Flames 5, Rangers 4 (OT): Go Johnny Go

I forgive Jim Hughson. I forgive him, for now, for almost all of his past Canucks-centric homerisms, because that call was perfect.

Johnny Gaudreau is perfect. And the Flames somehow, with the aid of insane comebacks and three overtime wins, were perfect in their five-game homestand.

How good is Johnny Gaudreau? So good

Gaudreau scored two goals, put up an assist (on the overtime winner, no less – that’s now six overtime points on seven wins), had six shots on net, played 21:54 (the most out of all Flames forwards), and straight up dominated. 

Though it kind of says it all when, once you hop over the boards for your overtime shift, the entire building starts going nuts. And he hadn’t even done anything yet, just stepped on the ice. Everyone was waiting for another hat trick, and while it didn’t materialize, he had two extremely good chances.

In this homestand, Gaudreau scored seven goals and 10 points. Remember when it took him 13 games to get his second goal of the season, but he was scoring assists left and right in between? That seems so far away now, as Gaudreau leads the Flames with 12 goals.

He also leads the team with 31 points. That’s seventh in the entire NHL, and he’s played one fewer game than everyone above him.

Gaudreau, through 110 NHL games, has scored 96 points. That’s .87 points per game, and I am now officially firmly of the belief that at some point, he becomes a full-fledged point-per-game player. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m pretty sure it happens at some point.

A point per game player. For a kid taken in the fourth round. Who is now four points away from having triple digits on the scoresheet.

Heeeeeeerrree’s Johnny!

There went the positive possession game

Yesterday, we were talking a little bit about how the Flames have been steadily improving in an area that’s typically an indicator for long-term success: possession. Their corsi has been on the up and up, particularly over the last 10 games or so.

They were not a positive possession team last night, and it’s because they were ragdolled in the third.

They were a 50.00% team in the first period; in the second, when they quickly took that 2-1 lead at the end, they were a 54.29% team. All’s good, right? Score another quick two goals at the start of the third, and then you just have to… settle in… and… let the team that played the night before run all over you in a desperate attempt to tie up the game… and have them succeed.

The Flames were a 36.84% CF team in the third which is, well, bad.

They redeemed themselves with a 60.00% overtime – and actually scored the overtime goal, the ultimate redemption – but ended the night a 47.32% CF team. Which isn’t terrible! It’s not like they got their faces kicked in. 

Except for the third period. Where they rolled over and tried to die. Which led to getting shelled, and taking two penalties in the game’s final four minutes.

The Flames have won two games by more than one goal all season long. Five regulation wins. Sure, they’re getting the job done when it counts, but they’re seriously playing by the skin of their teeth, and I have my doubts for how long they’ll be able to keep it up.

It’s fun, though.

dgihdlsgfuhsdgl;agijh;dshgkds’l

That is a keyboard smash. Keyboard smashes are typically used by Internet users when expressing extreme emotions, be they joy or frustration or everything in between.

That is a keyboard smash of frustration.

Zero for three on the power play. (And keeping Joe Colborne right on the first power play unit even after one of the laziest back checks ever was… something.) And okay, four or five on the penalty kill isn’t bad at all, but that power play goal was almost a backbreaker. 

And then there’s the .862 save percentage.

It’s been the same damn story all season long, and it’s beyond frustrating at this point.

I want to give the goalies the benefit of the doubt, I really do. Absolutely nothing over the hundreds of NHL games Jonas Hiller has played suggests he should be a sub-.900 goaltender, but this season, he is. Maybe he just hit rock bottom this season because he got older, the game finally taxed him out, the flu, or for no apparent reason. He ended the 2014-15 season with excellent save percentages, started the 2015-16 season with a .933, and has matched that only once thereafter.

I’m nominating that second goal against as the absolute worst, most unforgivable one, though. Mere seconds after the Flames took a 4-1 lead, not paying attention, and to Tanner Glass of all people? Come on.

Raymond – Backlund – Frolik

What. A. Line.

They had no offensive zone starts. Like, 0.00%. And yet Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, who were basically made to play with each other, led the way with the Flames’ ES CF: 63.16% for Backlund, 61.11% for Frolik. Colborne was the only other positive possession player, and not by nearly as much (53.33%), and over less ice time.

Frolik and Backlund were monsters on the penalty kill, playing 4:11 and 3:46, respectively. Backlund even almost got a shorthanded goal, and Frolik actually did end up with an assist. They were relied on heavily to take on some of the toughest minutes, and they came through.

