Flyers 5, Flames 3 post-game embers: No brotherly love

Mike FAIL
November 28 2016 08:00AM

This road trip has been a roller coaster of emotions. The surreal highs of seeing intervals of this Calgary Flames team looking like a cohesive entity complete with goals and capable netminding; those crippling lows that a lot of us are growing accustom to. There have been bizarro-world situations where good and bad have transpired, too.

Last night was a weird mix of all three, plus the Stamps lost. For now at least, away from the teary eyes and reality that Calgary sports teams failed to win let's discuss three things intertwined with each other: penalties, shorthanded goals, and the penalty kill.

Penalties: What's up with that?

It's a bizarre state of affairs when it comes to the Flames and when penalties are called against them. On one hand, yes, some calls will be legitimate. Occasionally - under normal circumstances - officials may miss a call, make a bad call, and likely give you a freebie later. 

On the other, there is a burgeoning belief that all referees are out to get the team (due to Dennis Earl Wideman's continued existence) and every opportunity to strike down the Flames by forcing them to play shorthanded is a blessing to enact some fanatical revenge.

Somewhere in the middle - like most things on this planet - is the truth. Some of the calls last night, like Matthew Tkachuk's holding penalty (if you could call it that), stand out as massive injustices. And it's true, it was a questionable call:

This has been a recurring theme with this team so far. That said, you could make a case for every team falling victim to this cat-and-mouse game of calls that should happen (often in favor) and calls that shouldn't. If we looked at the year-over-year in the first 24 games played is there any real difference? Via NHL.com:

NHLPIm

Yes, it's noticeable. Very noticeable, in fact, as the team has been assessed 38 more penalties through 24 games this year than last year's first 24. The variance in both penalties assessed and PIM year-over-year is quite obvious and it's easy to accept that this is putting enormous strain on the penalty kill to come up big.

Part of it is discipline - or rather the lack of discipline - from some criminal offenders, and some of it is some bizarre, poorly called penalties. When we look at the 5v5 results of this team, it's grotesque for some (via Corsica Hockey, excluding last night):

pgepenalties5v5

Notably Sam Bennett, Dougie Hamilton, and Brett Kulak stand out as the big three here. To go one step further: when on the man advantage Tkachuk has a -3 penalty differential, Deryk Engelland has a -3 differential, and Lance Bouma has a -2 differential. It's peculiar to say the least and it compounds the special teams woes of this team.

Finding a way to play on the edge, drawing calls, and putting oneself in an opportunity to succeed are things that aren't happening. And when it comes to Tkachuk, someone who can draw calls, you need to work with him in his development to refine this area of his game. 

Tkachuk's weird hold and the scrum with Travis Konecny weren't ideal, but he's young and maybe he'll come out on the positive side of things by season's end.

SHORTHANDED GOALAPALOOZA

Normally fans would be jumping for joy over shorthanded goals (nice ones, too), but it's not that way for reasonable cause. The team has scored five shorthanded goals on the season, three fewer than their total with the Dave Cameron-led power play. We've spoken at great length about the shortcomings of the power play. We've spoken at great length about the penalty kill, too (something I may have jinxed early on).

Last night did show some continued vital signs from the PK, of which might be strictly from a "Hey, they scored twice while shorthanded so things are rebounding" perspective. Which is fair and true, the penalty kill over this road trip has been pretty acceptable and finding ways to score goals is a good thing.

The first goal itself was a very great example of winning a puck battle (thank you Wideman) which gave Bennett an opportunity to pass to Mikael Backlund who deliciously fed a streaking T.J. Brodie for his first of the year:

The second, involving Bennett and Brodie again, really came from Bennett's insistence on killing time on the clock. From there it was a simple tic-tac-toe play with a streaking Dougie Hamilton, whose well-placed shot led to a rebound for Alex Chiasson:

They finished the night with four shots (one blocked), three on net, and two goals. Not a bad showing there. The flip side being they did surrender 21 shots total (blocked/missed/on net), 12 of which ended up on net, and one lone goal against from the league's second-best power play.

Last night's PK: Vital signs...?

Surrendering that volume of shots against in a game isn't stellar. The fact that the Flames spent so much time shorthanded does add a bit more context to the situation, but it's still not ideal. Shots and goals do happen on the penalty kill but the objective should be to find a way to suppress them from happening.

