and displeasure, but it’s just gotten to the point of comedy.
Of course the Flames would find a way to lose to the Coyotes. Arizona has improved over it’s last few games, but that doesn’t give the Flames a pass by any measure. They simply couldn’t get the job done against a weak team. In fact, the Flames only have three wins in their past 11 games. Those teams? Buffalo, Ottawa, and Edmonton. They have only beaten one playoff team over their past 16 games (as per @SNRyanPinder). The Flames can barely get the job done over weak teams, let alone even have a shot against contenders. It has been a miraculous fall from grace for the Flames over the past month.
Sure you can look to excuses and say that some key players are playing injured and are currently hurt, Smith hasn’t been the same since he missed a month, and the optimal forward group has never been able to gel properly. That being said, remember how many injuries Anaheim had at the start of the season? Look where they are now. Playoff teams find a way to win games, and the Flames simply cannot do that. Look at last night for an example. In the third period the Flames had a 62.5% CF% at 5v5, never trailed in the possession battle, but allowed three goals. Two of them were ENG’s, but still they didn’t capitalize on their chances and allowed an avoidable goal. It’s just inexplicable. The team simply doesn’t know how to win close games.
Things have gone from ok, to bad, to catastrophic over the past few weeks. Not much hope exists now after last nights loss, but where was the turning point? The bye-week? Smith’s injury? Matthew Tkachuk‘s injury? There are many moments that can be identified as the cause for the Flames downturn, but in reality the Flames have just lost their way. Such high expectations throughout the season gave this team more credit than they deserved. It’s looking like it could be a long remaining eight games, which could be even harder to watch than before.
What needs to be fixed? The PP.
Going back to a classic yet again. The Flames failed to score on three PP opportunities last night, pushing their record to 1/31 since Feb. 28th. They also managed to give up a few shorthanded opportunities while they were at it! Just pitiful to watch.
What needs to continue? Dougie Hamilton.
If there is one positive to take away from last night, and the season quite frankly, it would have to be the play of Hamilton. Now leading the league in goals by a defenceman, Hamilton has been an absolute stud all year long. Yes he could reduce the amount of minor penalties he takes, but he has been one of the Flames’ best players night in and night out. An “untouchables” list was circulating through Twitter yesterday, and the fact that Hamilton wasn’t on it is simply disrespectful. Maybe the next head coach will realize how important he is to the team early in his tenure, to take advantage of his skills much more efficiently.
The Flames return home on Wednesday evening to face the Anaheim Ducks. I would love to say this is a must win, but frankly I think that time has passed. If anything, it would be nice for the Flames to earn a victory for Stajan. Wednesday’s contest will be Stajan’s 1000th NHL game played and he deserves the recognition for such a prestigious honor. I guess two points would be helpful as well.