Flames 6, Panthers 0 post-game embers: Kneel before your Sam

Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

The Flames played a very composed, overall dominant game of hockey. Their 6-0 win was the greatest margin they’ve won by this season, passing their previous best, which was a 4-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

This win was very different from that one, though. While the victory over the Avs was a victory of depth, there’s one player who stole the entire show against the Panthers, and he only needed one period in which to do it.

Samuel Bennett is good at hockey

Sean Monahan hasn’t yet scored a hat trick. Johnny Gaudreau has topped out with a mere three goals in one game (although he has done it three times, and he’s had a four-point game, too).

Well, Sam Bennett matched Gaudreau with a four point game of his own. This time, though, he did something nobody else on the Flames has done in well over a decade: scored four goals in one game.

While we’re at it, let’s just get all of the other really cool, historical stuff out of the way.

There are a lot of expectations riding on Bennett’s shoulders. He went without a goal for 18 games straight; now, he’s scored five in his last two. The playoffs last season were his coming out party, but if it’s possible to have a second one, well, this game was probably it.

He has an absolutely incredible shot that was well on display for his first, third, and fourth goals. This is where he worked exceptionally well with Mikael Backlund and Jiri Hudler on his line: Backlund is great at defensive play and getting the puck into the offensive zone. Hudler is a playmaker. And then there’s Bennett who can finish, and do so much more.

Hudler had two assists on the night, and looked much more like the Hudler who had a career season last year than before. This isn’t to say that’s the real Hudler, or that we can expect a point per game pace from him again any time soon, but him playing alongside a rookie with tremendous upside worked before, so…

And if Bennett has to play on the wing, Backlund is probably the right guy for the job. If anything, Backlund’s assist on his second goal showed exactly why: it’s rather difficult to score if you aren’t in the offensive zone. Backlund’s play drives the puck north, and Bennett is of such talent he can do more with it.

Play Bennett with talented, established NHLers. He now has 10 goals and 19 points through 41 games, and is tied for sixth in team scoring. As we enter the second half of the season, he may very well be someone to watch out for.

Also, shoutout to Micheal Ferland

Micheal Ferland had four points in his last five games prior to the affair against the Panthers. While he failed to put up any points in his most recent contest, he still played well enough that it’s surprising he didn’t have a goal or two (or three, for that matter) himself.

Ferland was driving the net, and he has the hands to just be able to tuck the puck in, if only it had worked for him. Not that the Flames needed him to score last night, but it would have been nice to see him get more on the board.

If anything, he’s almost doing what Bennett himself was not too long ago: everything but actually scoring. According to War on Ice, Ferland tied Bennett with two high-danger scoring chances for the most on the Flames. That’s obviously good company to be included with.

There’s no reason to take him off the top line any time soon, even if Michael Frolik’s anticipated return will give the Flames further options.

Dominant win means everybody plays

There are players on teams you just know aren’t slated to spend much time on the ice. For the Flames, that usually entails guys like Brandon Bollig and Deryk Engelland, who have more specialty roles than anything else.

But when you jump out to a four-goal lead in the first period, and maintain said lead without ever giving up much over the course of an entire 60 minutes, there’s something to be said for that. Why exhaust or risk fluke injury to your stars when you don’t have to?

Bollig played 12:06 against the Panthers, the least out of everybody on the Flames. When your least-used player is playing 12 minutes, well, that’s a good thing; it’s a season high for Bollig, and the most he’s played since the Flames’ 2014-15 regular season finale against the Winnipeg Jets back on April 11, 2015, when he was on the ice for 14:34. (As far as actually meaningful games go, it’s the most he’s played since he spent 12:54 on the ice against the Arizona Coyotes back on Nov. 29, 2014: a 3-0 win.)

Engelland, meanwhile, played the least out of all defencemen with 16:09 spent on the ice. Sean Monahan was the only forward who played more than him, playing 16:21 – every other Flames forward was under 16 minutes, although seven of them (Monahan, Granlund, Backlund, Gaudreau, Bennett, Jooris, and Ferland) all played over 15 minutes.

