Saturday afternoon the Flames played their third and final game of round robin competition in the 9th Annual Capital Winter Classic Hockey Tournament. The Flames played the Kanata Blazers with a playoff berth on the line. As it turns out, the Flames fell to the Blazers 2-0, and missed out on a playoff spot due to tie breakers. Let’s recap.
1st Period: The first period played out like I thought it might, even, conservative, and a little bit physical. It was at least all of those, as the teams combined for six total shots, and nary a scoring chance, although the Blazers did hit the crossbar with a shot late in the period.
2nd Period: The second period starting much the same way the first period played out, even, not many chances, and scoreless. Then things changed quickly, and they changed dramatically. I wish the momentum change wasn’t tied to something the team has struggled with all season, but in hindsight it looks that way. With 5:33 left to play in the period, or just past the half way point of the game, the Flames made their customary goal tender change. At that time in the game, the Blazers might have looked like the better overall skating team, but the Flames were getting chances sporadically as well. At this measurement point, the Flames had 6 shots, the Blazers had just 4. There were no goals scored, nor were there any penalties for either team. With 4:50 left in the period the Flames took a penalty, 2:00 minute penalties in Canada. At 3:16 left, the Flames took a second penalty; this one gave the Blazers a 5-on-3 advantage for 26 seconds. The Blazers needed just 13 seconds to score a power play goal, taking a 1-0 lead. Just like that, the Blazers had gone from 4 shots in nineteen minutes to ripping off 7 shots in the next 3+ minutes. Honestly, neither Flames penalty was brutal; however both of them could have been easily avoided. The period ended with the Flames trailing 1-0, and now being out gunned 12-6 in shots. Another note, after the change in goal, the Flames did not register a shot for the remainder of the period while the Blazers had 8 shots.
3rd Period: The third period was desperation time for the Flames; at least they were getting more desperate with each passing minute. Even so, the Flames only registered 1 shot on goal in the first nine minutes of the third period. During this time, the Blazers constantly had both defensemen back while making perfect break out passes time and time again, and rushed up ice, three across, like it was drawn up on the board. The Blazers also struck for a second goal in this time and were dominating play. The Blazers had sent 10 shots on net to the Flames 1 shot until the Blazers took their only penalty of the game. The Flames rallied over the last 1:48, getting 4 shots on goal, but were unable to score. Ultimately, the Flames lost 2-0, and were dominated in shots by a 24-11 margin. After losing to the Blazers it was up to tie breakers, and remaining games from other teams to determine the fate of the Flames playoff hopes. Zachary Bayer was recognized as player of the game for the Flames.
As it turned out, the Flames tied for first in their division, but were seeded third as a result of their goal differential. Then, the other three divisions finished play, and seeded their teams, which left the Flames as the 8th overall seed, and only 6 teams moved into the playoffs. So, the tournament was done for the Flames. No playoffs due to tie breakers, which ultimately comes back to how the team performed on the ice.
From this perspective I thought the team played well. They competed in every period, and gave themselves opportunities to win games, and win they did, two out of three times. The Flames scored 4 goals and allowed just 3 goals over the three games played, while taking 6 minor penalties. The goaltenders were sensational. Anders Lindberg made 29 saves on 31 shots for a save percentage of .935. Keenan Alnahas saved 15 of 16 shots for a percentage of .938. These percentages are fantastic at any level. These two and the team may have deserved better based on their abilities to keep pucks out of their own net. Either one of these goalies could have been player of the game in any of the games. In my opinion, Brendan Courtney could have been player of the game in all 3 games, as he did his best Zdeno Chara, shutdown defenseman impersonation. There were notable players up and down the lineup for the Flames and they should take pride in their effort as a team, and as individuals. Good showing Flames!
The trip to Ottawa was fun, even if frigid temperatures kept sightseeing to a minimum. The kids played good hockey, they played in world-class facilities, they played in a community that’s part of a country that takes this game seriously, and expects all that participate to play the game the right way. The Pittsburgh Penguins held a practice in the rink next door (in the same building) to the ice sheet that the Flames were playing on in their final game. I saw the kids scurry and scamper up and down hotel halls so they could hang out together and play more knee hockey, or go swimming, or just be together. I also saw the rosy red cheeks of one teammate after another returning from a brisk skate on the Rideau Canal. I hope all had fun. I know I enjoy the city of Ottawa and the offerings it makes available to visitors, and I hope others enjoyed a slice of their visit to Ottawa as well. Our family had fun, and I particularly enjoyed getting a 4 mile skate on the canal with both my 20-year old and 12-year old sons.