There's no proven reason for the Flames to dress as many goons as they do. There's no proven reason for the Flames to have as many goons as they do. Having both Brian McGrattan and Brandon Bollig is silly, let alone dressing them both for the same game, and having them on the ice at the same time. But then there's Deryk Engelland, signed to a ridiculous contract, to round it all out. The result is constant dumb plays, and a serious draining of enjoyment the Flames' actually skilled players can provide, because you know it's all going to go to waste.
It didn't take too long for things to get underway. Just 48 seconds in, Devin Setoguchi, in his Flames debut, collided with Engelland, and fell to the ice. This left poor Kris Russell all alone with Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, and Joakim Lindstrom, and it went about as well as you could expect. The three Blues turned the Flames' poor defenceman inside out, and left no chance for Jonas Hiller on an easy tap-in for Lindstrom's first of the season.
It was kind of funny, really.
Already up by one, the Blues continued toying with the Flames, actually controlling the puck and getting chances, even if they were fleet and fluttering.
It took about five minutes for the Flames to get a break, when Chris Porter was called for interference on the faceoff, giving the Flames the first powerplay of the game. That was about as far as the breaks went, because aside from a brief TJ Brodie interlude in which he calmed things down by actually controlling the puck, the Blues did a good job sending it down the ice and keeping it out of harm's way.
Needless to say, the Blues killed it with ease, and resumed dominating the Flames at even strength. That domination led to Matt Stajan tripping Alex Pietrangelo while just trying to keep up, giving the Blues their first powerplay of the game. (A scrum broke out as well, and both Ladislav Smid and Ian Cole were sent off for roughing.)
While Mikael Backlund and Brodie did a good job of briefly getting the puck out of harm's way and controlling it down the ice, they couldn't get a good scoring chance out of it, and the Blues came roaring right back. David Backes was perfectly camped out in front of Hiller, and had no problems redirecting a Kevin Shattenkirk shot to put the Blues up 2-0.
The Flames seemed to find their footing in the second half of the period, though. This coincided with Backlund, Brodie, and Giordano being much more frequent on-ice presences, along with the occasional controlling appearance from Johnny Gaudreau. They even started getting chances of their own, although Brian Elliott was able to turn away everything that came at him as the Flames worked to tie up the shot (and corsi) clock.
Russell was getting in on it as well, opening up some chances, including a smooth play to Curtis Glencross, who then dished it off to a wide open and freshly returned Dennis Wideman, who got a good shot off (although it was wide. Man). The period ended on a similar Russell startup play, except his stick broke right in his hand. Fortunately for him and the rest of the Flames, that's when the buzzer went, ending the first.
The Flames couldn't carry their good will and improved effort to the start the second. The Blues came out controlling, and then, Engelland struck.
First he collided with Russell, similar to his collision with Setoguchi which led to the Blues' first goal. Fortunately, no goal came of it. So, clearly unsatisfied with that, Engelland skated in where Bollig and Ryan Reaves were scrumming to help him out. (Uh, isn't Bollig supposed to be a tough guy? Why does Engelland need to help him?) Anyway, Engelland got called for high sticking, and once again, it took barely any time at all for the Blues to add to their lead. Shattenkirk, once again, with a shot - this time off the boards - that bounced out to Pietrangelo. Brodie picked up on him too late, and the Blues' best defenceman had a wide open net to shoot at to put his team up 3-0.
Just when the Flames were finally able to respond with some decent chances - Mark Giordano pinged it off the crossbar, Setoguchi and Paul Byron combined for what looked like it was definitely going to be a goal, until Elliott grabbed it out of mid-air, and an outstanding shift by the Gaudreau - Joe Colborne - Mason Raymond line, featuring Brodie, generated a number of good tries - the Blues, once again, capitalized. Jaden Schwartz to Vladimir Tarasenko quickly put the Blues up 4-0.
Still unsatisfied, Engelland cross checked Steen for whatever reason. He can thank Backes for getting called for a hook three seconds into the Blues' powerplay.