T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, and Dennis Wideman were the only players to play over 20 minutes; Brodie, who led the way with 22:21, had his third lowest ice time of the season – and that’s including a game in which he sat in the penalty box for four minutes. There wasn’t as much use for the Flames’ number one guy.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that Dougie Hamilton’s two assists made him the 12th player of the 2011 NHL draft class to reach 100 points.

Never really bent, never broke

It isn’t surprising to see teams that go up by such huge leads early into a game eventually let the other team back into it, but the Flames never really did. The Flames dominated the first period, with 20 corsi events for compared to the Panthers’ 13, but in periods two and three, they were both firmly 50% CF teams.

Mind, the Panthers only had single shot counts each period while the Flames always reached double digits, but Florida wasn’t as terrible throughout the entire game as they were in the first period. 

This includes the third period, in which they started off by holding the Flames to zero shot attempts over nearly the first six minutes. Of course, all the Flames had to do at that point was sit back and protect their lead, but this is a team that, over roughly a five and a half minute stretch, still generated 14 shot attempts, even though they were leading 5-0 at the time.

It was a dominant, controlling game from start to finish. No sitting back at any point, and that’s with everybody in the lineup playing. The Flames played a perfect game.

Shoutout to Jonas Hiller, too

Jonas Hiller got a shutout in his first start since Dec. 12, a 5-4 overtime win over the New York Rangers. That was a game the Flames, who had a 4-1 lead early in the third period, should have unquestionably had, but they let it slip away, in part due to Hiller’s efforts. Hiller didn’t have much to work with, but this time, he came up huge when called upon. With the right shot, the Panthers could have forced their way back into the game, and Hiller never gave them that.

It can’t have been an easy thing to do after sitting for a month when used to being a starter throughout your career, but he did it.

  • RedMan

    My memory is terrible.. but there was a game earlier this year where I thought Bennett could have easily scored 4 goals. I think he hit a few posts that game, but I remember after watching that game it would only be a matter of time before the floodgates opened.

    Who knew Bennett had such a filthy backhand?

      • PrairieStew

        Yup…. Sick backhands reminded me of Kane or Eberle…. Even Johnny has not shown that backhand ability. Flames fans are going to be spoiled over the next several years…. We earned it.

  • cberg

    Great overall effort.

    Bennett was using his shot more than trying to jam it home through the goalie, which was great to see. His 3rd, off of the Engelland feed was an incredible show of hands at a very awkward angle. It was good to see Backs and Huds and Bennett together. With the way they all play (creative, N-S-E-W) it opened up the ice a bit for them all to find the gaps and all do their thing. I can’t recall off-hand if it seemed more restricted (N-S) with prior alignments but in any case last night was good.

    Ferland also played a great game. He was meshing much, much better than two nights ago which again opened up a lot of dangerous chances. I’m looking forward to more of the same, or even better. Ferland’s toughness in front of the net and along the boards certainly opens up space for the others and I think they all benefited last night. Having two solid scoring options really helps the team.

    Finally, nice to see those TOI numbers. Just watching I got the feeling they were almost resting the top line because they weren’t on as much as we’ve been used to. Great to see and very effective when they can do it.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    I don’t kneel, but you go ahead Ari.

    Backlund was brutal again last night, I don’t care how much Hrudey drools over him. Just brutal….


    • cberg

      WW, Backlund’s got his issues, but he is what he is, which last night was solid D and a very skilled offensive support player. His drop-back feed while taking several defenders with him for Bennett’s 2nd was terrific.

        • MontanaMan

          Don’t start bringing facts into the conversation. Of course he was checked off the puck but rose colored glasses saw a beautiful drop pass!!! We can all have an opinion folks but lets stick with the facts.

          • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

            It’s hilarious how you can watch Gudbranson sweep check the puck off Backlund’s stick and the Backs lovers think it is a drop pass.

            But what do you expect when those same people aren’t actually watching the game, but are just looking at their stat packages.

