Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Game 49: Flames vs. Habs

Montreal 5, Calgary 1:


- More sloppy, sloppy decision making by Nathan Beaulieu, poor turnover at the Flames line springs Calgary on a 2-on-1, Price with a big ol' save to bail his underperforming defenceman. 

- Early minutes, Habs are almost certainly going to dominate puck possession if the first 7 minutes is any indicator, but they're still not doing a good job working the puck towards the middle. Too many point and permitter shots.

- Habs powerplay kind of slipping back into an over dependance on Weber, too many passes back to him, too many failed shot attempts. Having Weber hammer the puck worked for the first month, then by mid-November the opposition identified the strategy and made adjustments accordingly. 

- Good lord, Zach Redmond is terrible - at least at the NHL level. I'm sure he's doing a fine job at the AHL level, filling out the 'Caps roster with necessary veteran abilities. But with the big team? Agonizingly slow and inadequate. 

- This game ins't exactly a pretty picture, both offences struggling to make basic passes, or even carry zones competently. Basically most of the decent scoring attempts have come via broken plays. 

- Not hard to see why the Flames have been struggling so much with offence, just no flow to their game, basic inability to construct an effective attack, lot of plays going offside. You'd like to think these are problems the team can work through at practice, but I don't think the talent is there.

- Flynn with a perfect screen, Shaw with a snapshot that Johnson almost certainly didn't see, and once again, the Flames allow their opponent to score first. 

- Not a great period of hockey by the Habs, but their opponent - wow, Calgary is just a functional mess right now. Big shame on the Canadiens if they don't win tonight. 


- Even period, possession-wise, but quality of play considered, the Flames were not good.

- Danault with one of the sillier penalties we've seen in awhile, brain-cramp interference behind the Flames net, of all places.

- Habs kill the bad penalty, and then take another dumb one, and guess who - it's Alexei Emelin with a stupid hold.

- Whelp, maybe Chad Johnson was feeling badly for Emelin, as he lets in a shorthanded softie, Thomas Plekanec says thank you very much. 2-0.

- Flames are a mess, Habs with ease a tic-tac-toe powerplay goal, Radulov finishes the play. 3-0 Habs. Calgary must be wondering where it all went south.

- Flames can't convert on a 5-on-3, Price is most definitely back on his game - the Sabres game, which was very good, was a preview of tonight, apparently. Still, Calgary very much resembles a team made of a bunch of pieces that aren't fitting together. I see no light at the end of their tunnel.

- Not sure what the deal with Byron has been of late, but his tentativeness with the puck in the O-zone is perplexing. Just seems to be full of hesitation of late, frequently passing up on taking shots from pretty good spots. 

- Flames are piling up shots on Price, but it's all much a mask - vast majority of pucks that Carey Price has stopped haven't been particularly dangerous. Calgary a pretty dysfunctionally played game tonight, their powerplay looks absent confidence, and their PK was structurally MIA during Radulov's goal. Habs can and should cruise the rest of the way to the finish.


- Habs controlled that 2nd period, Calgary's offence pretty much only coming off powerplays. 62.5% CF in 2nd period alone, 54% overall for the game.

- Flames are trying, we'll give them that - at least some kind of consolation offence, something ... anything. But Carey Price is shutting the door, compounding Calgary's woes.

- Carr makes it 4-0, as Flames defence makes a mess out of a simple 2-on-2 break. When it rains, it pours, and if you're a Calgary Flames fan, the past 10 days have bene a monsoon.

- The Flames haven't been hopeless, at least not this 3rd period, applying O-zone pressure. But oh, so many basic fundamental defensive breakdowns - that's their weakest spot by far. They do more than enough up front to win hockey games, but their blue line are shambles, especially in protecting the crease/low slot. 

- Habs have had 4 powerplays tonight, registering a measly 2 shots on goal. Both of them by Radulov. Both of them goals. His 2nd an absolutely beauty of a backhander. What an incredible player.

- What a shame, Radulov takes a late penalty, Shea Weber somehow can't clear the puck, and Price loses the shutout with just a second left on the clock. Carey deserved it. 

- Anyone who hadn't watched the game but looked at the final score might figure the Habs curb stomped the Flames tonight, which would be the wrong conclusion. Yes, the score was lopsided, but the Flames were given far too many high quality scoring chances, only another great performance by Price keep them off the board. Calgary's big undoing was some remarkably terrible defence, either poor positioning or lethargic effort. Flames are now faced with having to face the Sens this week, Ottawa just coming off a win over the Caps tonight. Little reason to believe this miserable road trip won't get a bit more awful. 