(Although this does beg a question. Frolik is fourth on the Flames with 16 points scored. And the reason he never gets power play time is…?)

Former perpetual healthy scratch Mason Raymond seems to have found a new home on this line, and the three of them are clicking. Raymond is absolutely the passenger, but he’s working well with his new linemates, and it’s hard to see reason to scratch him again, or break them up.

He doesn’t put up the numbers his linemates do, but he is an effective complimentary piece. And the line was rolling.

  • BitGeek

    What an awful game by Hiller. His numbers keep getting worse if that is possible. Goals 2,3,4 were all softies.

    Hiller has a decent history behind him… what we saw last night was indicative of a lack of effort. That is concerning and frankly unnacceptable. It disgusts me to see someone paid millions just mail it in like that.

    • Burnward

      Yep. Show me a little something to believe in. Anything.

      Just brutal.

      Time to move on.

      How can BT watch this guy play for his team any longer? Can you imagine if this was your team?

  • cberg

    Raymond certainly picking up his game and definitely more confident on the ice and in interviews.

    If Frolik and Backlund can stymie the bleeding on the PK I’m fine with no PP time. Both units were visibly better this game, with the PK more aggressive and challenging, whereas the PP show eat up a bit and had several different looks which I think helps them overall as the other team not sure what they are going to do.

    That Colborne goal almost an exact duplicate of the Colborne-Hamilton-Granlund goal the other night. Interesting to see some set plays working, and probably great for the players too as they get to know where each other will be in certain situations.

    As for the NYR, not sure what’s happening with them. Their D coverage was terrible this game, as it was their last versus the Oilers. I had always felt they were a strong D team but something’s not working these days and its readily apparent.

  • BitGeek

    I don’t understand Colborne on the pp either. Why do you play Jones 5 on 5 and then not on the pp with those guys; makes little sense to me. You have Jones who can be a net presence if that’s the reason or Frolik or Hudler both can snipe. This is probably my more current beef with the coaching at this point.

    • cberg

      I’ve got no problem with Colborne on the PP at the moment. He is very good along the boards and in front of the net, and since the Flames dump it in a fair bit when the opposition lines up across the blue line that’s pretty essential. Not saying Jones can’t do the same but not sure what’s all the angst over him, if not for needing someone to blame?

  • Rock

    Hartley has taken this team and put them back on track. Even when things were looking pretty bleak. Every interview with Hartley shows him being positive never throwing anyone under the bus. This is why he was coach of the year last year. Not hearing to many fire Hartley chants now.

  • Greg

    Hiller was bad. But that .815 SV% for Raanta sure doesn’t make me want to try him out next year either.

    Really hoping TB can resign Stamkos so Bishop shakes free due to cap constraints.

    • Ari Yanover

      Haha, I think I know what happened there. I wrote about the six points in OT and my brain decided we were done with that number, even though I was pretty amped about the six shots on net too. So it just… threw the word “two” in there, I think because of the goals? And it just stayed there. Whoops.

      Re: Hiller: I’d be much more willing to give a goalie the benefit of the doubt because of the flu – and I did last game – but when you’re saying you feel much better and come out with that performance, plus you’ve been sub-par at best all season long, a lot of that benefit of the doubt has already been used up. Goaltending’s really unforgiving; he had a number of solid saves last night but it’s the mistakes people will remember the most and his mistakes almost cost his team.

      • BitGeek

        Then next time you have the flu and are puking your guts out, we’ll wait a couple of days and then get you into a street hockey game. You’ll have to go full out though – because you can’t give anything but your best, and you’re not allowed to puke or rest. After which, you can re-read your criticism of Hiller in these past 2 games and then decide if his benefit of the doubt was really used up.

        Hiller might be a sub par goalie most of the time, but give the guy a break for a couple of games. I’m sure he’ll go back to being a crappy goalie when he’s healthy. Those are the games he deserves to run over the coals.

  • um, absolutely fire Hartley. The team still relies on the stretch pass almost exclusively for zone entries – a system that doesn’t really work unless you’re springing Johnny Gaudreau (or Paul Byron :((( ) – and really if not for Johnny’s uncanny ability to gain the zone, this team would be sunk.

    The defense is still a block shot first system instead of a supression system which is a huge barrier to a transition to offense, and again, if they don’t have Gio and Brodie out there to drag this team out of the zone, they’d never win at all.

    These are complete failures on Hartley’s part and his inability to recognize the need to change is as well. His usage is getting better, but it’s still puzzling, He’s got pieces in place to make the team succeed in spite of him.

