Blues 3, Flames 2 post-game embers: Well, they tried

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Photo credit: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

But they failed.

In a one-goal game in which they had four power play opportunities and the opposition had none.

So it’s kind of easy to see where the blame goes, here.

They really did try, though

Falling behind 2-0 early is never a recipe for success, and to be sure, Vladimir Tarasenko and Colton Parayko embarrassed the Flames to start. Worse yet, they embarrassed the Flames’ best players, as their top pairing – and T.J. Brodie in particular – were out-duelled twice in just the first four minutes.

This is what happens when you have a slow start, though. Calgary was lucky it didn’t fall behind by much when Nashville and Dallas both outplayed them to start the first two road trip games. The Blues, a team they’ve had issues with for a while now, though, were nowhere near as merciful and/or incompetent.

But that’s not to say the Flames ultimately deserved the loss they were handed. They ended up outshooting the Blues 38-22, and out-corised them 65-49. Sure, some of that falls under score effects, and some under special teams, but the Flames were legitimately trying to get back into the game, and were doing a good job of getting chances.

Johnny Gaudreau had six shots, Mark Giordano had five, Dennis Wideman had four, and another five players had three. Only four players – Brodie, David Jones, Markus Granlund, and Sam Bennett – failed to actually register a shot on net, but Granlund and Bennett were both involved in a handful of chances.

They fell behind. They worked their way back in it. Part of that involved forcing the Blues to take a bunch of penalties, and there’s where you can really point the blame: because if the Flames had so much as a quarter-competent power play, they would have at least gotten a point out of tying the game.

Please explain

Four power plays, zero goals.

The Flames have scored 10 power play goals – last in the league; second last are the Anaheim Ducks with 14 – over 97 opportunities. That is a success rate of 10.3%, and I have full confidence they will fall to single digits next game.

We are well past the point of ridiculousness here. We are seeing an effort so hilariously futile, we’re at the point where the Flames would probably genuinely be better served to commit an infraction the second their power play starts and get two minutes of four-on-four play instead. Just dive or something on the call so you have to go off for two minutes as well.

Gaudreau led the way with 4:51 of power play time, and that’s nice to see, because he is not, and never will be the problem when it comes to the Flames’ offensive futility.

Second and third for forwards were Mason Raymond (4:34) and Joe Colborne (3:55).

Let me rephrase: second and third for forwards were Mason “former perpetual healthy scratch” Raymond and Joe “fourth liner at best” Colborne.

Whaaaaaaaat.

Just because Gaudreau is the team’s top offensive talent does not mean he is literally a wizard. He cannot actually drag up those who have struggles and deficiencies of their own and magically bring them up to his level. Playing him with anybody but the Flames’ best serves no purpose but to kill time, and when you’re on the power play, you aren’t supposed to be doing the other team’s job for them.

Then, there’s the defence. Kris Russell (4:23) led the way. Russell getting some power play time is fine, whatever; Russell getting the most is inexplicable. Brodie, who is the team’s top defenceman – both defensively and offensively – played just 2:39. Only Dougie Hamilton of regular power play goers played less, clocking in at 2:20.

So you have the Flames’ two youngest defencemen, the guys who are likely going to be leading the defence core for the foreseeable future, both with offensive flair, and they’re deemed less worthy to a hopeless power play’s cause than an impending free agent who is going to cost way too much to re-sign and will likely not be worth his future contract, Dennis Wideman (who, surprisingly enough, has thus far failed to replicate the career high 8.7% shooting percentage he had last season; who could have ever seen that coming. Also he’ll be 33 years old by the time the season is over), and Mark Giordano (fair enough, he actually scored yesterday).

Okay, sure.

One last nail in the coffin. There were three players who got zero power play time. The first was Deryk Engelland, which I’m sure we can all agree was an obvious and sensible conclusion to draw. The second was Josh Jooris who, okay, he was oft a healthy scratch and now he plays on the top line so evidently we have no clue what he’s supposed to be or do or what his role is.

And the third guy was Sam Bennett.

Colour me shocked that a power play with completely inexplicable, asinine player usage can’t score, even when they’re given four chances.

All it would have taken was one goal to tie the game. The Flames had eight minutes that are, in theory, supposed to work strictly in favour for this cause and they did absolutely nothing with them. 

That’s 13% of an entire NHL game telling Calgary, “Hey, you guys, score now!” and they couldn’t.

  • FeyWest

    Bob has made odd decisions on player usage all year. With the goalie (not plural) playing better the focus is on special teams. So the questions are which coach has Responsibilty and how do they practice. During the game is Cloutier on the same page as Bob with which D get power play shifts? We know Keenan never practiced pp and just threw guys out justified on who was playing in-game the best or voodoo. How come our soft media never hard question the coaches on the pp? Good thing we have blogs like this?

  • FeyWest

    Lack of production by the PP may cause this team to miss the playoffs. Simple solution play Monahan’s line as a line with Gio and Wides(shoot the puck everytime it’s on your stick) then Granlund’s line with TJ and Hamilton. These two lines create and will eventually get the PP going. Mixing and matching is not working. Keep the chemistry together. BH has managed to find the secret of 3 on 3 but I think they are over thinking the PP.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    The Flames powerplay was immediately better when Ferland was added. It was the first time all season that it actually appeared to have a structure to it. And it was working.

    I wish I PVR’d this, but from memory Ferland gets to the front of the ice, and takes a Blues’ defender with him, effectively screening Elliot. Ferland plants himself there taking some well earned punishment, but does not move. This opens up space at the point and along the boards with the remaining 3 Blues having to scramble between defending the point shots and the side walls. Shooting lanes were (not surprisingly) wide open. A couple of point shots got through, and Ferland fought for rebounds just outside the crease.

