Coyotes 2, Flames 1 post-game embers: Justice for Karri Ramo, part 2

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.

Struggling offence

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.

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.

  • piscera.infada

    Ari it’s interesting how you keep harping on the fact that Hamilton receives less playing time than others. It’s obvious that you’re a big supporter of his (as you dedicate allot of space to him). But clearly the coaching staff believes they have better options, simple as that. Perhaps he will become the player he has the potential to be, but based on how he’s deployed he’s obviously not there yet. Regardless of what you think, I place more faith on the coaches decisions (who’s jobs actually rely on the team’s performance, plus they’re likely a bit more qualified to make that assessment).

    • MontanaMan

      So I guess you are okay with all the decisions that BH makes then. So no complaining from you then. The purpose of editorials which is really all blogs are is to express the writers opinion, same with us readers and community members; each of use come here to express or support or frustrations with how the team is doing.

      • supra steve

        MY issue with the constant second guessing of coach’s decisions and player utilization and performance is the relative lack of information that we all have. The organization and coaching staff KNOW these players as people, I do not. If a player has a nagging injury, they know about it. Character issues, coaches have a far better read on that than I do. Player development…gonna have to tip my hat to Hartley there too…he’s been there and done that.

        Now, some of the things that occur baffle me too. I still wonder why Bennett was sent back to the OHL last season rather than an AHL conditioning stint, but as I have no insider knowledge, I’m happy enough assuming the Flame staff know what they’re doing. That’s not to say I blindly believe they can’t screw up from time to time, they obviously do, but as a whole they are doing better than anyone who posts here would do.

        • Cfan in Vic

          You’re probably right. But speculation is healthy and makes for interesting blog material.

          Case in point: This thread is on it’s second day and is still generating comments, even though everyone is done talking about the loss against Arizona.

          I’m not a Hartley apologist or hater, but I think it’s funny that it gets under peoples skin when commenters question the decisions of this hockey team that we all spend so much time thinking about.

    • MontanaMan

      That’s like Flame fans saying Drai hasn’t scored in 13 games so he’s a bust. But we understand the game and not stupid enough to say things like that.

      • Burnward

        Hey Larkin! Here’s Zetterberg and Datsyuk!

        Hey Drai! Here’s Hall!

        Hey Sammy! Here’s Backlund and Raymond!

        Wonder why Bennett isn’t scoring like the others…

        • MontanaMan

          The thing I like about the Flames coaching staff is they teach 19 year olds all facets of the game – that’s all three zones for Oiler fans. Putting a 19 year old on the top line and ignoring neutral and defensive zone responsibilities only creates a single dimension player. Teaching the game the right way doesn’t produce immediate results but produces a better player in the long run. The last thing the Flames should be doing is panicking about Bennett’s production. If we are having this discussion in 3 years, another story, but for now, he’s learning the game the right way and will be an important piece of the Flames for many years.

  • FlamesRule

    I don’t want to see any selfish trade-demanding players on my Flames team. Bye bye Bartschi, no to Hamonic and no to Drouin. We need team players not individuals.

    • MontanaMan

      Sven and Drouin have selfish “me first” reasons for wanting a trade. Hamonic is known around the league, and more importantly with his own team, as the consummate teammate. He gives everything to his team and his only reason for requesting (not demanding) a trade was for family reasons – AKA not for him but for his family. How can you criticize him for that? Given the right trade, I would grab him.

      • DestroDertell

        Assuming that’s the only reason he wants out, that’s not really a selfless motive, just a more relatable one. And why is trying to give yourself a chance to not get your career screwed a bad thing?

  • Canrock 78

    Slow hockey weekend for us. Does anyone remember the interview Pat had on the fan about a fancy states guy forecasting who would have a breakout year?
    I was wondering how accurate their forecast was.

  • Derzie

    Backlund is a power play specialist with defense skills. If you use the word elite to describe him you are a head in the sand homer. No non flames fan would ever call him elite. We won’t win with backlund any higher than 4th line. Count the trashes to see the homers.