While the NHL is a reasonably even league in terms of team quality, this was a battle of two of the most even teams. And in games between very even teams, one team is going to have the bounces and calls go their way, and end up winning the game. The Flames were not that team this game.
After a goal which looked offside was challenged, and the league determined the play was onside, the Flames were burned again on the ensuing power play. From there, all momentum was in favour of the Hurricanes. The Flames pushed to no avail, as James Reimer held down the fort for the Canes to secure the victory with a final score of 4-0.
5v5 Player Stats
- Andrew Mangiapane led the way for the Flames with a 56.5% CF
- Mikael Backlund struggled with a team low 34.6% CF, although he did have a team leading two individual high-danger chances
- Elias Lindholm won 87.5% of the faceoffs he took in this game
- Jordan Staal posted a team leading 72.0% CF
- Ryan Dzingel posted a team low 30% CF
- Brett Pesce and Joel Edmundson were on the ice for five high-danger chances for, as well as 13 and 12 scoring chances for respectively.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Thoughts on the Game
The Flames played a strong game of hockey in this matinee match against the Canes, but not every call is going to go the Flames way, and when that happens, the team needs to accept it and move on. That was the story of this game.
This game was not the first time that the Flames fell behind by a goal under Geoff Ward, but it was how quickly it became 2-0 that really hurt the Flames. David Rittich missed a shot glove side that he probably should have had, and all of a sudden, the lead felt much bigger. From that point, the Flames struggled for the rest of the second period to really get up and running.
That being said, the team did look quite good for stretches. Outside of the second period, the Flames had 30 Corsi events to Carolina’s 18, along with 18 scoring chances to the Canes’ 11. When it came to the goalies, Reimer simply outplayed Rittich in net, and stopped a number of ten bell chances from the Flames. He looked truly outstanding in the game for the visitors.
The top line of Mangiapane, Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk was buzzing all game. However, this was yet another outing where they could not buy a goal. Lindholm looked especially good in this game with a team leading five individual corsi events and four individual scoring chances. It feels like they are close to a breakthrough, and once the first two or three go for this line, they will be unstoppable.
Coach Ward once again went to the Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Backlund line. They looked good offensively, but they struggled defensively. With Backlund on their wing, the idea was likely to help the two superstars create offensively without losing their defensive structure, and to help Selke candidate Backlund to create a little more offensively.
Unfortunately, something does not seem to be working as well as it should be. Even with 80% offensive zone starts, this line is struggling to create chances at 5v5. This in spite of Monahan winning 55.6% of the faceoffs he took.
The fourth line, which has looked promising in the last few games, struggled in this game. Tobias Rieder had a few quality chances, but Michael Frolik was very quiet and Mark Jankowski was noticeably below average. He looked a little bit lost throughout the game, and took a silly penalty in the first period that could have ended up with the puck in the back of the Flames net.
Although Jankowski has looked better of late, it may be time to experiment more with Zac Rinaldo in that role to see if it helps drive Frolik and Rieder more consistently.
At the end of the day, the Flames were not bad in this game on the whole. They took their eye off the puck in the second period, and struggled mightily to get back on track after they allowed two quick goals. They were simply beaten by a similarly built team who took advantage of their chances and got superior goaltending. There were absolutely lessons to be learned from this game, and it will be interesting to see how this group responds to their first loss under Geoff Ward.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the UGLY
Good: Milan Lucic has looked better and better in each game he plays. It is no wonder why he is a fan favorite
Bad: Dougie Hamilton scoring on his former club hurts just a little bit
Ugly: “The call on the ice stands” were the words that sunk this game for the Flames.
Opponent: Pittsburgh Penguins
Standings: 4th in the Metropolitan
Season Series: 0-0-1
Photo by: Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images