Flames 4, Stars 3 (SO) post-game embers: Well that was fun

mikael backlund also has the best goal celebrations

Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA TODAY Sports

First, the Flames were garbage. Then, none of the bounces went their way. But they kept their game up, and finally, finally, finally, after oh-so-many rebounds and missed chances, they got what they deserved: a win.

This game never should have gone to overtime

Of course, it’s hard to say whether or not the Flames would have played as they did had they not been down three goals. They really started to ramp it up just before Dallas’ third goal, though, so maybe they would have. After all, once they got out of that horrid first period, they started actually playing.

I’ll forgive the Dougie Hamilton own-goal because that was a sad and/or hilarious bounce, depending on your perspective. But the first and third goals absolutely cannot happen to an NHL goaltender. This isn’t even the first time a shot of the first goal’s ilk has gone in on Ramo; Winnipeg, anyone?

And then there was the third goal, and what looked like to be the backbreaker. In the immortal words of Charlie Slowes: What was Karri Ramo thinking? What was he watching? Where was he going?

Sometimes, Ramo has a penchant for making these saves that are so jaw-dropping, so amazing, you wonder how a man can possess the athleticism to do that. These almost always result from being horribly out of position. And when Ramo can’t get back to make the save, and when he ends up in the path of poor Ladislav Smid who just got back into the lineup, just wants to play, and just wants to help, it looks, well… really, really bad.

Seriously, you can’t have that. And it almost cost the Flames the game.

Speaking of Ladislav Smid

While that play is embedded in my mind, but so are his rather smart and sensible pinches in the third. I didn’t know he had it in him. He was the sixth defenceman, and he probably won’t be more than that, but it’s nice to see him play decently and play well enough to maybe even stay in the lineup, if only because he seems like a really cool dude who deserves the chance to put his injuries behind him and get back on track and strive for at least that one good year he had with the Oilers.

This calls for a dance.

dance dance smiddy

The top three defencemen are here

While Smid clearly cemented himself as the sixth defenceman with just 14:07 in ice time, the top three were obvious – and they’re the top three we’ve been expecting all season.

T.J. Brodie led the way with 27:24 in ice time. Mark Giordano followed him up with 24:22. And finally, there was Dougie Hamilton with 22:55 – almost three more minutes than Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell.

Hamilton has been looking increasingly good, bad bounce against him on the first period aside. Besides, you can’t say he didn’t make up for that with that awesome pinch, awesome shot, and awesome tying goal in the dying minutes of regulation. This is the offensively savvy, big, mobile guy we were promised, and for the past several games, he’s shown up. He finally looks comfortable, and remember: he’s only 22.

Good timing, considering the next game is against – dramatic sting – Boston.

Hamilton was also a leader on the power play with 2:20 in ice time, and did an excellent job at manning the point. Special teams still aren’t particularly great, but they looked alright with him out there, and by the end, he was helping generate some real chances.

He was also the Flames’ leader in defencemen possession, with an ES CF of 60.98%. Away from Russell, he had 85.71%, but that’s over roughly four and a half minutes of ice time, so don’t read too much into it. (Russell was a bit better away from Hamilton as well, but not by as dramatic an increase.) 

Those numbers include two minutes with Giordano, in which the pair’s ES CF was 100%. I’m not saying that’s indicative of anything other than that it’s possible that pairing wasn’t the worst thing in the world, and was really the victim of Hamilton struggling to find himself on a new team, rather than no chemistry between the two players. That’s it.

As for Brodie, I’m really not sure what else you can say about the guy. He plays more than anybody else and he does so much with his minutes, cutting offensive players off and setting up rushes. He is a defensive force with increasingly budding offensive acumen and I hope he is a Flame forever.

Four lines: rolled

Michael Frolik played the least out of all Flames players, which is odd to think about, because Frolik is actually rather good. That said, his meagre ice time still got him 12:28, which is a perfectly respectable number. And he played the least.

The Flames have the personnel to roll four lines, and they did. It’s kind of nuts to think he only had four shifts in the third period, but that’s better than the one or two we’ve seen other playerss – and by “other players”, you know I mean “Brandon Bollig” – get. With 18:33, Sean Monahan played the most, and he didn’t look exhausted or overused or anything; rather, he had five shots on net and two assists, plus the shootout winner, not that that means anything in regards to general play.

The Flames were playing smart, up tempo hockey from the second period onward. Everyone was contributing, from the Ferland – Stajan – Colborne line helping shut down Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn (they were negative possession players against them) to everyone from Mikael Backlund to Johnny Gaudreau getting chances.

Speaking of Mikael Backlund

Mike touched on this in his immediate post-game, but I want to expand on it. It’s no secret I’m a Backlund fan, and it’s not just because of his usually on-point defensive play with occasional offensive touch. It’s also because he seems to genuinely love being a Calgary Flame. He’s one of those all-heart players, and his whacking away at the puck one, two, three, four times to finally, finally, finally break the impenetrable fortress that seemed to be Antti Niemi(‘s crease) exemplified that. 

Is that something that’s going to happen every game? No, of course not. Nobody ever gives it 100% for 100% of the time. But that’s the general level of enthusiasm you can expect from him, and he’s stuck with this team through so much, it’s hard to be a downer on him. 

