Post-Game: The Kids Ice The Penguins

Tonight, the Calgary Flames hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins – a non-conference opponent, playing their second game in as many nights on the road.

It was as good a shot as the Flames were gonna get against a good club. And the Flames responded to this opportunity with easily their most complete game of the year, a 5-2 win driven by the strong play of their youngest (and most talented) players.

THE RUNDOWN

Facing a team that played the night before, the Flames performed about as well as they could’ve hoped in the first period. They led in shots and attempts the whole way – aided in no small part by drawing three penalties, though one was a bit wonky. The man advantages contributed to two of the three goals. The opening goal was a product of Sam Bennett’s patience; just after a minor to Sidney Crosby expired, T.J. Brodie’s stick shattered. So Bennett held onto the puck, waited for Joe Colborne to skate into the slot, and fed him for a nice wrister to make it 1-0. Phil Kessel took advantage of a Brodie turn-over to tie it up with a nice far-side shot on Ramo. But after Ben Lovejoy took a penalty, the Flames went to work.

Johnny Gaudreau got a tap-in off a gorgeous passing play, and then 50 seconds later Sam Bennett dangled around Ian Cole and beat Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 3-1. The locals led in everything you could hope to in the first: 16-8 shots, 11-8 even-strength shots, 28-13 shot attempts, 19-11 face-offs and 3-1 goals. It was a rock-solid first period.

The second period was more even, as the Flames and Penguins exchanged chances (and later in the period, goals). T.J. Brodie is going to have nightmares about this one.

A nice pinch by Dougie Hamilton to keep the puck in the offensive zone led to this gem.

Nick Bonino scored late on a Penguins power-play with Sam Bennett in the box for inference, right after T.J. Brodie both led a 3-on-2 rush for the Flames short-handed and then raced back to break up a Penguins rush coming the other way. David Jones had a penalty shot after he was hauled down after splitting the defense, but he shot it high and wide. The Flames led in shots 11-10 in the second (11-9 at even-strength), but the Penguins held sway in shot attempts (18-16) and face-offs (15-6).

The third period was low-event hockey, in that the Flames played a scrambly game at times, but did their absolute best to eat up the clock without letting shots accumulate on the scoreboard. Heck, the two teams combined for two shots in the first nine minutes. It was that kind of period. The Penguins pulled Fleury with just under three minutes remaining, and Johnny Gaudreau added an empty-netter to ice it for the home side. Shots were 7-4 for the Penguins (5-4 at even-strength), and the Penguins dominated in shot attempts (19-9) and face-offs (12-4), but they really didn’t generate many dangerous situations.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

They were much better than the Penguins in the first, they were slightly better than them in the second, and they were good enough in the third.

They skated circles around their tired opponents and executed smart, simple plays well, and gradually they gained the confidence to try (and execute) fancier stuff, too. They got the saves they needed, the got the goals they needed, and once Sam Bennett scored the eventual game-winner (late in the first period), the outcome wasn’t in question.

RED WARRIOR

I’m gonna go with Johnny Gaudreau, as he had two goals and three points and was generally quite good. But man, there were a lot of good performances by the gentlemen in red this evening. Sean Monahan was good. Sam Bennett was good. T.J. Brodie was good. Dougie Hamilton was good. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Flame that had a bad game.

ELSEWHERE

Barrie beat Sault Ste. Marie 4-1, and both Rasmus Andersson and Andrew Mangiapane had assists. Keegan Kanzig was +2 in his return to the Calgary Hitmen, though they lost 3-2 to the Oil Kings up in Edmonton. Brandon Hickey was even in Boston University’s 4-1 win over Northeastern.

QUOTABLE

“His pass on the first goal, his goal, they were great, they were offensive plays, but I also really liked his third period. He didn’t cough up the puck, he played the game the right way… Benny played us quite a game.” – Bob Hartley assessing Sam Bennett’s performance.

“You need to be able at least to even out that battle [against the Penguins power-play]. If you can be as good as their power-play, I think that you’ll have a good night, and our power-play was very good.” – Hartley, assessing his power-play.

UP NEXT

Road trip! The Flames (5-9-1) kick off an eight-day, four-game road trip on Tuesday night when they head to the Sunshine State to take on the Florida Panthers. It’s a 5:30pm MT start against Jaromir Jagr and Co., so prepare accordingly.

  • everton fc

    I think we may have turned a corner this evening. The lines looked good, the defence looked good, Ramo played well. I liked Backlund’s game, as well, this evening. Good effort for the team. Bennett/Gaudreau/Monahan – that is a trio destined for “elite” status, me thinks.

  • Parallex

    I posted this in the game thread:

    Bennett had a great game. That makes two as a winger as opposed to six as a center.

