The Flames and their fans entered Wednesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on a high. The team had just had three days to recuperate following a 6-2 victory over the Jets. The team was on a six game winning streak, and for a brief moment led the Pacific Division.
Pretty much everything that had been going right, ended up going wrong over these two games as the Flames were dominated in both, being outscored 10-4 in the two games.
First, let’s look at the circumstances surrounding the two games. The Flames had to play one of the league’s coldest teams in the Lightning who had only had one win in their past eight games, then one of the hottest in the Blue Jackets.
The Lightning were simply the hungrier and more desperate team (as they should’ve been) for most of the game as they essentially shut down everything once they got up 3-1 and 4-1. Of course they let the Flames get close with a few garbage goals but that was only to get our hopes before they could shatter them again.
Meanwhile the Jackets played the way they had been playing for two months now and thoroughly dominated the Flames. Any chances the Flames did create either ended up being blocked or going wide of the net. Anything that found it’s way on net had to get past the hottest goalie in the league in Sergei Bobrovsky.
Let’s talk about goaltending for a second. Chad Johnson was allowed four goals in both games, being pulled in the TB game. I’d argue that he was let down especially in the first game as the team let long points shots get through to him that he had no chance of seeing through screens. All but one of Tampa’s goals on him came off a shot from the blue line. Meanwhile the Blue Jackets just made the right plays to get solid goals that Johnson didn’t have much chance on.
With the Flames falling behind by so many goals early in both games, they dug themselves an incredible hole against two strong defensive teams with two of the best goalies in the game opposing them. Things weren’t pretty.
I don’t think Johnson deserves a lot of the blame in either loss, and there were a lot of games where he was spectacular so I’m willing to let this duo of games slide. However, Brian Elliott also had a lot of games where the team let him down, so it definitely should be time to go to him against the Coyotes. I’m guessing he would’ve played that night anyways since the Flames are in San Jose the next night.
Let’s talk about the team and how flat and uninterested they looked in both games. When a freshly turned 19 year old rookie is your biggest aggressor, something is wrong. I’m a big advocate of Garnet Hathaway as he brings a lot of energy every shift, and although his advanced stats are among the very worst on the team, they aren’t that much worse than Lance Bouma. Plus, at the end of the day it’s a fourth line wing spot, it’s not like you expect the player to be leading every category, you expect the player to be making an impact.
Since Bouma has returned what noticeable impact has he really made? Sure he scored against the Jets but that was in the 3rd period of a 4-0 game. I didn’t even notice him once in either of the last two games, and if a 4th liner who’s main priority is to cause trouble and get the team going isn’t being noticed, then he’s failing.
Hathaway hasn’t been afraid to mix it up and stand up with the toughest of NHLers this season, and he’s shown a lot of potential to be a bottom six forward for the future. Quite frankly if we aren’t going to play him and allow him to do his best, then he should be sent to Stockton so he doesn’t rot in the press box.
The Flames as a team have looked very lackluster and the six game win streak now seems to be a distant memory. As teams around them continue to win, they have to get things back together very quickly, or they could find themselves where they were a few weeks ago. They have a big game against the Sharks on Tuesday, and have no excuse not to pick up a win in Arizona on Monday.
But if there’s more performances like the ones we’ve just seen, this could get very ugly very fast.