Sharks 5, Flames 4 post-game embers: Deserved better

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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

When you limit the opposition to just 18 shots on goal while you get 35 yourself, that’s typically a sign you’re doing things right. And the Flames, indeed, did a lot of things right last night. They generated scoring chances. They scored four of their own, including two on the much-maligned power play. 

They out-possessed the Sharks to a laughable extent: 63 corsi events to 33, for 65.63%. The new top line combination showed promise, and they did everything they could to get the win. But this is hockey, and sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.

Normally, you’re gonna win that one

The period-by-period corsi breakdown favoured the Flames. In the first, they were at 63.16%; in the second, 59.09%; in the third, 72.22%. Of course there’s a spike in the third due to increased desperation to tie the game up, but the Flames never really ever fell behind in the possession battle, even when San Jose took the lead early on.

It’s not that San Jose was ever really sitting back on its laurels, it’s that the Flames took anyway any opportunity for them to do so. That was an extremely well-played effort by the home side that had just enough go against them to ultimately sink them.

It happens. As it stands, the Flames are back under .500, and losing to San Jose doesn’t exactly help in the playoff-making department, but there’s still half a season to go, and they’re still right in it at least. (Though that does go for the entire division as a whole, really.)

Slump busters

The Flames’ goal scorers: Sean Monahan, Dennis Wideman, Sam Bennett, and Micheal Ferland. 

It had been eight games since Monahan’s last goal, seven since Wideman’s, 18 since Bennett’s, and 16 since Ferland’s.

Those are some long droughts, but those last two were exceptionally long droughts – and by two players who have yet to establish their roles in the NHL. Bennett will likely be a top six player, if not a first liner all together, while Ferland’s role is yet to be determined. But there’s one thing that helps pretty much any young player, and that’s confidence – and no matter how many chances you get, actually scoring a goal can do wonders for that.

Ferland played basically the entire even strength game alongside Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, and the three were right at the top of a team filled with positive possession players. The line combined for the Flames’ first goal, with Gaudreau using his skills to create an opportunity, and Ferland and Monahan’s big bodies helping create the circumstances in which Monahan could eventually send it home.

Ferland also ended up being a top power play forward alongside them. It’s a trio of players that should be kept together for the time being to see what they can do; at least for now, there’s really nobody better to try with Monahan and Gaudreau.

(Inane note: Monahan’s red mouthguard constantly makes me thinks he’s bleeding. It’s weird.)

As for Bennett, he’s been playing extremely well the past couple of weeks, so finally scoring his sixth of the season – and in such dominant fashion – was fantastic. It was Mikael Backlund with the assist on his goal, and though it came on the power play, it’s Backlund who should probably be his linemate, just as he was when Bennett first broke into the NHL.

This is a small sample size, and focusing on an already skewed game, but over the 4:33 Bennett and Backlund played at even strength, not a single shot attempt went against them. Backlund busted ass to create opportunities, but couldn’t score his own; Bennett, on the other hand, can clearly finish. And as long as there’s this insistence of keeping Bennett on the wing… well, Backlund is probably the best option.

When does the cat finally run out of lives?

Jiri Hudler and Michael Frolik will inevitably be back, and barring any new injuries – pray for Lance Bouma? – at some point somebody will have to be sent down, and the scratches will have to be determined.

Mason Raymond is already a scratch. Brandon Bollig and Josh Jooris have often been the other two, and were the only Flames last night to not even hit 10 minutes in ice time. So the candidates seem obvious.

But I’m going to suggest somebody else: Joe Colborne.

Colborne has probably gotten more chances than anybody ever has under Bob Hartley. Despite endless chances on the top line, he’s failed to look competent, let alone produce. Despite an excessive amount of power play time, he has yet to record a single power play point all season. Despite having a big body, he produces the softest giveaways possible.

That first goal against was 100% on him, 100% avoidable, and 100% unforgivable. It’s not the first time he’s done something like that, but it was bound to burn him eventually, and at long last, weak play resulted in a goal against. 

Colborne played just 11:26, the least he’s played since the Flames’ 5-4 win over the New York Rangers back on Dec. 12. There’s long been a need to see his ice time drop, but with better options eventually returning to the lineup, it’s probably him who just finally needs to be sat.