This point is something I've beaten the drum about repeatedly and it's something to always keep in mind.

Part of the problem that we've identified internally with the Flames' PK is the innate nature of it being passive at times when it could benefit from being aggressive and vice versa. The kinks are slowly being worked out from adapting to a more triangle+1 system. 

Besides the random, unlucky bounce off Mark Giordano's stick, the need to be a bit more aggressive at times, and the shot totals against, there was some positives to be found:

The good: First PK (Brodie SHG + aggressive kill)

czech

  • Found way to suppress zone entries against and when they got entries, the Flyers' PP was unable to fully set up/get into formation and generate high-danger shots.
  • Utilized triangle+1 in an aggressive format (Czech Press) after which a Mark Streit point-shot forces puck battles along the boards.
  • Streit shot was left without a screen which allowed Chad Johnson to track the puck, have a clear line of sight on the shooter, and get set. Rebound was forced to the boards.
  • Great puck support by defense and forwards, giving them room to work even when Wideman initially overskated the puck. Brodie's positioning helped disrupt the Flyers' support. This played into Bennett's ability to capitalize on the loose puck.
  • Streit pinching there in hopes of poking the puck away exposed the lane and it's impossible at that point for him to get back into the play.
  • Quick, short pass to Backlund to exit the zone and move into full speed with Brodie who received a perfect pass to put it past Anthony Stolarz.

Another decent showing (elements of passiveness and aggressiveness)

anothergood

  • Giving Johnson clear lines of sight on shooters is a nice touch. At the very least - if possible - this should be attempted. The team has struggled this season in screening their own goalie, which has caused issues.
  • All shots allowed on this penalty kill were clear lines of sight for Johnson.
  • Finding ways to break up passes and disrupt passing lanes helped in breaking up formation and if successful can eat time off the clock if the puck exits the defensive zone.
  • Backlund and Giordano read the press well, breaking it up along the boards and causing a puck battle, which ended the sequence with a Flyer's pass not connecting and exiting the zone.
  • Feedback: the triangle that the Flames often deploy in this formation is a little too tight, as well as passive at times. There was an opportunity to open it up more as the play formed in their own zone rather than collapsing in on net. 
  • There was an opportunity there to push the puck carrier out a bit more, along the +1 to change depending on where the puck was, press when needed, and disrupt lanes (shooting/passing).

anothergood2

Overall there are some positives in these examples. Stringing together more and more consistency here under Paul Jerrard's new system, finding a way to use Bennett a bit more, and maximizing OTF (on-the-fly) starts vs zone starts might go a long way for this team.

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Mike Fail is the Nation Network's Director of Good Content and FlamesNation's Community Manager. When he isn't pining about the penalty kill, he's likely cooking up that good content you all love to consume.
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#1 Southboy
November 28 2016, 08:18AM
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I dont like how many penalties we are getting at all. Brutal. That being said, Tkachucks was a penalty for sure. Not for holding, but roughing or high sticking, you cant wrap your stick around a guys neck and expect nothing. Also there is a huge difference in PIM's from the lrevious 2 years, but some if that can be contributed to playing under Hartly and his discipline game. Compared to the undisciplined hockey they are playing right now. For this team and fan base to turn the corner we need to droo the 'whoa' is me because other medie outlets laugh at us for being babies. ....... and with Tkachuk chewing on his soother all game its hard not to. Put that thing back in your mouth!!!!!

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#2 ChinookArchYYC
November 28 2016, 08:30AM
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I'm not talking sports till after dinner. Still in mourning.

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#3 The Last Big Bear
November 28 2016, 08:46AM
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Win%: 29th

G/GP: 26th

GA/GP: 26th

PP%: 30th

PK%: 29th

On paper, this team is significantly improved over last year.

On the ice, they have absolutely cratered, and are firmly the worst team in the West.

Fire Gulutzan.

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#4 RedMan
November 28 2016, 09:09AM
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Ya something rotten about these penalties for sure....

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#5 TurkeyLips
November 28 2016, 09:24AM
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Our offense just can't be sustained without Gaudreau. We also desperately need wingers on the right side who have some bloody skill and can finish. We have great playmakers on this team but atrocious shooters.

Chiasson's a plug and if he had any semblance of skill way more pucks would have been buried behind the Flyer's daisy fresh goalie.

