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.
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.