Kings 4, Flames 1 post-game embers: Just focus on the kids

Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

The Flames started 2015, a year that saw some of the highest highs in recent franchise history, by nearly getting shut out by the New York Islanders. They ended it by nearly getting shut out by the Los Angeles Kings.

Not for lack of trying, but the loss did come about in part for lack of trying consistently.

The third period push

The Flames outshot the Kings 10-3 in the final frame. They out-corsied them 23-6. To say they dominated the third would not be a stretch.

At the same time, though, you can be sure a lot of that domination came from the fact they were down 3-0, and then 3-1. With such a solid lead, the Kings could afford to let the Flames go nuts in regards to scoring chances. Them, and Jonathan Quick, because he stole the show in the third.

So that’s all well and good. But it, and the overall good possession stats – 57.66% CF – the Flames came away with masked what really sunk them.

In the second period, the Flames were outshot 11-4. In the first three minutes, they were out-corsied 8-1. They came out of a relatively even first period down 1-0, and all it took was some extended pressure and lapses of mind to put the game out of reach.

Trying to come back was great, but it was a moral victory at best. Which, I guess, is part of what’s necessary for a rebuilding team, anyway.

The power play

When you get four power play chances and score on none of them, that’s something that has to be talked about, regardless of whether or not it’s looked better or actually scored as of late. The Kings took three penalties in the offensive zone – three penalties that should have at least struck fear into their hearts – and came away completely unscathed. With a 12.2% success rate, the Flames still have the worst power play in the NHL.

The first unit consisted of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler (replaced by Joe Colborne for the final edition), Dennis Wideman, and T.J. Brodie; while the second unit saw Micheal Ferland, Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Mark Giordano, and Dougie Hamilton. 

The good news is that’s the right personnel (almost – a healthy Michael Frolik would probably help things). The bad news is they still failed to see success. The first unit has dead weight on it, either in the form of Hudler who is definitely not the Hudler of last year, or, inexplicably, Colborne, who continues to lead the Flames with the most power play time without a single point. 

That, and the first unit was desperate to set up Wideman, who does have a hard shot, but I still maintain it should be the more dynamic Hamilton (also with a hard shot) in his place. Wideman dominated with eight individual corsi events for with the man advantage; Giordano had two, and five other Flames had one. That’s way too many resources devoted to trying to get just one player to score, and it didn’t work. Maybe one of his shots was actually dangerous? Over 6:14 of power play time, that’s not good enough.

Here comes Sam Bennett

Bennett got minutes. He had ice time. He was actually utilized, both at even strength and on the power play, and he did his absolute best to make them count. After eight straight sub-15 minute games, Bennett played 16:24 (sixth most out of Flames forwards), including 2:00 of power play time. 

He had three shots on net, second to only Wideman (who had five, pretty much only thanks to so much time on the power play). He had what might have very well been the most dangerous power play chance, coming when Hamilton and Giordano worked to set him up with some slick passing. He was a 60.87% ES CF player, third on the Flames (behind Giordano and Monahan).

He didn’t score, but he came close right at the game’s beginning. He threw a couple more big hits. He was all over the ice, he was good, and he needs to be used more like this, because at this rate, it’s not just a matter of time until he puts the puck in the net again, but until he indisputably establishes himself as one of the best forwards on this team.

His time is coming; in the mean time, he’s earning it.

Top-six forward Micheal Ferland

Ferland played 18:36, behind only Gaudreau and Monahan in regards to forward ice time. He had two shots on net. He had a beautiful assist that happened due to a combination of both his size, to fight off Brayden McNabb, and his vision, to wait until Giordano was open and find him for an excellent one-timer.

He looked legit. In the playoffs, he became known just as a heavy hitter, but he’s slowly proving he’s more than that. Ferland was a moderate scorer in the AHL, so why wouldn’t he show potential in the NHL, too?

Regardless of whether or not the Flames make the playoffs this season, it’s a time for experimentation, and the Micheal Ferland experiment is one I hope we see more of. At absolute minimum, he has the size to be an NHLer. But his playing history suggests there’s more there.

Even if there isn’t, it’s not like there are any better options to really take those minutes right now, anyway.

Brandon Bollig, again, added nothing

Ferlands are the kind of players you have in the lineups to add size, not Bolligs. Matt Stajan may be a fourth line centre on this team, but he still has talent, and it’s wasted when he’s flanked by just Bollig and Bouma. Bollig had a fight to try to spark his team; the Kings had another golden scoring chance in the immediate aftermath. 

The idea of fighting to spark your team is a nice one, but also one that doesn’t really have any rhyme or reason behind it (would the other team not be excited by their fighter, too?). 

