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.)
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.