Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA TODAY Sports
There’s a lot to complain about when the team you cheer for has just three regulation wins through 26 games. That team just so happens to be the Calgary Flames, though, who have been stupidly fun to watch these past couple of games.
So sure, complain. But when this team decides they want to be worth watching, they’re worth it.
The Flames had a 52.21% corsi
They were good from start to finish, and controlled the game. Score effects can’t even come into play here, because they either led the game or were playing tied for all but one minute and four seconds.
It wasn’t like the comeback game against the Dallas Stars, where the Flames were a 54.55% team, but in a score-adjusted count, the Stars actually led the way (although not by much). The Flames didn’t have to press to come back from down 3-0; the Bruins couldn’t coast thinking they had a safe lead. The Flames came out ready to play from the beginning, and the Bruins did not.
And that 52.21% is in all situations, so it even includes the Flames’ terrible power play! (They were 52.59% at even strength only.)
0 for 12, 1 for 30
That would be the Flames’ power play over the last little while. It’s clocking in at 12.2%, tied for dead last in the league (the Carolina Hurricanes are apparently just as bad – which is incredible; didn’t know that was possible).
The Flames came close this game, particularly in regards to Mark Giordano and Jiri Hudler’s goals which came 23 and 15 seconds after the minor infractions expired. Close doesn’t count, though. The power play remains a horrid, futile effort – one they’ve been outscored on as of late, thanks to Brad Marchand.
The Flames haven’t scored a power play goal since Giordano’s tally in Glendale just over a week ago. Before then, they hadn’t scored since their game in Tampa Bay all the way back on Nov. 12. They have one successful conversion in their last 30 tries, and that’s just not acceptable.
They controlled the pace of the game, and had four power play chances to the Bruins’ one. A quarter-competent power play would have put the game away in regulation, but that’s not something the Flames are capable of right now, apparently.
Hopefully this fixes Jiri Hudler
Hudler has, to put it lightly, been very bad this season. He’s not the Hudler of 2014-15; he’s not even the Hudler of 2013-14. He often looks lost out there, floating around mindlessly, hesitant to do much of anything. He was demoted, and rightfully so, as David Jones was outplaying him.
But Jones got hurt, and while Hudler may not have technically been the next best option to put on the top line – especially with a number of kids outplaying him as of late – he was the most seamless way to do it, so up he went.
And how frustrating was it to watch him go on a two-on-one with Mason Raymond late enough in the game for it to potentially be the winner, and pass it when he had the shot? And to watch that pass get harmlessly deflected aside?
But he made up for it in the game’s dying seconds. It was an easy goal, a tap-in literally anybody in his position would have scored. But he was the one in that position, so he was the one to get his first goal since Oct. 30.
He had four assists all of November, and that’s it. That’s pretty bad, especially for someone who’s surely hoping to get a payday come July 1. So hopefully that goal, which both he and his team really, really, really needed gets him going again; especially if Jones ends up missing more time and the Flames need someone to compliment the rest of the top line.
(Side note: what happened to Jones is exactly why you don’t dress Brandon Bollig. Had he been in, the Flames would have essentially been down to 10 forwards in a close game. Instead, the healthy forward who played the least was Markus Granlund with 11:20, and he was pretty good out there.)
Everyone knew this game was going to be about Dougie Hamilton in some capacity, but man, he really made the game about him in the end.
Hamilton played 20:16, fourth most out of all Flames defencemen, and just behind the top line in ice time. His ES CF of 59.18% was second on the team out of all defenders, behind just Ladislav Smid, who was a 68.42% over 10:25. (Smid played 11:23 in total; Engelland, 10:30.) (Also, holy crap, does this mean Smid can actually play again? He and Engelland were both north of 55% CF, and that’s with 0% zone starts. And they even had 10 shifts apiece in the third period.) He did not have a bad game, even tying with Giordano with three shots from the blueline.
But he’s going to be remembered primarily for that gaffe with just over a minute to go, unable to handle the puck on the power play and surrendering it, as well as position, to Marchand. Slashing the stick out of Marchand’s hands, leading to the penalty shot he scored on to give the Bruins their first lead of the game.
That was the narrative. In his first game facing his old team, any and all good he may have done was going to be erased, because he played a direct hand in the game winner.
Except the Flames somehow managed to tie it, and Bob Hartley, not phased by his defenceman’s mistake, gave him two shifts in overtime. (Giordano and Dennis Wideman had two shifts as well; T.J. Brodie had three. Brodie also played 30:58, by the by.)
Brodie intercepted Chara’s blind pass, and he and Hamilton took off, two defencemen leading the rush with the forward trailing behind. Brodie immediately passed it up to Hamilton, who waited for Gaudreau to join them with a wide open path to the net – he passed it as soon as Chara flopped uselessly to the ice, effectively taking himself out of the play, while Brodie dragged David Krejci away, and Loui Eriksson was behind everyone – and then Gaudreau got to do his magic, and Hamilton bent down to Gaudreau’s level in celebration, probably both stoked and beyond relieved all at once.
The puck went off him as he was a touch too aggressive around his own net, giving the Stars their second goal of the game; he blasted it to score the game-tying goal to force overtime. He committed the desperate penalty, a result of his own inability to get a handle on the puck; he set up the game winner. Dougie taketh away, but then Dougie giveth back.
We could really, really do without that takething away, though.
Johnny Hat Trick. Johnny Overtime. Johnny Hockey. Johnny Gaudreau
He’s 5-foot-9, and has more names than most. He scored his second career hat trick, his first career four-point game. He has nine goals, the most on the Flames, and 17 assists, the most on the Flames. He has 26 points in 26 games, a point per game player again. He’s in a tie for eighth in overall NHL scoring, and quite probably the best player in all of hockey to have on the ice in three-on-three situations, bar none.
Brodie led the way with three overtime shifts, but Gaudreau was right up there with him, and the only forward to get more than two. He played 23:37 over the entire game, with five shots on net, second to Monahan in both categories (23:42, six). He led the way with 5:11 on the power play, and while it’s been established the Flames with an extra man are a special kind of terrible, Gaudreau is the last person to blame that on.
Without Gaudreau, the Flames aren’t in it. He had a direct had in all five goals Calgary scored, even if he only had four points to show for it. Following Marchand’s penalty shot goal, the Bruins cleared the puck from their zone three times over the course of a minute. It was nearly four times, except Gaudreau just stopped it from clearing with only eight seconds to go, and that’s what led to the game winner. If quinary assists were given out, he would have had more direct recognition for his efforts.
The Flames had 28 corsi events for at even strength when Gaudreau was on the ice (only Hamilton had more with 29), and 35 to lead the team in all situations. He was a 58.33% ES CF player; 60.34% in all situations. He led the way with three high danger scoring chances, four individual ones (tied with Monahan and Sam Bennett), and was one of several Flames to come in second with five individual corsi events apiece (Granlund led the way with six). He even finished a +4 player, if that’s your thing.
And he, you know, scored a hat trick, had an assist, was responsible for keeping the puck onside for one last gasp of hope, and is just kind of amazing in general, a budding generational talent who stands at 5-foot-9 and helped succeed in making a 6-foot-9 player look like an idiot at the start of and end of the night.
Johnny Gaudreau has 91 points in 107 games. The countdown to 100 is officially on.
The Flames are already at the bottom of the league; where the hell would they be without Gaudreau? Between him and T.J. Brodie, the Flames have cornered the market on franchise-altering fourth round picks.