The playoff race the Flames have found themselves in has become tighter and tighter since the all-star break, and has forced the team to play the best hockey they have all year. They didn’t play that hockey tonight. The Los Angeles Kings, who year after year prove to be the best team heading down the stretch, were pretty much better at everything than the Flames. It was not pretty.
Before the game began, the Kings held a ceremony in honour of coach Barry Melrose for "Legends Night," their version of "Forever a Flame." The ceremonies included him talking, and being presented with a watch. The Kings’ only Stanley Cup winning head coach Darryl Sutter watched on from the bench. Los Angeles also donned their royal purple and yellow throwbacks, jerseys they weren’t wearing when Barry Melrose was coach. I don’t understand it either, but it happened, and it delayed the beginning of the game for quite some time.
The first period was about as Flames as the first period could get. After allowing the Kings to get the first few shots in, Calgary found themselves in the offensive zone, but only briefly. Some bad puck handling by Sean Monahan allowed Jeff Carter to scoop up the puck. This turnover resulted in a 3-on-2, with the Kings’ deadly Seventies Line facing off against Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman. Tasked with playing defence, they elected to do nothing besides skate backwards. A quick pass and a nice shot by Tyler Toffoli resulted in a Kings goal. The collective defensive mindfart registered a two on the Richter scale. 1-0 Kings.
Well, that’s Flames hockey for you. Go down one, fight back later. Clearly this team needed some energy, so Brandon Bollig stepped on the ice for a scrap with Kyle Clifford. Good truculence! But the Flames were in the offensive zone setting up a play. Please just go back to warming benches Bollig.
That circus act was quickly forgotten as the Kings took a penalty that counted as Jake Muzzin hooked David Jones. The powerplay got off to a very bad start, as a Mikael Backlund turnover sent Jeff Carter streaking down for a scoring opportunity. Hiller said no. After this scary moment, the Flames settled down, and got about ninety seconds of sustained pressure in the Kings zone. However, things still remained 1-0.
The rest of the period was mostly dominated by L.A. The Flames’ offensive zone efforts usually ended in turnovers, including a scary 2-on-1 chance against Russell. This time he was bailed out by Jonas Hiller, a recurring theme this season. The period ended with the Kings leading in goals, shots, and corsi: 1-0, 11-6, and 27-13 respectively. It was going to be one of those games.
The second period began where the first left off. The Kings were once again getting all the pressure, and the Flames couldn’t get out of their zone. The only way they got out was because of a Dustin Brown offensive zone interference penalty. Tragedy nearly struck early in this Flames powerplay, after a wild sequence involving a Johnny Gaudreau turnover, Raphael Diaz tripping, and Johnny Gaudreau tripping over Raphael Diaz. This comedy of errors left Jeff Carter alone on the breakaway, but was stoned by Hiller. Again.
This powerplay was not all bad news. Hartley deployed the surprisingly effective first unit of Raymond-Backlund-Jones with Wideman and Brodie, who gained the zone and set up for the attack. It was a pretty typical Flames powerplay – pass it around until Wideman takes a slapshot. This time, it worked. After bouncing off of a Kings defender, David Jones whacked it down for the first Flames goal. 1-1.
All silliness ensued after. Right off the draw, the Kings gained the zone and nearly took the lead again. Hiller was having none of it. The Glencross-Stajan-Raymond line counterattacked quickly, gaining the zone and rushing the net. The ensuing chaos saw some very nice passing from Wideman, Stajan, and Raymond, the latter eventually taking a shot and scoring. Glencross may have been interfering with Quick, but the refs decided against that. 2-1 Calgary.
Jonathan Quick took a penalty after throwing a hissy fit, a la the one he had the other time the Flames visited L.A. He was none too pleased about allowing two goals in 32 seconds, especially one in dubious circumstances. The Flames really didn’t care, as they got another free powerplay. Momentum is nice.
This third powerplay was not as nice as the other two, with the Kings playing to keep things from slipping further away from them. Two minutes flew by uneventfully. The Flames kept the momentum for the most part however, actually getting some pressure in the Kings zone without the need of the extra man. Johnny Hockey even outmuscled Drew Doughty to send a nice pass to Sean Monahan, who fanned on the shot.
Los Angeles recuperated and were back to dominating the Flames in their own zone. Things became more dangerous when Curtis Glencross took a slashing penalty. The Kings had intense pressure during the two minutes, but Hiller was being Hiller. A little bit of luck helps too, such as Jamie McBain missing a wide open net from point-blank range. Whatever, still 2-1.