    • The Fall

      Is Sam ready for second line centre?
      With Hudler and Frolik on his wings?

      Drop Backs to a third line, match up centre?

      This is forward depth we have not seen in a long time.

    • KACaribou

      You know, I wouldn’t mind reading your opinion on Backlund but what specifically are you talking about?

      Surely here you must have some analytics to back what you say. Or perhaps you can remember some incidences during the game where Backlund was as you say.

      I can’t remember many where he was “Just Brutal.”

        • KACaribou

          Okay, numbers are one thing but what specifically has he done to be so brutal? That is a very broad statement with nothing to back it up. If you are saying he’s good defensively – well, that’s doesn’t mean brutal.

      • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

        The so called Backlund haters (me) are just people who are tired of Corsination, oops, sorry, I mean Flamesnation annointing Backlund a hockey god based on Corsi.

        The same people who love Backlund, hate on Colborne because he is used out of place as well, ie. remember how well both of those guys played in the playoffs last year on the 3rd line?

        Neither of them are top 6 players, but look at the present level of hatred by some on here for Colborne, just because the coach dares to play him in a role that he isn’t able to fulfill.

        • KACaribou

          Not a Backlund hater here. Truthfully I am surprised his career turned out the way it has though. I thought he had more offensive abilities, but it is hard to argue at his age that he does. I like him as our third line C, and Staj as our 4th. Hard workers, good defensively, but also create scoring chances and pin the puck in the other end. I have no problem with that. No team can be filled with superstars. We need players to fill roles.

          CN does have their favourites. That’s not why I like Backlund. I could care less about Corsi. I make those decisions myself. I like him because he’s a Flame and he has more skill than the average NHL player. I am also a defender of Colborne. He’s an average NHL player, a 3rd or 4th liner. Expectations need to be curbed is all. Probably for both him and Backs.

          Unlike many here, I don’t put doubts about what the coach does. I wonder sometimes, but I never judge because I have such little information compared to Coach Bob. I don’t know what went on at practice, or if the player is sick, or if he is having some family issues? I don’t know if a line was clicking in practice and then not in a game, or vice versa. I don’t know the other coaches’ opinions. I don’t know the players’ personalities, what they like to do or are scared to do, or just plain hate.

          It amazes me every time how some people here think they can make decisions on the hockey team better than the coaching staff, and are so quick to call them a bunch of idiots. I just don’t see that.

          Other than 89, this is the best Flames team I have ever watched because there are no passengers. Everyone is trying all the time. I gotta give the coaching staff credit for this pleasure that I gain.

  • KACaribou

    Where’s the dude who is always saying how Leon Draisaitl is the new Gretzky, and Sam Bennett was a horrible pick by the Flames who won’t amount to anything?

      • RedMan

        i can’t stomach ON hypocrasy; they lost their minds when McDavid was injured, to the point that they slowed down the replay frame by frame, noticed that one of the other guys touched his jersey, then claimed it was an intentional injury. Many thought the league should actually change rules to “protect” players like McDavid.

        Then their AHL quality goon gives an intentional and illegal hit against a true star of the game (Eckblad) that had the potential to be career ending… and they all applaud it, glad to see the team “sticking up for each other”.

        • Cfan in Vic

          To their credit, a lot of people on ON know that was a dirty play. I was surprised about the amount of supporters, though. That was a horrible play.

          That said, everyone seems pretty excited about bringing up Kassian in time for BOA, so perhaps they’re getting a bit blood thirsty hanging out in the basement.

          • KACaribou

            I was just going to mention that the Oilers brought Zack Kassian up just in time for the Calgary game. I don’t remember the Flames being overly rough against Edmonton this year, but ON seems to think that they need to get bigger and tougher when they play the Flames.

            Oh well, that’s what Bollig is for I guess. Not sure Coach Bob wants his 1st line RW getting a fighting penalty.

          • RedMan

            Kassian will most likely turn down any fight offer from Bollig, Engelland or even Ferkland. he likes to dish it out but not back it up. Actually, a very natural fit for edmonton.

