Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports
That was almost a Miikka Kiprusoff-esque game. Not because Karri Ramo is Kiprusoff, nor will he ever likely be (though he had been on a rather nice run as of late), but because you remember those games way back when Kiprusoff would do everything humanly possible to give his team a chance to win, and the rest of the Flames simply refused to respond in kind and would leave him with a loss despite his efforts?
Ramo did everything he could to give the Flames a chance, and his team returned the favour with complete discombobulation.
Ramo is absolved of all goals against
The two goals that went in on him were both deflections by his own team. With the Flames crowded around in front of him, pucks bounced off his own teammates and in the net that allowed the Coyotes to first tie, and then win, the game. Had his own teammates’ sticks not been in the way to send the puck in, it’s possible the Coyotes wouldn’t have scored at all.
Let the goalie do his job. To be fair on the first goal against, Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s point shot was hard enough no Flame could get a handle on it, leading to it deflecting in the net; also, it was on the power play, so there’s a certain expectation of a goal against there at some point. But there was no good reason for the second goal against to have occurred, particularly not so early in the period.
The third period was also the only time the Flames had a positive possession game. Only once they were trailing were they able to get ahold of the puck more. That’s simply not good enough.
Ramo stopped 31 of 33 shots, and survived two of three power plays (and they were very good power play efforts). Neither goal can be blamed on him. He did everything he possibly could to get the win, but that would have required a shutout, which his own defence prevented him from getting.
It’s really hard to win when only the goalie shows up.
Good news: Johnny Gaudreau’s power play goal snapped a four game pointless drought, keeping him at a point per game pace, now with 40 in 40. (We’re halfway through the season and he’s still a point-per-game player. Remember when he was too small to play professionally? Oh, what fun days those were.)
Bad news: it was the only offence on the night.
Good news: it was the result of some pretty good power play movement. The Flames went one-for-three on the power play which, considering how it’s still the worst in the NHL, is more than one could have reasonably expected from this team.
Bad news: the Flames were still dead at even strength.
Good news: Gaudreau landing on his butt after taking the shot and sitting on the ice raising his hands in celebration was adorable.
“put me on your shoulders” he said to Giordano. pic.twitter.com/8ao8CRArWj
— Stephanie (@myregularface) January 8, 2016
Bad news: it was the only goal of the night, and when your team only manages one goal, well, you aren’t going to win many games. Even when, as reviewed above, your goalie puts in the best performance he possibly can.
If any game highlighted just how badly the Flames are lacking in impactful offensive players, it was this game. Between the complete lack of chemistry all night long and the desperate line shuffling in the third, the Flames had limited chances going for them, and no means to correct it.
Michael Frolik would probably help. The 2014-15 Jiri Hudler would probably help. But neither really solves the problem: the Flames don’t have enough impact forwards.
More than anything else, that’s what they need. Maybe it’ll be Kyle Okposo in free agency; probably better would be a top pick in the upcoming draft. At least that’s the fun of the Pacific Division this season: you’ll probably be in position to challenge for a playoff spot until the very end, but you’ll probably be eligible for a good lottery position all the while, too.
Shoutout to the depth guys, though
A nice thing about the Flames’ forward group is, at the very least, they have 12 players who can consistently play throughout a game (well, in theory – Mason Raymond was a human disaster last night. But normally he can at least handle a modest amount of ice time, even if he’s not offensively productive).
A fourth line consisting of Lance Bouma, Matt Stajan, and Josh Jooris is significantly better than the one that had both Kevin Westgarth and Brian McGrattan from a few seasons ago. That fourth line managed a couple of scoring chances, for example. None were successful, but at least the Flames were able to keep it interesting.
And occasionally, those depth guys are going to step up. Micheal Ferland is continuing to show off all the potential he has and will, hopefully, one day realize; Mikael Backlund has a lot of fight and effort to his game, and enough talent to sometimes follow through on the scoring (he did lead the way with six shots on net, and his earned 19:22 was second out of all forwards for ice time). These are important players to help fill out the lineup.
But the problem is the majority of the lineup consists of them. Secondary scoring is all well and good, but it shouldn’t be relied on. That’s why it’s secondary scoring. And secondary scoring can’t make up for a lack of primary scoring, even if you have, in theory, a lot of guys who can put the puck in the net – just not at an elite level. It’s hard to be a contending team without more than one elite forward, and yet, at this exact point in time, that’s pretty much where the Flames are right now. As the youth grows and develops that should change, but for now, it’s really not enough.
A shortened defensive bench
Dougie Hamilton wasn’t on the bench to start the third, but he soon came back. That said, he only played 16:00 throughout the game, and the time he was gone isn’t enough to account for how he played nearly 5-10 fewer minutes than the rest of the top four. (Deryk Engelland, who has been mostly reliable this season, only played 9:02 – the least out of all Flames.)
T.J. Brodie had reduced minutes as well, though that’s more due to him taking two penalties. Hamilton is getting more power play time – last night he had the second most out of defencemen after Mark Giordano, in fact, which is quite the change from the Dennis Wideman-centric setup of not too long ago – but he was still absent for large stretches, and it’s not immediately clear why.
Though Hamilton did have the worst possession stats of the night with a paltry 33.33% CF at even strength. To contrast, his regular partner, Kris Russell, had 47.92%: not great, but a +3.47 relatively, so better than a fair number of Flames.
But back to Hamilton’s reduced ice time. The previous game against the Lightning, Hamilton only played 16:35; though Wideman only played roughly a minute and a half more than him that game, as opposed to the eight additional minutes this time around. Not that this will necessarily continue, but it is at least a little odd to see Hamilton’s overall ice time drop as his power play time has gone up – especially when he’s far from the worst option, last night’s fancy numbers aside.