The Flames actually didn't fare poorly during the 4 on 4. Raymond, still revelling in his hat trick from Thursday night, moved the puck up into the zone, dishing it off to Brodie, who quickly tapped it to Colborne, who tapped it just wide. While the Flames weren't able to generate a ton of good chances, that one wasn't bad, and it all started with Raymond (featuring, once again, Brodie).
Hiller clearly wasn't having the best night after that poor Tarasenko goal, but as the Blues started putting the pressure on again, he seemed to square himself away and get back into the game. Meanwhile, Reaves, who took advantage of simpler minded Flames to draw a powerplay, slashed McGrattan. McGrattan, who had done literally nothing of note and whose only purpose seemed to be to be a big body, retaliated with an unsportsmanlike penalty. It was all very productive.
Stastny soon put the Flames back on the powerplay, and while they - surprise - were once again unable to capitalize, it was - surprise - Brodie and Raymond really giving them an honest chance to break Elliott's shutout.
The period ended with Hiller flashing the glove, similar to some of those great saves he showed us back in the season opener against the Canucks.
Byron, with the help of his outstanding centre Backlund, kicked things off for the Flames in the futile effort to erase a four-goal deficit. The two danced around the offensive zone with Byron throwing the puck on net a couple of times, but Elliott had no trouble keeping it out. Byron kept it up, though, drawing an interference call on Stastny (in which he was honestly more the guilty party) to give the Flames the man advantage.
Gaudreau came in late on the powerplay, and started to get something going; unfortunately, Elliott had no problems freezing the puck, and time ran out. Then it was time for the Blues to try to add to their lead, as Giordano was called for interference on TJ Oshie. While the Flames were able to kill it, the Blues, once again, had no problem sustaining pressure, despite a brief, skilled interlude by Sean Monahan and Gaudreau to get the puck out.
Bob Hartley responded by throwing his fourth line back on the ice. Because the fourth line is going to sustain/create/do anything with offensive pressure. They were, however, soon gone, and once again Brodie was there to save the day. Not only did he enter the puck with the offensive zone, but he drew a penalty as well as Oshie hauled him down.
And yet, once again, the Flames couldn't do anything with the man advantage. A rookie mistake by Gaudreau gave Max Lapierre a quick shorthanded chances, but Hiller, fortunately, isn't going to let Max Lapierre score on him. Elliott, meanwhile, wasn't going to let a single Flame score on him, either.
Engelland must have realized he hadn't "helped" in a while, so he got into a pointless fight with Barret Jackman while his team was down 4-0, because that helped in some way I'm sure. (It did keep him off the ice, so I guess that was thoughtful of him.)
Once the Flames were able to get good players (re: Backlund and Byron) back on the ice, they started generating chances. Lance Bouma joined in on the rush, and with a good scoring chance, was taken down by Shattenkirk and into Elliott. Shattenkirk was called for the hook, and the Flames went back to the man advantage.
Miraculously, this time, it worked, pretty much all thanks to Brodie. With the Flames struggling to keep the puck in the offensive zone, Brodie was able to quickly retrieve it, and pass to his defence partner. Giordano took a quick shot, and Glencross tipped it in to end Elliott's shutout.
That was about it, though. Backlund and Backes accidentally came together (but back-to-back), and Backlund's stick cut Backes' face open. For whatever reason, he was only given two minutes, but there were fewer than two minutes to go in the game anyway. The Blues kept showing off just how much better they were as they closed out the game with a 4-1 victory.
Flame of the game
There's no question on this one: TJ Brodie. The young Flames defenceman led the team in ice time, with 22:20, and was (finally!) second in powerplay time with 4:21. Not only that, but he was second on the team in CF as well, at 68%. He was behind just his defence partner, Giordano, in both instances. Brodie was noticeable throughout the game, showing off great poise, intelligence, and exceptional skating abilities. He was a catalyst on the Flames' lone goal, the shot leader with four, and a set up man for so many other chances. The Flames have an incredible young defenceman on their hands. They'd better not let him go to waste.
