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?