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FIVE TAKEAWAYS: Flames shoot blanks in Duck hunt, suffer painful OT loss



Calgary Flames Saddledome falls silent in home opener

The Calgary Flames were clearly the better team for much of the night, but their fans left the home opener disappointed after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the Saddledome. You started to get the sense early in the third period things could quickly go south.

Outshooting the Ducks 43-27 on the night, the Flames just couldn’t get enough pucks in the net and the life was sucked out of the building when the Ducks – a rebuilding franchise with young talent but many challenges ahead of them this season – netted the game-tying goal in the third period on a bad line change (more on that later). The fans grumbled as they scurried to the exits when Jamie Drysdale finished a two-on-one with Troy Terry to cap the comeback in extra time.

Here’s a breakdown via a handful of takeaways.

1. Blake Coleman did not appear rusty, whatsoever

Head coach Darryl Sutter expected he’d be ready. Blake Coleman said he was ready. Then the Calgary Flames’ big free-agent signing went out and showed he was ready. The winger is deceptively quick and used his speed to get behind the Ducks defence for a breakaway goal in the first period. Johnny Gaudreau spotted him and sent him a perfect pass. Coleman made no mistake on the opportunity and lifted a perfect shot over the John Gibson’s outstretched pads for the 1-0 lead.

The Saddledome crowd erupted as Coleman quickly endeared himself to his new fanbase. He looked good on the penalty kill as well, alongside linemate Mikael Backlund. He may find himself getting a little powerplay time once his coach is confident he’s fully up to speed.

Sutter glowed (well, the Sutter version of it) when asked about Coleman post-game.

“I think he makes a lot of good plays out there,” Sutter said, adding a few extra Os on the word lot. “Not just that he scored a goal, he makes a lot of plays to get pucks out and get pucks to right area of support.”

Coleman wasn’t about to let the media love penetrate his shield after a loss.

“The reactions are maybe a step behind,” he said of his overall game.

Maybe he was being a bit modest given the undesirable result. Fans will enjoy him even more when he considers himself back to full speed.

2. Sean Monahan is not getting out of the coach’s doghouse anytime soon

Miscues unfortunately defined Monahan’s game as a major factor in tying and winning goals. He made a terrible change in the third period as the Ducks gained entry into the Flames zone. Elias Lindholm couldn’t catch trailer Rickard Rakell and he beat Jacob Markstrom to give the Ducks new life.

Monahan and Noah Hanifin – two players Sutter said were still catching up earlier in the day – got mixed up in overtime, too. Hanifin pinched and Monahan made an aggressive play on the puck instead of recognizing the danger and Johnny Gaudrea was the last man back on the two-on-one that Drysdale finished off.

3. The top line looked almost unstoppable

Dominant on so many of their shifts, the top trio of Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk put together a possession clinic for most of the contest. They worked every inch of space, cycling the puck on the boards, lasering it peripherally across the blueline. Gaudreau gave deserved credit to the line that started the hemming, Brett Ritchie, Glen Gawdin and Trevor Lewis, but it was the top offensive weapons that finished it off.

They needed more finish on the night, but that shift was a perfect example of execution and results. The top trio combined for 13 shots and three points but should have had many more.

Which brings us to …

4. The Flames need to find their killer instinct

For more than 40 minutes, the Calgary Flames looked like a team destined to destroy the Ducks. It obviously didn’t turn out that way. They have launched 90 shots on goal in two games but have just four goals to show for it.

Gaudreau and Coleman both talked about needing to capitalize on more of their chances, but it was Sutter who said it best and most succinctly.

“Lots of opportunities, but seal the deal,” he said.

5. When will Markstrom be the difference-maker we know (think) he is?

I recently talked to a former player and goaltender coach who suggested Markstrom will be a Vezina-worthy workhorse. There’s still plenty of time for that to transpire, but the spotlight has been stolen by his counterparts Mike Smith and John Gibson in the first two games.

Nobody would blame Markstrom on the overtime winner on Monday, but he was the Vancouver Canucks’ MVP for a couple of seasons and stole them games. The Flames need their backstop to be their best player until the offence figures out how to get more pucks to tickle the twine.