The Flames were plagued by puck problems throughout the entire game, none coming more painfully then one late in the period. Johnny Gaudreau took the puck away from the Kings, setting him and Jiri Hudler up for a deadly 2-on-1. The move was killed after Gaudreau lost the puck a little bit after crossing the blue line. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was a turning point in the game.
The Kings scooped that puck back up and didn’t look back. They pretty much set up camp in the Flames’ zone for the remainder of the period. Some loose defensive play combined with the Kings being really good resulted in another Tyler Toffoli goal in the dying seconds of the period. 2-2.
The period ended again with disgusting stats. By the end of the 2nd, Hiller had already faced a game’s worth of shots, 30-10 for the Kings, 19 of those coming in the second. The Flames only got off four in the period. L.A. outcorsi’d them 32-14 as well, leading 59-27 for the game.
Close games in the Staples Center are a familiarity to Flames fans. We all expected a fast and furious finish, with the Flames actually playing harder and better than the Kings. We got the opposite. Dwight King waltzed in and shot it five hole after some pretty passing from the Kings and defensive absentmindedness from the Flames. 3-2 Kings, 59 seconds in.
This unfortunate setback did not deter the Third Period Flames, but they just couldn’t match the Kings’ momentum. Scoring two goals to regain the lead in under a minute of game time tends to fire you up. From the very start, we knew that Darryl Sutter was never going to let his team sit back on the Flames, and the Kings played accordingly.
The Flames began making mistakes in the pursuit of third period goals. An awfully executed line change allowed Jordan Nolan to sneak in the zone after a perfectly threaded pass from Doughty. Nolan’s shot was redirected by Wideman, making it impossible for Hiller to see. 4-2 Kings.
Someone should buy Jonas Hiller a pizza after this game. He was completely hung out to dry this game, as evidenced by the number of amazing saves he had to make on odd man rushes. Allowing Tyler Toffoli to sneak past the entire defence while in the offensive zone requires a really big "we’re sorry!" card signed by everyone. 5-2 Kings
Hiller was relieved of duty from goal, and Karri Ramo subbed in for the second time in three games. You really have to wonder why he never got the starting nod, especially when Jonas Hiller was battling the flu. I really just don’t understand, especially when Ramo was actually making highlight saves during his short appearance. The man nearly broke the Flames’ shutout record this season. Try playing him.
For those of you who turned your televisions off, you didn’t miss anything. The Kings, having finally believed they had killed the demons that had been haunting them for so long began to dial it down a bit. It didn’t really change anything. Desperation can produce wonderful moments, but it can also produce sloppiness more often than not. The Flames, even when given the chance to try and do something on offence, couldn’t do anything. Pucks bouncing off sticks, errant passes, and everything else that could go wrong did go wrong.
The only bright side was Johnny Gaudreau setting up Mason Raymond after a takeaway. Too little, too late. 5-3 Kings.
And with that, the game pretty much sputtered to the end. Once again, L.A. dominated the period, outshooting the Flames 15-8 and outcorsi-ing them 28-15. The final totals were 45-18 in shots and 87-42 in corsi, both for L.A.
- Paul Byron continued to prove that he is a super useful player despite not scoring. He was tossing hits left and right and was one of the better players tonight.
- Mason Raymond. He was promoted to the first line in the third period, as Bob Hartley slowly realized that he is probably a good player and not deserving of sitting for over 3/4ths of the game. Fingers crossed for next game.
- The Raymond-Stajan-Glencross line was also really good tonight.
- How does a professional hockey team turn the puck over so much? Please send a nice letter to Jonas Hiller for having to put up with having some of the worst defending in the league.
- Speaking of, Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman need to figure something out. The corsi stats for either of them were not pretty. I don’t want to spoil the stats preview tomorrow, but I’m just saying that their presence on the ice pretty much caused the Flames to lose singlehandedly
- Karri Ramo not starting. Hiller had the flu. The flu! Remember when Hartley cycled his goalies?
The race for the West just became 100% more interesting, as Minnesota won 2-1 over Florida. This pushes them to within two points of the Flames with a game in hand. Winnipeg lost to Nashville 3-1 as well, keeping them within catching distance. Vancouver and San Jose both play tomorrow, and both need to lose if Calgary wants to keep in this playoff race.
The Flames are off until Saturday, Hockey Day in Canada/Valentine’s Day, where they face the Canucks at 8 P.M. This game will probably be a deciding factor as to whether the Flames make the playoffs or not. Let’s hope for much, much better.