    I’ll never support playing Bennett on the wing, but as long as he’s playing with Backlund and Frolik I’ll content myself with quiet disapproval as opposed to belligerent griping.

    Worth noting: Backlund and company were matched against Pittsburgh’s fourth line.

    Also worth noting: the Flames bottom six got slaughtered since neither Backlund nor Bennett was centering the third line.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      You can’t have all-stars on all 4 lines. What did that Frolik Bennett Backlund line accomplish? They were so dangerous Pitt didn’t know whether to cover their line or the Gaudreau Money Huds line. We need 2 lines scoring to string some wins together & get back into this thing. I don’t care bennett is playing wing, he looked fantastic. Keep that line together. Mony liked good tonight too. This team is going to change the critics tune.

      Ramo looked good, about freaking time we got goaltending. & Hamilton Russell played well tonight as well. Brodie & Gio were excellent once again. This is a huge win for us.

    • OKG

      Nobody got “slaughtered”. Bottom six just faced hard score effects in the third where their role was to defend for a while, clog up the neutral zone, and then chip for a change. They executed to perfection. That was Flames Hockey.

  • It’s not totally fair of me to have done this, but I’ve been waiting for a gorgeous goal from Bennett all season. And he nailed it.

    Hopefully this is exactly what truly starts a “Gaudreau-in-his-rookie-year” type of breakout for the kid!

  • Captain Ron

    This is the second night in a row the Flames have looked steady though even better tonight than against Philly.

    I didn’t think Ramo could be faulted on either goal and he made some nice saves. Bennett’s end to ender was a thing of beauty as was his pass to Colborne. I think one of the reasons the Flames are starting to win is his skill is really starting to shine.

    The D was generally solid and despite Kessel pushing Brodie off the puck for the first goal I was happy with Brodano. Hamilton looks composed. Russell and Widman have been dramatically better the last two games.

    What I was most happy about was Monahan seemed to wake up tonight from a very long sleep. He made a beautiful pass to set up Guadreau on the pp and bunted in a nice one himself. Amazingly, he has 10 points in 15 games despite his struggles! Now if Hudler can get going again the line and almost the whole team will be firing on almost all cylinders.

    Calgary has played one game more, but is only 3 points behind SJ for a playoff spot. Anaheim is coming on, so if we cede two Pacific spots to them and LA, my guess is we need to beat out SJ and Vancouver. Both seem doable even given the horrible start, particularly if the Flames can put forth the effort and performance of tonight, regularly.

    A last thought: what happens when Hiller comes back? We don’t need another three headed monster, but Calgary probably won’t want to waive him either. Any thoughts??

    • Ari Yanover

      I think you waive Ortio.

      After his performance at the NHL level, what are the chances anybody claims him? Everyone seems to have their goaltending in order. Even Buffalo, who was speculated to potentially be in line for one of Calgary’s guys, seems to be pretty happy with Linus Ullmark; they aren’t gonna push any of their guys out for a newcomer now, and definitely not when Lehner returns.

      Roll with Hiller/Ramo again while Ortio gets reps in the AHL. Stockton is struggling, maybe an Ortio/Gillies tandem (assuming all healthy) works out for them. Besides, more AHL time for Ortio wouldn’t be a bad thing.

      Unless Ramo finds a way to spectacularly implode from now until Hiller’s return, you gotta think he stays. And waiving Hiller for a young backup you don’t want to play doesn’t do any good. So…

      • OKG

        There’s still a chance someone claims him, because two games is two games and the next two could be shutouts. He only makes $600,000 which for a team like Buffalo is much more enticing than taking on the salary (and cap hit) of guys like Ramo ($3,700,000) and Hiller($4,500,000). He’s only 24, which is rookie status for most goalies. He’s got all the upside in the world and any team with good pro scouting isn’t going to base this decision on two bad games, they’re going to base it on body of work which includes last year, includes his AHL dominance, includes video of his efficient and controlled style. A rebuilding team can live with growing pains if it means a future starter. Ramo and Hiller, they don’t fit that rebuilding team niche… Lehner and Ortio though? That’s worth sending an Ulmark down to the A for seasoning.

        Reality is the safest move is waive Hiller.

        He clears, he can get himself going in the A and then we can trade him later on in the season if a competitive team loses their starter to LTIR. Or an injury happens to Ortio or Ramo. Next year we go with a Ramo/Ortio tandem.

        He doesn’t clear, you’ve cleared up just under 4.5M in salary.

        Even if there’s a 1% chance of losing Ortio, that’s 1% too much as he’s an asset we spent 6 years developing that’s still an RFA at the end of the year.

        We’ve already lost one incredible asset to waivers in Paul Byron.. losing Ortio would be a fireable offense.

