As of last night, the Calgary Flames are officially out of a playoff spot. It sucks. There are still 12 games to go, and the Flames have a fair number of games remaining against non-playoff teams so there is, of course, still hope. There will, in all likelihood, be hope right down to the end of the season.
For right now, though, it sucks.
The St. Louis Blues are definitely the better team, and Ken Hitchcock is the better coach to match them. The Blues stymied the Flames, capitalizing on their chances while limiting the Flames' own.
Even if the Flames did manage to have the puck for a fair amount of the game. Via HockeyStats.ca, in all situations:
The Flames did keep relative pace with the Blues, far closer than those of us who spend a lot of time purveying advanced stats really expected. Still, the Blues successfully pulled away, and the Flames were never able to make up for lost ground.
The Blues dominated in quality, too. Via War on Ice, 5v5 even strength scoring chances were firmly in their favour most of the game:
The Flames didn't even really start pushing until David Backes scored his empty netter, and by then, they were pretty clearly going to lose.
However, when you look at the even strength shot plot, there isn't that great a disparity:
Just, you know, the Blues actually scored goals. Both teams did a lot of shot blocking, though, but the Flames really did make sure Brian Elliott had some work cut out for him in his shutout, as they were able to get a number of tries on him from right within the slot. He just had them, while Jonas Hiller wasn't able to stop everything he faced, whether it was due to unfortunate screenings or slow reactions.
The Flames really did put themselves in good position to score for portions of the game. They just couldn't successfully finish. That's the way it goes sometimes.
Period by period analysis, via NaturalStatTrick:
Flames vs Blues - All Situations
- First period aside, things were surprisingly even when it came to puck possession. And it was tied after the first.
- Although with the Blues having safely, and seemingly easily, building up a four goal lead, score effects likely played a part for the performance in the third.
- The Blues are just legitimately good enough for it to not matter. There's a reason they're contending for the conference, after all. Surprise season aside, we can all agree the Flames aren't there yet.
Flames vs Blues - Even Strength
- Just two powerplays all game: one for the Blues in the first, and one for the Flames in the third.
- The Blues garnered four shot attempts off of those powerplays: three when they had the man advantage, and one when they were shorthanded.
- The Flames did literally nothing with their powerplay.
- So the third period evens out, while the first edges in the Flames' favour, pointing towards decent even strength play and a pretty poor special teams performance.
Flames Even Strength Data
- Deryk Engelland finally didn't kill TJ Brodie! Brodie was, of course, still better when separated from him, but both sample and difference are so minimal. This doesn't excuse all of the other times this pairing has brought one another down, nor does it mean to necessarily expect it to succeed again; however, we do now know it's possible the pairing can work together at least once.
- Rafa Diaz and David Schlemko, on the other hand, were decimated out there. Especially Schlemko. And they had the benefit of easier zone starts. Right at the time Hartley is starting to give them more minutes and bring balance back to his backend, too.
- Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell were... I guess you could call them "eh". Below average for the Flames in this game, with relatively sheltered zone starts themselves. It was Brodie and Engelland who got the toughest circumstances and came out on top.
- Brodie was the Flames' number one defenceman in this game, and it worked out well, for him and his partner at least.
- The top line of Jiri Hudler, Sean Monahan, and Johnny Gaudreau did not have a great night, outmatched by the Blues' depth.
- Mikael Backlund had a pretty good birthday game for himself, performing well against most of the Blues' top players, TJ Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo being the lone exceptions. It's just a shame he couldn't continue his point streak or score off any of the chances he helped create.
- His linemates had slightly less successful games, but it's only due to minor variance. David Jones was out there a little longer; a couple more shot attempts against happened. Lance Bouma was out there a little less; he wasn't on the ice for as many shot attempts for. Backlund just ended up being the happy medium.
- Something similar happened in the third line's case. Joe Colborne was a touch better than Mason Raymond, helping get one additional shot attempt in less time played. Josh Jooris was out there a little less than both of them, and so, missed out on some more offensive potential. Considering how the trio had the highest zone starts on the team, though, some more offence would have been nice to see from them. Good game from Colborne, though.
- The fourth line was put exclusively in a defensive position, and you can see that the less they played, the better their possession rates were, because the fewer chances were available to go against them. Matt Stajan, the best of the group, suffered the most. Brandon Bollig had as a good of a showing as Brandon Bollig's ever going to get, going up against the opposition's fourth line. And Michael Ferland played the part of the rookie entrusted with the least ice time out of everyone, because rookie.
Honestly, overall, an unremarkable game. The Flames need some help from the out of town scoreboard now, but it's on to the next one.