Backlund played two shifts in overtime as well, including being the one forward out there to help kill the four-on-three. It’s always interesting to see who the coach puts out at his top three penalty killers, and this game, at least, we got our answer: Giordano, Brodie, and Backlund. It was the right call.

Also: Sam Bennett?

Speaking of overtime, though, I’m as baffled as anyone else as to why Sam Bennett didn’t get a single shift. Mason Raymond did, and no disrespect, but Bennett’s just plain better. Jiri Hudler did, and some disrespect, because he just doesn’t look particularly great out there. 

Yeah, Bennett’s a 19-year-old rookie; I think we’re well past the point of understanding he can handle this, though. And the Flames were creamed in overtime and lucky it went to the shootout, and maybe Bennett could have been the difference.

Just as it’s odd Markus Granlund became his centre, rather than Granlund becoming Bennett’s winger. Both are natural centres, but come on; Bennett’s going to be the better player, and having an elite centre is more important than having an elite left winger (which the Flames, uh, already have). 

Putting Bennett on Backlund’s wing made sense if only for the chemistry they showed previously during the playoffs; nobody else should really be centring him. And at some point, it’s going to be time to shift him to the middle permanently, anyway, so if the lines are going to change, might as well do it sooner rather than later.

Granlund was a 29% on the dot. Seriously, shift him to the wing already, because considering the centre options the Flames have, he’s going to be in tough to make it on this team down the middle – but there are plenty of spots available on the wing.

  • CofRed4Life

    I learned my lesson on this one; I actually turned the game off at the end of the 2nd and went to bed.

    Wait, maybe that was the key.. I will not watch another Flames game this season!

  • piscera.infada

    The Bennett-Granlund centre/wing usage is something I really, really struggle to understand. There seems to be no logic to it. There’s no reason at all to use Granlund over Bennett at centre–and I do, very much agree with putting Granlund in the top-6 for a period.

      • piscera.infada

        I don’t disagree that Granlund needs a long, long look in the NHL this season. The organization needs to know if he’s ready for full-time duty. If they’re going to give him that look, they need to give him that look with good linemates and a reasonable amount of minutes–the top six opportunity, is something I very much agree with.

        I’m just saying don’t play him at centre over Bennett. So in all likelihood, you’re going to have to give him that opportunity on the wing, and I honestly don’t see any issue with that.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    The Hamilton narrative for some Flames fans really needs to be rewritten. He’s been really good of late has improved after his brief demotion to the 4th line. The past is the past and he can’t go back replay his first 10 Flames starts.
    Hamilton is fast, plays positionally sound defense, has a quick release and heavy shot. He’s arrived, time to stop grinding the axe.

  • CofRed4Life

    Couldn’t watch the game last night, but when I looked at the 3-0 score at the end of the 2nd, I thought to myself, “Well, another lousy game.” Then I saw it was going to OT. Wow! Could this be the Flames team we’ve been waiting for? I’m cautiously optimistic, because I’m not sold that they can give this effort all the time. I sure hope they can prove my optimism though. It’s so much more fun this way!

  • SickFloBro

    My two cents on the Bennett/Granlund positioning item…

    Centre and wing are two very different positions with very different functions. If Granlund has been playing C since he was recalled and Bennett has been playing LW for quite some time, it makes sense to have them stick with those positions for a short period of time just for the sake of familiarity.

    The natural argument is that A) Bennett has been playing C his whole life, so he should be able to make the transition fairly easily, and B) wing is a less demanding position than C, so Granlund would benefit from that too. I’d respond to this by saying that those points may be valid, but any sport at a high level is 90% mental, so it’s easy to get wires crossed if you’re used to doing things one way for a long period of time.

    I’d imagine (hope) that the Flames would begin to swap the two over in practice so that we end up seeing them in the positions that suit them better long-term.

    • KACaribou

      I believe you are essentially correct.

      But I will add that there could also be an element of Bennett being so good on the wing, and perhaps Granlund not being that good on the wing so he is more effective at centre if he is in the line-up. Bennett could probably play goal and within a few games be effective. The kid is a stud.

      It does kill me though when bloggers start questioning coaching decisions. There is so much about a professional hockey team in which we have absolutely no idea that it seems verging on idiotic to be commenting about it. There are no nerd stats on locker-room intangibles or things learned at practices which we here are oblivious to.

      • piscera.infada

        But I will add that there could also be an element of Bennett being so good on the wing, and perhaps Granlund not being that good on the wing so he is more effective at centre if he is in the line-up. Bennett could probably play goal and within a few games be effective. The kid is a stud.

        The problem with that logic is that Bennett, and by extension the team, is demonstrably better when he plays centre. Granlund has not been tried at the wing at the NHL level, so we don’t really have any evidence as to whether he’s sub-par on the wing–I’d argue he wouldn’t because his best year at HIFK was spent at right-wing riding shotgun with his brother.

