Well, the car flags are being removed, jerseys are heading back into the closet, and the sadness has hit the city like a truck. The Calgary Flames are officially out of the playoffs, and the hope for winning the Stanley Cup for 2021–22 is officially gone. The Oilers outplayed the Flames practically every single night, and somehow made one of the best defensive teams in the NHL look like quite the opposite. It’s going to sting for a long time, but the better team won this series.
Once again, no lead is safe
From Game 1 to Game 5, this Flames team just could not keep a lead. In Game 1, they saw a 3–1 lead turn into a 5–1 lead and into a 6–2 lead. That was blown and the Oilers tied it 6–6 at one point. Game 2, they had a 2–0 lead, and 3–1 lead, but the Oilers came back to win there too. Lastly, in Game 5, they blew a 2–0 lead and a 4–3 lead. In the NHL playoffs, that can not happen. There’s no other way to put it. The Flames were missing their killer instinct all series long, and the Oilers took advantage of it.
When you are against the best player in the world and a team that has such dangerous offence, you need to lock it down. The Flames were able to do it all season long, but during Round 2, their ability to do it vanished. If you ask me, that is one of the biggest failures from the Flames this series. There was no real adjustment in this from Game 1 onwards.
McDavid dominated all series long, and it took up until Game 4 and 5 for Sutter to finally realize that he should maybe prioritize some line matching to contain McDavid. Funny enough, the Flames looked much better defending him in those games. However, it was too little, too late. Sutter got out-coached, the Flames got outplayed, and all of this can be credited to the team’s inability to adjust.
Credit to the Oilers for taking full control of this Flames team. I really didn’t expect that to happen at all.
A distinctly bad call
Listen, before I get started on this topic, whoever is saying that this blown call cost the Flames this series is flat out wrong. Let’s not dismiss all the previous games we saw. The Flames performance lost them this series. The Oilers incredible play all series cost the Flames this series. Not this blown call. Now, let’s get into it.
With six minutes left in the third period, Mikael Backlund, who was the best Flame this whole series, powered through and got a shot off. The puck got through Smith partially, and was trickling into the net from the crease. Blake Coleman, who is being pushed by Cody Ceci, and whose skate made contact with Mike Smith‘s pad, scores the goal as the puck goes off his skate.
This is a goal. The fact that the situation room decided otherwise is a complete joke. It is garbage. What an embarrassing call for the league. Blown calls like these can not occur in the playoffs. What is Coleman supposed to do here? His skate gets tied up with Smith’s pad, so naturally his left skate is going to move ahead of his right skate. That is not a kicking motion, that is a man trying to stop so he doesn’t crash his way into the net and dislodge it.
His skate is in a stopping position the whole time. He is trying to stop as Ceci is pushing him. There is no other way to look at it. All Coleman is trying to do is to slow down so he doesn’t crash into the net. The rule is that there can not be a distinct kicking motion. Other ways to say “distinct”, according to the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, are “clear-cut”, “definite”, “obvious”, “plain as day”, and “unmistakable”. Was his goal a “clear-cut” kick or “obvious” motion? No, it was not. So let me say this very clearly, this was not a distinct kicking motion. In fact, it wasn’t even a kicking motion to begin with, let alone distinct. This call was reviewed for a very long time as well. If it was so obvious that he “kicked” it, why did it take so long?
Why does the above goal count but not Coleman’s? In what way is this “good goal” not a kicking motion, but Blake Coleman’s is? This is a garbage call from a league which is incapable of showing any sense of consistency for reviews. If Coleman really tried to kick that, I know a football club in Calgary that would love to see him on the pitch at Spruce Meadows.
Again, this call didn’t cost the Flames this series. They put themselves in this position by not showing up for the earlier games. But this call very much did cost the Flames the game, and a very important game at that. Another playoffs, and another instance where the Flames get robbed on a review of a goal. It was in, 2022 edition.
The Flames deserved this game, but the Oilers deserved this series.
Lots to be optimistic about
This series, and playoff run, came to a very painful end. There is no doubt about that. But don’t let this exit make you forget about how dominant this team was during the season. I know playoffs matter, and players need to show up. There is a magnifying glass on every player and they are supposed to step up. Some players were able to, some players were not. I thought Johnny Gaudreau had a great playoffs, however I don’t believe the same can be said about Matthew Tkachuk. I am very disappointed with Tkachuk’s performance in this years playoffs, he didn’t show up, plain and simple.
Even with that though, this team showed all year that they can be special. They were consistent all season, and were performing at an incredible level. This team has the potential, it has the skill, and it has its window open to go for the cup. You need players to perform in the playoffs, but you also need the players to get you there in the first place.
We all know how great the top players were during the season, but we also saw players like Oliver Kylington and Andrew Mangiapane take massive steps on this team. We saw Brad Treliving trade for Tyler Toffoli to add to the team’s forward depth.
Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson were one of the best defensive pairings in the NHL, and Chris Tanev had another outstanding season. This season wasn’t lucky, this was a dominant team in the regular season that looked like they could play with anyone.
Losing in the playoffs earlier than you expect to is incredibly disappointing. It hurts and it stings. But don’t let that make you forget about all the skill that was needed to get to this position in the first place. Take the offseason to learn from these playoffs, and make the adjustments you need to. Clear some cap space and use it in a direction that would be more effective for this roster. This team has the pieces, and just blowing it up is very premature in my opinion. My stance, at least with this core, is extremely simple:
This offseason is going to be very interesting, but here’s hoping for many more years of competitive Flames hockey.