He’s not improving. Trying to poke around half a point per game in scoring is nice and all, but when you have that much ice time and opportunities to do it and can’t succeed at that all the while playing horrifically on the other side of the ice, what value do you really provide? Jooris may not score a ton, but at least he’s not going to do that. 

It’s increasingly difficult to find where Colborne has a spot on this team, and he’s gotten more chances than anybody.

  • Canrock 78

    When Thorton first slashed Colborne hands before lifting his stick did he get him on the bad wrist I never found a replay. Because he did give the puck up easy after that.

  • SickFloBro

    I tend to err on the side of giving players a long leash, but I’m with you on the Colborne subject 100%, Ari. He has all of the tools he needs to succeed – size, skill, intelligence – but I haven’t ever seen him put them all together and use them in a way that elevates his play or that of the team.

    Unfortunately, I really believe it’s time to stop hoping he reaches his “potential” and accept the fact that he is what he is. Given his age, lack of production and lack of progression, other players should be getting his minutes at this point.

    You hope a guy can turn things around, but that just doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.

    • cberg

      Bring in the shooting coach Bouma used to up his game. Many guys would benefit. Otherwise Backlund played a very good game. That pass to Bennett was excellent on the PP.

    • Tomas Oppolzer

      Okay, seriously. Just stop. We get that you, and a few others, just absolutely hate Backlund. But stop. You don’t know what you’re talking about it’s honestly so annoying. What do you want from Backlund??? He’s not a goal scorer, never has been, never will be. That’s why you put a player like Bennett on his line, so he can do something with the ample O-zone time Backlund’s getting the puck up the ice will provide.

      What he is, though, is a dynamite defensive player. He’s exactly what you want, and need, from a 2nd/3rd line defensive center. He constantly plays against other teams top lines, in the defensive zone, and keeps them from scoring (most of the time, like literally every other damn player in the league he does have some bad moments)

      On top of all that, he’s also almost at .5 P/GP. He is on pace for 10 goals and 26 assists for 36 points this year. That’s while regularly playing around 10 minutes a night with such amazing players as Bollig and Colborne. And all of that for less than 4 million dollars a year.

  • cberg

    Colborne has been terrible for quite some time, it’s bad when you can tell exactly what’s going to happen when Colborne has the puck in the rush.

    He’s beyond soft, is questionable defensively and at this point I would rather see Bollig play in his spot because Hartley doesn’t have any illusion in what Bollig is.

    • cberg

      You know, its funny. People. Colborne sits at 15 pts on the season, 8th overall on the team and the 5th best Forward. One of the better SH%. Very good along the boards. Moves the puck into the O-zone pretty well. The actual results is probably why he gets the chances. He produces.

      Last night he played fairly well, except of course the glaring giveaway where Thornton slashed his fingers then grabbed the puck. Wasn’t called, they got a great scoring chance and scored. It was bad, but it happens. Elsewhere on the night many others had giveaways too. Giordano, Brodie…. In fact that was pretty much the way the whole game went. Credit SJS for many of the takeaways, but really, the guys have got to do better.

      • Cfan in Vic

        Colborne did NOT have a good game last night, even outside of the first goal against. He was creating all types of turnovers.

        The one thing I’ll give credit for is his board work. That said, I still believe his biggest flaw is being completely unaware of what’s going on around him. When he does well along the boards, he inevitably gives it away, due to not knowing where his team mates are. This team does not need a Colborne. It’s the same for his zone entries. Gets it in, can’t find anyone, gives it away.

        Yay for Ferly on the top line. He looked effective, and brought some much needed force up there. I like it!

        • cberg

          No, your summary is out to lunch. Colborne is not that creative, but he is no where even close to the picture you are painting. He is one of the Flame’s better forwards re: assists. His patented move along and around the boards generally (>50%) results in a good set-up at some point and has directly led to several goals this year.

          Last night he was quite effective in front of the net on several occasions, and he wasn’t taking no guff from the opposition once or twice too. Is he the best they’ve got? Not even close, but he isn’t even close to the worse either.

