In a game that featured the battle of backup goaltenders, Jonas Enroth came out on top, but one could definitely argue that Henrik Karlsson played better. Enroth stopped 29 of 30 shots on the way to a 2-1 win. Karlsson, who played his best game with Calgary yet, stopped 42 of 44 shots, and kept his team in the game for as long as he could.
Karlsson’s NHL record doesn’t reflect his play. Instead of having a majority of wins, he has found himself in games where his teammates don’t do their jobs. The result is a losing record from games like this one in Buffalo. Henrik was awesome in net and many of the 44 shots he faced were legitimate scoring opportunities. Without him, the Flames could easily have lost 5-1 instead of 2-1.
It is a shame that the Flames can’t seem to give their goaltenders any offensive support these days. Their team play is sloppy and disjointed and it seems like they actually only put in about 20 minutes of total effort every game. The 2nd period was a good example of this last night. Calgary only managed 9 shots on net (half of which came during a 5-on-3 powerplay), and managed to give up 19 shots on their own net. Karlsson stopped all 19 of them and gave his team a chance to come back from a 1-0 deficit. But the Flames skaters had nothing to give in return.
The Flames also showed off two of their most common weaknesses last night. They were horrible on the powerplay and came within a fraction of a second of giving up another empty net goal. If Buffalo had managed to shoot the puck a bit earlier, they would have won 3-1 instead of 2-1, as their last-second shot crossed the goal line just after the buzzer sounded to end the game.
The Flames had a beautiful chance to tie the game and possibly go ahead, when Drew Stafford and Andrej Sekara took penalties 52 seconds apart in the 2nd period. Instead of changing the momentum of the game by scoring a goal or two on the 2-man advantage, Calgary did what they always seem to do lately: they lost the face-off and skated back to their own end after Buffalo fired the puck the length of the ice. Then they held onto the puck for far too long instead of shooting.
Calgary’s powerplay has been pretty bad this season (19th in the league) and they just can’t seem to get any consistency with it. They scored 2 powerplay goals in Detroit, but couldn’t take advantage of the 3 opportunities they had in Buffalo.
A lot of fans seem to be down on Anton Babchuck recently, but I have to give him props for the way he played last night. Though he was only credited with 2 shots, he took about 15 shots on net. Sometimes I wish the Flames D-men would shoot more instead of dumping the puck back into the corners if there isn’t a clear shot on net from the point. We’ve seen it enough in the past and they’re bound to get some luck (or rebounds) if they start shooting on net more. I think it’s pretty clear that you have a lower chance of winning games if you give up an average of 5 shots per game more than you take.
In case you missed it, here are the game highlights: