No Gabriel Landeskog. No Nathan MacKinnon. But the Calgary Flames found out that the Colorado Avalanche depth is what makes them the class of the Western Conference.
The Flames battled to the final buzzer in a 2-1 loss to the Avs at the Saddledome on Tuesday night. It just wasn’t enough.
The 45 shots they sent Darcy Kuemper’s way weren’t accompanied by enough traffic or grit. And for the second straight game, the penalty kill was a flop. It’s been one of the team’s strengths at home all season, but three goals against in Saturday’s Flames barnburner and two more on Tuesday is a trend that can’t continue if the Flames are going to have success late in the year and into the playoffs.
“Five-on-five for the year, we’ve actually scored more goals on them,” Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter pointed out after the Avs claimed the season series 2-1. “But if you look at the odd-man stuff – even tonight, two powerplay goals for them – it’s the difference in the game.
“Sloppy. Two games, we were very sloppy. They’re individual mistakes. Those are mental mistakes is what they are. It’s very simple.”
Flames still learning as playoffs approach
The Flames scored first on a 5-on-3 man-advantage, with NHL trade deadline gem Tyler Toffoli netting his 18th of the year at the midway mark of the second period.
Both Avs goals were scored by Valeri Nichushkin. The tying goal came a few minutes after Toffoli’s tally when the forwards failed to clear on a couple of chances. The second one in the third period was a missed read by defenceman Chris Tanev.
But the penalty on Elias Lindholm was one Sutter says his team can’t take. Situationally, it was 1-1 in the third period, and the play came 200 feet from the Flames net.
“It’s the difference in the teams,” Sutter said, again clearly positioning his Flames as a team that still has much to learn.
“Time of the year where you’re still learning. So a little bit of a process for some of these guys, still,” Sutter said. “It’s a little tighter so it’s a little harder.”
Tanev was out after the game to answer the questions about the suddenly less stingy penalty kill.
“I think we were killing well until letting three goals in a period against Edmonton,” said Tanev. “Tonight was all special teams. They got two and we got one and that was the difference in the game.
“You learn from the goals against. You’ve got to get better. Everyone that’s on the ice needs to work together and work harder and do a better job.”
At even strength, the Calgary Flames have been the better team, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. If these two do meet in the playoffs, they’ll need to make life much tougher on the opposing goalie.