But while Bollig went a second straight game without costing his team with a stupid penalty – and kudos to that, because it has been an issue – he also only played 8:31. The Flames can’t roll four lines with him on the ice, and it’s not like they don’t have better options.

What does Josh Jooris have to do to get back in the lineup, anyway?

  • RKD

    What indeed does Jooris have to do to get back in the line up? Bollig didn’t overtly contribute to the loss but he was not clearly of any real use either. Jooris should have his 8.5 – 9 minutes a game.

  • cberg

    This team is stuck where Florida was stuck a year ago. Talented youth and dead weight vets (Russell, Bollig, Hudler, Raymond, Smid, Engelland, Wideman, and, yes, Jones).

    The sooner we get back to open competition for roster spots with real minutes available for the youth in the minors, the sooner we will have less of these games lost in two minute stretches because Jones, Wideman, and Engelland all got tired because they’re too slow, unskilled, and unaccountable.

  • cberg

    Don,t know how Bollig ever gets in the line-up. I understand their trying to match LA’s size, but Gaudreau throws more hits than Bollig does. A pylon could probably get in the way better than Bollig. Lucky the refs broke up that fight before Lucic finished him. Bring back Mcgratten, at least he kicked ass.

    • cberg

      No, we don’t want McGratton, thank you. But how about more Ferland, then Hathaway, Carroll and Smith. C’mon guys, keep improving, we need you.

      Also, about Bollig. Pretty sure he could have done a much better job trying to out-manhandle Kopitar at the edge of the blue paint than JH, even though JH had great position on their 2nd goal? Some battles, you just need a bigger guy.

  • cberg

    Well, one thing is clear. Staple a defender to Gaudreau’s butt and slow down the game as much as possible by clogging the middle and playing a strong cycling game, and you’ve got a very good chance of beating the Flames.

    Also, how did that first goal go in, Ramo?

    Happy New Years, all, and thanks for all the articles, Ari.

  • Kevin R

    Happy New Year everyone!!!

    Yes Ari! It is looking like time to play the youth again. I think we may be surprised to see the Flames will probably win more games playing youth the way we did last year. I would love to see Ferland as a regular line mate of Gaudreau & Monahan. Please Hartley let’s just try it for the month of January & see what happens. Whats the worst that can happen?

    We usually just have a bunch of friends over New Years Eve, drinking expensive booze & eating good, fattening food. We always like watching the game. The talk was interesting this year. It’s surprising how many are getting tired of this parity. To be king of the hill means you get incredible over achieving performances from unexpected depth players. There is no more trading anymore, even the TDL is a bit of a joke & it’s getting tougher & tougher to get ramped up for TSN Trade Central & listen to these guys drivel on waiting for a minor trade to happen. It’s becoming an embarrassment for the league, all that hype for nothing.

    Maybe it’s time to allow teams to exceed the Cap, with conditions. Based on levels over the Cap, teams get penalized via draft picks. If a team is 5.0mill over, they cannot pick earlier than 20th, if they go 10 mill over, they lose their 1st round pick the following draft & so on. Taking dynasties out of the league has taken some of the swagger & the desire to get that swagger. It’s now a league if you have success, it won’t be long before you have to start dismantling it. Tampa shouldn’t have to go through what they are trying to resign Stamkos without crippling the rest of the team.

    It’s either that or guys like Gaudreau & Monahan & Stamkos & other big names will need to have to slug it out only making 5.0-6.0 mill per year if they truly want to leave enough $$$ to build a dynasty & win Cups.

      • Kevin R

        Well, there are too many teams with internal caps that would never agree. Having 1 or 2 franchise players designated not to count against the cap or 50% only counts against the walking # of the cap is possible. However, if you make the penalty enough that would give these teams a chance at better young players, there may be a mid ground. Obviously the players association would never complain. & even the real rich clubs would be reluctant to consistently overspend for too many consecutive years or they will run into missing playoffs but not getting 1st round picks. Its a fine line because the league needs a cap but this parity & $$$ restrictions are sucking some of the fun for the fans.

  • RKD

    Agreed, Bennett should be given more ice time like he was against the Kings and more time on the pp. He can make things happen and he plays with an unrelenting style. If he’s only playing 10 minutes a night and very little power play time then he’s not going to be as effective. Jooris should be in but I have a feeling we will be talking about guys like Bollig for the rest of this season.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I agree (regrettably). I know there’s a lot of speculation that he’s a natural waiver when Frolik comes back, but I expect it will be Grandlund. I suppose if someone is going to sit out with no ice time Bollig’s as good a candidate as any.

      It would sure be nice if he was waived and in a dreamworld claimed.