The Calgary Flames woke up yesterday morning atop the Pacific Division and the Western Conference. They were on a five game winning streak and despite a difficult schedule and set to play their third game in four nights, had a chance to rise to second overall in the NHL with a win over their rival Edmonton Oilers.
After the first Battle of Alberta, last night’s game had the makings of a huge tilt. The Flames called up Anthony Peluso specifically for this game, and dressed Dalton Prout and Garnet Hathaway as well.
Unfortunately, the game didn’t have the fireworks it advertised. The Flames played well, but not as well as they’ve played this year, and, on the other side, the Oilers played a very solid game. Missing Mikael Backlund was very noticeable last night, and with Connor McDavid unsupervised, he opened the scoring midway through the first period on a broken play. He intercepted a Derek Ryan pass and took the puck down the ice for an admittedly nice goal on David Rittich.
And that’s all she wrote. The Flames’ closest chance at tying the game was a deflected goal by Peluso that was called back for goaltender interference. It was a borderline call and could have gone either way, but the bottom line is the Flames didn’t generate enough quality offense to win the game. They played well, but so did the Oilers, and that’s how the game ended. It was an underwhelming BOA, but perhaps the next meeting will feature the same intensity we witnessed in the first matchup.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Travis Hamonic led the Flames with 72.4% CF, 88.9% SCF, and 100% HDCF.
- Elias Lindholm also finished the game with 100% HDCF.
- Mark Jankowski posted a team-worst 25.9% CF.
- Ryan Spooner led the Oilers with 76.9% CF.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the worst Corsi player in the game at 21.4% CF.
- McDavid finished with just 38.5% CF in the game.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Ryan – Bennett
Mangiapane – Jankowski – Neal
Peluso – Quine – Hathaway
Hanifin – Hamonic
Brodie – Andersson
Kylington – Prout
Chiasson – McDavid – Draisaitl
Khaira – Nugent-Hopkins – Puljujarvi
Zykov – Spooner – Rattie
Lucic – Brodziak – Kassian
Klefbom – Larsson
Nurse – Russell
Gravel – Benning
Stats courtesy: DailyFaceoff
Thoughts on the Game
I would by lying if I said last night’s game wasn’t disappointing. However, it wasn’t embarrassing or upsetting in the sense that the Flames actually played a decent game. They were playing their third game in four nights, the second half of a back-to-back, on the road, and had a bunch of ineffective muscley players in their lineup. The odds were stacked against them and even with almost nothing left in the tank, they were one disallowed goal away from getting a point.
It’s interesting because the Flames’ play to date has set a very high bar for how they should playing night in and night out. They’ve been such a good team that efforts like last night that came after a five game winning streak are looked at with dismay. In all seriousness, those games are going to happen and yes, it’s not great that the loss came to the Oilers, but they sky isn’t close to falling.
Two major topics to discuss in this one, the first being Rittich. Has Smith played well in the last month or so? Yes. Has he earned back some of the trust that had evaporated early in the year? Yes. But has he outplayed Rittich? I don’t think so. Rittich has been so solid in net every time he’s gotten the chance to start, he just hasn’t been rewarded with wins.
Last night was another fantastic effort by him in the Flames’ crease, and Smith will undoubtedly start against the Flyers on Wednesday, but Rittich should be getting more starts. He has been rock solid and has given the Flames a chance to win in almost every single game he’s played this year. Especially considering the future of the Flames’ goaltending next year and the year after that, it’s prudent to see if Rittich can shoulder a bigger load. I’m a big fan of Rittich and I want to see him more. He’s deserved it.
And the second topic, James Neal. This guy was brutal last night. After a decent performance against Nashville, I expected to see another step in the right direction last night but he was really quite terrible. It’s getting to the point where I don’t want to see Neal scratched for the sake of lighting a fire under him to get him going. He should be scratched because he’s not helping the team win. I’d rather see Dillon Dube in the lineup than Neal, and not because of Dube’s eyebrows, because he’s been better than Neal this year. His contract is awful, his attitude is whatever, and he’s not doing what he’s being paid to do.
So far, he might not have been helping the team win, but last night he was actively bad. That’s the sign that he needs to sit. Maybe he’s tired from playing so much hockey the last two years (back-to-back Stanley Cup finals appearances) so what I’d do is give him a few weeks off and tell him to come back into the lineup in the New Year. I don’t know what else there is to do with him at this point. It’s a good thing the Flames don’t need him right now.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the Ugly
Gaud: Rittich’s stellar performance in net. How can you not love Big Save Dave?
Bad: The powerplay wasn’t great last night and in a tight one-goal game like that one they could have used a spark from their powerplay.
Ugly: The Flames’ undisciplined play in the third period. Bill Peters even identified this in his post-game interview, saying that it was tough to stage a comeback when the Flames were forced to kill off so many penalties. Fatigue may have been a factor but it’s definitely an area to clean up.
Opponent: Philadelphia Flyers
Standings: 7th in Metropolitan
Season Series: 0-0-0