The Calgary Flames returned home after a short road trip out east to face the Pittsburgh Penguins at home. Coming off three uninspiring performances, two of which saw them get hopelessly outplayed by lesser opponents, they set out to rebound against the powerhouse Penguins and stay above .500.
If you’ve made it this far, I commend you for your patience and dedication. It’s probably safe to assume that the entire country is aware of what happened last night, as it was a truly dismal performance by the Flames. It all happened seemingly before it began. Long story short, the Flames came out flat, allowed a ton of scoring chances, were hesitant to drive the net when they had possession in the offensive zone, and playing that way against the Penguins isn’t the same as doing it against the Rangers or Canadiens. It felt like Pittsburgh capitalized on every chance they got, going up 3-0 after the first period, 7-0 after the second period, and despite the Flames getting a floater past Matt Murray late in the third, the Penguins would add two more in the final frame to cruise to a 9-1 victory.
After allowing the first six goals and posting a .714 SV%, Mike Smith was replaced by David Rittich. Rittich was better than Smith, but at that point in the game, the damage had been done. The Flames were demoralized, the Penguins were rolling, and finishing the game was just a formality. Rittich finished with three goals allowed and a .800 SV%.
The Flames fall to 5-5-0 on the season and will look to bounce back against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon at the ‘Dome.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Austin Czarnik, Sam Bennett, and James Neal were the only three Flames players below 50% CF on the night.
- Mikael Backlund led the team with 68.8% CF.
- Seven Flames players were tied for the lead with just one (1) HDCF attempt.
- Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin led the Penguins with five on ice goals for and zero against.
- Bryan Rust led the Penguins with 57.7% CF.
- Letang also led the game with 7 HDCF attempts.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Neal
Czarnik – Dube – Hathaway
Giordano – Andersson
Hanifin – Hamonic
Brodie – Stone
Guentzel – Crosby – Rust
Hagelin – Malkin – Kessel
Simon – Brassard – Hornqvist
Grant – Cullen – Sheahan
Dumoulin – Letang
Maatta – Oleksiak
Riikola – Johnson
Thoughts on the Game
Well, I had the unfortunate luck to be in attendance for this game and though I don’t know how it was for those of you who were watching at home, it was really not fun being in the ‘Dome last night. I can’t remember a time when I felt so defeated, so crushed after a loss and not really knowing what to do about it. Usually it’s easy to pinpoint a few places where the Flames went wrong after a loss and there are a couple things you can identify as areas to improve. But after three ugly games where the Flames really didn’t appear to be ready to place ice hockey, I’m at a bit of a loss. The scoreboard definitely exaggerated what was a really good game played by the Penguins, and the Flames weren’t nine magnitudes worse than the Penguins last night.
Throughout the game, the Flames were the team throwing more pucks against Murray in the Pittsburgh net. It was the Flames that were drawing penalties and getting powerplay opportunities. Yet it was the Flames that looked to let in every scoring chance the Penguins got. The difference in this game was between the pipes. Smith simply wasn’t good enough, he didn’t make the saves he needed to, and that’s that.
It is true that the Flames are allowing a high number of high danger chances against, but I’m sorry, Smith has to mix in a save here and there. If you look beyond just the high danger chances where they have allowed the second most HDGA in the league, Flames goalies have allowed the fifth most scoring chance goals against (SCGA), and the third most goals against in general. Do the Flames need to tighten up defensively and limit the number of scoring chances? Yes. But do their goalies need to make some saves? Also yes. There were at least three occasions last night where Rittich made an excellent save to stop a high danger chance from Pittsburgh. I can’t think of a single one made by Smith.
The most concerning part of last night’s contest was the play of Backlund. He was probably the best Flame on the ice, but he was very clearly hesitant to shoot the puck. He’s not a volume shooter by any means, but he was passing up clear looks time and again. Something isn’t right with his wrist or his hand or something. He is definitely hurting and it was on full display last night. Hopefully he can get that healed up soon because he’s been one of the best skaters on the team to start the year.
The season isn’t over. It’s 10 games in, the Flames are at .500 in a division that has been pretty bad outside the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers, and things will get better. Don’t lose faith yet.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the Ugly
Gaud: Neal scored a goal.
Bad: Getting blown out at home with the worst loss in 22 years, being booed off your own rink, seeing the Oilers beat the Capitals on the out-of-town scoreboard, watching Juuso Valimaki sit in the pressbox over Michael Stone, and falling down the standings in a winnable division.
Ugly: Smith, specifically watching him deliver bad performance, after bad performance, after bad performance.
Opponent: Washington Capitals
Standings: Fourth in Metropolitan Division
Season Series: 0-0
Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)