The Colorado Avalanche are a pretty bad hockey team.
Last night, the Flames found a way to be worse.
A fluke in a whole other direction
Just like last season’s Calgary Flames were nowhere near as good as they appeared, this year’s Calgary Flames are nowhere near as bad as they appear. As it stands, their PDO is currently 94.5, which is the worst in the league. For reference, only eight teams currently have a PDO under 99.0, and none of them are in a playoff spot (and two of them – Anaheim and Columbus – have worse records).
Maybe this doesn’t correct itself over the season, but it’s somewhat nice to know that these probably aren’t the real Flames we’re watching.
Think of it this way: when Mark Giordano scored the game-tying goal, you were excited, right? Because the Flames weren’t playing horrifically awful – or at least not any more so than their opponents – and definitely could have been up by more than a few goals at the time. You were ready for an exciting conclusion to a game it looked like the Flames were fully capable of winning.
And then they Flames’d it, giving up the puck in their own end and allowing for a high danger chance that ended up being the game winner.
Entire games – and recently, this is including stretches of games the Flames have been not-the-worst-team-ever in – are ending up decided for them because of one stupid breakdown that usually gets the snowball consisting of more stupid breakdowns rolling. Mentally, it’s probably not easy to put up with – especially when you had it drilled into your head last year that there wasn’t anything you couldn’t overcome.
Yeah, turns out that was a lie. Sorry about that. It’s not all bad, though.
Sam Bennett and the curious case of the missing hat trick
Sam Bennett could have had four goals last night. Instead, he ended up with one, which is still pretty good, but he could have had four.
This isn’t to say he should have ended up with four. Even though the puck was absolutely going in and there wasn’t anything anybody could have done to stop it, the net was off its mooring before it crossed the line, so it couldn’t be a goal. Then the whistle blew pretty much right when he poked it home on Semyon Varlamov, and with intent to blow being a thing, it wasn’t going to count. And the other try ended up on top of the net, so that one wasn’t even going to go in to begin with (although it looked really close).
Remember when one of the Flames’ problems was that Bennett wasn’t seeming to do anything offensively? Not really a problem anymore, is it?
In fact, Bennett finally took over the centre ice time lead from Sean Monahan. Monahan, who desperately needs his minutes reduced, played 16:52 (and again had no shots); Bennett, who was flying all night, played 18:22. Monahan got seven shifts in the third; Bennett had nine.
Also, kinda funny: the one goal Bennett did score? A wraparound. His linemate Johnny Gaudreau had, like, four wraparound attempts throughout the game, but those just weren’t going in for him; of course his wrister did, though.
Gaudreau also played 18:22, and led the way with five shots. They played 8:57 even strength minutes together, and had a 66.67% CF while doing so. Keep them together. The Flames’ shooting percentage may have dropped, but those two are still creating chances.
Brandon Bollig played one shift in the third period
Seriously, what is the point? Oh I’m sorry Mikael Backlund isn’t reaching expectations when one of his regular linemates you can’t trust more than 19 seconds to in the third period of a one-score game. He actually puts up good numbers away from him (72.73% ES CF) so, hey, maybe there’s a thought.
Play your top players
Joe Colborne played 19:12, the most out of all Flames forwards.
Yeah, I don’t get it either. Because whatever your thoughts on Colborne – not an NHLer, not meeting his potential, kid who just needs some confidence – I think we can all agree he is not the Flames’ best chance at creating offence, he is not their best chance at providing adequate defensive coverage, and he is not their top forward.
And yet, he played more than any other up front skater. Only Michael Frolik had more shifts in the third than he did, 13 to his 10.
The fact Colborne posted a 42.86% ES CF doesn’t help much, either.
On the backend, Kris Russell led the way with 24:02. Yeah, the very same “probably shouldn’t be a top four defenceman probably never really was” Kris Russell. Although the defence ice times were much more spread out than they usually are, with the fourth and fifth place finishers in ice time – Dennis Wideman and Dougie Hamilton, respectively – playing 19:05 and 18:39.
The defence pairings did get shuffled around towards the end of the game, though. Brodie and Giordano were reunited, leaving partnerships of Hamilton and Wideman and then Russell and Engelland to round things out. We’ll see if this sticks, but considering the inexplicable love affair for Russell (and I just feel awful for him at this point, he’s giving up the most out of everybody in the NHL right now and just keeps getting thrown back into the fire), if that means Engelland is back in the top four… hmm. Well.
The Jesus Brodie
You know how fancy stats types don’t like +/-, but sometimes the stat can be telling? In a 6-3 loss, T.J. Brodie was a +3. With 23:06 in ice time. Which instantly reminded me of that disastrous 9-0 loss to the Bruins a couple of years ago, in which Brodie played the most out of everybody on the Flames and was the only guy to finish even.
Even when games turn into blowouts he just quietly goes about his job, doing generally well. It’s ridiculous. For further context into his +3, the highest rating any Avalanche player got – and keep in mind they scored five goals that would have contributed to this stat – was a +2.
Brodie played huge minutes, was defensively sound the entire time, out-worked the opposition, set up a goal, and to top it all off, had a 64.10% ES CF rating. His 25 CF events were second to only Frolik, who had 26.
Single-game WOWY is a pretty tiny sample size, but let’s go for it anyway. Johnny Gaudreau and Josh Jooris were the only two Flames to post better possession stats when away from Brodie than with him. Literally every single other Flame who spent enough time on ice with him for corsi events to occur (so this exludes just Wideman and Hamilton) posted better possession stats when they were with Brodie than without.
As for the two oddities, Gaudreau had 57.14% ES CF with him, and 59.09% ES CF without, which is nothing. Jooris had 60.00% ES CF with him, and 69.57% ES CF without, which is slightly more substantial, but they also played less together. And even when they were with him, they were still putting up pretty good numbers.
Brodie made just about his entire team better.
I still love you Jarome
Iggy finally scored his first-ever goal against the Flames. And then he got an empty netter for good measure. What a guy. He’s going to hit 600 goals very very soon, and wow, remember when we were waiting for him to get 500? (He hit it the game after that horrific loss to the Bruins mentioned just above!) What a player. He was a threat to score throughout the night (even if he got very much out-corsied at 37.14% ES CF… oops).
Look, Iginla is going to be a free agent on his 40th birthday. The dude will probably still be able to play when he’s 40. And if he doesn’t sign a one-year deal with a resurgent Flames group as a valuable depth winger option who will probably still be able to play top six in a pinch (and probably still be better than Colborne, sorry Joe but you’re from Calgary you probably understand) who will go on to help this team make a statement in the regular season, earn a playoff berth, and win the Cup that year with him being the first person Mark Giordano hands it to after taking his own lap on Calgary home ice beaming that gorgeous smile of his then I am going to be so damn mad.
Look, the Flames aren’t particularly doing anything right now. There’s no quick fix for this, and it doesn’t look like they’re even ready or able to start making minor fixes just yet, so I am going to fantasize about things related to this team that would make me happy and I am going to love it.