        • OKG

          too hyperbolic use of “assets” round these parts.

          assets are different than investments. the better goalie is more of an asset. if a goalie isn’t an nhl level goalie, and costs you games, he’s a liability.

          Yes, Ortio is young. Yes, he’s been an investment. But he’s yet to show he’s much of an asset. He may become one, but he may be a dud. Hiller has a long history of being an asset – a .927evsv% asset.

          Further, Paul Byron is not an incredible asset – Crosby is an incredible asset. Byron is a hard-working, fast, fringe NHL’r who hasn’t scored 10 goals in one season in his career. He’s quite replaceable and why waivers exists… to spread fringe talent amongst other teams… and where debatable assets/liabilities reside.

        • cberg

          After reading both this and Ari’s response I think I’d be on board with Hiller being sent down. I agree he is currently the better goalie and has the history, but the salary difference is huge and I speculate many teams might take a flyer on Ortio. Both Hiller and Ortio have been mediocre this season to start, but both have been good previously. Alternatively get a deal done for one of them.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            Change nothing and don’t panic! Its just two wins.

            We have depth in goal and now its back to best player plays aka the merrit system.

            Panic now and send a tradeable asset to the A team would be foolhardy.

            I say third best gets traded after a 7 game trial period.win 4 of seven minimum.

            Ramo is the ONLY player who can be sent down in the next 3 weeks so there yah go.

      • Canrock 78

        Undoubtedly he gets waived. You just threw away a 4 year investment in a good young goalie after 1 questionable game playing behind a team lacking confidence and in a severe slump. You now have put your future in 2 older goalies that are not proven 1st stringers or winners. Both are on UFA contracts and unlikely will be signed in North America next year.

        I now seriously question your knowledge of hockey …..

        • Ari Yanover

          He wouldn’t get claimed. What team is going to claim him? What specific team? You aren’t throwing anything away.

          There is nothing in Ortio’s career to date to suggest he is going to be a high caliber NHL starter. He’s had a few good stretches here and there that he inevitably falls apart in, that’s it.

          I’m rooting for the kid, but the AHL is probably the place for him right now, especially considering the actual NHL team hasn’t seemed to have any interest in playing him all season long.

          The panic in this fanbase over potentially losing a kid who has occasionally shown decent potential and nothing more is genuinely incredible.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            At his low salary and young age combined with his high upside there will be a line up of teams that will claim him!! Your already giving away young assets on a team that made the play offs last year for the first time since hell froze over. Last year in his starts he was very impressive. When in doubt error on the side of youth and player development. I cannot believe you are suggesting the Flames risk losing him for 2 gawd awful goalies who have not shown any consistency since joining the Flames. Your post to me was unbelievable given the position you hold within FN…..But of course, like us, you are most certainly entitled to your opinion…..

          • Ari Yanover

            Please tell me what teams, specifically, will claim him off of waivers. I want specifics here. I don’t want “there will be a line up of teams”, I want to know what teams, specifically, will open up one of their NHL goaltending spots for a 24-year-old who has yet to show consistent NHL ability, and send down one of their current goaltenders as a result.

            Please tell me what specific teams will do that rather than spouting off generalities.

          • Ari Yanover

            I don’t have the time nor do I want to spend anytime going through the list of teams that will undoubtately put a claim in for Ortio.

            My philosophy is quite different than yours obviously so we can agree to disagree. For the record I would never give up on a goalie at the young age of 24 (yes young as most goalies don’t mature until there mid- to late twenties) after having him develop in my system for many years. He has really only had one bad game behind a troubled and confused defense that is only now finding it’s way.

            I would with no doubt get rid of either Ramo or Hiller or both as they are back up goalies at best and have not shown the consistency required to play at the level. Neither of these guys will be a Flame next year and I expect a proven veteran to be signed in the off season and perhaps Ortio backing up.

            Flames will stay the course until Gillies and MacDonald are ready to play a few years from now.

          • Derbyherb

            The one thing I will agree with in your posts. That goalies mature later. Therefore, it would benefit Ortio to be in the AHL again, which is the 2nd or 3rd best league in the world.

            Posting paragraph after paragraph of fluff won’t change the fact you can’t name a single team that will claim Ortio. You can’t, because there is no team that doesn’t have a better option right now. Period.

      • Captain Ron

        Have you seen Jake Allen’s record lately? How many stinkers did he have in his career before he got to where he is now?

        Waiving Ortio at this point can range anywhere from a foolish gamble to a terrible mistake if he reaches his potential.

        Too early to give up and risk losing him on waivers!

        • Ari Yanover

          To clarify – I’m not giving up on Ortio. My opinion is he’s better served playing in the AHL right now (or, rather, when Hiller gets healthy), and that it’s highly unlikely an NHL team claims him off waivers, so the risk of losing him is minimal.

