Yes, it was the first game of the season. And yes, the Flames were playing in a place they'd only won three out of eight contests the previous year despite clearly being the better team. And yes, it was made even harder by the fact the Canucks were dedicating their home opener to the late Luc Bourdon. But no matter when it happens, or under what circumstances, there aren't many excuses you can make for a 6-0 opening night loss.
After a very good first period (although they were down 1-0, the Flames outshot the Canucks and came close on an unusually slick 5-on-3) the Flames imploded early in the third, digging themselves into a 3-0 hole within five minutes. No matter how optimistic or pessimistic you are, this was a total letdown.
The Flames were absolutely atrocious defensively. Nearly all of the Canucks' goals were the result of abysmal backchecking. This can partially be blamed on the absence of Robyn Regehr but even he couldn't have prevented six goals.
Because I'd like to make this more than a game summary, here's my thoughts on some individual player's performances:
Miikka Kiprusoff - let in 6 goals on 23 shots, but I don't really think any were his fault specifically. At first I did but now I think the Flames' defence was more responsible. The Canucks had less shots but much better chances, and Kiprusoff did make some good saves. I can't necessarily say he was super impressive but I'm not willing to comment specifically on his goaltending until the Flames improve defensively.
Matthew Lombardi - count me among those who think Lombo is a key to this year's offense. He started on the third line but played most of the game as a top six forward. He was a nonfactor statistically (-1 with 1 shot) and I saw nothing in his game new.
Todd Bertuzzi - the biggest disappointment on the ice tonight. He was a -3, took an interference penalty, and was knocked heavily to the ice twice, definitely not the Bertuzzi some were expecting. I repeat that all I am expecting of Bertuzzi is an adequate replacement to Owen Nolan, but he just wasn't there tonight.
Adam Pardy - played about as well as you would expect a rookie in his first NHL game filling in for Robyn Regehr to play. Because he isn't Anders Eriksson and it was his first game I'm not going to criticize him. Regardless, he played a major role in the Flames' getting themselves into the 3-0 hole. Hopefully Robyn Regehr will be back for Saturday's game.
Overall, a pessimist like myself can't help but see the problems here. But the rational person in me also knows that this was just the first game. With the reduced divisional schedule and the crapshoot of the Northwest Division, the season series may be in play between these two teams, which makes Saturday's game a bit more important than just the second game of the year. It's obviously probably more important for the Flames to just rebound and be able to forget this game. Otherwise, the Flames will find themselves in an 0-2 hole for the second straight year. At this point, starting slow has more of a psychological effect than anything, but it can't be a good thing.
There was nothing really positive about this game to take in. Time will only tell if the negatives set a trend for the rest of the year. My next "evaluation" will probably be next week, when we have a clearer picture.
Nothing can excuse a 6-0 loss, really. Based on what I've speculated, it could go either way: this could be a trend for the rest of the year, or just be another ridiculous loss at GM Place. But hey, I call this "knee jerk reactions" for a reason. This post was more cathartic than analytic.