But hey, there are some lingering positives we can take from this loss. Things we can truly appreciate as the team grows and pushes onward.
But there is also a lot of continued and nagging dilemmas that undermine this team as a whole.
SAM BENNETT, WHERE FOR ART THOU SAM BENNETT?
It’s impossibly difficult to comprehend his usage last night. Through two periods of play, Sam Bennett had under four minutes of ice time. The remaining 7:38 he played in the game was in the third period, with 1:58 played in the final five minutes. Grand total: 10:12, only linemate Josh Jooris played less (10:08).
Putting our heads well above the narratives that are often thrown around about rookies in their rookie year is important here. This season Sam Bennett, prior to the game, had 11 even strength points that tied him with father-figure Jiri Hudler for fourth out of all forwards. His even strength penalty differential is +14, proving that he is incredibly capable at putting his team in a position to hopefully score on the power play.
When it comes to individual contributions, much like everything else we know about Bennett, he contributes and he does it well:
- T-5th in forwards with Mikael Backlund with 75 iCF (individual Corsi For events)
- Sixth in forwards with 55 iFF (individual Fenwick For events)
- Third in forwards with 58 individual scoring chances; four more than Johnny Gaudreau
- First in forwards with 31 individual high-danger scoring chances.
Last night, in his limited showing: one shot attempt at even strength that was a scoring chance. We can look back in hindsight and say “yeah, if he was used more then maybe the Flames could have tied it or won the game“. But more importantly it again highlights the continuously tedious and annoying player usage problem. At some point, we really need answers for this.
This horse has been beaten death and the results are incredibly tiresome to watch.
DOUGIE HAMILTON, I LIKE THE CUT OF YOUR JIB
Hamilton’s fifth of the season added some honest optimism of a comeback. He also played a heck of a game despite a couple ghastly lapses/miscues in his own end but he played pretty well. His work at becoming a catalyst in driving play is helping the Flames in ways they wish they had last season.
The unfortunate side to it, again, is player usage: fifth in TOI last night among defensemen with 18:08 played. That included a measly 0:21 on the power play, where they might have (hindsight again) been successful in scoring another PP goal. Still, it’s impressive to see him finding his way around the ice, easily entering zones, and creating shot attempts or scoring chances.
The disparity between Dougie and his partner last night, Kris Russell became incredibly apparent:
all numbers ES
Hamilton with Russell: 12:26 TOI, 29.41% CF
Hamilton without Russell: 5:21, 82.35%
Russell without Hamilton: 6:29, 13.33%
— ari y (@thirtyfourseven) December 21, 2015
For those not super stats inclined: Russell suffered miserably away from ol’ Douglas Hamilton. The former Bruin was 55.88% CF / 53.7% FF at even strength last night.
We’re reaching the precipice of what to do with the second pairing situation. Historically, it’s the maladies that plague both Russell and Wideman’s games are well known. We can find some positives among the negatives of what they bring, while trying to make the best of a bad situation. The truth of the matter is that as Hamilton continues to improve he’s still incredibly limited with whoever he plays with.
Again, circling back on maximizing the best of the roster we’re hitting the real precipice of what to do about Russell and/or Wideman’s extensive overuse. It’s all too likely Wideman nor Russell are not part of the long-term solutions in Calgary, nor should they be. Taking advantage of moving either perhaps grants the team with the chance of calling up Jakub Nakladal or Brett Kulak again.
Both of whom might be better options for a partner that could really round out the blueline. We know what Kulak did in a limited sample this year: he definitely made Deryk Engelland’s game look better. It sounds enticing, doesn’t it? Put the key players in the best situations with the best possible teammates and results should follow, in theory.
WHAT IN SWEET HELL?! A POWER PLAY GOAL?!
Wideman goal, 1-0 Flames pic.twitter.com/lUtBLF2JaC
— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 21, 2015
The gods be damned, they sure as hell finally scored one. Going 1/3 on the PP last night certainly helps the percentages (now at 11% success rate) but again we circle back on the same maligned special teams that couldn’t score on a Calgary Flames’ penalty kill.
The often confusing methodology of their structure and system doesn’t bode well. Nor does it lend itself to virtually any consistent success.
Hartley deserves some credit for finally trying Micheal Ferland for an extended opportunity on the man-advantage. Unfortunately, with Raymond and Backlund it didn’t yield much of anything. If the opportunity presents itself (and it should) perhaps using Ferland with Bennett and Granlund may produce a capable second unit.
Last night the Flames managed to produce seven shot attempts (three shots total), five scoring chances (three of which were high-danger). Still, their 11 goals in 175:03 on the man-advantage is just disgustingly sad. That’s a goal just about every 16 minutes while on the PP.
LET’S TALK ABOUT JOORIS AND GRANLUND ON THE PENALTY KILL
Josh Jooris is a pretty great penalty killer. He isn’t Patrice Bergeron or one of the most elite forwards in that regard, but he’s great at doing this one thing. He’s also capable at even strength, but we’ll save that for another day. Last night, in 1:54 of PK TOI, he managed to help the Flames to limit the Red Wings from producing anything of high quality.
While on the ice, he only saw two shots against. Not bad one bit, but more importantly he added attributes and an approach to how penalties should be killed. The penalty kill should never be about survival by any means. So, when Sportsnet often (and boy do they) praises shot blocking, it’s undermining the principle of what a penalty kill should be.
You should be focused on dictating the pace of play by any means necessary. Jooris does that and although I don’t have the numbers to back it up yet: he helps do this. Be it suppressing or preventing zone entries (that end up becoming offside), moving the puck up ice, clearing the puck when given the chance, killing time along the boards with puck battles, etc. He does these things, much like Paul Byron does.
The same goes for Markus Granlund, who seems to have endeared himself to the PK with 2:24 played last night. He also had a shot attempt as he went up ice with Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie. These things that were witnessed last night are the exact things that deserve praise. The following shift in the offensive zone resulted in an exemplary job of eating time off the clock.
Both of these gentlemen should and definitely deserve to occupy the penalty kill even when Lance Bouma returns.