Canadiens 6, Flames 2 post-game embers: RIP

After two periods, this was looking like another game in which the Flames deserved a better fate. But considering how the entire team collectively gave up in the third period, that simply isn’t true.

I’d say it’s too bad, but it’s probably better for the team to crash and burn so there aren’t any illusions about just who they really are.

So this is why the Flames held Joni Ortio hostage in the pressbox

Through the first six games of the season, the Flames stubbornly carried three goaltenders, convinced that one of Jonas Hiller or Karri Ramo would stand out and claim the starter’s role. From there Joni Ortio, the tentative hope for the future, would take the backup position, growing and learning until he started getting more starts.

Yeah, that hasn’t gone to plan at all. The Flames have the worst goaltending in the league to start this season, and nobody is standing out positively.

All three goalies have had their moments of excellence, but they pretty much immediately get lost in the myriad of horrific goals against. It’s not like it’s all on them, but when you see something like Montreal’s first goal go in… that one is.

Ortio gave up six goals on 31 shots. You have to wonder where the Flames’ faith in him came from. And it’s entirely possible this is just one bad game, but the early returns really aren’t looking good.

That said, don’t trade for a goalie

We’re pretty much already at the point of the season where the Flames have to lie in the bed they made.

And, quite frankly, there’s no rhyme or reason for the goaltending to be this bad. This is a team that was league average when Hiller and Ramo split starts last season. It’s entirely possible they dig their way out of this, and the bounces start going for them rather than against them. 

That goes for the whole team, really – literally everything that can go wrong against them is. Just as their success last season wasn’t sustainable, neither are their failures this season.

That’s why you don’t focus on spending assets for a fix in net. What do you do if you trade for someone, hoping to get this season’s Devan Dubnyk, and it doesn’t work out because the rest of the team is still just as awful, and his save percentage then plummets? You shouldn’t be willing to risk that when your team’s play pretty much eliminated themselves not even a month into the season.

There’s no quick fix to be found here. Don’t try to force one. Especially because you’re going to lose if you’re coming from a position of desperation, which – if the Flames do try to acquire another goalie – they will be.

We need to talk about Kris Russell

Kris Russell played 20:29, behind only Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie in ice time. He was also on the ice for Montreal’s first three even strength goals against, aka the goals scored when the Flames were actually outplaying the Habs and looked to have a chance. He started in the offensive zone 69.23% of the time at even strength, and had the Flames’ worst corsi with 36.36%.

For emphasis: Russell had the sixth most beneficial zone starts on the team, and he had the worst possession rates. His defence seemed to consist more of screening his goalie and letting passes through than anything else.

You may wonder why I’m not roasting Dennis Wideman alongside him. And it’s true, Wideman was on the ice for those very same goals against, and we’ve had games upon games upon games of data to prove that the two of them simply are not a good pairing (and yet they’re one that Bob Hartley keeps going back to, regardless).

This is why I’m not harping on Wideman: his even strength corsi was 52.38%. And sure, there are good arguments to make for as to why he made out better: he had better offensive zone starts, and he played less (particularly when the Flames simply gave up on the game).

Let’s go further into that.

Russell and Wideman had 18 shifts apiece through two. So they were pretty much side-by-side, defending poorly as an item.

For some reason, in the third period, Hartley decided it was Wideman who needed benching, and not Russell. Russell played 12 shifts in the third to Wideman’s seven. Russell had played 2:13 on the powerplay to Wideman’s 1:45 – and we should note that if Wideman is anything in particular, he is a powerplay specialist.

What was it Russell did that Wideman didn’t that allowed him to escape the coach’s ire? Both were terrible defensively, as they are wont to be (and have been wont to be for a considerable amount of time now). Both were responsible for goals against when the Flames were actually controlling the game.

One more thing, and asterisk due to small sample size as you may: at even strength, away from Wideman, Russell had 12.50% CF. Wideman, away from Russell, had 57.14%.