          I get it that people are frustrated with him, especially when he comes through with an amazing move or play and you wonder why doesn’t it happen more? It needs to. He may never get so tuned in that he is consistent game in, game out. That would be too bad for him, and for the team. But, running him down as if he has nothing to contribute is total rubbish.

          • Cfan in Vic

            Big Joe Anchor is tied for 8th on the team for assists. Given the amount of ice time he gets (especially on power play), it’s not that impressive.

            I’m also calling rose coloured glasses on the “board work leads to scoring chances”. The guy simply fails to track his team mates once he starts doing his thing.

            But we can agree to disagree.

          • cberg

            Colborne is 5 out of about 15 forwards for assists. He’s no where near the worst on the team for forwards. I seem to recall a stat a while back tracking pt suppression /60 minutes played and I believe Colborne was one of the very best of the Flames. Lots of ways to evaluate a player…

            Also, today’s article on mid-term player rankings (Corsi) puts Colborne squarely in the middling category on all the Vollman SledgeHammer charts…

  • everton fc

    Raymond and Bollig are the two who need to be sent away. Colborne and Jooris can fight for 4th line ice time. Both can play all three forward positions. Raymond and Bollig can’t play pivot. We need the flexibility, ib case of injuries (why Byron had value, and has more goals than Colborne, as I type). I’d rather have Byron, than Colborne. If the Rangers would take he and Hudler for Hayes, I’d do that deal in heartbeat…

    Does anyone see improvement in Bouma’s game, of late? As for Backlund, he’ll get his goals. He’s more a playmaker and possession player. 15-20 goals would be ceiling for him, in the best of years. But his value is clear, of late. I like him.

    • cberg

      I am surprised at how strong Backlund is on his skates, he rarely gets knocked off the puck. It is a shame that he has no finish because he has some nice tools.

      • cberg

        And a very useful player. Defensive specialist forwards are a highly underrated commodity (except when they’re enormous and physical; then people can’t get enough). Even a player who is straight-up incapable of scoring can make valuable contributions if he can keep the puck away from the other team’s best players. Think David Moss or Sami Pahlsson.

        It’s truly amazing how few people get that.

  • cberg

    I hope Bt takes a long look before the trade deadline at what this group of players brings to the organization mony Bennett ferland JH frolik stay every other forward could go and not be missed

  • cberg

    Let’s look at that Top line combo with Ferland. Ferland actually played pretty well, was good on the boards, fast and overall kept the puck active several times. His goal touched his leg on the way in off a great Backlund tip in front, so, yes, but not his excellence.

    The combo was able to keep it active in the O zone but was definitely lacking in give and go’s and great passing plays. And several times clearly Ferland went to the same area as Mony which congested the area so that’s something they need to work on. Hopefully it will come.

    JH pretty much carried the puck up the ice and in almost every time, and ended up overplaying it and getting it taken away several times. It would be great if they develop some chemistry and figure out how to best utilize all of them. Problem is, neither Mony nor Ferland are great puck carriers so outside of JH or dump-ins they are pretty limited, unless the D carry it in, which is the best alternative to JH.

    This lack of puck carrying skills is the achilles heel to the line combo. Perhaps this can change, and probably will as they develop more chemistry and feel for where each other are on the ice, but still, not the ideal set-up.

    Outside of this I love the idea of Ferland on the top line, banging guys, working hard on the boards and creating space for JH as well as being more of a presence in front of the net. Keep it going, build chemistry… I’m sure he’ll get more chances and hopefully they’ll get better and better.

    • Cfan in Vic

      I’ll agree there were some occasional congestion problems for the top line, but they’ve only had one practice together. I’m sure they’ll be more in sync soon enough.

      I’ll disagree about Ferland not being effective at zone entry. Prior to this game, he’s been great lately at gaining the zone and making a crisp, accurate passes.

      • cberg

        So true they have just got together and will probably improve over time. I too believe they are the right mix for playoffs and if they can build chemistry and learn to read off each other and use all components of the line they could develop into something special.