    This team is fun, but imagine what they COULD be, my goodness

    • Burnward

      There are coaches in the NHL who could make this team play a very dull brand of hockey…which is why NHL scoring is down; and a lot of 3-3 OT games are now going into shootouts – it didn’t take long.

      • good possession teams are generally very exciting teams because they create more offense. If you get a coach who maximizes his top players’ ability to play that way, you could have that.

        The Flames have a lot of those pieces. They don’t employ systems that allow those players to flourish under it

    • Burnward

      IIRC, Kent suggested most of the teams that went from suck to possession monsters had a coaching change.

      @ others. Don’t on the one hand say you have respect for Hiller and on the other throw shade. Like him or don’t, it’s just hypocritical. Don’t forget, Kipper was great until he wasn’t and once that happened, it was just time for him to go. It’s now just time for Hiller to go..

      • Burnward

        I think that’s a good way to put it. Hiller has played awful this season and at this point there’s very little reason to hang on to an aging netminder whose game seems to be deteriorating. Like Kiprusoff, Hiller’s play has dropped during the last year of his contract, so there’s no reason for the Flames to hang onto him after the season is up.

    • MontanaMan

      So with the average head coach lasting just over 2 years in the NHL, which of the current crop would you recommend take his place? Carlyle? Eakins? Easy to say fire the coach but tougher to name a replacement. The other factor is we are not dealing with the Oilers from the 80’s in Calgary. Yes we have some great youngsters but this team is hardly built for the Stanley Cup finals. I for one think Hartley gets more out of this team than most coaches could.

  • Johnny be Good at home, VERY good….let us hope he can work through having to play against tougher lines on the road…

    Problem with Colborne is his mental lapses, like not following his check all the way at key moments…something like a Phaneuf who seemed to be staring into the wild blue yonder at times…

    • TRAIN#97

      You can say I’m being a dick if you like but other teams can key on Gaudreau on the road cuz they really don’t have a legit second line. Go ahead trash away but it’s true.
      That’s why Gaudreau has only 6 road points .

      • Bennett is actually much better on the road. That line was the one scoring when Johnny’s was shut down.
        Prior to this homestand, Monahan and Hudler were really struggling with their game. Hudler has moved down, so the Flames added Jones as a N/S player to open up some space.

        Johnny Hockey has made adjustments to his game at every turn the past two seasons. He studies the play from the bench to look for weaknesses. He adapts. A team can only shut him down for so long.

        Gotta wonder why you keep wandering over to the FN to comment. Are you worried somebody may say the Draisaitl is coasting on Hall’s coattails? Or that Nuge is ineffective as a 2nd line center? Or that the game against the Rangers was the beginning of the end for Nilsson and the “excellent” defensive structure?

        • TRAIN#97

          I like to keep informed on the happenings of all Canadian teams. I go to the other Canadian sites but only the Oilers and Flame fans seem to be interested in thier teams.the other sites are so dead.

  • Burnward

    A few articles back several people who commented were skeptical Granlund would stay up once Bouma was back and the lames had 15 forwards.

    But he seems to have earned Hartley’s trust. In addition to being another scoring threat he is defensively aware. Right now H. is playing him at centre and Bennett on the wing on the second line.

    Last night I thought he made an excellent diving chip play in the offensive zone to set up a dangerous scoring chance. His TOI was 16:22, 3rd among all forwards. He is also being used regularly on the pk with Stajan, Frolik and Backlund as the other major forwards.

    All of this says to me he is not the sacrificial lamb when Bouma returns.

  • Yeah it’s definitely getting harder to defend Hiller at this point. He was meh in his last outing and outright bad in this one.

    It’s time to start looking for a goaltender for this club. Ramo isn’t the answer either.

    • everton fc

      You mentioned in an earlier column that it wouldn’t take much to get Bernier out of TO…..I’m assuming the Leafs would want draft choices/prospects which is a non starter for me….what are your thoughts Kent on what could make this deal happen?

    • Kevin R

      Bernier seems to have cleaned up his act in the AHL & treated the demotion like a pro. Give the Leafs a 3rd & Hiller & call it a day. Go with Ramo & Bernier for the rest of the year.

      I know I have been knocked for jumping on this kids band wagon so soon in his career, but from the first game I saw Gaudreau play at the Dome, this kid is a special player & is worthy in my humble eyes as being a “generational” player. 1 & 1/3 years in the league & quite the resume of hi-light reels for TSN & Sports Net. He keeps this up & we will be dancing if BT can get this kid signed to an 8 year $60mill deal come summer time.

