Follow me on Twitter @ToddCordell
Five observations from Calgary vs Ottawa:
1. It happened again.
Another game, another slow start from the Calgary Flames. It was not shocking considering they were in the latter half of a back-to-back and in a 6-in-9 against a fairly rested team. That doesn’t make it acceptable. It is one thing to be fatigued and struggle to keep up late. It is another to start the way Calgary did. There seemed to be no urgency and everything was so sloppy. The Flames kind of just lobbed the puck around and hoped things worked out. They weren’t hard on the puck. They turned it over a ton. Their passes were poor and predictable. And Ottawa made them pay. I refuse to give the Flames a free pass because they routinely start hockey games this poorly even when rested. There is something very wrong with this team and/or the way they prepare.
2. Calgary’s goaltending was terrible.
David Rittich started his third game in four days after barely playing all season. It showed. Like the team in front of him, he looked off from the get go. He allowed a couple leaky goals – none worse than Erik Brannstrom’s from the neutral zone – and the mistakes seemed to compound. I think that is why he was so frustrated after being pulled. He has worked a lot on the mental aspect of his game but he was really fighting it last night and I think that ate at his focus. Things weren’t any better after the change. Being thrown into a blowout unexpectedly is probably not ideal for an NHL debut but Artyom Zagidulin very much looked like an AHL goaltender. Pucks were squeaking by him that had no business going in. Perhaps that is why the Flames elected to ride Rittich in a 3-in-4 rather than giving Zagidulin a chance. It’s not hard to blame the team for a lack of faith given what he showed against Ottawa. Get healthy, Jacob Markstrom.
3. Be stronger.
Milan Lucic is one of the biggest and toughest players in the NHL. He should not be giving up the puck so easily. He turned it over along the wall prior to one of Ottawa’s 1st period goals. In the 2nd frame he kind of just fell and chopped the puck, which led to directly to a goal. It shouldn’t have gone in, of course, but it was sort of a lazy play that freely resulted in a change of possession. I don’t want to single out Lucic because there were plenty of others in the same boat, however, none have the strength that he does. He also averages ~12 minutes per game and shouldn’t be as impacted by fatigue as some others.
4. The top line showed up.
On a positive note, I thought Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, and Andrew Mangiapane built on some of what they did vs Toronto. Attempts were 16-5 Calgary with that trio on the ice and they were only on for three scoring chances against. Better yet, as a line, they weren’t out there for a goal against. That’s an accomplishment when you lose 6-1. Now to get the rest of the lines going…
5. Calgary probably should have sold high.
I know Mark Giordano wasn’t as impressive last year as two seasons ago. He was still good, though, and only a season removed from a Norris Trophy. His value would’ve been pretty high. Given all the rumors of the Flames wanting to shake things up, I thought it made sense to seriously listen on Giordano
. They didn’t, and they may come to regret it. His play has really fallen off. He is averaging less than .50 points per game, his on-ice numbers are poor (48.56 CF%, 47.78 xGF%), and he just doesn’t look very good. Again, not much is going well right now and he could look worse than he is as a result. But, man, I can’t help but think the Flames would’ve been smart to think long-term and move on from Giordano during the 10 year off-season.
numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
Four bold predictions for the 2021 season: North Division edition
Breakout picks from the North Division
2021 NHL award predictions: North Division edition
Three reasons to be optimistic about the Flames in 2021