First, the Calgary Flames let the Sharks run over them in the first period. Then, they gifted them a five-on-three power play. And, finally, they lost.
I don’t know what happened to that team that dominated the Chicago Blackhawks a week ago, but I think they were just a fun mirage.
Say hello to the last place team in the NHL. (Don’t worry, they actually have the same record but one more ROW than the Edmonton Oilers, so technically, the Flames are 29th, not 30th. Still kinda tied though.)
What fascinating special teams you have
The Flames were zero-for-three on the power play, and zero-for-two on the penalty kill. In most circles, I do believe that’s acknowledged as pretty terrible.
It’s a slightly less extreme version of what happened the night before against the Arizona Coyotes. Going one-for-six on power play opportunities cost them the game. In this case, the Flames had the chance to get back in it. Two power play goals would have tied the game and brought them back into contention, even if they were getting outplayed by the Sharks. Instead, they swung the other way, allowing the Sharks those two power play goals instead, and thus, a hopeless 4-0 game was born.
And really, when Dennis Wideman took that second penalty, who didn’t call a Sharks goal right after? The Flames have trouble killing normal penalties; a five-on-three was going to be an extremely big ask for the group.
The penalty kill is 70.8%, dead last in the NHL. The power play is 13.4%, somehow a whole 0.4% better than the Carolina Hurricanes’, so 29th in the NHL. This is a bad team no matter what the circumstances are on the ice.
Hell, even the Oilers – the actual 30th place team – have a 20.3% power play, and a 79.5% penalty kill. So are they still a bad team? Absolutely. Are they as lost a cause? Well, uh, probably not, actually.
So when a team is bad at even strength, bad down a guy, and bad even with an extra man, who does the blame fall on? That’s a very consistent failure all across the board.
Two quick thoughts on potential personnel usage:
- It’s easy to make the case that Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett are, at minimum, the most dynamic forwards on the Flames. So they should probably be on a starting power play unit together. And in the final power play of the game, Bob Hartley did send them out. We should see more of that.
- Wideman, who is not exactly known for his defensive skills, spent nine seconds on the penalty kill. During that time, he took a penalty. I don’t really get why he’s there to begin with, but that, combined with the fact that Dougie Hamilton has been playing increasingly good hockey as of late (yes he was at fault on the Sharks’ fifth goal, but by that point, we were firmly in “who cares just get chances” territory, so whatever), signals to me that there should be a switch. Put Dougie on the kill instead. In a limited sample size thus far, he’s shown potential.
It’s not like those adjustments would make the Flames not the worst, but when you’re already the worst, pretty much anything is worth a shot.
Fourth liners with ice time!
After the game against the Coyotes, I was annoyed with how little Josh Jooris, Micheal Ferland, and Markus Granlund played. Last night, they got actual minutes: 11:24, 11:57, and 13:02, respectively. Jooris and Granlund played on the penalty kill, and Ferland got a little power play time.
They were also the only ones to actually score, even if it was in what was essentially garbage time. Ferland led the entire team with three high danger scoring chances, Ferland and Granlund both had four scoring chances apiece, and Jooris topped the corsi charts at 73.33%. All three were in the top five in regards to even strength corsi, and here’s a nice little kicker: Ferland did it with no offensive zone starts.
Here’s the thing with this trio of fourth liners: they’re all kids. The 2014-15 season was their rookie season. They’re second year players, still determining just what their NHL roles should be, but having already determined they can play at this level.
In short, they are exactly the kind of players who should be playing in a rebuild. And they’re proving why. Keep giving them ice time.
Bad goaltending continues
So, Joni Ortio didn’t play for a month. He gave up four goals on 12 shots, a .667 save percentage. Then he played the next night, and gave up just two goals on 32 shots: .938%.
Reminder that it has been a month since Jonas Hiller last played.
Does that excuse his .828 save percentage? Not really, no. Was it a factor in it? Yeah, maybe. Can you blame him for all five goals? Absolutely not. The first was a deflection after his teammates got hemmed in (and he was doing his part, at least kicking the puck to the corner), the second was pretty awful, the third was a five-on-three, the fourth was another power play, and the fifth was essentially a breakaway.
Still, the Flames lost in part thanks to him. Say Hiller doesn’t let that second goal in, and makes a timely stop on the fifth: then his team is ultimately looking at a one-goal game. Instead, they got buried early, and the disastrous penalty kill sealed their fate.
At the same time, this has been a season in which nobody has stood out positively in net. Karri Ramo has looked respectable as of late, but that’s only after he got to start a ton of games in a row, and even then, he only has a .899 save percentage.
And while Hiller let in five goals on 29 shots, remember, Ramo’s streak started off with him letting in four on 23: a worse save percentage against a worse team. He just happened to get the win, because his team actually scored goals for him outside of garbage time.
The Flames’ goaltending is terrible all around. There’s still no clear solution. Well, maybe the bag of potatoes.
I got nothin’ else
So, this weekend was kind of exhausting, eh? Outplay the Coyotes but get foiled by special teams one night, get your teeth kicked in by the Sharks (and continue to be foiled by special teams) the next. And we’re only two months into the season. There’s another four months of this to go. Wow.
I don’t think anything changes until Bob Hartley goes, but that might not happen all year long, so whatever. Fun things to watch in the meantime:
- Johnny Gaudreau dangle people twice his size, do pretty zone entries, score a lot of points, and exist in general
- Sam Bennett’s continuous growth, ideally on a line with Gaudreau by the end of the year because that’s probably two-thirds of the future top line right there
- T.J. Brodie skate, put the team on his back, and the increasing national recognition he’s getting
- Dougie Hamilton resemble a top four defenceman again night in and night out, en route to being a key part in rebuilding the Flames
- The trade deadline! At least until you remember David Jones is probably the Flames’ most valuable asset. Now it doesn’t sound as fun anymore
- A surprise! Probably in the form of a rookie or second-year player. Will Micheal Ferland become a top six forward? Will Markus Granlund ever be moved to the wing? Will Joni Ortio be called up after the trade deadline and look… perhaps… good? Will some unexpected player take the reigns a la Brett Kulak? There are so many possibilities, at least one good thing is bound to happen
- The Calgary Inferno, who are actually rather good and fun to watch and play at 10:30 a.m. this morning at Arena A out of Winsport, hint, hint.