Red Wings 4, Flames 2 post-game Embers: Well, they tried at the end

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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.
Rated/60 stats also tell a similar tale: Sam Bennett is playing well and legitimately deserves more ice time to improve. There is little justification to bench him, even if mistakes happen. If for any reason, this was a form of punishment for a mistake it was a bad decision.

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:

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?!

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.

  • aflame13

    At this point, I feel like giving Hartley the benefit of the doubt in regards to Bennett’s usage. In the past two years Hartley has eased in two really good, successful young players and seems to be bringing in a couple more. If you lean towards crediting that to the player’s abilities forcing him to play them rather than his choices in their usage, then I would argue there’s nothing to be worried about since Bennett is looking great and will get his consistent ice time soon enough.

    • ClayBort

      The Flames would be much better served taking some minutes away from Colborne and Monahan and giving them to Bennett and Backlund. It is a little mind boggling to be honest. Colborne has averaged a minute and a half more than Backlund. That should never happen. We don’t need to stand behind Hartley or any member of the Flames brass when they make bad decisions.

  • Kevin R

    Hartley will always raise eyebrows on player usage. That is just the way the guy rolls. The only thing that can get a little confusing is the Hamilton usage, Hamilton isn’t a new rookie being slowly brought in. He’s had enough games to garner the minutes if he is playing well & to me, he’s playing well. Results have to be important to Hartley, they are to Flames brass, so why not play a guy that is probably going to give you the best chance to win & make you look good? That’s the confusion. Unfortunately, no one is privy to Hartley & Tre’s conversations. Really seems to me that certain players are getting that extra bump to increase value. If Wideman isn’t traded then Russell will be. Not so worried about Bennett, he isn’t going anywhere, he’s getting the lesson about how you must covet every minute of ice time a coach gives him & make the most of it. He’s just not entitled to it just because. Just look up north to see young very talented players that were reinforced that ice time minutes were entitled to them right out of the gate. I’ll bet $$ that Bennett’s ice time later this year & especially next year will be up dramatically.

    • ClayBort

      I’m not sure that trying to raise Wideman/Russell’s trade value is worth it. GMs will not suddenly wake up and think either is worth more than a 2nd or 3rd rounder, even if Wideman reproduces last year’s results. I think it’s more important to ensure a player who is still developing and worth more than anything we’d get in a trade for Russell/Widman (i.e. Hamilton) gets prepared for eventual 1st pairing duty.

      Management also needs to know where the team is at developmentally so they can make the right decisions at the trade deadline and in the offseason. Burying Bennett on the fourth line doesn’t serve that purpose, maybe they’re trying to lower the cap hit on his next contract though?

    • piscera.infada

      Also, what else does Bennett have to do to earn more ice time? If he was playing poorly one could understand the demotion, but by every measure he’s been one of our best forwards this season. Every minute is precious, yes, but is that really a lesson Bennett hasn’t learned yet?

      • Kevin R

        I think if you check a year ago early in the season, the same questions about Gaudreaus ice time & utilization were coming up as well. If I recall, Gaudreau would be having a great game & then he wouldn’t get much ice time late in games & in overtimes. I may be wrong, but that’s just how Hartley rolls with 1st year players with pedigree. He knows how important these young guys are to the future of the organization. He has probably sold Burke & Tre of his blueprint on how he thinks these young guys should be broken into the league, anything but easy. Sam is going to play a lot of minutes for the Flames for a very long time. Patience.

        • ClayBort

          After October 19 2014, Gaudreau’s ice time dipped below 14 minutes just 3 times, and below 12 minutes just once. If it were still the first couple weeks of the season I could understand, but we’re 33 games in now and Bennett doesn’t have much left to prove. I’m not saying he should be getting 18+ minutes a night, but he shouldn’t be playing 4th line minutes either.

          I looked at Monahan’s rookie season too – now there you might be on to something! He played less than 12 minutes/night over 5 games from Dec. 19 – Dec. 29, then his ice time climbed steadily after that. Perhaps they are giving Bennett a similar rest around Christmas so he has the juice to finish strong in the back half? Maybe Bennett is playing with a minor injury? Who knows – that is information we don’t have.

          I suspect it’s more to do with production – just one assist in 11 games, despite Calgary winning a lot of hockey games in that time. But demotions are not the best way to break out of slumps.

          • Ari Yanover

            That Monahan example was him returning to action from a broken foot (and he looked horrible, too; he maybe shouldn’t have even been playing), so of course his ice time in that time should have been limited – he was coming off of a major injury.

            We know Bennett isn’t. He might have bumps and bruises, but he hasn’t been held out with anything actually broken for an extended period of time.

          • Kevin R

            I had completely forgotten about Monny’s broken foot.

            Then the best explanation for Bennett’s current usage is the lack of production – but most would agree that underlying play is more important.

    • ClayBort

      I don’t mind Granlund playing on the PK at center. He is a player with good IQ and a decent shot. His FO% is a little low. I would prefer to see Sam at center even strength and Granlund take PK minutes. For some reason, Granlund isn’t even consiered on LW, though he was pretty good there in the past on the Heat.

      There is no excuse for not using an offensive player like Bennett on the PP. It’s not like it’s actually working right now. Ferland was a good option to use because he battles hard in the slot. Sam is also that type of player.

      Colborne and Raymond on the PP is a waste. Colborne is good at draws and board work, but offense dies on his stick a lot. Raymond has speed, but is better used even strength, when the other team isn’t lining up at the blueline or aggressively attacking the guy with the puck.

  • Byron Bader

    What amazed me about the game was that essentially every single player was heavily skewed in ozone starts which means the Flames did a great job of getting into the zone and getting a stop. Like a really good job. And unfortunately their faceoffs were 30% or so so the puck just went the other way. They played really bad for 15 minutes after they finally scored and it killed them.

  • ClayBort

    Bob just does not want to burn these guys out before the Dance(playoffs). At least that is what I tell myself! After all the long knives out for Hartley, I think he deserves a little credit! He may not be the greatest but just when you think we are in big trouble, he pulls a rabbit out of the hat! GFG!!!!

    • ClayBort

      Seriously? You don’t think he might want to, you know, focus on actually MAKING the playoffs before worrying about burning guys out? Cmon man.

      I do agree with the rabbit/hat analogy tho. If by rabbit you mean Colborne AKA where offense goes to die.