Game Takes: Rangers 3 Flames 1

March 3rd, 2018 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

You can play hard. Heck you can even play well. But if you don’t  play smart bad things can and usually do happen.

Tied 1-1 after one and clearly the better team, the Flames, for the second game in a row were unable to handle the adversity of something going wrong, and essentially gift wrapped a victory for the rebuilding New York Rangers. With it they pounded another nail into their non playoff coffins.

Out shooting a team 51-27 is a good start, but extending yourself to get those 51 shots at the expense of structure and defensive hockey, resulting in numerous odd man rushes and breakaways is not.

This team is proving they don’t have the mental chops to bring it at this time of year.

Mr. Treliving there is your biggest issue to solve in the off season.

The Culprits

The Flames gave up 18 five on five scoring chances last night.

Think of that.

They gave up four and five in their last two road losses, tonight … 18.

TJ Brodie and Travis Hamonic were on the ice for 10 of them, 10/18. That is not a good night. The pairing was terrible, but the eye test application to that has most of it on Brodie. Sure one of them was a puck bouncing over a stick in the offensive zone, but all in all he’s the one to take chances creating odd man rushes the other way. My gut anyway.

The problem however ran deeper, as the Flames five most dependable players were also victimized seven or eight times in Matthew Tkachuk, Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano, Micheal Frolik and Michael Backlund. In their defense the latter two also created chances, essentially sawing off their nights, but the previous three joined the 2nd pairing in just getting diced when they were on the ice.

So What To Do?

It comes down to experience and leadership in my mind.

Experience is something you just have to plod through, unfortunately. And if they deem that to be the case than perhaps the dressing room is fine and you just have to let the cake bake.

If the room is solid, but without that voice that can quiet things down when the game slides then you have to address it in off season.

That is a tough situation though, as those players are very difficult to acquire unless you’re happy trading or adding a player with great leadership skills that sadly has lost their game. That doesn’t work.

So it may come down to coaching.

I’ve been a defender of Gulutzan and his systems all season. I like the possession style and structure of the team, but if you can’t generate leadership from a player you need it to come from the coach, and as it stands it doesn’t look like Gulutzan is that kind of bench leader.

Special Teams

Can’t blame the special teams for this loss, though the powerplay once again wasn’t there to help.

Both teams go zero for three on the powerplay, making this a five on five game which Calgary dominated but also self destructed.

Drill down specifics on the two powerplays had the Flames generating 15 shot attempts and three scoring chances while the Rangers generated seven and none.

Shaky Gillies

A very odd night for Jon Gillies in the nets as well.

Couldn’t really fault him for the first goal off a face off as the whole team went to sleep and left him there to fight off a Kevin Hayes rebound. The second and third goals were breakaways so once again not a goalie issue.

But the Rangers also hit five goal posts and often the puck was sliding through the goal crease with Gillies looking out of position or almost soccer goalie “guessing”.

Didn’t instil a lot of confidence.

Shored Up Fourth Line

One game … so sample size warning for sure.

But for said small sample size, Nick Shore along with Matt Stajan and Tanner Glass had the lion’s share of the play when they were on the ice roughly 70% of the shot attempts.

If the trend continues the Flames could be sitting on a fourth line that may not be all that productive in terms of goal production, but can be counted on for at least sustaining momentum and keeping the play in the opposition’s zone.

The bottom half of the forward group has to be the target of off season change for the Flames, either by acquiring a top six winger and the trickle down effect, or simply adding wingers for the fourth line. It would be a good start if Shore is the start of a new fourth line.

Standings Impact

The news just keeps getting better and better.

The Avalanche and the Ducks both won last night meaning the Flames are now three points back of the final wild card spot having played an extra game.

It’s getting pretty dire. The Flames will need to go something like 11-4-1 to secure a playoff spot, with the uncertainty of Mike Smith hanging over their head, and the team unable to score more than an average of a goal per game.

Fancy Stats

Typical Flames game of late. The Flames had 59% of the shot attempts with splits of 71 / 41 / 67, that second period, like in Colorado being the let down that cost them the game and wasting the territorial edge that they had in the first and third periods. In all situations the Flames had 65% of the shot attempts.

Where it gets interesting however is scoring chances. Five on five the Rangers had more scoring chances than the Flames with a 18-14 edge, including a second period bulge of 10-3. That was the game.

Individually the third pairing had a great night with Brett Kulak posting 87.5% and his partner Michael Stone at 80%. The fourth line at roughly 70% along with Troy Brouwer were next on the list in a much better night for the bottom half of the roster. But Stone and Kulak were the story as they had 90% of the scoring chances when they were on the ice.

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