Flames 4, Sabres 3 post-game embers: Take that, flu

Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

My thoughts throughout the game: uneventful, uneventful, oh hey a goal with the period about to end neat, welp I’ve completely lost all semblance of what’s happening and I’m not entirely sure who’s gonna win now but I sure hope it’s the Flames.

And then they won. All the while apparently everybody was vomiting their guts out! Seriously, they’re not even allowed back today, it’s that bad.

The Flames have one more game left to complete their quest for the perfect homestand sweep, and they’ve been very fun to watch in all four games thus far.

Jonas Hiller had a decent game

Shock and horror at such a sentiment, right? With the game playing as it was through two periods, I figured the third would be another snoozer, and Jonas Hiller might come out of this one with the Flames’ first shutout of the year.

Rasmus Ristolainen ensured that didn’t happen, but Hiller was solid through two, and the Sabres outshot the Flames 16-10 in the third, including two power play goals. The first was an amazing shot going through all sorts of traffic Hiller probably wasn’t going to stop. The second… well, yeah, that one he really should have had, there’s not much excuse there.

And the third, even strength goal went in off his own defenceman who was hanging out right in front of him.

That’s one goal Hiller should have had, and two that probably still would have gone in had it been Karri Ramo in net. This from a goalie who has hardly played over the past month, even when healthy – and remember, he wasn’t even healthy last night. He left the Flames’ practice 10 minutes in the day before this game, and didn’t even participate in this one’s morning skate. He just ended up being more able than Karri Ramo come puck drop.

Three goals on 30 shots from a sick goalie who has hardly played, two on the power play and only one really awful one? I’ll take that. He didn’t wow anybody, but considering the circumstances of his start, he was more than fine.

There went the four lines rolling

Micheal Ferland, who was supposed to be a scratch last night, played just 7:50. Brandon Bollig, who drew in for his first game in ages because… reasons…? played 8:40. Their centre, Matt Stajan, played 1:53 on the penalty kill, getting his total ice time up to 10:14, so hey, at least somebody was being kind of used, but. Well.

The past few games – i.e. games without Bollig in the lineup – every single Flame has gotten at least 10 minutes in. That ground to a halt with his return. Bollig had three shifts in the third period; Ferland, two.

Come on, though. If you’re going to play Ferland, actually play the kid. The occasional healthy scratch wouldn’t be a bad thing if necessary, but what did he do so poorly to deserve a drop from 12+ minutes a night to not even eight? While continuously getting buried in the defensive zone? (And he had better possession stats than Bollig, too – six corsi events for each, but only four against Ferland, and five against Bollig.)

As for Bollig: well, we all saw that penalty coming, didn’t we? At least the Flames were able to kill off one on the night, because they managed to get a goal soon after – one his rush out of the penalty box contributed to, and he picked up the secondary assist – but the Sabres (or rather, Ristolainen) later proved how dangerous it was to take penalties against them. That could have turned out worse. Taking penalties is never a good thing.

Also, is Josh Jooris, like… okay?

Every time somebody thinks of demoting Markus Granlund, he scores a goal

That’s probably not actually true. I don’t know if anybody is actually thinking of sending Markus Granlund down. Not many who has voted in our poll off to the side thus far think so, and anyone who has the power to do so is hopefully strongly reconsidering that now.

It’s not just because Granlund is scoring goals (although the goals are very nice). In the five games he’s played since being recalled and getting a regular shift, Granlund has scored three goals.

That’s all well and good, but remember when Granlund was recalled in 2014-15? In his first 10 games, he scored three goals and nine points. Over the rest of the season – another 38 games – he scored five goals and nine points. He had an excellent start that had people raving over him, and the rest of the season, he looked completely out of place.

Things are different this time around, though. Even if Granlund wasn’t scoring, he’d still deserve to keep his spot in the NHL. He’s playing quite possibly the best hockey of his life, and his ES CF of 59.38% – over 18:37 of even strength time (and in terms of total ice time, he was second to only Joe Colborne for Flames forwards; he played more than Gaudreau and Monahan…) – was hard earned. Especially considering the Sabre he faced off against the most was Rasmus Ristolainen, and his ES CF against him was 83.33%. He saw a lot of the Sabres’ top line as well, and was over 50.00% against them.

Granlund looks like an NHLer. Granted, this could stop at any time. But right now, he looks like this is the league he belongs in. He’s getting sheltered zone starts – 76.92% in this game, tied with Sam Bennett for the most – but he’s doing work with them.

Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are pretty great

No matter what happens, Sean Monahan scores goals. No matter what happens, Johnny Gaudreau puts up points. 

The two are tied for the Flames’ lead with 10 goals apiece. Gaudreau has 66 shots on the season; Monahan, 65. They’re exhibiting a lot of parallels right now, and although Gaudreau is the only one who’s a point per game player (28 games in, in his second year in the league, because he’s amazing) (and indestructible, apparently, thank god), they’re the only two guys on the Flames who have more than 20 points.

And their chemistry is undeniable. They had what would have been a gorgeous goal taken away from them in the game against the Sharks, but Gaudreau’s feed to Monahan for the Flames’ third goal last night was just a thing of beauty. How can you not love watching them work together?

Five points between them in one night. They got the Flames the win. 

Maybe Gaudreau and Bennett will work better together in the long run, maybe not. It makes you long for another young, top six forward who projects to be an extremely high level player, though. The Flames have pairs developing – Gaudreau and Monahan on offence, Backlund and Frolik on defence, for example – but they still need to round out that top six.