        What we do know is that Bennett has played both wing and centre. He has created better as a centre, produced better as a centre, and played a better possession game as a centre. While I’ve countlessly called for Granlund to get a top-six opportunity with the big club, it unequivocally doesn’t make sense to give him that opportunity, at centre over a younger, better NHLer, who has a higher ceiling. And that is honestly, not a knock on Granlund at all.

      • Cfan in Vic

        I definitely disagree about Granlund at center vs. Bennett, but I agree that fans aren’t in a position to know every aspect of that decision. My opinion is that Bennett has been good wherever he is placed. Since wing is a simpler position, I don’t see how Granlund would somehow be negated there. He’s got all the tools to succeed on the wing, not having to take face-offs (his biggest downside to date).

        All that said, I think questioning coaching decisions is a healthy thing for fans to do, especially given some of the decisions Hartley has made this season. There was even an article yesterday based on line-up speculation to spark debate on choices. A hockey blog is the place for that kind of discussion. With some of the performances we’ve seen this season, nobody gets a free pass, including Hartley. Jack Adams or not.

        • KACaribou

          Good point. Sometimes I just think these people making comments could no more run the Flames business than you would expect someone like Hartley to run theirs. You’re right though, a blog is a place for opinion.

          • supra steve

            Agree completely with your point. Often read comments like “especially given some of the decisions Hartley has made this season”, and sometimes I wonder what the reasons are for decisions too. But I also believe that Hartley and others in the organization have a lot more information to sift through than we have, more to consider, and without that info…sure some decisions are hard to understand. But…because we don’t understand, does not always mean that their decisions are wrong or that their decisions make no sense.

          • Cfan in Vic

            It doesn’t mean their decisions are wrong, but certainly does allow for a healthy debate about the decisions being made.

            As for my mentioning Bob’s decisions this season: It’s mostly based on the early insistence of Bollig in the line-up and Hudler on the top line, Ortio barely getting a sniff when Hiller was injured, and Dougie being the last guy on the team to get any PP minutes. I feel that those topics are definitely fair game to speculate upon.

        • KACaribou

          If you are playing Bennett without Backlund (which is a good thing in my mind), you should have Bennett at center. Granlund has not had many NHL games this season where his FO% is above 40%. I have no problem with Bennett taking the spot and working every day to get better (which he will). I also have no problem with Granny at wing. He is well suited to be there, as he is a more true sniper. Granlund and Frolik get the shots, and Sam goes to the net.

          Granlund was used on wing with Reinhart in his first pro year, IIRC. He put up 46 points in 52 games. Backlund is not going to be the guy to drive offense, playing with Sam. He is better suited with Hudler and Jooris, leaving Ferland-Stajan-Colborne.

  • Derzie

    The chips were down and the team stepped up. But man, how did the goaltending get so poor. When those terrible goals go in you feel it as a fan. You feel a sense of defeat. You can only imagine how the players feel. Last night, they decided to rail against it and push. They dominated the game but couldn’t get a goal to go. They did not give up and came out in the 3rd with the same determination and the pucks started to go in. They overcame 2 big mental hurdles: bad goaltending and nothing going in for them. Brodie & Hamilton stole the show. They were not taking no for an answer. Backlunds effort on the first goal broke the ice big time. Most satisfying game of the year for me.

    • cberg

      So agree. Last year it was Gaudreau’s prove himself at all costs attitude that really lifted the team. I believe this season with other teams making adjustments and the team thinking last years success and additions = easier time a big part of their problems to date is mental. This game is the culmination of several good games recently and really showed a mental determination that they will need going forward. It was great to see.

  • slapshot444

    OK, great game, sort of,, can we get everyone back on the band wagon now? 🙂

    OH, and lets keep our northern brothers in our thoughts as the Oilers just played one of the worse games in NHL history. There is no doubt that the Flames will NOT finish last this season.

  • Burnward

    For some unfathomable reason, with the Flames struggling I heard in just random conversations that Russell was better than Hamilton. This blew my mind!

    How on this great earth is Russell better than Hamilton?! If you think that, just stop that.

    Great to see a flicker of last years Flames show up. Would be even better to not see them go down 3 goals to get that team to show up. Hopefully this is the confidence builder they need and can at least get a streak of good games going…finally!

  • KACaribou

    I don’t have the unhealthy blogger man-love for Dougie Hamilton but I will say this about the young man last night:

    1) good defensive coverage
    2) dynamic offensive surges
    3) he finally hit someone

    If Hamilton gets a little mean into him, and starts playing the big man game that he shows from time to time that he can pay, he will become an actual stud D-man. He can skate and has a heavy shot. When players start to fear going near him like they did Chris Pronger – who he’s nearly as big as – he may have the ability to get himself into the Hall of Fame.

    I thought he was the best Flames player last night.

    BTW: good positive article which is nice to read here occasionally.

  • YWC

    Dear Flames,

    My apologies for turning off the tv after 3:0. I must admit that I lost confidence and trust in the team when I went to bed. (But please understand that I live in the east and its hard to justify to stay awake after falling by three goals in just over first period and especially when this years team hardly resembles last years in energy and work ethics that kept the team always in the game despite trailing and made fun to watch. Hope we start to see the last year excitement revive. If that’s the case, I wont complain even if we lose the majority of the games.

    Thank you,