Oilers 2, Flames 1 (SO) post-game embers: Not all bad, just mostly

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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:

  1. It stays 1-0.
  2. It ends up being a 2-1 game.
  3. 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.

Turns
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

The
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.

  • JMK

    Couple of things I’ve noticed: 1. I like Granlund but he seems a little over his head lately. 2. I agree give Frolik some power play time but maybe tonight was just because he’s only back from injury. Probably not though. 3. Staying with Frolik he seems like a guy who plays with Corsi in mind. Sometimes he seems to just shoot the puck for the sake of it. And I know it’s good to get the puck on net but sometimes of just waited an extra second he might be able to get to a better shooting position or make a pass to someone in a better position. Still great to have him back just a minor quibble. And 4. Does anyone else think Gaudreau is being a little selfish with the puck lately? Really forcing it and trying to do it all on his own? I hope he hasn’t lost faith in his teammates.

  • MontanaMan

    First point, and regardless who won, it was a bad hockey game. There were stretches of five to ten minutes where nothing happened. You could hear the HVAC system in Rexall and there were smattering of boos. It was bad hockey all around with a few highlights. Second, Taylor Hall might have been the worst player on the ice. His hockey IQ is single digits and the turnovers create scoring chances most shifts. He must give McLellan nightmares. Third, JG and Monahan need to find their game on the road. Outside of a few shifts, both were invisible. And against that OIler defence, one goal for the team is inexcusable. Last, nobody can blame Colborne for the loss. Or Bollig. The Flames came out on fire, didn’t capitalize and let the Oilers put them to sleep. Poor effort.

        • flamesburn89

          Nurse has been thrown into a top four defence and he is not ready for that yet. Brodie is a stud but is five years older than Nurse. I have a feeling Nurse is going to turn into a stud with a nasty disposition. Now I would take Brodie, at the same age…. Exactly was was Brodie doing?

          • RedMan

            Brodie was a late developer who has now become a stud. Nurse has always been a stud physically who has now been passed by a significant number of defenders from his draft year and below. Will he get much better or has he come close to his peak due to his poor hockey sense?

          • Bikeit

            You’re kidding right? He’s 20, 6’4″, 215 pounds. Five years younger than Brodie. Did you watch the world juniors? He was the best player out there. He will be a mean sob to play against, he already is and rest assured the hockey smarts will catch up to the rest of him. He is struggling because he is being asked to play at times 25 minutes and take on the other teams best. He has all of the tools and will someday be the captain of the oilers.

          • KACaribou

            You’re right. Nurse will be a stud. He’s being over-used right now for a young D-man. He’s no freak like Ekblad, but given some time he will be as you say I am certain.

            It doesn’t mean Brodie isn’t one of the best D-men in the league presently. He is.

    • Kevin R

      First point, and regardless who won, it was a bad hockey game.

      Yeah… it really wasn’t that great.

      And the Flames started well in the first and second periods, but they sure managed to hand the Oilers control of the game as soon as the broadcasters showed the shot count.

      I find myself nervous every time Granlund is out on the ice. Poor kid. Anyone else find it odd he gets more ice time than Stajan?

  • Franko J

    Both Brodie and Oliver Ekman-Larssen in Phoenix who I think are the reason each respective team wins games. Not only is their skating is excellent, but their level of hockey sense is exceptional.

      • FN Mod – unconstructive to the discussion. If you disagree with a position, I assume you’re smart enough to explain why. Do that.

        Hi, I’m Jason, I just signed up. I’m from Calgary, currently in Iraqi Kurdistan, and I’ve been following FN for quite some time. I just want to say that I think it’s pretty lame to nag someone like this. Like what is, Iran?

      • KACaribou

        What was the purpose of this Mod intervention? Do you want people here? You’re the reason there are 10x the comments on ON. Franko may not agree with you, or have the ability to explain it the way you would prefer but it’s a free country. Let him have his say whatever way he chooses.

        FN Mod – his post was ‘hahahaha’. Obviously unconstructive. The rules of the site state that you are to post if you contribute to the conversation.

        • MontanaMan

          Caribou – did you read the posts on ON last night? 50% had nothing to do with hockey. If that is what we are aspiring to create on FN, count me out. Quality not quantity.

          • MattyFranchise

            My favorite part of ON lately has been how much they bitch about having to hear about how good JG is all the time. They clearly must have forgotten how many times in a day the average Oilers fan says Connor McDavid.