That Cody Franson hit

When a defenceless player is forced face first to the ice thanks to a hit from behind, and comes back up with blood covering, like, half his face (hyperbole), you’d think something would be done about it.

Nothing was done about it. Because why would you want to punish somebody for making a dangerous hit on a defenceless player? That would just be silly.

Frolik stayed in the game. He did not seem to suffer an injury on the play (other than the whole blood thing), and will likely be fine. So nothing will happen. Because that’s how you make sure you’re looking out for your employees and ensuring the game will survive for years to come: by pretending dirty plays weren’t just that.

If a hit has no place in the game and goes unobserved by the powers that be, did it ever even happen?

  • Craig

    As long as Johnny and Monny are impervious to the Flu bug now hitting the Flames we should be all right! We survived with “white as a ghost” Hiller in the nets, after all…

    Didn’t all the Flames get the flu shot which is supposed to be a good match to the bugs going around this year?

    • RedMan

      too bad all the truculence doesn’t provide the “nuclear deterrent” it is supposed to – to be an effective deterrent, the truculence needs to be employed on these occasions.

      But, Bollig did get his regularly schedule bad penalty in… except in this case it was a more questionable call most likely made on reputation, especially given the nasty hits the refs allowed.

      • cberg

        Yeah the deterrent thing is quite interesting to try and document. I’m sure that on the ice players feel “safer” when a big tough guy is around but whether that actually translates to success is difficult to define.

        On the same topic but a different venue, the Calgary Hitmen have gone on a tear since Keegan Kanzig was sent back down and he’s been playing. He’s played 14 games total and the Hitmen are 12-2 in those games. Prior to his arrival the team was, I think 8-9.

        Whether the change is directly due to Kanzig’s excellent D play, the feeling of security the rest of the team has with him backing them up or something totally different, its hard to ignore the vast improvement in the team’s results after he arrived.

        I think a similar thing happened last year after Kanzig was traded to the Hitmen. Hmmm, how nice would it be if he continues to develop, makes the team and can provide NHL-level, punishing, physical stay-at-home D for years with the Flames? One can dream! Didn’t someone say Chara was a terrible skater when he was first drafted…..?

  • otto

    Bollig is not a half competent at one thing, and that is fighting. Franson plows Frolik into the boards, Bollig needs to go ape sh*t on his a$$. The guy sucks at everything, outside of growing a beard.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    The power play continued to struggle last night. By my eye, it’s an easy PP to defend against. The PK has to employ 2 strategies, keep the Flames from gaining zone entry. If the Flames manage to do so, create a nice tight box and keep shots to the outside. The Flames play the powerplay too passively, and need to push the play harder and faster.

  • Cfan in Vic

    The Franson hit was infuriating, especially what they called on Bennett. If Bettman was sitting beside me at the game, I would have kicked the crap out of him just for not doing something about this garbage inconsistent officiating. I did not notice Ferland had a shift shortly after that hit & he was running any Sabre uniform he could line up. I love that kid. We did get away with a hit from behind with about 3-4:00 minutes left. No where near as bad as Franson’s but still could have been called. If they had called that one, I think I would have lost it. The refs at that game last night should have their paycheques docked for being incompetent.

    One thing I have noticed is that Jones has been getting time with Johnny & money even when Hudler is in the lineup. I actually like the Hudler/Bennett & Granlund line in the San Jose game. Lots of skill on that line. But it is showing Monahan & Gaudreau are more than capable with playing at a high level regardless who is on that wing. I would love to see a concerted number of games with Ferland on that line.

    Would love to see Granlund/Bennett/Hudler form a lethal 2nd line but hockey reality is there will be no cap space for Hudler come July. Teams that would probably love to acquire him are also Nashville, Tampa & Anaheim. Would hate to give the ducks anymore weapons but they could give us quite an intriguing return.

    • Bobloblaw

      Would love to Ferland get a chance to play with those two,not just a cup of coffee but some real time to create chemistry.then we will all be wondering why it wasn’t done sooner

      • Kevin R

        My thoughts exactly. Johnny got whacked & had to leave the ice late in the first. I think Ferland would have gone psycho if he had seen it & was on the ice at the time. Call me old school but Ferland has the talent to fit with those two & even give them some space, I think even more effectively than what Jones has been doing & Jones is doing a pretty good job. I remember Semenko’s presence on a line of two pretty talented forwards. If Feland can make some hits, get the opposing D off balance & get some pucks coughed up, with the offensive D we have, we actually might have something here. Ferland actually has some hands as well. But I agree, not just a few shifts but for a few games.

    • Captain Ron

      NHL officiating is awful at times but I resigned myself to the fact that we have to live with it. Honestly wish there was more of a priority to calling those Franson/Frolik types of penalties 100% of the time even if it turns out that it was an iffy call after the fact.

      What is weird is that there seems to be much more emphasis on calling any kind of hooking or holding without hesitation. Iffy or not. Doesn’t make sense that this seems to be a higher priority.

      • Kevin R

        Yeah that was just a nasty hit by Franson. That should be reviewed by the league even if the refs had their heads up their arses. That should have been a major & game & the one the Flame did late in the game should have been a two minute penalty. That’s the stuff they need to call. Some of the piddly stuff they do call is just a head shaker.

  • RKD

    Pretty gutsy to win that game especially with a lot of players under the weather. Earlier in the season they might have packed it in and gone away quietly. Gio is looking more and more like the Gio we are accustomed to seeing. Hope Granlund can keep going, he’s got more potential than an overpaid floating vet hogging a roster spot. You can tell Granlund is playing with hunger and that he knows any one of these games could be his last and maybe that fear of being sent down is giving him some motivation.