Hell, even Dougie Hamilton – who actually finished with a few more seconds played than Wideman, taking over some of those third period shifts – was 51.72% ES CF away from Russell. With 3:46 spent with him, he was 0.00% ES CF.

Let’s find a positive here

Before things went completely off the rails, and the Flames actually had a chance at this game – if only one of their many, many early, high quality chances actually went in (I feel for Mason Raymond at this point) – Giordano and Brodie were absolutely. Killing. It. With the two of them leading the Flames in ice time, halfway through the game, they had allowed just one even strength corsi attempt against them.

One. Over 30 minutes. Roughly 10-12 of which, they played at even strength. They were registering ES CFs of 94% (Brodie) and 95% (Giordano).

Of course, that couldn’t last – by the time the second period ended, there had been, like, three or four even strength events against them – but even with the meltdown in the third period (which they were partly responsible for), they were still very easily the best on the Flames.

In a game like this, take the positives where you can get them. And this is a pretty big positive to take. Why? Because it shows they still have it – and gives hope that they’ll still have it by the time the rest of their team figures out what they’re doing, whether that’s months or years from now.

Johnny still B. Goode

That was terrible and I apologize.

Mostly, though, I just wanted to highlight this comment by RickT, made following the Rangers game, on Johnny Gaudreau (comment #13, appropriately enough):

It’s strange to say, and even harder to properly communicate – but those assists of Johnny G. Hockey Esq. are basically goals.
They are such sublime passes, that lead directly to goals. I feel like Nemisz could be on Johnny’s line and score at a great pace, because Gaudreau is just setting them up on a silver platter.
I understand that goals are nice and you see the direct result. But, in this case, they are Johnny’s goals – he’s just not the one actually putting the puck in the net.

That’s basically the feeling I got on Josh Jooris’ goal. Not that it was a sublime pass that created it, but that the goal was the result of Gaudreau doing the immediate work (with shoutout to Sam Bennett for his assist on the play, too).

Gaudreau has one goal and 11 assists in 11 games. What’s the opposite of the Cy Young Award? Because Gaudreau is the early favourite to win it. He’s creating his team’s offence. Last night, he led the way with four high danger scoring chances – which were the only kind of individual corsi attempts he even had.

Gaudreau is currently tied for top six in NHL scoring, and 75% of it is coming at even strength. Like Giordano and Brodie, he’s well on his way to emphasizing he’s the real deal.

Byron sure showed Brad

Brad Treliving has had a number of blunders throughout his general managing tenure to date – just as literally every single GM ever has – but it really came back to bite him last night.

It made no sense for the Flames to waive Paul Byron. They weren’t at the roster limit. They didn’t need to offer him up for free. But they did, and thanks to that, the Flames lost one of their most versatile players – and he’s someone they could sure use right now.

Here’s an example. Joe Colborne and Sean Monahan rise each other’s game a little, but not enough to really make a compelling case to keep the two together. Byron played about 130 even strength minutes with Monahan last season, though, and together, they brought one another over 50% ES CF (and were at 50% ES GF, if you’re more concerned about goals than corsis).

In two games this year, Byron has two points and no penalty minutes. In nine games this year, Brandon Bollig has no points and 35 penalty minutes. Throughout his career, Bollig has 19 points. Byron scored 19 points last season, and that was with him not scoring as often as he could have.

Byron is an extremely versatile player that could fit literally anywhere within the lineup – either wing, down the middle, on any line – and contribute. He was an excellent penalty killer for that matter, too.

People like to joke about his inability to score on breakaways, but he did, on occasion. And even if you want to forget that part to suit the meme: just remember that the meme exists for a reason to begin with. And that reason is that he was good enough to consistently get those breakaways.

His goal was a statement on the night, and I’m happy for him.

  • YWC

    CCCSberg suggested (and I agree) that there is a shift in defensive strategy from zone collapse in middle to more a man-to-man (kind of a hybrid).