          • KACaribou

            Yes, I did see them, but Tom causes half his own issues by taking the bait.

            If “hahahaha” gets banned here, that is a tremendous misuse of editorial power.

            Yet the piling on when someone disagrees with the analytics theories is never dealt with by the Mods, even though the comments are very often insulting and “obviously unconstructive.” You’ve been there.

            The rules on FN are refereed about as consistently as a basketball game. On ON the Mods just seem to stay the hell out of it, which in my opinion is what they should do unless issues of libel occur.

          • Bikeit

            And yet you were there in the middle of it as were a large percentage of others posting here today. Certain amount of it was in fun, certain amount I agree, quite useless but before the BOA, the number of posts on ON outnumbered the equivalent post here close to 3 to 1.

            That shows interest and after all, isn’t the point of these blogs to get people interested and posting ??

          • MontanaMan

            I would hardly say I was in the middle of it and what in my comments did you see as inflammatory? My discussions are hockey based not ridiculous banter that has nothing to do with the game.

          • Bikeit

            Uhh…..Wait until Ferland is bearing down on Schultz in the Oilers end. Schultz will soil his panties.. Hockey based..mayyybeeeeee ??

            Just kidding. Your comments were fine. If you can’t have a little fun.. what’s the point.

            Anyways, you were there reading and posting without worrying bout some mod shutting you down. All I’m sayin :)))

  • KACaribou

    Regardless of the lopsided SOG, Flames had lots of scoring chances and Talbot played great. Hiller had a good game, but the goal he let in seemed weak and didn’t you just know he’d find a way to let in that shootout goal just when we needed him. Hiller is a good goalie, but he doesn’t have that Grant Fuhr slam the door on you mentality. But give credit to Talbot, he did slam the door on the Flames. A second goal and we could have been heading for a romp, but the guy was a rock.

    • FlamesRule

      Grant Fuhr? If Fuhr saw 37 shots, he would have let in 4, or 5, statisically speaking. Sure, Fuhr made flashy saves, but focusing on anything other than .973 is a red herring.

      You get 82 .973 sv% games out of your goalie, you win 75+ of them, even if Hiller shoots the one in his own net every one of those 75 games.

      • KACaribou

        Obviously too young to have seen him play in his prime. There were more breakaways when he played in 1 game then in half a season now. Plus 10 x the 2-on-1s etc. Oilers scored 6 goals per game back then. Fuhr was left on his own a lot. He was tremendous and if you needed that to be the last goal – he’d often make it that way.

        Stats don’t tell the story here. Small padding, wide-open hockey does. Too bad you missed it.

        • MontanaMan

          Ageism is your response? I saw all of Fuhr. Also played goal my whole life. Goaltending is vastly evolved today from the 80’s.

          Again. You get 82 .973sv% games out of your goalie, you win 75+ even if Hiller sabotages the single goal.

          I know it can be tough to trust stats, but trust them.

          Objective numbers trump hyperbole.

          • KACaribou

            Dude you are using ageism yourself dismissing the differences in the game as a non-factor. It is a factor. Stats are a moving object in that sense.

            Also the problem with your numbers is that they don’t include quality of shots. Always the Achilles heel to shooting percentage or save percentage gurus.

  • flamesburn89

    An embarrassing loss to a last place team without McDavid at a time when the Sharks and Canuckleheads are winning……Perhaps as a die hard Flames fan I have over rated the Flames team…..

    • Kevin R

      Well…. that’s because this team really is rebuilding. Just because management is trying to speed this rebuild up, we are still a ways to go. A top 5 pick is just what the doctor ordered.

      Ari, I know Frolik Backlund & Bennett line looked good & you approve, long term this should not be the path we follow. Bennett needs to be a Centre, he needs a very skilled winger (Hudler) & Frolik would fit fine but I would like to see a real good young high end forward slotting in there as well. I think Flames are buying time for Monahan to get untracked & get that top line to being the juggernaut it was last year. Once Bennett is playing Centre & playing well at that position, the great debate will be which centre will Gaudreau play with. I don’t think we want to go there before we get Monahan inked for a 6-7 year extension. Maybe I am too sensitive after what happened with Sven but I don’t see Monahan wanting to relinquish that top line role to easily, which isn’t a bad thing but may be a little difficult initially to not hurt any feelings.

  • MonsterPod

    Five power plays, no goals again. That sums last night.

    That’s five straight losses to divisional opponents.

    Flames will have to go about 8-2 in the next 10 to get back in the mix with SJ and Arizona.