        • Kevin R

          Not sure I would categorize Bernier’s contract a bad one, he has 1 more year, he just hasn’t had a good year, like a few other goalies out there. Wotherspoon may get you a 3rd or 4th rounder anyway, so I don’t think a 3rd is in that “Sutter” category. In fact, moving Hiller’s bad contract is hardly Sutter days.

          There are no other goalies where we could move Hiller back in the deal available to this team. Anaheim with Andersen….nope. Tampa with Bishop…..nope. If you want an immediate change, you have very few options. Otherwise, we stop complaining, live with Ramo & Hiller & make changes come summertime. Leafs aren’t taking back Hiller’s contract without inducement. There are definitely teams that would net them better returns than Hiller & Wotherspoon who would take a chance on Bernier.

        • T&A4Flames

          Thats even worse than the other guys offer. You’d rather give up a solid prospect who’s pretty much NHL ready (a former 2nd rounder by the way) than a 3 round pick. That’s horrible asset management!

  • everton fc

    Hiller should be demoted, but Ortio doesn’t look steady either.

    Bernier… Three straight AHL shutouts… Might have been wise to poach him when he was struggling. He’s younger than Ramo. Better than Hiller.

    Alas…

  • BitGeek

    There are too many people here tearing down Hiller on two games in which the guy was suffering from the flu.

    Maybe I’m just a wuss but when I get the flu I stay in bed till its gone. I definitely stay close too a bathroom just because of the danger of things coming out both ends without warning.

    If you asked me to put on a goal tenders kit and keep a puck out of the net you’d be lucky to get me standing up let alone stop a puck and keep from making a mess on the ice.

    I have mad respect for any professional athlete that plays through the flu. For the life of me I don’t know how they do it.

    So I dont really care that Hiller put up sub par numbers these last two games. He made some nice saves and some that were abysmal but he stood out there and didn’t puke or crap his drawers.

    When he’s healthy he’ll get my criticisms if he ever plays net again.

    • cberg

      When healthy he consistently let’s 1-2 bad goals in…even last year when he won us a lot of games he was inconsistent only to be saved only by the Flames exceptional play….he remains a Flame in his last year only because Ortio has struggled…this guy was going to be put on waivers or bought out…

  • beloch

    Maybe you can excuse Hiller’s last two starts for the reasons of rust and flu. 0.862 and 0.900 are both a long ways from quality start territory. He did have some good saves and was beaten by some very tough to save shots, but he also let in some softies and outright misplayed the puck on several occasions. Ramo hasn’t been great either. He went 0.897 and 0.895 over the first two starts of this home-stand.

    Here’s what impresses me. In five games, the Flames goalie squad delivered just one, solitary, measly, quality start, but the team won all five games. They had to average 4.4 goals per game, but they did it, and it’s seriously impressive. If this team can bash their way back into playoff contention with the abominable goal-tending they’ve been receiving, look out league when this team finally gets competent goal-tending!

    That being said, the situation in net is still terrible. The best team in the league is currently averaging 3.37 goals per game. It seems unrealistic to expect the Flames to consistently get the 4 or more goals they apparently need to win games. If something doesn’t change in net soon the Flames are going to start losing a lot of games again.

    Right now, it seems like Ramo is just not starter material. He’s had ample opportunity and far too many chances to turn things around, but he’s still averaging 0.901, which is unacceptable in the NHL. Hiller has had more excuses and fewer opportunities, but he’s sitting at an absolutely abominable 0.862. I can see him getting a few starts in a row simply because there’s some hope he’ll improve. However, it’s past time Treliving went looking for a new goalie. It doesn’t have to be an expensive franchise starter, but bringing in a competent backup capable of consistent 0.905 starts would be huge.

    • Ari Yanover

      The rest of the Flames team has worked way too hard to give Hiller any benefit of the doubt. Sick or not, he was the starter and could have been pulled any time. Soft play is not acceptable.

      If Hiller was > 0.900 the rest of his games, I would tend to think this was not indicative of his play, but we have seen average to terrible the rest of his starts. Time to move on.

      Trading Hiller for Bernier would be a welcome change for this season. Both goalies get to start over. We can use Bernier as a backup option until he proves he is #1 material. At the worst, he is Hiller level bad.
      We get stuck with him for next year, but can upgrade in the summer. At best, he is the guy that gives us time to develop Gillies and also look for long term solutions.

