It’s déjà vu all over again.
Last season around this time, the Calgary Flames were 5-5-1 ahead of a faceoff against the Washington Capitals. This season, the Flames are 5-5-1 after a loss to the Capitals. Last season, the loss changed everything for Calgary and they went on to finish first in the Western Conference. This season? That’s anybody’s guess.
The Flames took the 5-3 Tuesday loss to the Capitals, who’re now 7-2-2, right square on the chin. The argument could be made it was less indicative of team play and more indicative of a few sloppy ones allowed by goalie Cam Talbot.
In fact, it was the netminder himself who made the argument.
“The two-minute lapse at the beginning of the second period was 99 percent me,” said Talbot. “If we don’t get a bad bounce – if that one doesn’t go in off Raz, it’s a 1-0 game and it’s a little easier to battle back from. You hand that team two goals they clearly don’t need with that kind of firepower, that’s the game right there. Both those goals are on me.”
After a scoreless first period, John Carlson opened the scoring with his fourth of the year and Chandler Stephenson banked one in off Rasmus Andersson for the 2-0 lead.
Luckily, Calgary found some jam and scored on the power play just a hiccup after the Stephenson goal. They drew it to 2-2 with a few minutes to go in the second before Alex Ovechkin decided he just had to give Washington the lead going into intermission. The third period saw the Capitals pile up two more before Tobias Rieder scored his first of the season with about 15 seconds left.
Now honestly, there was a lot to like about Calgary’s effort.
They outshot the Capitals, took fewer penalties and went one for four on the power play. They were tight enough with the puck, but just didn’t get the bounces to go their way. Nevertheless, there are still some glaring issues.
One has to be the play of the top line – or the lack thereof.
Johnny Gaudreau is scoreless in six games. Sean Monahan hasn’t scored in nine, with just six points in 11 games, and he hasn’t even reached the stat line in three straight. The frustration is apparent, but something has to change if the Flames want things to turn around like they did last year.
“It’s that time of the year where teams start to separate themselves already,” Talbot said. “We have to be in that conversation. We have to find ways to not let teams get too far ahead of us. And when we do get that momentum back (in games), we’re not giving it back right away.”
Next up, the Flames will host the 4-2-3 Florida Panthers on Thursday. They’re coming off a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh and are riding momentum to points in their last six games.
Photo credit: Larry MacDougal/AP