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#6 CalgaryBornandRaised
November 28 2016, 09:37AM
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Please......please......please stop playing Dennis Wideman

I get that the higher ups are showcasing him to trade him for at least some return on a massively horrible contract, but his game has gone

If the new NHL is all about speed an possession, then he is a relic of the past, his speed is not there and he can't make up for his lapses in judgement

I know the Flames are more than likely not making the playoffs this year, so let one of the kids on the farm play, or give Kulak some solid ice time in a top 4 role

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#7 Kevin R
November 28 2016, 09:42AM
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Southboy wrote:

I dont like how many penalties we are getting at all. Brutal. That being said, Tkachucks was a penalty for sure. Not for holding, but roughing or high sticking, you cant wrap your stick around a guys neck and expect nothing. Also there is a huge difference in PIM's from the lrevious 2 years, but some if that can be contributed to playing under Hartly and his discipline game. Compared to the undisciplined hockey they are playing right now. For this team and fan base to turn the corner we need to droo the 'whoa' is me because other medie outlets laugh at us for being babies. ....... and with Tkachuk chewing on his soother all game its hard not to. Put that thing back in your mouth!!!!!

So take a second & look at that replay again & if the refs are calling that tight of a game, please tell me how the crosscheck to the back of Frolik right beside the play isn't a penalty as well?

The officiating is a joke in this league & something is up, enough for Burke & Tre to meet with the Superintendent of officiating & Bettman.

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#8 Southboy
November 28 2016, 09:52AM
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Kevin R wrote:

So take a second & look at that replay again & if the refs are calling that tight of a game, please tell me how the crosscheck to the back of Frolik right beside the play isn't a penalty as well?

The officiating is a joke in this league & something is up, enough for Burke & Tre to meet with the Superintendent of officiating & Bettman.

I agree that should have been called too

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#9 Stu Cazz
November 28 2016, 10:12AM
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Kevin R wrote:

So take a second & look at that replay again & if the refs are calling that tight of a game, please tell me how the crosscheck to the back of Frolik right beside the play isn't a penalty as well?

The officiating is a joke in this league & something is up, enough for Burke & Tre to meet with the Superintendent of officiating & Bettman.

Meeting with the league is a waste of time and will only aggravate the situation further within the referees union...As long as Wideman is on the team this unofficial practice from the referees will continue...solution if you can't trade him now (not at the deadline) put him on unconditional waivers.

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#10 The Fall
November 28 2016, 10:30AM
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There are zero positives for this team right now. We are the new Oilers.

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#11 Southboy
November 28 2016, 10:33AM
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The Fall wrote:

There are zero positives for this team right now. We are the new Oilers.

Oilers minus a generational player😥

Next year will be a better indicator of our future after we lose greasy contracts and see what BT can do in the offseason

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#12 Derzie
November 28 2016, 10:58AM
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Reffing in general is so unaccountable. I understand protecting refs from physical harm but not from doing a proper job. I wonder what would happen if a team that was getting a raw deal just up and left the game. Walk off the ice. It seems that extreme measures are the only way to draw attention to it. I don't know but bad reffing kills sport at all levels. Not the 'sorry guys I missed that one' mistakes but the 'I'm incompetent but think I'm not' type of reffing. I know I'd support a walkoff in poorly called games.

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#13 The Fall
November 28 2016, 11:04AM
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Southboy wrote:

Oilers minus a generational player😥

Next year will be a better indicator of our future after we lose greasy contracts and see what BT can do in the offseason

Gully should call up Eakins for advice.

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#14 The Last Big Bear
November 28 2016, 11:15AM
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Other than the refs declaring open season on Gaudreau, I can't say for sure I see any evidence of the Wideman effect. (Yes, I know the stats show that JH was still drawing plenty of penalties, but the eyeball test showed that he was being constantly fouled and that the vast majority were not being called).

They could be related, but I'd find it pretty odd if the refs were somehow taking out their Wideman hate on Gaudreau. I think they are separate issues, and I think the refs are mostly (if not completely) done with the Wideman thing.

The Flames are 4th in penalties called, but also 8th in penalties drawn. Other than watching Gaudreau get tripped and axe-murdered on a nightly basis, I haven't seen anything to suggest the refs are out to get the Flames at all.

Just a normal distribution of phantom calls going both ways.

Honestly, we probably wouldn't be talking about this if the Flames' special teams weren't just season-destroyingly awful in every possible way.