      • Kevin R

        I am thinking the same way. I am not expecting Gilles to suddenly challenge for a position on the Flames next year, especially now that he will miss the rest of the year. Next year I totally expect Gilles & Macdonald to man the pipes in Stockton. Makes sense, 2 of your best goalie prospects in the system & hope one emerges the real deal. I personally don’t see Flames resigning Ortio. The only way I’m wrong on that is if he suddenly plays lights out & carries Stockton into the playoffs. Then I would say he is ready for back up duty on the big team.

        Hiller is gone, Ramo, I just don’t know, one thing for certain, he better be prepared to take about half what he’s making this year. I am just so sick & tired of this goalie fiasco a change would be welcome. I just don’t really like the assets we would have to give up to get Andersen(Anaheim probably wouldn’t deal him in their division anyway) & Bishop is going to be expensive even in the off season. Yzerman is a pretty shrewd hombre.
        I would gladly give up Wotherspoon & a 3rd rounder to dump Hiller & get Bernier back. that’s how badly I want to change this goaltending situation. The 3rd & Wotherspoon are easily replaceable. Smart thing is probably wait until summer & suck this up(pops 2 Maalox at the thought)

      • cberg

        By that rationale we should have run Hamilton out of town too. He looked terrible to start. I agree that Hiller has not been very good. I would suggest that most guys on the team turned in at minimum ten poor games this season. I think Hiller isn’t great but he also is better than what we have seen. While I would welcome a change I bet we see gains from both Hiller and Ramo. One thing i wouldn’t do is trade a quality prospect or draft pick ( high) for a middle aged tender in hopes that we can sneak into the playoffs. A smart trade you bet but careful what you wish for…

  • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

    The Goalie situation is now the absolute priority for this team. Not just from the “save this season” perspective but also for the future, we need a reasonable NHL option for at least the next 2-3 years while Ortio/Gilles/McDonald figure out what they are going to be… I think draft picks/prospects should be in play because we are talking about a medium term solution here not just a one year problem… I mean what happens at the end of this season? We sign Ramo to ANOTHER 1 year deal? No dice…. don’t wait until the summer, pull the trigger

  • T&A4Flames

    I doubt few will agree with me and I’ll get trashed hard, but one thing this season is teaching me is that we aren’t ready yet to challenge for cups. We still need more high end talent to compete in the west. Our season start should remind us all that we are still building. Adding a Matthews would be awesome, but even Puljujarvi, a huge, strong skating RW who LOVES to shoot and score on a line with Gaudreau would be incredible. Our D is set for years with Gio and already 2 strong youthful guys that will continue to improve in Brodie and Hamilton and some really good options to fill out the bottom 6. We need to develop that #1 goalie and add youth to the top 6 fwd lines so we don’t rely on high priced UFA’s to keep us contenders for years. Just my thoughts. I’m not advocating a tank but I’m not pissed like many of you seem to be when they lose.

  • BitGeek

    Hiller has been undeniably poor this season. However, he has only played 10 games (4W/4L). He was injured. Certainly a 20% Quality start number is ugly. He has to be better.

    However, Ramo is only 38% Quality starts – also brutal. Ramo is a career ~40% QS goalie.

    Hiller’s history deserves a run of games. If he gets to 30 games played without vast improvement, then sure. Hiller is a goalie with ~400NHL games to his credit, at an extremely high avg. level.

    Jumping to conclusions with a goalie (which is what Hartley does) and when that’s based on 8 bad games this year, is foolish. Mark Giordano has been brutal, out right brutal, more than 8 times this season. Do we bench or trade him?

  • Cfan in Vic

    I’ve never been a big fan of Hiller, but I won’t complain about him turning in a horrible performance with the flu.

    I don’t think it’s coincidence at all that he looked competent in the first half of the game, and then completely fell apart in the second half. He had mentioned that the game against Buffalo felt like the longest of his life, and I’m sure last nights game was a close second.

    Of course we need a decent goalie, like yesterday, but I’ll cut Hiller some slack for the last two.

  • You can bash Hartley all you want as a coach but if your only reason is that the defence relies too heavily on the stretch pass…that is a little weak.

    Realistically there are only about five viable “break outs” from the defensive zone in hockey. There are variations but they all involve either a looping forward(s) or some misdirection/redirection between the two D. I would bet once you get to the NHL levels these options are even fewer….so again Bash Hartley if you want regarding roster/player usage/ power play etc…but the “break out-stretch pass” regurgitation is getting old.