With that loss, the Calgary Flames stayed at 47 points on the season, while the Columbus Blue Jackets jumped up to 47 points.
The 30th place team in the entire NHL has 47 points. And there are six of them. In addition to Calgary and Columbus, the other teams in a six-way tie for the best odds in the Auston Matthews lottery are Edmonton (of course), Buffalo, Winnipeg, and Toronto.
Games played does play a role in this – and the Flames, with the Leafs, are sitting at the fewest with 50 each – but there are a lot of teams festering right at the bottom of the standings, and now, Calgary is officially one of them.
Not that they didn’t deserve a better fate
For most of the night, the Flames were flying out there. They only had one goal to show for it, but they dominated the first period, and really, Columbus was never in the game – their two goals scored on the rush aside.
And it’s not like we can ignore the two goals on the rush. But in the bigger picture, the Flames out-corsied the Jackets 75-34. If they’d had just marginally more finish to their game, they would have had this one.
Alas, they did not. (Perhaps they could use a bit more Finnish, in the form of a Jesse Puljujarvi or Patrik Laine?) The Flames were often buzzing around the offensive zone, but several missed passes killed high danger scoring chances, and perimeter shots failed to get the job done. It was just two goals off the rush that buried them, but there are two silver lining to them:
- The Flames giving two points up to one of the few teams technically below them in the standings is very helpful for lottery purposes.
- The missed plays at least provide teachable moments for the still-rebuilding team and its developing prospects.
Part of those teachable moments are learning how to prevent goals against like that – whether they be bad pinches or ineffective back checks – and part is, hopefully, how to learn to deal with a goal against.
Prior to Columbus’ first goal, the Flames were out-corsiing them 36-19. In between the Jackets’ two goals, they Calgary was out-corsied 7-10. Following Columbus’ second goal, the Flames snapped back into it and won the possession battle 32-5.
Calgary was flying, right up until the part they got scored on. They hadn’t built up a big enough lead to handle a goal against though, and seemed to deflate until they fell behind, which – along with a power play – apparently gave them the kick they needed to get going again.
They just couldn’t bury it.
And to the first point: that’s why this game was an ideal situation. The Flames played hard, they played well, and in the end, they just came up short. It’s good to see them trying in the meantime, but the ultimate goal of this season is much closer to a high draft pick than it is to a playoff spot.
Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler is back
Or at least, in recent games, it sure looks like it.
The line that took the NHL by storm to close out the 2014-15 season was assumed to be the Flames’ de facto top line to start this year. Only there were a couple of problems: while Johnny Gaudreau clearly knew what he was doing all season long, Sean Monahan struggled to keep up, and Jiri Hudler completely fell off the wagon, inviting line demotions and healthy scratch conspiracies.
Gaudreau is still Gaudreau – although, now sitting at 49 points through 50 games this season, he is no longer a point-per-game player, which is a shame – but Monahan has looked better in recent games.
More important for the immediate, though: Hudler has looked great since the All-Star Break. That’s only two games, and that’s really not a ton to go off of, but with the trade deadline a few weeks away and Hudler probably the Flames’ biggest trade chip, we’re on the clock here, and this is an extremely good time for him to get his butt in gear.
And his goal tonight – along with several missed chances – was a good way to start (hopefully) upping his trade value. He’s now up to 27 points through 43 games, which would put him on pace for a 51-point season through a full 82 games. It’s not the year he had last year, but it’s still a pretty good one: and one he can hopefully keep building on while playing alongside Gaudreau and Monahan.
There are two final gifts Jiri can give us: one last ride on a line with the kids, and a decent return in a trade. The better he plays, the more likely he gives us both.
It happened again (and again, and again)
Columbus’ first goal came about when the Flames’ second line – who were some of the most frequent net-drivers all night long for Calgary – got caught on Ladislav Smid’s bad pinch and couldn’t properly get back to do anything about it.
The broadcast pointed out that Sam Bennett in particular is probably going to have a lot to learn from that moment, which is great: it’s one of those silver linings from this loss that will hopefully help develop him into a better player in the long run.
Columbus’ second goal came about as a result of Dougie Hamilton’s bad turnover. Kris Russell, as the only man back, did as Kris Russell does and went down, effectively taking himself out of the play without actually helping.
put it on our bill pic.twitter.com/XOpdvEKYin
— NHL Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) February 6, 2016
To be fair to Russell, Hamilton later did the exact same thing, except the puck didn’t go in the net against him.
— NHL Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) February 6, 2016
(Although I guess his dropping down did prevent it from being an easily received pass across, but that was still a great scoring chance regardless.)
Please stop dropping down to the ice. Please stop.
And Joe Colborne
Joe Colborne, on the Flames’ fourth line, played the second least out of all Flames last night with just 10:24. (Josh Jooris played 10:39. Lance Bouma was left at the bottom with only 7:46 spent on the ice; he was also the only Flame to finish as a negative possession player.)
In the game’s dying seconds, the Flames had their top line out there in desperate attempt to tie it up. Mark Giordano and Hamilton, the first power play unit, were also out there. Micheal Ferland – who led the Flames with five shots – was the original extra attacker.
Ferland left the ice in the final few seconds, and Colborne, he of the fourth line and therefore, one could reasonably assume, not trusted to be a key player for this team, replaced him in the final seconds for some reason. Colborne entered the offensive zone – which is good! – and proceeded to go on a leisurely stroll behind the net while the seconds were ticking down. Nearly 40 seconds went by without the Flames mustering so much as a shot attempt, until Colborne finally had his blocked with one to go.
Yeah. He’s not the choice I would have gone with.