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#15 Southboy
November 28 2016, 11:16AM
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The Fall wrote:

Gully should call up Eakins for advice.

Advice on hair? Or on how to run the swarm system and turn an offensively exciting team into the new Minnesota Wild? Is it just me or does anyone else nod off watching our team grind away every game?

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#16 Rockmorton65
November 28 2016, 11:16AM
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The Fall wrote:

There are zero positives for this team right now. We are the new Oilers.

kind of an overreaction, don't ya think?

Johnson showing signs of being a legit starter.
Tkachuk making the team at 18.
4 games below 500 and only 5 points back of the division lead.

Now, I'm not saying everything is great, but this is obviously a transition year (bad contracts, expansion, etc) & not a year we should contending. We're about where we were last year, which COULD be seen as impressive, considering we're installing a brand new system & philosophy.

Players are struggling, sure. But that won't last. Most of them are showing signs of turning it around.

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#17 Thatz Nuckin Futz
November 28 2016, 11:23AM
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We can wordsmith and analyze the crap out of this performance til the cows come home. But it was obvious from the get go that the boyz looked like they were dragging pianos around the ice. Too much Thanksgiving turkey maybe, or just one of those games. Philly looked like they had something to prove and had lots of jump in their step.

Unless CJ was gonna build a brick wall behind him, there was no chance of winning this match.

Hit the reset button, grab two points in Brooklyn and get back home to your regular beds.

GFG

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#18 The Fall
November 28 2016, 11:29AM
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@Rockmorton65

As pointed out above, the Flames are near the bottom in every statistical category. Any gains made by the young players over the past few seasons is being wiped away now that they are forced to play more prominent roles.

Sure, they're only a few games out of a playoff spot in the weakest division. But nothing I've seen gives me any reason to believe a playoff birth would not end in embarrassment.

I love the Flames, but this is turning into a very difficult season to watch.

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#19 redwhiteblack
November 28 2016, 11:43AM
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Monahan 15 mins of ice time, zero points. "He will break out of it" talk is now "he is invisible every night". What is the issue? To much $ to young? Time to sit him?

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#20 The Sultan
November 28 2016, 11:45AM
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@Southboy

Jankowski to make his NHL debut tonight. Maybe he can show Monahan how to play center.

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#21 jakethesnail
November 28 2016, 11:56AM
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@Thatz Nuckin Futz

Just too many games in a compressed week on the road is the problem.

And then they return home to a rested Leafs squad of young energetic players Wednesday night.

Did BT approve this ridiculous schedule? And the Oilers were whining about only playing every second night - the reason they lost 2 in a row to the lowly Coyotes...lol

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#22 OKG
November 28 2016, 02:20PM
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redwhiteblack wrote:

Monahan 15 mins of ice time, zero points. "He will break out of it" talk is now "he is invisible every night". What is the issue? To much $ to young? Time to sit him?

The issue is he is now playing in a system where centres are asked to play centre instead of be the third winger on the ice. Since Monahan plays like a winger, he is struggling at center.

Meanwhile we are bafflingly putting Bennett at wing when he was thriving in this system at centre.

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#23 The Last Big Bear
November 28 2016, 03:31PM
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@Rockmorton65

Yeah, the Flames are 5 points out of the division lead.

They are also 3 points out of last place in the west, and the last place team has FOUR games in hand to make up that gap.

By points %, they are 29th in the NHL.

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#24 Rockmorton65
November 28 2016, 05:04PM
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The Fall wrote:

As pointed out above, the Flames are near the bottom in every statistical category. Any gains made by the young players over the past few seasons is being wiped away now that they are forced to play more prominent roles.

Sure, they're only a few games out of a playoff spot in the weakest division. But nothing I've seen gives me any reason to believe a playoff birth would not end in embarrassment.

I love the Flames, but this is turning into a very difficult season to watch.

And that was one of my points. This is supposed to be a rough season.

New coach/system, goalies, players, existing players with increased expectations, bloated contracts. Has all the makings of a volatile season.

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#25 Rockmorton65
November 28 2016, 05:14PM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

Yeah, the Flames are 5 points out of the division lead.

They are also 3 points out of last place in the west, and the last place team has FOUR games in hand to make up that gap.

By points %, they are 29th in the NHL.

What's with the negativity? This team just went through one of its roughest starts in recent memory and they're still in it. They are moving forward. No one can argue that they are playing better now than in October.

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