- Have you noticed how well Brodie and Backlund have combined - not just this game, but in past two games as well? They're 24 and 25 respectively, and both upcoming restricted free agents. Not only were they two of the Flames' best players last year, but they're trending that way this year as well. Neither has quite put together a scoring prowess yet, but the two are learning to find each other and generate some real chances.
- Speaking of Backlund and chemistry, how about him working with Byron? The two really worked well together in the third, with Backlund setting up Byron to pelt shots on net (he finished with three), and both ended up as a few of the Flames' positive possession players, with 54% and 52% CF, respectively.
- Raymond was another exceptional player for the Flames. He skated with confidence all night, and seemed to generate just as many chances as Brodie. Raymond worked well with Gaudreau and Colborne, and the three rounded out the Flames' positive possession players.
- Setoguchi's Flames debut could have gone better (thanks, Deryk!). He was a part of the Flames' initial powerplay, and occasionally showed up offensively, mostly with Byron right with him. He wasn't one of the best Flames on the night, but he definitely wasn't one of the worst.
- Shall we talk about who were some of the worst? Bollig and McGrattan serve no purpose. They once again had the least amount of ice time on the team, and hey, at 17%, they were the worst CF players as well. It's just sad watching them. They kill any momentum the Flames' skilled players have set up, and just don't contribute. They threw a couple of hits, because they never have the puck when they're on the ice. McGrattan negated a Flames powerplay by taking a selfish penalty of his own. For some bizarre reason, Engelland felt the need to come in and protect Bollig. Why? What is the point of having them? They aren't "protecting" anybody. They're occupying roster spots that would be put to better use with Flames prospects who actually have the potential to actually contribute down the line.
- Free Matt Stajan. Stop dressing him with the aforementioned clowns. Stajan got killed possession-wise as well, because guess who his linemates were? Despite being a pretty decent player, he's barely getting any ice time, and instead is left to flounder with little to no help due to nonsensical coaching decisions. How much is he regretting signing that four year extension if this is how he's going to be treated?
- I love Bouma. He's my ideal fourth liner. Which is where he should be: on the fourth line. He performs well, he uses his body perfectly, he's tenacious and chases the puck and is a regular penalty killer and he's good at it. But putting him on the wing of the Flames' best centre when the lineup already has a lack of goal scoring is bizarre. Sure, he's still young and has the potential to score, but he wasn't a scorer in junior, and it's not likely he'll suddenly become one in the major leagues. Let him play in the role he's best suited for.
Wishes for next game
Unrealistic: Set Engelland's contract on fire. Did the Flames really sign him if no copy of his contract exists? What an absolutely horrendous game for him. This isn't even a "tank for Connor McDavid" thing. You don't sign players to nearly-$9 million dollar deals unless you actually believe in the player. The Flames legitimately believe in Deryk Engelland, and that's both dumb and terrifying. You have to feel for poor Rafa Diaz, who must seriously be wondering what he did to deserve the pressbox while watching the display below.
Realistic: The Flames kept Gaudreau in the lineup. He made the big team. So play him. He only had 12:22 in ice time tonight, better than just the fourth line. You could make the argument about easing him into the league, and that's a fair point, but then, why not play him on the powerplay? Gaudreau only played 2:06 with the man advantage, and over half of that came in the third period. The powerplay is perfect for him, especially if you're trying to ease him into the NHL. With his skills, he should be on the first unit. Let's see more of that.
So, that was kind of a disaster! But that's what's going to happen when you have the Flames face a far better team. The Blues were pretty bad a few years ago, so there's hope yet the Flames can get to their level with just a bit of time. It won't be any time soon, though, and certainly not in time for the Flames' next game: Tuesday, Oct. 14, at 6 p.m. MT in Nashville. See you then! May it be a better watch!