  • Kevin R

    That was a bad loss last night but it was very enjoyable to watch. I like the improvement in the face-off wins, probably makes sense we won the possession battle against a decent team. I have been pounding the Ferland on the top line drum for awhile. Hartley needs to let this go for awhile in this 2nd half of the season. Let Ferly get some comfort & chemistry with Gaudreau & Monahan. He is the exact type of player they need on that line.

    To be a playoff team going forward, we need a proper top line, which I truly believe we have in the Monahan/Gaudreau/Ferland combo & a proper structured 2nd line. We don’t have.

    I get it, Backlund seems to be meshing OK with Bennett but is that what we are really wanting going forward. Bennett is going to be a top 6 forward, prefer it’s a 1st or 2nd line centre. I don’t see Backlund as nothing more than a very very good 3rd line centre. At some point, Flames need to proceed with the future blueprint & Bennett needs wingers to play with. Not sure on Frolik. He seems like a Backlund clone, where he is so responsible both ways, I haven’t seen enough in Flames silks to determine if he is 2nd or 3rd line material. In a perfect healthy world, him & Backs on the 3rd line & both able to shift up to 2nd line in case of injury would be perfect. Not sure we have the cap space to pull that off going forward but it sure would be nice.

    I always gave Colborne the benefit but agree, he doesn’t play the way we need consistently game in & game out. At best he’s a 4th line option with a bonus of the sprinkled games during the year that when he is on, can be so much better. We still need bottom players making about a million a year in a cap world. Cant have all-stars on every line. But I am with the party line now of at least 10 of his minutes per game have to go to someone else. You win Ari.

    • everton fc

      Bennett will eventually centre the 1st or 2nd line. Backlund the 3rd, and perhaps Granlund or Arnold the 4th, when Stajan’s days w/the Flames come to an end.

      Hopefully we’ll be able too draft/add/acquire a quality RW, or two, though a healthy five of Ferland/Hudler/Frolik/Jones/Jooris looks pretty decent “on paper”.

  • everton fc

    I agree Colborne looks like the weakest link right now, He seems to make one good play then follows it up with a turn over, and sucks in the d-zone. I say sit him for a game see if he wakes up, if he doesn’t see what we can get for him come trade deadline.

    Hopefully we can find a way to get rid of Wideman’s contract before next year. He’s to slow and to expensive. I’d rather give England or Smid(speaking of to expensive) more ice time, they make me less nervous.

    At least as for right now were looking at a top five pick and still not far back from making the playoffs. So maybe some good consolation if the flames fail.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    (Inane note: Monahan’s red mouthguard constantly makes me thinks he’s bleeding. It’s weird.)

    Is it weird that my dad said literally the exact same thing during the game?

    On Bennett:

    As I’ve said before, as long as he’s playing with Backlund I’ll be satisfied with quiet disapproval as opposed to the belligerent griping I put up otherwise. But Sammy really should be playing center.

    On Ferland:

    Do we have a winger for that line, finally? Michael’s a bit raw, of course, and I really don’t expect him to produce big numbers (like ever), but I do think he’ll help that unit do what it needs to do. Remember a few years ago when the Flames were using David Moss on the top line? This reminds me of that, except Ferland has hands.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    Forget about and shots and corsi for a second. These are macro level stats and should be used for chunks of games or seasons.

    You can play a perfect game. But a few bonehead plays and a couple of weak goals can cost you. We were terrible in our own zone and at the bluelines. The Colborne give away was awful. Widemans play was terrible.

    I dont care what the numbers say.. if you dont play 60 minutes… there were stretches last night where the team was brutal.

    Backlund did what he could but was outmatched. If it wasnt for our PP goals and aside from a few good saves by Jones there wasnt much offence. 3 of the goals we scored were weak on Jones.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    Corsi and shots are useful for judging a team/player over a season or 30 games or even 10 games… and then still very contextual.

    Each game is a story in itself. The story last night was that we made some really bad turnovers resulting in high danger scoring chances against.

  • Cfan in Vic

    The stats guys can take their Corsi’s and Fenwick and stick up their #@$. Just a bunch of nerds trying to pretend they know somethings. The bottom line is who won the game. Doesn’t matter if you out Corsi’ed them. Last I checked the playoffs were made by getting points. Just win games and don’t worry about how you were rated for the game.