They were close. They were close to remaining perfect in outdoor games. They were close to not even allowing a goal. Close only buys you one point though. Two would have been better.
Feel of the game
This was a very basic game for the first 40 minutes, which was an advantage for the Calgary Flames. With the different conditions, new line combinations, and the fact that this was still an away game, sticking to basic was smart.
During the first two periods, they played safe and smart. They relied on their penalty kill, which was in the midst of killing off 11 straight penalties. They took advantage of a power play, off a remarkable (and possibly illegal?) play by Matthew Tkachuk to keep the play alive.
Is the third period they played against Winnipeg better than their third period against the Florida Panthers from two nights ago? In some regards, yes, but overall I’m not sure. They only got scored on once. They limited the amount of high danger scoring chances. However, they seemed very content to hold a one-goal lead, only really showing life for a brief moment after the Jets tied it up. It’s not surprising that David Rittich couldn’t save everything (try as he might).
Imagine facing down Winnipeg’s extremely-depleted defense, and not pressing in the third period of a one-goal game. That’s not a winning strategy. Admittedly, neither is regaining the lead in the “most penalized team category” and those two factors directly contributed so why the Flames didn’t win.
That last play especially stung, because of how inevitable it felt. Surviving the penalty kill in overtime should have been able to reclaim some momentum in theory. Instead, a lackadaisical effort from all the skaters on the ice ended this game.
At least the aesthetics were good tonight. 40 minutes though does not a game make.
The good news
After washing away the disappointment of how this game ended, there are some really encouraging signs from this one.
Bill Peters shook up his lines, and finally made good on the oft-discussed theory to move Elias Lindholm back to centre. The results were better than I was expecting (although not enough to make me put my foot in my mouth over it) and in fact the new lines all started out fairly okay. By the end of the night, it really did feel like there was a big gap between the top six and the bottom six, but I appreciate Peters’ willingness to try something new and to give it (at least) a full game.
Rittich faced the highest amount of shots ever for a goalie in an outdoor NHL game, and only let in two. It was nice to see him bounce back from getting yanked and then letting in five goals, even if they didn’t win. When he broke his stick at the end of the game, I empathized instead of rolling my eyes. He wanted this one, and he did nearly everything he could.
While we’re talking about Rittich, he also made the incredibly smart play of going to protect Oliver Kylington after he took a nasty hit from Adam Lowry. He got him out of harm’s way and protected his head from anyone potentially falling over onto it. While it’s great that Rasmus Andersson took exception and didn’t let Lowry off the hook, Rittich showed why he’s such a beloved teammate. That’s good stuff.
Milan Lucic had some real solid forechecking alongside Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik. Not sure if that’s something that can work long-term, but it gives the Flames more versatility with their lines than I originally thought it would.
Matthew Tkachuk, beyond just that brilliant effort leading to the goal, had a good game (minus the end bit). Pairing him with Lindholm looks particularly good, and I hope they keep it up.
The bad news
Let’s get it out of the way – that last play in overtime was rubbish. The over-committing starfish from TJ Brodie was the icing on the cake of a very flat-footed Derek Ryan and Tkachuk not being a factor in the play whatsoever. After getting through killing a penalty, there was a chance that maybe the Flames could sneak away with a win. The answer was a very empathic no.
However, that was just the end of a very long third period in which the Flames, to me, seemed too content to just hold that lead. While Winnipeg has been struggling this year and their defense is “Josh Morrissey and the other ones,” they still have an incredible amount of forward depth to make the Flames pay. That tying goal felt inevitable.
I generally really like him, but Alan Quine was a non-factor in this one. No shots, no takeaways, almost nothing was credited to him. He had one hit on the night. His situation is the most precarious with the Flames right now, and games like this will make it easy to give another playing from the Heat a shot.
Rather rude of Calgary-born Morrissey to ruin Rittich’s shutout streak. Where’s the civic loyalty these days? That is definitely a thing, I will not be taking questions at this time.
The NHL has overdone outdoor games, which is a shame because they should feel like a treat and be wonderful.
ok so what i’ve gathered from my tl over the past couple of days is that basically any non flames or jets fans had no idea that the heritage classic was on tonight, or that there was an even an outdoor game
great job nhl u guys rock
— young and fresh (@RaminaShlah) October 26, 2019
Numbers of note
27:42 – Mark Giordano’s ice time. That includes a stretch where he played the first 2:53 seconds over overtime after playing the last 0:47 of regulation. It’s at the point now where I worry he’s going to burn out later this season, but understand the desire to have him out there all the time.
12 – The number of shots between Gaudreau and Tkachuk, accounting for 40% of Calgary’s total shots. They looked good with Lindholm, although good enough to make up for how the bottom six finished? Guess we’ll find out in Carolina.
10 – Games without a goal for Monahan since opening the season by scoring in back-to-back games. His shots per game is in line with his career average, and his XG% is still strong. This might the unluckiest stretch for Monahan in his career while he’s been healthy.
5 – The number hole that Gaudreau insists on going for every breakaway, or at least what it feels like. He needs to change it up.
1 – The number of shifts that Kylington missed while (presumably) completing the concussion check protocols. Fingers crossed that there is definitely nothing from that hit. Brain stuff is scary and presents in weird ways.
For the second time this season, the Flames have more than one day off in between games. This should give them some time to move on from this one (a strong game that they let get away) and regroup in time for one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Let’s hope they don’t come away from Regina as cold as the night was.