Flames Thoughts: Power play problems halt playoff push

Evander Kane scored four goals as the San Jose Sharks beat the Calgary Flames 7-4.

Evander Kane recorded his first-career hat trick before adding a fourth goal to lead the Sharks to a 7-4 victory over the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Friday.

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE

In the first-half of Friday’s contest versus the Sharks, I saw the Dr. Jekyll-side of the Flames’ split personality. While the Sharks scored twice in the first 30 minutes of the game, the first goal was on what looked like a harmless Evander Kane wrist shot from just inside the blue line that bounced off of Dougie Hamilton and then past Mike Smith. On the second goal, Travis Hamonic appeared to be in good position in a net-front battle with Kane before the Sharks forward got loose just long enough to redirect a Dylan DeMelo point shot past Smith.

In between those two tallies, Troy Brouwer and Mark Jankowski scored, giving the Flames a 2-1 lead.

Less than four minutes after the Sharks tied the game, and just past the 10-minute mark of the second period, Johnny Gaudreau scored a gorgeous goal to give the Flames a 3-2 lead.

Less than two minutes later, the Mr. Hyde-side of the Flames stepped onto the ice at the Saddledome.

Kevin Lebanc squared the score on a shot from the half-boards, that while perfectly placed under the cross bar and inside the goal post, is one that I’m sure Smith would like to have back. After that, the Flames’ wheels fell off.

Kane completed his hat trick before Tomas Hertl scored to give the Sharks at 5-3 lead following 40 minutes. Kane tied a franchise record with his fourth goal of the game a little more than one minute into the third period to make it 6-3. Micheal Ferland and Eric Fehr then traded tallies to close out the game.

POWER PLAY PROBLEMS

With the score tied at three in the second period, the Flames had a chance to regain the lead with a lengthy two-man advantage. Not only did the Flames fail to capitalize on 44 seconds of five-on-three power-play time, they also couldn’t convert on the 1:16 of five-on-four that followed. After going 0-2 versus the Sharks’ league-leading penalty kill in Friday’s loss, the Flames are 0 for their last 10 on the power play and one for their last 28. The Flames need more from their power play moving forward.

NOT SMITH’S NIGHT

In just his second game back after missing 13 with a lower-body injury, Mike Smith was unbeatable on Tuesday when he stopped all 28 shots in the Flames 1-0 shutout victory over the Oilers. Three night’s later, Smith struggled versus the Sharks. When asked about his performance by members of the media following Friday’s game, when he surrendered six goals on 20 shots before being replaced by David Rittich early in the third period, Smith simply said “Terrible.”

While I didn’t like the first goal and really didn’t like the third goal, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Kane made a really good play on the second goal. There were bad defensive breakdowns on the fourth, fifth and sixth Sharks goals.

While Smith obviously wasn’t at his best, he shouldn’t shoulder all the blame for what happened to the Flames on Friday — even though the consummate professional will probably try to. There’s plenty of blame to go around following the loss to the Sharks.

DOWN BUT NOT OUT

Before Friday’s game, the Flames were three points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot. Following it, they were four out of third place in the Pacific Division and out of both wild cards in the Western Conference.

After dropping a proverbial four-pointer versus the Sharks, second place in the Pacific appears to be out of reach for the Flames. With that said, they’re still within striking distance of third place in their division and both wild card spots in the Western Conference.

ROAD TO THE PLAYOFFS

Before Friday’s game, I sent out the following tweet mapping out one possible path to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Flames:

So much for that plan! Recalculating!

After losing a game that I had pencilled-in as a win, the Flames are going to have to win a game that I pencilled-in as a loss.

Glen Gulutzan’s group will attempt to do that by sweeping their last back-to-back of the season when they play a pair of Pacific Division foes, the first-place Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday afternoon and the last-place Arizona Coyotes on Monday night.

If the Flames, who have been one of the best road teams in the NHL this season, can return to Calgary packing four points following their road trip to Las Vegas and Glendale, that sets up a huge home game against the Ducks next Wednesday.

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