It has not been a golden age for hockey, if you happen to be a fan of either local NHL team in the Province of Alberta. Since 2008, neither the Edmonton Oilers or the Calgary Flames, with exception to the Flames' brief appearance in 2015, have been able to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

This season was supposed to be different, with both organizations focused on building teams built off youth from wise draft picks. For the Oilers, after 11 consecutive years in the wilderness, it appears that program is finally going to reward them with a playoff berth. For the Flames? Well ...

For awhile there, the Flames were doing it right. In the 2010 and '11 drafts, Calgary picked the likes of Sven Bartschi, Micahel Ferland, and Johnny Gaudreau (4th round!). Not franchise guys, but still, decent player selections. But then in the 2012, draft Flames scouting came up empty, selecting Mark Jankowski who ended up never playing an NHL game. Aside from their two number one picks in '13 and '14, Sean Mohahan and Sam Bennett respectively, the Flames' cupboard isn't exactly brimming.

What happens when a team tries to build from within but can't make consistently wise draft picks? Guys who sit in offices get fired. So out went General Manager Jay Feaster at the end of 2012, and in came Brian Burke who held the fort for now G.M. Brad Treliving. Betcha didn't know who Calgary's G.M. was. Now you know.

Anyway, the Jay Feaster era was where the plan pretty much got derailed - consecutive years of poor draft selections set the table for the Flames current problem - they're a borderline playoff competitive hockey team - maybe, just maybe good enough to eek out a 2nd wildcard spot, but in all probability, destined to a 9th or 10th place Conference finish. Not even bad enough for a really high draft pick.

The Flames come into tonight's game at the Bell Centre in the midst of a bad losing streak. They got edged out by (a suddenly revived) Nashville team last Thursday, then spanked at home by the arch-rival Oilers Saturday, and the final humiliation, they got stomped by the Leafs last night 4 to nada.

What's the deal, Calgary? Well, the Flames are a terrible team out of the gate. In the past eight games, their opponent has scored first, and while not scoring first isn't always a fatal blow, it certainly doesn't make the road travelled any easier when you're always trying to play catchup (for what it's worth, Calgary's record over the past eight games is 2-5-1, not good).

What's going wrong, Calgary? Well, the what's going right, exactly? The Flames suddenly can't score, exception being to Sean Monahan. When your star guys like Johnny Gaudreau finds his point totals basically grinding to full halt, winning becomes extra onerous, especially for a team that's pretty thin up front. At 2.59 GF60, the Flames have the League's 19th rated offence. Not even good enough to claim mediocrity.

Oh, speaking of Johnny Gaudreau ... well ... hold the line, there's this from last night:

Flames fans were up in arms that the Leafs Leo Komarov hit Gaudreau high, but the replay shows that Gaudreau took his eyes off the play, and that Komarov basically plowed him to the ice with a hit on the shoulder. Anyway, the good news for the Flames is that Gaudreau is okay, and will play tonight.

The bad news for the Flames is beside guys who are performing like Gaudreau on wing, and Mark Giordano on defence, Calgary doesn't have much going right now. On that blue line, besides Giordano, Dougie Hamiltion, for whom the Flames gave up one 1st round, and two 2nd round picks in the deep 2015 draft, has been a significant disappointment since coming over from the Boston Bruins. Once considered a future Norris Trophy possibility, Hamilton has regressed significantly over the past couple of seasons to the point where he's now frequently mentioned as possible trade bait. The net effect from all of this, the Flames GA60 this season is 2.73, 18th rated - again, not even good enough to rank as mediocre.

So tonight Calgary hopes to get their season somehow back on track, as they take on the suddenly Alex Galchenyuk-less Montreal Canadiens. Galchenyuk won't play tonight because he reaggravated his knee which had recently kept him out of the lineup for six weeks. Good call, Habs medical staff. Putting your start 1C back in the lineup before he's fully healed from a significant knee injury send a pretty good signal you're running a competent ship.

So without Galchenyuk, the Habs will run with these lines tonight

Carr/De La Rose/Mitchell


Carey Price

Over on the Flames side, we have (projected):

Bouma/Stajan/Freddie Hamilton

Giordano/Dougie Hamilton

Chad Johnson

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

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