The Calgary Flames started out incredibly strong, but as the game went on, the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to overcome them, and took control of the game. The overall result wasn't surprising, but it maybe could have been prevented if one coach would get over this one bizarre grudge he has.
While the previous matchup started a bit slow, the contest in Tampa got off to a fast paced start - for the Flames in particular, as they quickly began outshooting the Lightning. Josh Jooris' addition to the top line provided some much needed initial jump, and Sven Baertschi came out of the gates roaring and clearly hungry to get on the scoreboard.
While Calgary had the better pressure to start the game, it was Tampa who was first on board. Stuck in their own zone with the fourth line and bottom pairing out, Cedric Paquette muscled his way past Brandon Bollig and neatly tucked the puck in past Jonas Hiller for a great first NHL goal, putting the Lightning up 1-0.
The Flames responded well to the deficit, with Baertschi immediately trying to score right off the faceoff. The Lightning started putting in a much more respectable performance following their goal, but the Flames never relinquished their lead in shots, and it paid off for them. TJ Brodie delivered his now-signature outlook pass to an uncovered Jiri Hudler, and Hudler absolutely sniped it past an unresponsive Ben Bishop, tying the game at 1.
With the period ticking down, the Lightning nearly got on the board again (and yes, the Flames' fourth line was on the ice), but the net was lifted up a bit as Kris Russell was hit just under the visor. He was okay, though, and the Flames left the frame tied and having had the better period.
Calgary outshout Tampa 12-9, and out-corsied them 25-19.
The Flames seemed unprepared at the start of the second, as the Lightning came out peppering Hiller with shots, and a bouncing puck made its way right to Paquette. He directed it fivehole on Hiller for his second career goal, giving Tampa back the lead with a 2-1 score.
Eric Brewer gave the puck away just inside his blueline, and David Jones was on it and about to go in alone. To rectify that, Brewer pulled him in for a hook, giving the Flames the first powerplay of the game. They didn't have a great start, as an attempted Russell drop pass was quickly intercepted by Brian Boyle, who scored shorthanded off his own rebound to give the Bolts a 3-1 lead.
Fortunately, it only took 20 seconds for the Flames to respond as they quickly entered Tampa's zone, and Sean Monahan batted it in to pull the Flames back within one, 3-2.
That was immediately followed up with some 4 on 4 action, as Curtis Glencross was called for a hook on Tyler Johnson, and Johnson went off for a dive. And then it happened again! The open ice saw the Flames in control initially, but right in front of the net, Anton Stralman was called for an elbow on Markus Granlund, and the better Granlund apparently dove on the play.
Sadly, the game stayed at 4 on 4, so no crazy long 3 on 3 action for us. Which is stupid. I mean, if you're going to call that many penalties...
BUT THEN. Just as we were getting close to going back to full strength, Jonathan Drouin tripped Russell, and apparently, to the refs' satisfaction, Russell did not dive, putting the Flames on the powerplay. We got a few seconds of 4 on 3 action, but it quickly returned to 5 on 4 following some great Mark Giordano and Monahan shots. Despite Calgary's pressure and excellent late chances, Tampa successfully killed the penalty, preserving the 3-2 score.
And then, a series of pings. Jason Garrison rang it off the post, and right after, so did Monahan, in what was very, very close to being a goal had Bishop's fallen body not obstructed view of the puck. And then Johnson hit the post.
That was followed up with Tampa's first powerplay opportunity, as Brodie hooked a non-diving Valtteri Filppula. The Bolts had their best chance with an absolute force of a Garrison point shot, but an outstanding Hiller glove save countered it perfectly, and the Flames killed the penalty, keeping the game within one.
A scrum came about when JT Brown nearly sprung Brenden Morrow on a break, but Hiller was on the puck, and Morrow's jab was clearly not appreciated as both Russell and Dennis Wideman were on him before everyone else came in.
While the Lightning had a better period, the Flames were still very much in the game. Shots were 22-22, but Calgary was still out-corsiing Tampa 42-39.
Third period, same as the second. Just like in the previous frame, Tampa got off to a very quick start. With the puck bouncing around the Flames' end and the Lightning firmly in control, in part thanks to a Wideman giveaway, a perfectly placed Johnson shot put the Lightning up 4-2 just 40 seconds in.
The Flames responded well, with an absolutely dominating shift largely controlled by Brodie and Rafa Diaz that resulted in Calgary's third powerplay of the game when a frustrated and tired Brewer crosschecked Jooris. The Flames controlled the powerplay for the most part, getting several shots on net, but had a number of extremely poor plays.
Wideman gave the puck away in the exact same way Russell did that gave the Lightning their shorthanded goal. The Lightning got a second break with the powerplay nearing its end. And then, with the penalty killed, Filppula went in all alone. It was a series of poor defensive lapses by the Flames, and they were fortunate the Bolts either couldn't handle the puck, or Hiller was there to foil them.
The Flames went back on the powerplay when Boyle hooked Jooris, but it was killed with little fanfare. So down two with just three minutes to go, Hartley pulled Hiller, and while the Flames tried valiantly to keep the Lightning from the puck, it wasn't to be as Filppula got the empty netter, sealing the 5-2 win for Tampa.
