Okay, that was a little misleading
The above corsi chart, via HockeyStats.ca, is only at even strength. The Flames did have five power plays with which to work (well, really four, since the fifth came in the final 10 seconds of the game), and it was their first couple that got them back into the game.
Here’s the corsi chart in all situations:
It… still doesn’t look much better, though. At even strength only, the Flames were out-corsied 62-37; in all situations, they were out-corsied a not-nice 69-55.
The Flames do have an excuse here, though, and it’s a valid one. Their first period was by far their worst, with a mere seven shot attempts through the opening 20 minutes. But this is the final game on a long road trip, and the second of a back-to-back. It’s not unreasonable to expect them to come out flat. It’s not good that they did – and a better team likely wouldn’t have had such a terrible start – but it’s not exactly surprising the Flames had as terrible a start as they did.
That doesn’t make up for the rest of the game, though; and for that matter, neither does the fact they started performing better on the power play. Because – surprise – they still didn’t score a single goal with the man advantage.
Getting chances is always great. Getting chances tends to be indicative of a team’s future success. That’s why you see stats like corsi getting touted around: good corsi teams tend to have better seasons.
But corsi isn’t the be-all-end-all. It’s one part of the puzzle. Just as looking better on the power play isn’t the be-all-end-all: particularly when you don’t score on it.
More on the power play
There are a couple of things you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear Rick Ball and Kelly Hrudey talk about when calling a game. Dougie Hamilton’s improvement, Kris Russell’s penchant for blocking shots, and how the power play isn’t good, really, but it’s not as dismal as it once was.
Regarding that last topic of conversation, a question: is that really the case, or is that just wishful thinking?
True, the Flames scored two power play goals against the New Jersey Devils just last week, going 2-for-4 with the man advantage that game. They’re also 0-for-10 in their past two games. They’re 2-for-21 in their past six games, but 7-for-36 through January so far. They scored a handful of power play goals in the first half of the month, only to handily fall back into league-worst territory within just a couple more games.
They have a 13.9% power play. So is that early January success the real Flames power play – or is it the 13.9% one we’ve seen throughout the entire season?
You don’t get to pick and choose small segments of the season and declare that the norm. A team’s success or lack thereof is dictated throughout the course of an entire season. And this season’s overall numbers tell us the Flames have been disastrous with the man advantage.
That’s all without going into the ever-continuing mind boggling player usage. Sam Bennett and Mikael Backlund were staples on the first unit, but with an ever-rotating third forward (what did Michael Frolik, esteemed linemate, do to deserve this)? No T.J. Brodie to speak of, even though he’s kind of the number one defenceman on this team, not to mention second in defencemen scoring? Okay.
If other teams want Kris Russell, give them Kris Russell
… But, you know, get something in return while you’re at it, too.
So there are rumours going around that other teams have been asking the Flames about Russell, and rumours alongside them that Brad Treliving would prefer to extend Russell. I totally get where he’s coming from: from the Flames’ angle, Russell has been a mainstay of this defensive group for three seasons now, and he’s solidified himself as a top four defender in this team’s eyes. Taking a chance on someone else can be scary, and with Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid, and Deryk Engelland behind Russell on the depth chart, it’s not like this team is swimming in defensive depth.
A couple of things to that point: the Flames are in for a cap crunch, largely in part thanks to those aforementioned three defencemen. Russell is not going to re-sign for $2.6 million; if he’s a top four defenceman, he’s going to want top four defenceman money. Probably at least around $4 million, which is going to be difficult for the Flames to fit in.
Here’s the other thing: watch him on Jamie Benn’s goal.
He starts the sequence off by pushing Valeri Nichushkin to the outside. That’s initially good. He ends it by flopping right in front of Jamie Benn in front of the net. That’s bad.
He barely even makes Benn work for it. A simple toe drag and Benn’s around him, Russell is lying uselessly on the ice, and it’s 1-0 for the Stars.
As the broadcast later noted, Benn could probably tell that’s what was going to happen, because that’s what Russell always does. He goes down to the ice more often than not in an attempt to make a defensive play. Occasionally that works – see Brodie defending the empty net later in the game, and early in the previous game against the Hurricanes, Russell had some success defending in that manner – but for the most part, it doesn’t.
And for the most part, you’ll see players like Giordano, Brodie, and Hamilton standing up to the forechecker, rather than taking themselves out of the play by going down to the ice.
Russell was third in ice time with 22:55, as he got ample power play time as well. Dennis Wideman played 19:01, in part thanks to special teams usage. And Hamilton – who should be the #3 defender on this team – was fifth in ice time with 18:32.
That’s another reason to trade Russell. He’s not as good a defender, he’s going to be difficult to re-sign (and very likely will be overpaid if that’s what happens), and he’s the most movable piece to shake up this defensive group that really, really needs it.
With no Russell, does Hamilton finally get the ice time he should be getting? And, perhaps more importantly – does somebody like Jakub Nakladal, somebody who could very well be a diamond in the rough in the Flames system, actually get a chance to show it?
Joe Colborne is scoring again
He had a goal and an assist against the Hurricanes, and he got the Flames’ lone goal against the Stars last night. That’s three points in two games following a six-game pointless streak.
It’s still difficult to determine just where, exactly, he fits in. He performs fine in fourth line circumstances, but do the Flames want to use him that way?
Or does another team think they can do more with him? If another team wants him, then this recent scoring streak is great, because it bolsters his trade value. He’s now up to 18 points in 40 games, nearly half a point per game. The raw numbers don’t look bad at all.
It’ll be interesting to see if he can get up to half a point per game, because that’ll be a new career high for him. But it’ll also be interesting to see just where he ends up. There are only a handful of players that should be considered untouchable when you’re in the state the Flames are in, and Colborne isn’t one of them. I figure he stays in Calgary, but if another team can present a good offer, it probably makes more sense to pull the trigger.