    I’m starting to read articles about the draft in July.

    • cberg

      True, so true. The Division has cottoned on to the Flames’ game after we burned them last year and the inter-Division games are so tough. Flames not playing that bad (though they went to sleep after first) but others upping their games. No matter if we go 8-2 in next ten, if we don’t win in the Division we will not be making up ground.

      I’m still hoping for playoffs and winning every game, but want I want more is clarity before the TDL so if its clear we are not realistically in it we’ll really focus on selling off for top prospects and picks.

  • FlamesRule

    Agree with you Ari on the sweet commentator-free airtime we experienced. Wish I had a button to mute them whenever I wanted and just listen to the rink sounds.

    • KACaribou

      Especially that pair. Romanuk is always chatting when real action is going on. The thing with Johnson at ice level is another miss. Missed Hrudey and ‘the other fella’. Saying that not because I can’t remember his name but simply because his call never gets in the way, even if he ain’t local… And Rick & Kelly are funny and obviously having fun getting paid to do that.
      Agree it would be cool to hear rink sounds w/o background chatter more often. Only problem was at that time the ‘Dome sounded like the ‘Dome of old, nicknamed ‘The library’ back in the ol’ daze. Skates on ice, occasional “NOOO” from a linesman…. and tumbleweeds. Hope the Flames and Harvey regain their MoJo of last season and get the fans off their seats more often.
      GFG!

  • Hacker

    I was at the game and agree goaltending was very good on both sides. But the real reason flames lost is their brutal power play. Real momentum busters. They should be declining power plays in future games. We generate more chances 5 on 5. I’m quite concerned the oilers are one McDavid away from overtaking the Flames, and that speaks to how much the flames need a top 5 pick this year.

  • flamesburn89

    If anything’s to blame for this loss, it’s the power play. So many wasted opportunities throughout regulation, and then a full 2 minute 4 on 3 in OT that was painful to watch. Seemed like the Flames were taking too long to shoot, trying to find somewhere to go on Talbot with a perfect shot, and by the time they released the shot an Oiler stick was in the way.

  • MontanaMan

    Great game only because the oil finally won a game. I like the idea of on ice sound. It would be great if they could add quick sound bites from the ice, including the refs and linesmen and the benches. Maybe during unscheduled stoppage in plays, timeouts etc.

    • MontanaMan

      sportsnet did a piece a hand full of years ago where they had Mathew barnay mic’d and if I remember correctly it was for a few games, absolutely entertaining stuff. a lot of it had to be edited but gold all the same. I am also in nurse’s camp excited to see where he is at in a few years, I hope the comparisons to pronger are turn out to be even 60% true.

  • TJ Brodie is arguably the best value contract in the NHL. Sure a guy like Panarin is an obvious argument but man oh man….. TJ is playing phenomenal. Did last year too as many on here noted repeatedly.

    the kids a stud. I have him on Team canada in a lock but I suspect he may get shafted by the hinterland bias. I suspect Brian Burke to offer something in the coming months to shine a very bright light on the young man. BB is really damn good at that btw….. :))

  • SydScout

    There’s a third point missing from the power play section of the article.

    Who on earth is coaching these guys to play like that? The top six has easily enough talent to do far better than the head scratchingly poor structure that we witnessed. They don’t look bad, they look completely disorganised.

    • MattyFranchise

      During the OT PP last night it was Gelinas talking to the guys and setting up PP rather than Hartley. I would think that Gelinas is the PP coach.

      Also, Russell taking a faceoff in OT? That’s gotta be the first faceoff of his career.

  • KACaribou

    I hate shootouts, crappy way to win or lose a game. I had a feeling if we didn’t make it 2 – 0 or win in overtime we would lose in a shootout.

    Granlund is still not ready for the nhl. He has decent positioning but thats about it. I hear he has a good shot to but I don’t see it very often.

    Please get injured Wideman. Hartley won’t stop using him so damn much. He is my most hated player on this team. He is just hurting our powerplay but keeps getting on the first PP for some reason.

    I honestly think Harltey’s personnel choices are costing us wins. #fireHartley

  • Bikeit

    Watching the game i would see the oilers start to pen the flames into their zone and the scoring chances begin. I would then start looking to see who the flames have on the ice and it was often Russell or Wideman.

  • Derzie

    What were the scoring chances? Perimeter Corsi-muffins can be misleading. The Flames played terribly but the Oil were no superstars either. Hiller should not have been the first star. Talbot had a better game.