Photo credit: Perry Nelson/USA TODAY/Sports
Whenever you see a game still at 1-0 late into regulation, there
are three ways you figure it will go:
- It stays 1-0.
- It ends up being a 2-1 game.
- A team inexplicably goes nuts and the game ends up finishing, like, 4-1 or 5-0.
It was option #2 for the Flames last night, and it didn’t go
their way – although it’s hard to expect much to go your way at all when you
let the opposition run over you for the majority of the game.
out Jonas Hiller isn’t the worst goalie ever
Jonas Hiller was playing well in the first period, even though
his performance was overshadowed by Cam Talbot at the time, who had to deal
with 14 shots to Hiller’s eight.
Then the rest of regulation happened, the Oilers outshot
the Flames 29-13, and suddenly, Hiller was the only reason the Flames had even
so much of a chance.
Hiller stayed on the puck throughout the night, squaring himself
to it and often freezing it to prevent rebounds. When rebounds happened, they
were either harmless, or his defence was there to pick the puck right up (with
the occasional miscue, but then the Oilers would miscue in turn, so no harm, no
foul). Only two pucks got past him all night: one immediately after a faceoff,
and one in the shootout.
That’s a very, very, very good performance.
Hiller started the season off well, but most of his games
after the first one were sub-.900 SV% affairs. Even after Karri Ramo was waived, he was
still posting bad percentages more often than not; then he got injured and,
well, Ramo became the starter. And after enough starts in a row – because there
have been a ton – Ramo stopped looking like the goalie who had been sent down
to the AHL, and started looking like a capable NHLer.
We’ll never know, but it’s entirely possible the same would have
been true for Hiller if it wasn’t his injury that set things in motion. Last
season, Hiller and Ramo gave the Flames league average goaltending; there was
no real reason to suspect them to fall off a cliff this season, especially
considering their histories: Hiller has been a generally reliable starter
throughout his career, and Ramo looked to be on the up-and-up.
Hiller needn’t be treated like the plague, though. Prior to these two good games, Hiller has started three times since being injured back in late October: twice he had the flu, and once was a stray start a month after his injury. Maybe he could do more with more time on ice. This really isn’t a team that needs to go all-in on one guy and one guy only.
Other teams would be so lucky as to have a T.J. Brodie
Game in and game out, T.J. Brodie continues to look like the Flames’ best player. He was all over the ice last night, and in a really good way. He wasn’t perfect, but when you play minutes as big as he does (26:19) and can only pinpoint really just one or two instances that went against you, you’re doing a pretty good job.
On what ended up being a dismal possession effort for the Flames, Brodie had the best ES CF out of all defencemen, breaking even at 50.00% while mostly facing off against the Oilers’ top players. The other five guys were all negatives.
Brodie created chances, and if it weren’t for Talbot, would have had some of his own points up on the board. And it wasn’t just offensively; he was a rock defensively as well. One of my favourite moments was him trying to set up a scoring chance from behind the Oilers’ red line, only for the Oilers to end up with the puck and bring it into the Flames’ end… and there was Brodie right with them. His skating is so phenomenal he can go just about anywhere on the ice in however much time as he wants, and that’s that for opposing teams.
Brodie has to be one of the NHL’s most underrated players at this point – and that’s with people starting to recognize his name more and more. His game is perfectly sublime.
Things keep rolling for Sam Bennett
There was never any reason to worry about this kid. He’s not going to score four goals every other game, or six goals every three game stretch, but he’s going to be a very reliable offensive threat probably throughout his career, which is only just getting started.
And he’s on the perfect line for it. Is it a coincidence that Bennett led the way with four shots on net – tied for the same amount with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik? They were the Flames’ most threatening line throughout the night, and it’s no surprise they were the only ones to pick up any points. They were also the only line to be 50.00% or above in ES CF, although the top line came close; Sean Monahan was just above 50.00% and Johnny Gaudreau right at it, but Micheal Ferland was the highest-ranking negative possession player at 47.22%.
The difference between Bennett’s line and Monahan’s: Bennett had 35.29% offensive zone starts; Monahan, 53.85%, and they both saw tough Oilers competition.
Ever since the Flames signed Frolik, the idea of a Bennett – Backlund – Frolik line made tons of people excited. This is why. It’s a possession-driving and really skilled line, and all three members of it just click. There’s a lot to love here.
Zero for five
One reason the Flames lost was because they let the Oilers run over them throughout the game, overtime excluded.
Another reason is because the Flames had five power plays – four within the first 25 minutes of the game when the Oilers’ penalty killers would presumably be getting tired, including a brief five-on-three; and one more in overtime of all times – and did not score a single goal with the man advantage.
The philosophy discussed on the broadcast about not worrying about having the league’s worst power play is a fair one. It’s like with how Hiller’s save percentage may end up difficult to salvage. It shouldn’t matter to the players, what comes next should take priority. Except what came next in this case was… nothing.
The most frequent power play presences were Hamilton, Gaudreau, Giordano, Monahan, Bennett, and Backlund. Following them up were Ferland, Brodie, and Wideman.
There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that group; Hamilton looks far more threatening than Wideman on the power play more often than not, for example, and there’s no reason to keep Bennett off of it now (not that there ever really was). There are only two things I can really think of here in regards to player usage:
- Maybe it’s time to give Brodie more power play time? A fault of his is he doesn’t shoot all that much, but while he was busy being the single best skater on either team, he also put up three shots on net: more than any other Flames defenceman. He’s the number one guy on the team; maybe first unit power play time should come with it.
- Frolik, who was a third of the best line on the Flames and did an excellent job creating chances of his own, played seven seconds on the power play. Frolik has played a grand total of 12:03 on the power play all season long. Considering how he is one of the Flames’ best forwards, and in the top six by default of his own merits, this seems absurd at best. Even if he’s coming off from injury – he shot the puck four times. He probably could have handled being out there five-on-four. The aversion to using him with the man advantage pretty much ever has been completely inexplicable, but particularly in a game where he’s controlling play with his linemates. When you get five tries… why not try your remaining top six guy at literally any point ever?
mics picked up at least five F-bombs from the ice
I might have heard a sixth in there at some point, but I know I
heard five for sure, the best of which was that very loud “eff me”
late in the game.
How awesome would it be to have the option to do away with
commentators and just listen to the players on the ice? We kind of had that
last game, when Sportsnet’s audio went out (just 10 and a half more years!) and
we got a solid two minutes or so of just on-ice sounds. It was mostly just
skate blades cutting through ice, but that alone holds a certain level of
beauty to it.
I want that. I would probably pay money for that. Let’s do that.