In an odd Monday afternoon game, the Flames struggled to get much of anything going. Two goals by the Wild, both scored from passes from below the goal line, were the difference. The Flames head into the Holiday Break in the second wildcard spot.
5v5 Player Stats
- Captain Mark Giordano led the Flames with a 62.8% CF in 22 minutes of icetime. Very young, very fresh
- Mikael Backlund struggled mightily with a team low 31.3% CF and was on the ice for nine scoring chances against.
- Only five Flames were below 50% HDCF: Backlund, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Michael Stone, and Rasmus Andersson.
- Rookie Carson Soucy posted a game high 68.6% CF
- On the flip side, Joel Eriksson Ek posted a team low 40% CF
- Luke Kunin was flying for the Wild with seven individual corsi events, four individul scoring chances for, two high danger chances for, and a goal
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Thoughts on the Game
Like many of us, hockey players also have a routine before a game. Whether that be a pre-game meal, a nap, a pre-game playlist or otherwise, players perform best when they can properly prepare for the task at hand. On the second half of an away back-to-back, and starting the game at 4:00 PM local time after flying in from Dallas, the Flames did not have much going for them. This is not to excuse the Flames from a less than optimal performance, but context is important in this match.
The Wild did an excellent job of shutting down the Flames offence. They made it very difficult on the Flames top two lines to get much going. Gaudreau played a strong game of hockey, and had excellent chances to get between the Wild’s defense, but the rest of the top groups struggled to create chances.
The Wild were good at forcing the Flames to dump the puck into the zone, then pressed very hard down low to minimize the Flames’ ability to create a cycle game. When the Flames started to get the puck moving, the Wild were excellent at breaking up the D-to-D passes, and force the Flames to regroup. The Flames’ passes also were not connecting well, and they could not cycle the puck quickly enough to for the Wild to play zone defense. Simply put, the Wild played a very tight checking defensive game and took advantage of a Flames team that felt a half step behind their usual best.
While the Flames did look a bit slower, Cam Talbot played a great game of hockey. He was sharp most of the night, and allowed only two goals against- both from right in front of his net off of excellent feeds from below the goal line. It is tricky to fault him on either goal he allowed, and the only thing that let him down was a tired Flames team in front of him.
In his second game back in the lineup, Zac Rinaldo also looked very good. He was strong both on and off the puck, and created a number of quality scoring chances. The line of him, Sam Bennett and Tobias Rieder led the way with three high danger chances for and two rush attempts for. While they could not find the back of the net, they looked threatening all night. It will be interesting to see if Rinaldo remains in the lineup. Not dressing an experienced forward in Michael Frolik for two games in a row definitely raises a few eyebrows, but Rinaldo is quickly earning himself a longer look on that fourth line.
At the end of the day, the Flames were beaten by a sharper, fresher team in this one, and probably did not deserve to win. The holiday break will be a good time for the group to rest, recover, and refresh as we head into the back half of the season.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the UGLY
Good: Giordano had an excellent game both on and off the puck. He was rock solid in defense
Bad: Derek Ryan put the puck in the back of the net, but it was called back (probably rightly) because it was kicked in
Ugly: Stone had a rough night. Well below 50% CF, he was stripped of the puck numerous times and forced Andersson to come in and clean up
Edmonton Opponent: Edmonton Oilers
Standings: 3rd in the Pacific
Season Series: 0-0-0
Photo by: Bruce Cluckholn/NHLI via Getty Images