Flames Thoughts: Star players struggle in loss to Bruins

Patrice Bergeron and Riley Nash both found the back of the net twice as the Boston Bruins beat the Calgary Flames 5-2.

Trailing 2-1 following the first period, the Bruins scored four unanswered goals in the final 40 minutes to defeat the Flames 5-2 at TD Garden in Boston.

GOOD FOR 20, BAD FOR 40

The Flames had a pretty strong first period despite giving up a goal less than a minute into the game.

After a disastrous first shift that led to a Riley Nash goal, the Flames squared the score less than two minutes later when Garnet Hathaway came flying in on the forecheck, knocked Noel Acciari off the puck behind the net and set-up Sam Bennett for his eighth of the season. The Flames then jumped out in front just before the 10-minute mark, when on a beautiful backhand-to-forehand move in-tight, Johnny Gaudreau stretched his point streak to seven games with his 19th goal of the season.

After going toe-to-toe with the second overall Bruins in the opening 20 minutes, the Flames looked like they were out of gas in the second and third period. The Bruins dominated most of the final 40 minutes, out-shooting the Flames 29-17 and picking up another goal by Nash, two by Patrice Bergeron and an empty-netter by Zdeno Chara.

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TOUGH NIGHT FOR TOP PLAYERS

It’s tough to win in the NHL when your best players aren’t your best players, especially against a squad as strong as the Bruins.

With the exception of Gaudreau, who scored, had two shots on seven shot attempts, and played more than 23 minutes for the fourth time this season, I thought the Flames top six forwards struggled, as did their top four defencemen.

HATHAWAY’S HIT PARADE

Garnet Hathaway was a wrecking ball on Tuesday.

In the first period, the Bruins had seven hits. Hathaway had six. He finished the night with nine, one shy of the franchise record set by Denis Gauthier in 1999.

Thanks in large part to the truculent forward, I though the third line of Hathaway, Mark Jankowski and Bennett was the Flames’ most effective group against the Bruins.

THERE’S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

After going 5-0-2 in his first seven NHL starts, David Rittich finally lost a start in regulation time.

Rittich was far from the Flames biggest issue on Tuesday, when he stopped 35 of 39 Bruins shots. The only goal that I’d describe as “iffy” was the game-winner 1:15 into the third period. Rittich appeared to be in pretty good position but probably gave Bergeron a little too much net to shoot at.

With Mike Smith out with a lower body injury until at least Saturday, when the Flames host the Panthers, Rittich will more than likely be back in net for Thursday’s game against the Predators.

LET’S MAKE A DEAL

I can’t help but wonder if Tuesday’s trade that sent former Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf and forward Nate Thompson from the Senators to the Kings for forwards Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore will open the floodgates for wheeling-and-dealing prior to the NHL’s trade deadline on Feb. 26.

Along with the Sharks and Ducks, the Kings are one of the teams that the Flames are fighting with for a playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Truth be told, I don’t really understand the trade from a Senators perspective, unless they flip Gaborik to another team. Shore is a good young player, so he’s a nice add for the Sens. The Kings have been a little thin on defence in recent years, so the addition of Phaneuf should make them better. Thompson can be a pretty tough guy to play against and gives the Kings another option for their bottom six.

I’m anxious to see what Flames general manager Brad Treliving will do (or not do). With the moves that he made during the off-season, the Flames went into this season in win-now, or at least compete-now, mode.

While I don’t think that’s changed, I also don’t think Treliving is going to move a player that he believes is, or will be, part of the team’s core for a rental player. As far as prospects are concerned, I strongly suspect goaltender Tyler Parsons and defenceman Juuso Valimaki are off the table. Without a lot of draft picks to work with, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Flames use some of their prospect depth in goal or on defence to bolster the roster, especially for a player who they would control beyond this season. I also wouldn’t put it past Treliving to make a hockey trade to add a right-handed forward who could potentially help his team’s struggling power play or even a defenceman who could quarterback one of the units.

With the trade deadline now less than two weeks away, stay tuned.

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