The Flames deserved to win that game in regulation.
Instead, they won it in overtime, because:
- Scott Darling was very, very good, and,
- That’s just how they do this year.
Perfect in overtime*
* Technically, one of their six overtime sessions this season ended in a draw that they eventually lost in a shootout, but my main point here is that the Flames have yet to lose in three-on-three.
Every overtime, without fail, Bob Hartley sends out the same three players (when healthy): Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Sean Monahan. The logic behind this is easy to understand and accept: two really good defenders who can also score, and a kid hyped up as being a solid two-way player.
You may have noticed Joel Quenneville countered with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith; then followed up with Artem Anisimov, Artemi Panarin, and Brent Seabrook.
Hartley, on the other hand, sent out Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Wideman, and Johnny Gaudreau for the second shift. While Quenneville went with two forwards and one defenceman, for Hartley, the story is two defencemen and one forward (although he has switched that up with two forwards and one defenceman on occasion, but he always, always, always starts off with Giordano, Brodie/Hamilton, and Monahan).
But since the Flames are 5-0 in overtime, it seems to be working for him.
Why are they 5-0 in overtime? Because Johnny Gaudreau, who is currently leading the NHL with four overtime points – two goals and two assists – plays for the Flames. You’d be hard pressed to name another player better than he is at this stuff. At this rate, considering the NHL’s new All-Star Game format, Gaudreau is a shoe-in for MVP that weekend.
Johnny Hockey embarrassed everybody
The Blackhawks method of defending against Gaudreau: stand there, let him take the puck from you and/or dance around you, have a delayed reaction of confusion, and accept that resistance is futile and you just got owned by one of the smallest players in the league.
Delving into his fancy stats for this one game sure is a treat, even if it’s just one game. All figures below are at even strength.
Okay, so when Gaudreau shared the ice with Niklas Hjalmarsson, he didn’t fare so well: 33.33% CF over 8:57. He was the player he faced the third most often, and even though he was buried with 11.11% offensive zone starts, that’s not so good.
What is good? Against every single other Blackhawk Gaudreau faced for at least three minutes, he had, at minimum, 60.00% CF.
Against Duncan Keith (10:15 spent with), who is widely acknowledged as one of the best defenceman in the NHL, he had 69.23% CF (22.22% OZS). Against partner Brent Seabrook (8:13), 80.00% CF (80.00% OZS). Against Jonathan Toews (9:07), who some will argue is one of the best players in the world, 75.00% CF (30.00% OZS).
Just one game? Absolutely. Incredibly awesome for that one game, though? Yes. Johnny is amazing.
Down goes Russell, up goes everybody else
When you lose a player mid-game, everyone else around him steps up. Russell, who only played in the first period, is currently considered day-to-day.
Russell wasn’t having a bad game when he was forced to exit. Of course, the Flames had a very good first period; during that, Russell had the primary assist on Monahan’s goal, as well as 66.67% CF over 6:03 minutes.
Deryk Engelland, with 14:28 played, had his seventh highest ice time of the season. He was sheltered – 83.33% OZS – but his 60.00% CF made up for it well enough.
But as decent as he’s been this season, that’s just Engelland in a third pairing role. Russell plays top-four minutes, and so, the other top-four defencemen had to step things up. And boy, did they ever.
|Player||Total TOI||PP TOI||SH TOI||CF%||ES CF%||OZS%|
- What can be said about Brodie that hasn’t been said already? The dude is amazing. He was asked to deliver huge minutes, and he excelled.
- Giordano was pretty good in his own right; his CF only dropped by 4.64% when away from Brodie over 7:44 of ice time.
- Wideman had the second-most shifts (behind only Brodie, of course) in the third period with 12. I’m not entirely sure why; he was easily the weakest link of the top four guys. (Over 6:14 with Hamilton, he had 57.14% CF; without him, 41.67%.)
- Hamilton was spread all around: 7:00 with Brodie, 6:14 with Wideman, and 4:48 with Russell before he went down. His numbers with Russell were the best, albeit they were the most sheltered, and they skew the WOWY stats (i.e. he’s being shown as better away from Brodie and Wideman thanks to the good performance he and Russell put up to start the game).
If Russell has to miss time, that might very well be the Flames’ top four – assuming the potential recall doesn’t play his way into it (because if we’re being honest with ourselves, no way Engelland or Ladislav Smid should get big minutes).
It should be pretty clear who the Flames’ top three defencemen are, though: the three we assumed they’d be since the third guy was acquired.
Shoutout to Mason Raymond
Jiri Hudler was a surprise late scratch with the flu, and so, in drew Mason Raymond. Rather than mess with his lines, Hartley simply put Raymond up top with Monahan and Gaudreau. Raymond played 17:35, behind only his linemates in ice time, with 38 seconds of powerplay time thrown his way.
He had four shots on net, again behind only his linemates in that statistic (Gaudreau had six; Monahan, five), and tied with Hamilton and Frolik. And his ES CF of 67.86% was behind only – wait for it – Gaudreau (70.97%) and Monahan (70.00%).
Raymond looked like he belonged, maybe even better than Hudler. He’s probably tired of being a healthy scratch, and he showed it.
Shoutout to Joe Colborne
A handful of you were grumpy with me last time, when I gave shoutouts to Matt Stajan and David Jones for their play on the third line last game, and left out their other linemate. That wasn’t intended to slight Colborne; I just wanted to focus specifically on Stajan and Jones, who have been partnered up a while now (further back than this season), and have really found their games with one another and become assets to this team. They’re two of the older guys on the Flames; two guys where everybody has stopped talking “potential” and “development”, so that’s why they got the shoutout.
That said, Colborne is complimenting their line well (as did Micheal Ferland in the playoffs, so Stajan and Jones were already the existing common denominators). Observed a couple of times through the game: Colborne was winning board battles. He was nullifying some of the best players on the Blackhawks, retrieving the puck from them, and starting rushes, all from winning board battles.
If he can keep that up, then that’ll be good. If he can continue playing the rather simple style his linemates have that’s proven effective thus far, then there won’t be any reason to take him off their line. Let’s keep that up.