    If that’s true, it is natural to think that Russell, given his play style, will be most affected. He is great in zone where you need to block and pursue the puck after, but not so when comes to man coverage where you need to outmustle the opponent to knock the puck out from him due to his small statue.

    • mattyc

      If that is true,it would explain alot.None of our D can outmuscle opponents…England and Laddy are the only ones that have the beef and temperament to handle opponents physically.None of our top four can dominate anyone physically.

      The other style worked better for the D that we have.

      *disclaimer: I don’t know Jack about systems,strategy and stuff.

  • Even with the sample size that existed how does one arrive at Mason Raymond is better than Paul Byron.

    It may have been RCN pointing that out last night and its like…. yah.. wtf? Younger, faster, feistier, puts more pressure on the D and CHEAPER.

    But mayray it is.

    Oddly

    Bollig is not a comparable… Hartley is who he is and he needs meat heads.. it’s part of his old skool linus blanket.

  • Very well written article Ari, it’s clear that this team’s struggles stem from more than just one issue. These early season games may just be a blessing in disguise. Hopefully BT and Hartley can finally take off their rose-colored glasses and see the players for what their truly worth.

  • mattyc

    I have to say I thought the Flames actually played pretty well until the third. They had their speed back, were forechecking well, and for the first time in a long time, actually had multiple lines that were generating chances. In particular, the Gaudreau Bennett Jooris and the Backlund Raymond Frolik/Jones lines were good.

    Likewise Brodie/Giordano were sublime, and Hamilton and Engelland (credit where credit’s due) were actually pretty good too. Ari, I actually thought Wideman looked worse than Russell out there (low bar, notwithstanding). WIdeman was fighting the puck, had a bunch of brutal giveaways, and just plain looked slow.

    Combine some poor work by that pairing with some atrocious goaltending (and the Flames going home early), and thats a recipe for a loss.

    I’ll say it here though: The Flames aren’t as bad as they’ve looked so far. They’re not going to have goaltenders that let in 17% of the shots all year. They’re not going to continue to miss all those 10-bell chances. Errr – at least it’s highly unlikely.

  • Burnward

    Where’s the detailed fancy stats breakdown showing how they deserved a better fate?

    Or is that not what we do here when that’s inconvenient to the Corsi religion?

      • ATL Oiler

        You think he is grumpy now? Wait until the Oilers cream the Flames again tonight :). Never agreed with his pro Flames crap when winning and now a poor looser too. It is clear you’re Flames were overachievers that now live in reality …..

          • Willi P

            Don’t you mean “loosing” lol. If ATL Oiler is going to talk smack, the least he could do is learn how to spell.

            ATL Oiler said “You think he is grumpy now? Wait until the Oilers cream the Flames again tonight :). Never agreed with his pro Flames crap when winning and now a poor looser too. It is clear you’re Flames were overachievers that now live in reality …..”

          • Willi P

            Okay, enough on the spelling, clearly not your strength.

            Let’s revert to stats. The Oil won their first game in Calgary on October 17th, 2015 since 2013.

            They lost all of their games against the Flames last year.

            The Oil have not won a season series against the Flames since 2001, yes 2001!

            They have played one game against each other this year. The Oil sit 11th (of 14 teams) in the West with only one less regulation loss (7) than the Flames (8).

            Perhaps a few more games should go by before talking smack?

    • mattyc

      So true, cherry-picked to the extreme when convenient…avoided at all costs when it goes the other way and is contradictory to the corsi religion itself.

      Corsi folks are cult-like actually, the comparisons are actually quite scary. And like any cult, you never argue against their extreme views or it goes against the religion.

    • Greg

      There’s been a fair bit of points about how the Corsi indicates the flames aren’t really this bad, and the PDO is unsustainably bad.

      But ya, it hasn’t been as touted as how things were unsustainably good last year.