    • cberg

      Bennett is the third youngest player in the NHL history to score 4 in a game! Let’s enjoy the moment, before our memories forget about the night Bennett had because of more amazing highlight games in his future…

  • KACaribou

    Bennett was great but let me quote Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe from Pulp Fiction:

    “… let’s not start sucking each other’s d#@ks quite yet.”

    Pretty exciting to see Bennett’s potential. He would have had 5 goals if JH had hit him on the pass he eventually scored on.

    • Cfan in Vic

      You’re right, Bennett has potential. But let’s put it in perspective.

      The Flames were playing a very tired hockey team at the end of a long road trip who’s coach was missing because his mother had died and who’s best defensman was concussed by that “dirty” hit up in Edmonton.

      Cheers for Bennett though. Must have been an exciting game for the young man.

      • Cfan in Vic

        A bit more perspective: Florida may have been on the back end of a long road trip, but it’s not like they’re the Oilers. The Panthers are a pretty good NHL team, and Bennett scored 4 goals against them. A pretty huge accomplishment in any perspective. Bennett’s now tied for goals with Drai, so you gotta try and take the wind out of our sails to make yourself feel better?

        Very telling that you put quotation marks around “dirty”. Because head hunting is what we need more of in this game, right?

  • cberg

    I think there are enough people in Edmonton on their knees…let’s not bring that type of attitude south,m’kay?

    Great game by the Badger…great team game.

  • RedMan

    at this point, it isn’t unreasonable to expect both Sam and Johnny to produce over a point per game, possibly 2 ppg, for the next 15 years…

    PS – sorry for the hyperbole, i was recently in Edmonton and it can rub off.

    great break out game for Bennett. the kid has an incredible all around game, potential to be elite.

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    I also like the second goal. It looks like he was intending to make a move rather than blasting it into the pads. The in tight patience was a purposeful move that resulted in a fluke but was a result of Bennett’s presence. All these guys need to learn from Bennett and practice lifting a back hand.

  • Cfan in Vic

    Random comment about the thumbnail pic for this article: Guy on the top-right is not permitted to pat Bennett on the back until he takes off that disgrace of a ball cap. At the dome, no less. For shame!

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    Nobody would ask “where were you when Hrdina scored 4”, but, strangely enough I have crystal clear memories of my 8 year old self playing ball hockey in my parents basement, listening to that game against Hartford on 66 CFR. I had only just got into hockey, but can remember Peter Maher doing the play-by-play.

  • KACaribou

    I know the game is changing and there isn’t a need for goons anymore. That being said, you need to protect your players in case the other team starts taking liberties, especially when it seems the calls are going against you as we are all top familiar with here on Calgary. And, as much as I hope Ferland works out to a top-6 forward with scoring touch and soft hands, he’s going to be the guy going forward who’s going to have to stick up for us. I wish Kassian the best as he hopefully recovers from whatever substance abuse problems he has, and if he’s smart he won’t drop the gloves in his first game back in the NHL, but if he does… Ferland needs to go to town on him. Not Bollig. Not Engelland. Not Jooris or Jones or Wideman or Giordano. Ferland needs to be our functional tough guy.

    • KACaribou

      You can see that already with Ferly being on the top line. Way more room because he is going into the corners like a wrecking-ball and coming out with the puck often enough. After the game against the Sharks, Brent Burns didn’t seem to be too interested in dropping them against Ferly. I can’t wait for someone to do something to Johnny with him on the ice. And is Ferly’s toughness rubbing off on Monahan? Did I phantom see him hit someone or was it real against the Panthers?

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    To answer the question people have asked about what Wideman was saying to Bennett after goal #4, he said “don’t go back to the bench, just go to centre”. He was basically telling him to not go fist bump everyone at the bench and just go for the faceoff.

    You can see it at 1:55 of this video https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=wc5AxnKMQqE

    • KACaribou

      That’s awesome. Love Wideman for that. A pro doesn’t rub it in when you’ve already scored four and have a 6-0 lead. All class #6. Thanks for that Tom.