          I’m advocating keeping him and actually playing and continuing to develop him.

          • Captain Ron

            I understand you are not giving up on him but minimal risk or not it is still a risk. Why do that when you can waive Hiller or Ramo neither of whom is likely to be a part of the future. Isn’t Ortio our No 1 goalie prospect right now? I get it that Gilles is highly touted but he has a ways to go yet. Why invest all this time developing Ortio only to risk losing him? I would like to see him play some games while the team is playing well and then evaluate what we have.

  • So the goaltending improves exactly the same time as the defense … coincidence? I think NOT!

    Nice win boys … I will reiterate … NICE F-ing win boys!

    Bout FRIGGING time. Record that game and play it back repeatedly.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I’m not a Backlund guy but wow was he great. I had perfect seats tonight and he was a wizard. He owns the defensive zone, was great on much more pp time than normal and was everywhere. That line was dominant and started all night against Crosby and Malkin.

    Kudos to Frolik. He and MB are magic. Bennetts goal was special. That kid is a star among stars.

    5v5 this team is great. Not good. Great. Russell still stinks. Hamilton looked like a star all night – even watching Russell lie down 7x to block shots. Seven!! No one else on the ice was above one!!!

    Ramo was ok. Basically we killed them. They were tired.

    • Rock

      Russell was on the pentaly kill and blocking shots is a asset helps you win games. People whine about block shots but I would rather have a team player that blocks shots then someone who lets them through to the net. Block shot is like a save I think the Islanders proved that to us a few games back.
      Also if you have the skill to block shots means your in a good defensive position to block the shots which means your playing your position.
      Those of you that complain about people who block shots you keep jumping out of the way of those tennis balls cause you don’t have a clue what it is like to lay in front of that hockey puck getting shot at you and what kind of commitment it takes to do that.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      That line was dominant and started all night against Crosby and Malkin.

      Actually, both Monahan and Stajan spent more time against both Crosby and Malkin than Backlund did.

  • OKG

    In colorado Bennett pulled the ‘off the back of the net’ on Duchesne and scored a gorgeous goal. Today he dazzles end to end. Between him and Jonny we’re in for some exciting hockey the next few years.

  • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

    Hey Bob, if “Benny played us quite a game” why play him less than 15 minutes tonight? also why is Russell leading the team in ice time? Love the win, love the effort but HATE the utilization….

  • RedMan

    Seems we are hearing a lot of silence from the oiler trolls who were suggesting the flames made a huge mistake on Hamilton, and that he isn’t good.

    Team is looking like they are all clicking together again

    • Canrock 78

      Banning the many faces of train97 helped. I do have a issue with ultathinzigzag going to ON and yapping after we ban their troll.

      It’s hard for us to complain about their village idiot when we let our village idiot run free.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        —————FN Moderator: hopefully this message gets through the trolls from here that harass ON. Ultrazigzag is no better than any of ON trolls that visit here. Friendly banter is one thing, but some take things too far.

        • ChinookArchYYC

          Go over there and count how many times I have posted there in the last week before you go shooting your mouth off and let me know what you come up with..Thanks

          • Canrock 78

            If it was someone using your name 2 nights ago then it’s my bad. If so they need to find a way to stop impersonators. If it was you then your bad.

            Never had anyone call me a brownnoser that’s funny. I believe the majority of the nations would prefer less trolling, you can part of the problem or part of the solution your choice.

            Comment #9 on oiler nation what bubbles under. That’s what I come up with. Your welcome.

          • Ari Yanover

            Exactly. Thankyou. 1 post..if a guy can’t rib ON for 1 post in how many days…I mean come off it, whats with all the butt hurt. You act like I am cramming 30 posts a day into their site. I ain’t no Train. Now let the mods do their job, and quit being a baby

          • Canrock 78

            The problem is when he gets out of jail he’s coming back and throwing the comment back in our face. Now if you were to go and rib them about us having more points then the oil now that’s funny. But the comment was irelivent and a shot at the city nothing to do with hockey. I will concede you are no train, which is great because now we don’t have to hunt you down. Lol

  • cberg

    Welcome back Monahan! That was by far his best game of the season.

    Johnny Gaudreau is just amazing.

    Bennett looked like McDavid out there!

    I think this was the Flames best game this season.

  • Franko J

    Confidence. The guys are playing to win now. It appears there is less thinking and just reacting. I just hope they didn’t dig themselves too big of a hole. If Ramo can make the timely save, this team is finally heading in the right direction.

    The last two games the Flames are playing as “5 man units”, communicating better, and skating which helped with the victory last night.

    Despite the start and no guarantee how the season will unfold for the team, the present and future is sure exciting watching Gaudreau, Bennett, Brodie and Hamilton(becoming more comfortable).

    Great win last night, keep it rolling on the road.