      The “advanced stats” (do we still need to call them that) show things won’t stay this bad. Unfortunately they also indicate they aren’t going to get good enough to salvage this season. A bad loss tonight and I officially go on Austin Matthews watch.

    • I don’t think there’s a need for a breakdown when the advanced stats have already shown us their value. The Flames have regressed, just like the stats said they would.

      How is being right inconvenient to the “Corsi religion”?

      • Cfan in Vic

        I don’t think you get the argument.

        By corsi alone, the Flames are a better team this year. Over 50% most games. If one were treating Corsi as a religion, they would surely expect a better team this year.

        Not saying this is my argument, but I do find it interesting that this corsi improvement comes at the same time as an incomplete, and fragile Flames team.

          • piscera.infada

            They did, but the Flames are due to regress from their league-worst PDO this season.

            Statistical regression does not mean you were way above the mean, and thus will be way below the mean as some sort of counter-balance. It simply means that those numbers will creep closer towards the mean over time. Last year, the numbers did come back towards the mean, just not as sharply as they were predicted to.

            Now this year, the numbers (more precisely save percentage) again, should begin to approach the mean. Will they? Or, will the “regression” again, be less dramatic than the advanced stats community predicts?

  • Burnward

    Hahaha I bet my buddy that occasionally checks FN the minute Byron scored last night that Arii would be blasting Treliving and praising Byron in her post game write-up for scoring a goal…I went as far as to guess she would somehow pin the flames poor season thus far on that decision and that it was such an egregious mistake that has sealed our fate while Byron continues on his pre-destined path for glory and dominance in the NHL.

    Thanks Ari, you just made me $100

    • I went as far as to guess she would somehow pin the flames poor season thus far on that decision and that it was such an egregious mistake that has sealed our fate while Byron continues on his pre-destined path for glory and dominance in the NHL.

      Nowhere in this article is that said or even implied. You’re engaging in reductio ad absurdum – taking a claim to extreme conclusions to make it sound ridiculous or false.

      The Paul Byron loss was an error. He was waived so the Flames could keep Ramo – a goalie they subsequently waived two weeks later – and Bollig – a player with no clear on-ice value to the team. That doesn’t suggest keeping Paul Byron would in any way change the Flames fortunes this year or that he is destined for greatness.

  • The Flames are probably going into tonights tilt against Edmonton pissed off. Pissed off that they’re losing. They don’t seem to me like a sulking bunch of guys.

    If the Oilers take them lightly, they could end up embarrassed. I hope that the Oil come to play, right off the bat, and put up a great effort.

    The way to beat the Flames tonight is to get 2 quick goals right away, to take them out of it. Put some doubt into their game. If not, the Flames could pot 2 of their own, and put some doubt into a still slightly fragile Oilers squad.

    BATTLE OF ALBERTA!

    Goilers!

  • Willi P

    I love how Ari went out of her way when there was zero reason (other than an ego stroke) to trash flames management on the Byron thing…you knew this was coming. In the same way she is likely hoping Ramo fails and Hiller redeems himself just so she can tell everyone how she was right all along about Hiller. Quite childish but it happens at every opportunity with her…see the last two years on Matchsticks as Exhibits 1 through 1000.

    The reality is Byron has been a healthy scratch in 9 of 11 games this year in Montreal and that’s with a few injuries within their forward core. He’s always been a journeyman in and out of the lineup fringe player. In two years I would be surprised if anyone even remembers the name Paul Byron. He’s certainly not the game changer that the authors here insinuate because he had good Corsi numbers…if he was he’d actually be a regular NHL’er and an impactful one at that…of which he is neither, nor ever has been. Bollig and Raymond are here, Byron isn’t, get over it and move on in a positive way.

