In a disappointing season opener against the Edmonton Oilers, many Calgary Flames fans are wondering, “What went wrong?”
It’s a brand new season and it was the day hockey fans everywhere were waiting for: The first day of the season. A new season with some new significant faces, the Calgary Flames could potentially have a shot this year. Even Elliotte Friedman yesterday on the panel mentioned how Calgary could be Canada’s best hope this season. About halfway through the Flames season opener against the Edmonton Oilers, Flames fans were waiting for it to be over.
So a question that’s on everyone’s mind is, “What went wrong?”
I mean, a problem could have been that the game didn’t even start until about 8:45 pm since Edmonton had planned to do a 45-minute-long pregame ceremony, since they have a new arena. You could say it made fans a little agitated having to wait that long. Here are some sarcastic tweets to show it:
Aside from a bit of a late game, we broke this down into three mini categories of what was a factor in Calgary’s loss.
The Defense/ Coaching Choices
Flames fans love captain Mark Giordano and his (usual) defensive partner TJ Brodie. Why do they love it? Because it works. And that’s why any fans of any team love a certain situation. You have this one player who makes plays every time he’s on the ice? Put him on first line. Makes sense, right?
Flames coaching staff decided to separate Gio and Brodie for the first game and it made Flames fans a little concerned. Rightfully concerned. However, they had their trust in the coaching staff.
But there was another defensive problem. Nicklas Grossmann.
When the Flames announced they signed Grossmann to a one-year contract, people on Twitter were a little less than pleased, to put it lightly.
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By the way everyone on my Twitter timeline was reacting, I thought this man had murdered someone or something. Turns out fans are just very passionate on who they believe should be the seventh defenseman. A lot of people saw more potential in other contenders. The Flames signed Grossmann to a $575K whereas former Flame, Jakub Nakladal, signed for $600K. So this left a bit of a sour taste in Nak fans’ mouths. People also saw more potential in someone like Brett Kulak or Tyler Wotherspoon who were sent down the the AHL.
It made matters worse when in the first period, Grossmann had two turnovers that both led to early goals by the Oilers, leaving fans even more angry.
Good news is that in practice today, all is well in the world and Gio and Brodie were pairs again. Now it also seems like Grossmann will be sitting out in tomorrow’s game, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
The goaltending in the season opener was a little atrocious, to put it lightly. A lot of fans, including myself, were mostly excited about the new goalie situation. The Flames acquired Brian Elliott on draft day from the St. Louis Blues. His numbers over the last few years have been remarkable, having .925 save percentage in his last five seasons, which is the second highest save percentage from all goalies who have played over 50 games a season. He also led the league last season for SV%, with .930 and was tied for second for goals-against-average with a 2.06 GAA.
The Flames also signed free agent Chad Johnson on a one-year contract. He played with the Buffalo Sabres last season and finished the season off with a .920 SV% and a 2.31 GAA, which is still pretty incredible, given that it was his first season actually being a starting goaltender and started in net for 45 games, a personal highest. So as you can see, a pretty solid back-end.
This however hasn’t been the case thus far.
In the preseason, Johnson made people a little nervous. He hasn’t been doing as well as people were expecting and hoping. Giving the guy some credit, he’s coming from an eastern team to a western team and he’s playing with a bunch of new guys. He has to get used to a different style of play, so people are hoping things will turn around.
That being said, Elliott absolutely killed it in preseason and was absolutely rock solid. He had a 0.83 GAA and a 0.962 SV%. Everybody was excited to finally have the most consistent goaltender since probably Miikka Kiprusoff.
Last night was anything but that though. In the Oilers first two shots on goal, they scored. Not a good look so far. Then Connor McDavid scored a goal that people thought Elliott should have saved, but we can’t say “what if”. Elliott ended up finishing the night with a .778 SV%, but nonetheless, we can’t put all the blame on the goaltending.
Shift In Momentum (AKA Connor McDavid happened)
The Oilers were up 3-1 in the second period, but the Flames ended up tying it by getting two short-handed goals in a row. Oilers would end up scoring another, so now it’s 4-3 Oilers, and the Flames league-last penalty killing last season was already starting to look better.
But then a goal because of a penalty shot happened. By none other, Connor McDavid.
It wasn’t necessarily the penalty shot that threw the Flames off, it’s how it happened. Seconds before McDavid got the shot, Johnny Gaudreau was doing typical Johnny Hockey things and of course, he had two Oilers on him. There was a bit of what looked like a hooking penalty happening, but of course, no call by the officials. Now, I would like to put out a disclaimer that this isn’t to “attack” the officiating in any way, but you know how fans are. Even former Flame, Jamie Macoun, had some thoughts on that.
So here is the situation: Flames fans are a little angry, but this happens all the time. Maybe it looked a little different to the officials than it looked on the screen. There was no call on the play, but that’s hockey sometimes, the game goes on.
Literally seconds later, Connor McDavid gets a breakaway and Dennis Wideman rushes back to chase him. McDavid misses, but you know what’s coming. The official’s hand goes up, and now there is a penalty shot. Many people didn’t think Wideman should have even gotten a penalty for that, let alone give McDavid a penalty shot. So here you have a bunch of angry Flames fans because of a no call, then a penalty shot for the opposing team that results in a goal. My Twitter feed was going nuts over that. I’d insert tweets, but… they’re a little less than appropriate to share here.
After that goal, there was some sort of shift in momentum and the Flames were down. I mean, literally, they were down by two goals, but their energy was down as well. And the game wasn’t the same after that.
So what did we learn from this? Well, what we’ve been learning over the past few seasons, and that is Flames aren’t good with season openers. Yes, we can dwell over the past, or we can look at what’s ahead. The Flames have amazing goaltenders who have had a bit of a step back, amazing defensemen, and a coaching staff who love speed. It may take a few games, but maybe time is all the Flames need.
Just a little bit of time.