The game ended with a 33-31 shot advantage for the Lightning, as well a 60-59 corsi advantage.
Flame of the game
Gotta give it to the Captain, Mark Giordano. Gio played a team-high 26:20 (okay so just two seconds more than Brodie), factoring in on both Flames goals while playing some of the worst zone starts and toughest competition, impressively shutting down Steven Stamkos. He should have won the Norris last season. Maybe this time?
- You wanna talk about the need for a team to have size? Okay, let's talk about the need for a team to have size. Like how Bollig had 25 pounds on Paquette, and yet couldn't do a thing to stop the Lightning rookie from getting his first NHL goal. Or how Russell manhandled a 32-pounds-heavier Morrow. Size doesn't mean a thing if you're a bad player to begin with.
- Of course, it's a great thing to have if you have a good player. Like Monahan. He came into the league right out of the draft in part because he already had the size. The great thing, though, is he's improved by leaps and bounds. Monahan had a very poor possession game last season, but this season, he's steadily getting better. He was the only Flame forward to play over 20 minutes tonight, clocking in with 21:07.
- Russell and Wideman have done a pretty good job as the Flames' second pairing, but both were poor tonight. They made some costly giveaways, including giving up shorthanded chances with lazy passing (Russell's resulted in a goal, while Wideman's efforts to contribute to a goal against came at even strength).
- This is just to emphasize how incredible Giordano and Brodie really are. They're leaps and bounds ahead of not just everyone on the Flames, but many - and possibly all - defencemen in the league. They're now numbers one and two in defencemen scoring out in the entire NHL. Giordano has 15 points in 15 games. Brodie has 14 points in 15 games. The two also had just 19% zone starts at even strength, mostly against Tampa's top line, and were great at keeping them in check, while coming away with 50 and 54% CF, respectively. Incredible performance.
- Diaz drew in for Ladislav Smid, and considering how the Smid - Engelland pairing is a complete and utter trainwreck, you know what? He should be a lineup regular. He should have been for a while now, but he had a particularly great performance tonight, and certainly shouldn't be scratched. Diaz, with Brodie, largely controlled the puck together at one point that resulted in a Flames powerplay. He got powerplay time. And he certainly had a better game than Deryk Engelland.
- As said in this recap's title, Bob Hartley doesn't have a fucking clue what to do with Baertschi, and it's just sad and pathetic at this point. It's been this way ever since he's been here. Baertschi has time and time again been unfairly scapegoated, and has been sent down a couple of times as a direct result of it. And you wonder why he has a supposed attitude problem? He already knows he can't win.
- Sven's first period. He plays 5:30, some of the most out of all Flames forwards, and comes out flying. It's his best period this season. He looks friggin' great.
- Come powerplay time, it's Devin Setoguchi out on the first unit. It's Setoguchi who leads the entire team with 4:18 on the powerplay (along with Johnny Gaudreau). So what does Baertschi get for an outstanding first, including multiple scoring chances? Not a single SECOND on the powerplay.
- Baertschi plays just 3:53 in the second.
- Baertschi plays just 2:39 in the third. Oh, it was nice of Hartley to send him out there after Filppula's empty netter, though. When the game was totally out of reach. And he proceeded to generate a scoring chance. Could've probably used that a little earlier in the game, maybe?
- Just 11:02 for Baertschi overall. Two shots on goal, which both came in the first period. Just a 20% offensive zone start, and yet he was on the ice for 17 shot attempts for, and only seven against. Because. You know. He's actually not a bad player.
- At what point do we stop blaming Sven, and start blaming Hartley? Literally all Hartley has done with this talented kid is crush him over and over and over again.
- And you know what? The Flames actually played a really good game. Turnovers killed them, but they were in it. Maybe, just MAYBE, they would have had SLIGHTLY more scoring power had the coach ACTUALLY PLAYED ONE OF HIS PLAYERS WITH THE MOST JUMP.
- There are allcaps and swearing in this portion of the recap because I am fucking frustrated seeing what was once my favourite prospect being reduced to nothing by a coach who has not once, at any point, given him a fair goddamn shake. And right when it looks like he's on the verge of overcoming this and turning the corner, Baertschi is inexplicably benched, and surprise! After one of the best offensive Flames of the first gets benched, the team generates jack all after. You think there might be a connection there?
Next game wishes
Unrealistic: Play Sven on the powerplay. Fucking PLAY SVEN IN GENERAL. This is ridiculous. Bob Hartley is doing an excellent job with this team, but literally every single time he's been in charge of Baertschi, he's been worse than incompetent. Unless his goal was to ruin one of the Flames' top prospects, because he has done an outstanding job at that. Baertschi will never succeed in Calgary as long as Bob Hartley is here.
Realistic: I doubt Diaz gets scratched again. He's not this team's seventh defenceman, and he should become a lineup regular.
So! We've got an unusually early game up next, as the Flames travel just a touch
north south (geography is hard, folks) to play the Florida Panthers on Saturday, Oct. 8, at 1 p.m. MT for some reason. It'll be our first real look at Aaron Ekblad. Neat.