Credit to the Calgary Flames, who for nearly 50 minutes looked like they would be the team to be the thorn in the Chicago Blackhawks‘ side and win the first two games of the season series between the two teams.
However, two quick goals and a crafty backhand by Patrick Kane later the under .500 Flames had continued their ineptitude when ahead in the game. In fact the Flames are only a .500 team when leading after either the first or second period. Adding insult to injury the Flames are actually a better team when they get outshot, as they were Wednesday night, and still they could not get the victory in front of their home crowd.
That being said, the Blackhawks were not playing their best hockey by any means. There were certainly some things the Flames did that are a bit concerning to a Blackhawks team that hopes to once again make a push for a Stanley Cup.
First, the Blackhawks allowed a large percentage of high quality shots despite Antti Raanta only having to make 20 saves in his first NHL start to get a win. The Blackhawks had a poor performance on both sides with no defensemen not named Michal Roszival giving the puck away less than three times.
Of concern was just how Calgary got their opportunities with possession behind the net creating great chances in front of it. This was especially true for Mike Cammalleri who was tied for the Flames’ lead in shots on goal with four. Duncan Keith is notorious for his reluctance to play the body behind the net, and the Flames’ low cycle made Blackhawks defensemen who followed the same mantra pay.
There was also the issue of the transition back-check, which largely comes down to the positioning and pace of the center. Brandon Pirri played his worst game in recent memory and hasn’t scored a point in two games. He was also recently moved down to the third line in favor of Michal Handzus who has returned to the lineup from injury.
Not only was a Blackhawks center not on the stat sheet, but the Flames’ opportunities that ended up in the back of net where in open ice situations, such as Jonathan Toews‘ misplay at the half-wall or Brandon Pirri’s misplay on his own blue line getting back.
Short passing put the Blackhawks centers out of position all night, and coupled with a low cycle that could spell disaster for the Blackhawks if implemented correctly. The Flames are not an overly talented team, yet the formulaic way in which they were able to stay up on the Blackhawks was a sign of a well-executed game plan.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486