February 16 2017 08:00AM
I'd kinda forgotten what it was like to be on the right side of a goalie completely stealing a win for his team.
Seriously, Brian Elliott was incredible
The Flames have one person to thank for the two points, and that person is their goalie. Obviously he couldn't do it alone - though how sweet would it have been if the empty netter had been his? - but this isn't a game the Flames would have even remotely been in were it not for the play of their netminder.
Brian Elliott faced 34 shots. Only one got past him. Is it particularly encouraging that it was 90 seconds into the game? Not really, but everything that happened after more than made up for it.
An anemic Flyers powerplay certainly helped, but when Philadelphia had really good chances, Elliott was there. He was exactly what you expect out of your last line of defence: when everyone in front of him failed, he was there to eliminate all chances of damage.
Elliott's .971 save percentage was the best he's exhibited all season. Has he let in bad goals at times? Absolutely. Is he still the Flames' current best hope in net? Considering both recent performance and career history, yes, he has the edge on Chad Johnson.
Here's a thought. Say the Flames had lost, through no fault of Elliott's - say the Flyers tied the game due to another instance of Widemaning and then won in the shootout or something - would "win and you're in" have still been applicable? Or have the Flames stabilized enough from their brutal January to have a little more breathing room with the phrase?
Fortunately that's a question for another day because Elliott won, so he definitely stays in.
Adapting down a forward
Alex Chiasson may have had the weakest spear of all time, but a spear's a spear, and rules are rules, so... he was out. (Meh, boys will be boys, amirite?) He played just 1:45, leaving the Flames down a forward early in a tied game.
They weren't being outworked at that point, but the night definitely wore on them.
A game after being punted down to the fourth line, Johnny Gaudreau was the prime beneficiary of no Chiasson. He played 21:38, three more minutes than the next most-used forward. Flashes of offensive creativity were definitely present in his game, but that's mostly what they were: flashes. (Then again, so much time was spent in the Flames' end that they were really only generating occasionally strong chances on the rush and that was about it, so of course Gaudreau was particularly noticeable then.)
Gaudreau mostly played alongside Sean Monahan, though he also got a fair share of time with both Kris Versteeg and Troy Brouwer and, to a lesser extent, Sam Bennett. It's really hard to judge off of the corsi numbers in this one game, considering how very few skaters had a positive impact (the 3M line, the top defence pairing, you know, the usual), but he was best when with Monahan.
It was ultimately good to see those extra minutes mostly going Gaudreau's way because he still is this team's most dynamic offensive player. The Flames have a better chance of scoring when he's put in position to succeed.
As for what happened to Bennett's line when they were without Chiasson and without Gaudreau, they pilfered the other players on that line: Bennett's third most common linemate was Brouwer, while Versteeg's was Monahan. The fourth line is the fourth line (though this would have been as good a time as any to toss more minutes Micheal Ferland's way), while 3M stuck together.
Top scorers update
Mikael Backlund still leads the way for the Flames, now sitting at 39 points in 58 games. Last season was the first time he ever hit 40; he's got another 24 games to do it again. Barring anything incredibly unfortunate happening, he'll get there.
Hell, he's on pace for 55 points right now. Not exactly the number you want to see from your team's top scorer, but good for him on a personal level.
How about Matthew Tkachuk, though?
Tkachuk picked up two points in the win, and with them vaulted over Gaudreau and Monahan to take the sole spot of second in team scoring with 36 points in 54 games. We weren't even sure if he was going to be able to stick around the whole year and now he's second in team scoring. He's second in points per game, too, tied with Backlund at .67 and behind Gaudreau. He's on pace for 52 points.
So... that's outstanding.
Sean Monahan will never score again, ever
Poor Monahan has been sitting on 99 career goals for five games now. He's the leading goal scorer for this team, stuck at 19, so that's unfortunate.
Monahan (and Gaudreau's) lack of points against the Flyers wasn't for lack of trying, especially on Monahan's part. He was a man possessed on the powerplay. Monahan was ultimately credited with four shots on net, but you probably could have counted that many on one flurry of chances alone.
Of course Monahan's going to want to score, because doing that is going to help his team, and it's kind of the thing he's best at. Hopefully that's coming soon, because he's earned it time and time again.
Vancouver would be a great opponent for him to reach that milestone against though, wouldn't they?
The Dennis Wideman countdown
The frustration with Gaudreau's demotion in the previous game wasn't so much that Gaudreau got demoted, and more that other players can get away with doing absolutely everything wrong and not suffer any consequences.
Anyway, Dennis Wideman was officially removed from the top four, at least for this one game. He got booted. He played 12:32, his lowest total this season by about three and a half minutes. (Still got 3:38 on the penalty kill, though. Dougie Hamilton doesn't get penalty kill time. Which one would you be more afraid of doing something stupid?) And he still found away to be responsible for a goal against, so you can't say he's inconsistent.
There are 24 games to go in this season and therefore, presumably, 24 more games of Wideman. (And the way things are going, possibly 24 more games in his NHL career.) He continues to be... very bad. Deryk Engelland isn't a player you'd call a "stud", so when he can easily replace you - even with a reasonably well-noted history of how he does not work particularly well alongside Brodie - well.
It was nice to see that accountability extend elsewhere, is all.