    Ferland also retrieved the puck from behind the net, and protects the puck until he was able to put the puck out front for another scoring chance.

  • FeyWest

    I recall reading an article on the nation network not too long ago that had some numbers which showed that teams who stack their first PP unit generally have the best %s. Not sure what the coaching staff is thinking here but it is bring back memories of the Brent Sutter days. I cant see the player personal being the main issue here… it seems to be coaching decisions… deployment etc..

  • cberg

    The PP has been looking better lately, but looks don’t count, goals do. Even though I agree the usage isn’t great, I’ll give the coaches props for trying something different. It’s not like other guys were working either. Still a lot of work to do. Glass half full? It’s only up from here.

  • FeyWest

    Special Teams are an odd beast for sure, I understand putting Raymond and Colborne on from a “on paper” perspective since one is speedy much like Johnny and the other is big and has been pretty good at containing the puck BUT the realistic perspective is its just not there. There is no chemistry and Raymond albeit is fast he just kills the play…

    At the same time I do also believe it to be a mental thing much like the beginning of the season they know they suck on the PP and this is them putting ever increasing pressure on themselves. It’s going to be like that word or name you know that escapes you and it isn’t until you stop trying to remember that you actually remember it at 2 AM in the morning in a cold sweat. It’ll come but they just have to stop forcing the play and play freaking simple and move the puck.

  • cberg

    Agree that the PP production could end up being the downfall of the team this year. Agree that some personnel choices are head-shakers. Why no Sammy and so little Dougie is the best question to ask. However, the last 2 games have shown a big turnaround in shots- for. This game showed one PP with 4 shots, but most from the blue line. If they keep shooting from up there they have to get Ferland or maybe Jones in front. When they do get set up they look competent and it looks likely that some of their set plays will net goals- eventually.Patience is hard to keep with such poor results.

  • cberg

    Seems like we’re seeing far less of Gios side step a dude and take a step or two towards the net and let a wrister rip, or even those slap passes he was using last year. I think he’s still not 100%. Widemans shots aren’t getting through either. They gotta try something new or just plant ferland in front of the net all the time. Johnny should QB from behind the night, you never see that anymore… Let’s go old school haha

      • flames2015

        I don’t think his shot has changed. The issue is there’s no movement with any of the players, they idle in the same positions and therefore the opposition isn’t forced to chase and there’s no lanes to shoot and goalie can see the shot all the way through with no screens. He had a pretty good shot near the end that went through but Elliot just got the glove down.

        Just using Chicago as an example, during their PP, they cycle and everyone moves positions until there’s a lane to shoot. Would be nice to see a bit more movement from the guys, not saying both D’s should be up front and give up odd man rushes, but there’s needs to be way more movement instead of constantly just firing it back to the blue line and hope their shot makes it through.

  • cberg

    I am not sure I completely agree with with the perspective of expecting the power play to fix itself by putting the best players on the ice. I am sure that is most teams in going position but we are way past that now. I must admit that Calgary,s PP has looked much better with Colboune and Raymond lately. I can’t believe a team with Johnny as the PP quarterback can be that bad….but it is.

    Personally I would like to see both Bennett and Ferland on the PP but we should not be surprised that the 2 first year players have not earned the right to be on the PP… In the eyes of Hartley.

    • FeyWest

      It is possible its all in the thoughts of development, not wanting to put so much pressure on the youngsters? It is just speculation but there could be certain focuses he may be trying to instill and bring them along slowly. Just a thought to add to the discussion.

      • cberg

        I think you are bang on. If you think back to last year Hartley tried to use Johnny sparingly. He rarely played in The last minute of play or in OT. It is more than a coincidence that Calgary became the Cardiac kids when Hartley was forced to use Johnny in these key situations. He needs to start leaning on the youngsters and may be pleasantly surprised.

  • cberg

    I don’t feel Martin Gelinas’ (IT WAS IN!) player usage on the PP is as asinine as you suggest Ari.

    They have tried Sammy on the 1st PP unit with Jonny and Monny on the last home stand. They went like 1/10 (so yeah… 10%) before they switched it up and put Bennett on the 2nd unit with Huds. (his regular line mate).

    I agree that Hamilton is AWESOME and will need more PP time, but he is still adjusting to the new team and systems (very nicely lately, I might add). He had an awful start to the season …they had to stick him onto the 3rd pairing for a while, give him minutes against weaker competition, build him back up and get him to a place where he’s looking much more comfortable now on the 2nd pairing. You don’t want to make the same mistake twice by giving him “too much, too soon” in terms of minutes and responsibility. And (N of one I know) it’s not like they don’t trust him: he was on the PP late in a tied game against the Bruins when the puck skips over his stick, resulting in a slash on Marchand, resulting in “The Rat” scoring a short handed penalty shot. Slow and steady for young Dougie will win the race.

    At this point I feel that what’s wrong with the PP is “between their ears”. It’s gotten so bad that I don’t think it’s an X’s and O’s or tactics thing anymore. They’ll keep trying different combo’s until something clicks. Remember that the Flames where 13th in the league on the PP last year with essentially the same personal. At this point, Gelinas will try ANYTHING just to get a goal! I mean, the PP would have probably been more effective if they had played Smiddy, England, Bolig, Jooris, and the Zamboni guy all year… how could it be any worse than 10%???

    Interestingly, when talking about “big bodies” (Ferland, Colborne, Frolik) in front of the net, the “Little Vampire” had great success last year in front of the net (on the PP or otherwise) deflecting point shots from Gio and Wides. I’m not sure why he looks so melancholy this year… maybe the realization that he is clearly not in the team’s future plans– say goodbye to playing with Jonny and monny for the next 4 years!

    And finally, for the record: Johnny G. IS literally a WIZARD at hockey! : )