December 20th, 2016 | Posted in Game Takes
By: D'Arcy McGrath
On any road trip you look ahead and add up the points. You circle the games where you should find two points, and then you put a big question mark in games where the opponent is tough, or the building with a history of misery for the team. In the end you hope for an even split, in order to get home and make hay on home ice.
In this brief two games trip, it wasn’t hard to assign categories, with the basement dwelling Arizona Coyotes followed by the Western Conference Champion San Jose Sharks, although the Flames have had a boat load of success in the Shark Tank over the past couple of years.
In the end the set went as expected with a win last night in Arizona but the team came unglued and got pounded behind some shaky goaltending and some spotty defensive work, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Sharks on Tuesday night.
The Sharks are known to start like a house on fire, something Glen Gulutzan warned of after the team’s slow start last night, but the Flames did well to handle the Shark’s start, giving up very little and keeping things simple. The Sharks had 5 early shots, but none were dangerous, there were no rebounds and Chad Johnson saw everything. Not the smartest thing to take two early penalties, the Flames killed the first without much panic, but had a few tense moments on the Shark’s second chance including a wide open chance form a tough angle by Joe Thornton. The Flames get a powerplay chance of their own and get set up twice but fail to generate a shot or a real scoring chance. All in all a decent road period for a back to back game, final shots 11-6 Sharks.
The Flames start the second with some good jump led by the Backlund line and the Bennett line primarily. The Flames enjoy some good zone pressure and get a grade “A” scoring chance when Gaudreau and Sam Bennett combine to send Gaureau in alone on Martin Jones, but the Shark’s goaltender keeps his wickets closed and the score stays knotted at one. The Sharks go ahead on a harmless Vlasic shot from the blueline that gets rebounded to the slot where Patrick Marleau collects the rebound and backhands it past Johnson’s outstretched glove hand. The Sharks make it 2-0 on a fanned point shot that hits Frolik then bounces twice and past Johnson, goal to Martin and the Flames are in a hole. But wait! There’s more! The Sharks make it 3-0 when Johnson gets stuck on one post, failing to move across leaving Donskoi an open net and an easy one. A few minutes later Donskoi is back again, this time taking advantage of Mikael Backlund not getting the puck out of his own zone, Johnson beat far side low. Rough period.
The Flames at least showed up in the third period, they didn’t just roll over and call it a game. Calgary gets their first goal of the game when Matthew Tkachuk slows up at the blueline before sending the puck over to Sam Bennett who beats Jones high to make it 4-1. The Flames kill off the Shark’s third powerplay of the game, and have a chance of their own when Mikael Backlund breaks in all alone but is foiled by Jones. Another Shark’s powerplay and another Flames kill, as the PK continues to roll in a game where very little else has gone right. And yet another kill for the Flames as they go 5 for 5 on the night in a 4-1 loss.
First Period – Underlying stats prove the Flames did a pretty good job of hanging in in the first period, as five on five shots were 13-12 for the Sharks, scoring chances 6-5 for the home team as well. Tight period.
Second Period – Corsi supports a solid period for the Sharks as they have 32 shot attempts, besting the Flames period total of 23. They also generate 14 scoring chances to the Flames 8.
Third Period – Scoring chances in the third were 4 to 3 for the Flames showing some push, shot attempts were 10-7 Calgary.
Players – The Backlund line had all three members over 70% once again, quite the feat in a tough loss. TJ Brodie for his second straight good corsi game was over 50%, along with linemate Denis Wideman and Mark Giordano. Guys on the losing end of the possession battle included many guys highlighted by Matt Stajan (12%) and Lance Bouma who posted a big zero! Fourth line got roasted tonight.
1. Patrick Marleau:Lifetime Shark had a goal and an assist to pace his club.
2. Joonas Donskoi:Scores back to back goals in the second period to put this one away.
3. Joe Paveski:Picks up two assists for the Sharks.
With the game still scoreless Sam Bennett sends Johnny Gaudreau in alone on Martin Jones, but Gaudreau fails to get the puck through Jones’ pads and into the cage. Big moment in the game; goal there and it’s potentially a different second period.
Certainly not saying the team in front of him was any screaming hell, but Chad Johnson had a rough second period and from there things snowballed. He’s been money this year, but that period got away from him.
The Flames penalty kill was at it’s best in a losing squad, killing all 5 Shark powerplays and doing their part in what was otherwise a tough night.
Odds and Ends
With back to backs and a tough building (the Shark Tank in San Jose) it only makes sense to go back to Chad Johnson for tonight’s game. Brian Elliott picked up the win, and it just could be the launching pad for his return to prominence but there’s no hiding the fact he was shaky in essentially “own goaling” himself twice. No changes to the blueline which means another night on the sidelines for Tyler Wotherspoon. I’m not one that thinks he’s the second coming at this point and deserves to push other defenders out of the lineup, but you’d like to see the poor kid get a look. The one change is to take Garnet Hathaway out of the lineup and replace him with Lance Bouma once again. A bit of a peculiar move given the win last night in Arizona. … Great to Couture playing right away after that nasty cross check from Hoffman last week. Still can’t believe a cross check to the head gets you two games but a clean hit on a goaltender gets you four. … Gaudreau needs to shake up his breakaway move as he always goes low to the ice and I think NHL goalies have the book on him. You have to mix it up once and a while and he’s not. … Is the bloom off the rose for Chad Johnson? That’s three straight games where I wouldn’t necessarily blame him in the loss, but then he wasn’t exactly bailing his teammates out like he was for that one month stretch. A big rebound on the first, misses the bouncing puck on the second, and gets caught on the post on the third, not a great night for the hero of the season rebound. … Have to think they come back to Brian Elliott for the game on Friday against the Canucks given the loss for Johnson in San Jose tonight. Makes for an interesting story if he wins but then has to wait through the Christmas break to continue a string of starts; would add to what has been an odd season for the poor veteran goaltender. … Both Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau had their point games snapped at 10 and 8 games respectively.
The Flames are back on home ice before Christmas for a game Friday night against the Vancouver Canucks. Game time 7pm on Sportsnet.
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Versteeg – Monahan – Brouwer
Gaudreau – Bennett – Chiasson
Bouma – Stajan – Ferland
Giordano – Hamilton
Brodie – Hamilton
Jokipakka – Engelland