Well, another game resulted in another loss for the Flames in New Jersey tonight. The visitors managed to salvage a point in a 2-1 shootout loss where they failed to capitalize on a fairly dominant run, scoring-chance wise, in the final forty minutes. It was an extremely dull affair for both sides, as has come to be expected when you're playing the Devils. But you'd think a game between two teams that currently rank 14th in their respective conferences would be a bit chippier. The Flames were certainly guilty of succumbing to a "play for the tie" style of game, but New Jersey didn't look particularly interested in winning the game in regulation either. Ilya Kovalchuk was -1 and was held without a shot in regulation before putting the dagger through the hearts of Flames fans in the shootout, scoring the lone goal for the Devs.
The Flames got off to a bit sloppy start, but quickly settled into a virtual chess-match with the Devils. After jersey scored on a net-front defection, Henrik Karlsson made some good saves to limit the damage, but the first period generally lacked any sort of intensity. Shots ended up 7-6 in favour of the Flames after twenty.
In the second, the Flames were able to generate a little more offensively, as the visitors out-chanced their hosts 7-3 while limiting them to only twelve shots on goal through two periods of play. The final frame saw the Flames tie things up just over a minute in as a Calgary powerplay that carried over from the second period expired, and the visitors out-chanced and marginally out-shot the Devils by a pathetically small 5-3 total, as both teams were clearly playing for the extra point at this juncture.
It appeared that the Flames would meet their end in OT when Giordano was sent off for interference, but they survived the ensuring two minutes and emerged from the extra frame unscathed thanks to some nifty work from Karlsson in what was a very nice bounce-back effort from the rookie, even if he was credited with the eventual SOL (is it at all ironic that that is the acronym for shooutout loss?). Needless to say the shootout didn't go the Flames' way, as Niklas Hagman, Alex Tanguay, and Brendan Morrison all failed to score.
I think we saw a much-improved defensive effort from the good guys tonight, as they only allowed 15 shots in regulation and 21 altogether, although I find it a little hard to believe that the Devils registered six shots on net in the short OT period. The TSN crew pointed out that Regehr and Bouwmeester made good work of shutting down Ilya Kovalchuk, who was -13 in Corsi on the night. The pair was a combined +27 in Corsi, although marginally in the red in terms of scoring chances. The rest of the blueline managed a positive scoring chance differential, although Babchuk (who I have to say I haven't been overly impressed with so far) and Mikkelson found themselves significantly in the red (-21) Corsi-wise. Up front, Morrison, Moss, and Glencross actually saw the most of Kovy, and came out on the positive side of things.
Jarome Iginla played a whopping 25 minutes tonight, and was held pointless for the first time since his scoring streak began three games ago, but I thought he was still fairly effective. Olli Jokinen was his typical frustrating self in his first game back from his three-game banishment, and even ended up on a line with Tim Jackman and Tom Kostopoulos for a few shifts at one point. Several times he had a the puck in a scoring area and either lost it, shot it into the side of the net, or made an ill-advised pass. His numbers look good, but he didn't have much of an effect on the game.
For the past two games, it has seemed like the Flames were right there. They probably played well enough to win again tonight, but again failed to convert their possession advantage and any shots and chances generated as a result into actual offence, and it cost them. This team seems to have two strategies when it comes to offence, especially when they're struggling to score: taking shooting from anywhere to the extreme, and passing the puck around too much without just getting a simple shot on net, and I saw instances of both those strategies tonight. Getting pucks and bodies to the net is a fool-proof strategy that this team didn't employ enough tonight, registering only 26 shots on net against a depleted Devils squad. The Flames seem to be doing the right things, but perhaps not to the degree that they should be, and the results just aren't coming.
The Flames are off tomorrow before wrapping up their road trip with a set of early starts in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh due to the holiday weekend for our American friends.