    Back to what’s actually important, the Flames (not players on opposing teams), big game tonight. A win is huge and puts us right back to within striking range in a very weak pacific division. It’s not even close to over yet folks, stay positive and support the boys, there’s a lot of hockey left to be played. Go Flames

    ——–FN Moderator: All of the writers at FN put in a lot of time in effort, in order to provide valuable content for Flames fans. Go ahead and debate the information, provide counter-arguments or trash opinions you don’t like. NO ONE will be allowed to personally attack the commentors or writers. You may not like a writers style or opinions, but personal attacks will not be tolerated.

    • BIGFlamesFan

      The argument isn’t that he’s another Gaudreau. It’s that he’s a better 4th line fringe player than Bollig. It’s a valid critique of management and when the player the team casts aside scores more points in one season than the other player does in his entire career, it should be brought up.

      BTW, are we allowed to even discuss the game? Or is it over and we should all move on?

    • trox

      She didn’t trash management, she criticized one of Treliving’s moves. I think there’s a respectable middle ground between blind loyalty to management and relentless criticism…I think that middle ground is called “critical thinking” and Ari has her feet squarely planted there.

      Byron is a utility player with good wheels and great hockey sense. He is on an ultra cheap contract that is basically league minimum. He is at least as good as a hand-full of our regular forwards and unlike several of them he is not grossly overpaid. And who cares if he’s been a healthy scratch in Montreal? They are at the top of the league, which might have something to do with having better forward depth than other teams, including the Flames.

      I also think it was pretty clear why Ari raised Paul Byron in her article, and it was not for an ego stroke. It was because Byron burned us last night at a critical moment in the game.

      As for Bollig being here, Ari can (and should) continue to express her opinion that he does not objectively deserve a spot in the line-up when there are better options. Byron used to be one, and now any number of others are–including Raymond and some options in Stockton.

      To put it all together, what is really childish is calling writers childish and accusing them of being driven by ego just because you don’t agree with their opinions.

  • Rock

    It is funny how the writers and fans turn on Management, coaches and players so quickly. They had a great season last year extremely exciting but now we all forget we want to trade player fire the coach and now mangement has mad many bad deals.
    Before Byron was put on waivers the writers here and fans were saying he should be let go cause of his size and injury prone now he is gone writers and fans are saying it was a mistake.
    This is always a good comment also fire Hartley and hire Bodreau now that would be intelligent he couldn’t win with Washington and he has a ducks team loaded with more stars then Calgary has and have less points. Riding out the pain of losing is better then giving up on people who have succeeded for this team before.

  • Howie Meeker

    What stuns me is even though our flames have had the worst start in franchise history they are still 6 points out of a playoff spot and still have 3 team bellow them in the standings…including Anahiem….crazy. Don’t give up on them just yet, because no team in the Pacific is dominating at this point of the season….GFG.

  • Howie Meeker

    Ari, Byron broke up with you and is long gone, history. Move on, your starting to look like the typical stalker ex that hangs on forever and won’t let it go.

    Flames vs Oilers tonight, massive game. A win gets us within a point of the Oilers and a few back of the rest of the division pack. Get it done boys!

    • Southern_Point

      Wow this is some sexist bullshit.
      Byron had a great game last night Ari topically pointed out that management was stupid to let him go,which she is absolutely right about, you need to log off.

  • FlamesRule

    I think you are too hard on Ortio. I agree he was brutal last night and stated so in the last column. However, as piscera pointed out, how many meaningful starts has the guy had? You can’t just keep throwing in cold goalies at randomly spaced intervals hoping for a miracle, not with the way this teams’s D has been playing.

    Face it, Treliving screwed up by re-signing Ramo. He should not have listened to Hartley. But now it’s time to get some consistency going in net. Ortio needs to be handed the reins for several games. It’s best for him, best for the team. It’ll certainly help let the team know what they have in him.

    As for Russell: Truculence. It explains Bollig over Byron as well. The irony in Byron scoring against Calgary on a breakaway is immeasurable. There it is though, Russell is the great screener, er, I mean shot blocker and Wideman is not. That simple.

    I won’t dump on Hartley, I’ve noted any issues I’ve had with his coaching in the past, but overall I don’t think he’s a bad coach. However, I do not believe he’ll be back for the start of next season.

  • Burnward

    Wow – The Sea of Red is pretty rough these days. Been visiting this site while doing some papers for school based on sports fans, their loyalty to their team, their behavior during good and bad times, plus their social interaction with others including me as someone who posted comments from time to time. Fascinating stuff – Only wish I knew everyone’s age.

  • Burnward

    Calgary and Anaheim were suppose to lead Pacific division by most pundits this season . Both are having horrendous starts . Doubt either team will continue as they are now in next ten games . Lose to Oilers , or get dominated again tonight , and Flames will be in real trouble . Poor goaltending is destroying entire team and psyche – that has got to stop firstly , before Flames start winning again .

  • Derzie

    Stats are tools. They are not on their own gospel. And which tool to use depends on the situation. Right now, the Flames are so bad that gross measure tools tell you what you need to know. Win/Loss, Goal Differential, Plus/Minus, Save %. Worst in the league on all counts. Watching the game shows that having 3 goalies means you don’t have a goalie. Wideman & Russell have fallen off of a cliff. Last week they had company with Hamilton & Gio until they were split up and the great Brodie returned. Paul Byron’s performance last night was well-deserved salt in the wound. A completely unnecessary waiver move. Once we have a goalie and 6 proper d-men, we can start to look at the fine tuned stats. That said, anyone who talks about corsi in the context of this version of the Flames is applying a micrometer when a yard stick tells the tale. Anyone who talks about luck is missing the point entirely. Luck is a word for something you don’t understand or have not learned to measure yet.

  • BIGFlamesFan

    All we heard coming into this yr was how the flames had one of the best defences in the league. After the top pairing it’s looking like we have one of the worst defences. Russell and Wideman look completely lost. They look slow, play soft, get out worked, out battled, and out thought. No matter how good Brodano is there is always Russel/Wides coming over the boards right after to drag the team down again. Flames aren’t going anywhere with that second pairing.

  • Man, what a difference a year makes…. team goes sour and the Nation gets nasty. Brutal, just brutal…. anyway I think it might be time to remember that this is Year 3.5 of a rebuild, last year was awesome but some good luck hid a lot of sins… honestly the trade deadline will be easier this year and we won’t be agonizing about resigning Hudler/Russell, we can just do the right thing. Hopefully the games get more bearable but the playoffs are truly out of sight already… we build….

    • Captain Ron

      Completely agree with you. Have always believed this to be true.

      Great Goalie = great coach. See Michel Therrien for a current example.

      Without Price they are not a playoff team. I would even go as far as to say that they would be a playoff bubble team if they were in the west even with Price.

  • Cfan in Vic

    I knew Byron would score last night. I’ve always been a supporter of his, and was sad to see him go.

    That said, it’s not unbelievable that he got waived. I truly believe that BT didn’t think he’d get picked up. I don’t think Raymond is worth a damn this season, but you have to admit that he has a higher pedigree, and perhaps was valued higher for a very short period of time. As for keeping 3 goalies instead of waiving Byron, we’ve seen how shaky all 3 have been. If I’m BT, and I think I need a bit more time to figure out who’s the one guy who might provide average tending, I’m damn well going to take my time to find it. Hind-sight being 20/20, neither seem to be providing that, but I think it’s obvious that if there was one diamond in the rough among those 3, he’d be making a much larger difference than 1 Paul Byron on the 4th line.

    I don’t think the Byron thing is worth debating much longer. Unfortunate, but not understandable. Also, good for him for finally putting away a break away.

  • TRAIN#97

    I say McDavid puts on another great national tv performance. I think he likes the big stage.Edmonton did to Montreal in the last 2 periods what no other team was able to do this year and that was offensively and defensively dominate them.