Another game, another loss. The loss of a player in Ladislav Smid upped all the remaining defencemen’s ice times, while the loss of the actual game further pushed the Flames behind the .500 record, and further pushed them out of reach of the playoffs.
The Flames have five games to go until the trade deadline, and every single one of their opponents is ahead of them in the standings. At this point, all that’s left to do is wait – and hopefully reap the rewards of some trade deadline rentals.
Raise a glass to the defencemen’s efforts
With Smid lost so early into the game – his night was over with just over five minutes remaining in the first period – the Flames’ remaining five defencemen saw boosts in ice time.
Jakub Nakladal played 16:04, including 4:03 on the power play. He was at fault for Jason Zucker’s shorthanded goal, but with Bob Hartley reluctant to try four forwards on the power play, he’s really been the only other option to put on the man advantage: neither Deryk Engelland nor a healthy Smid are the kind of players you ever really expect to score.
Speaking of – Engelland played 16:49, with 1:53 played on the penalty kill. But more to the point, it’s always awesome to see a guy like that get on the board. There wasn’t a single Wild player covering him when he received the pass from Johnny Gaudreau, which makes sense because, well, he’s Deryk Engelland. But he made the Wild pay for it.
The 16+ minutes were a lot for Nakladal and Engelland, but they don’t really compare to what Mark Giordano (29:01), T.J. Brodie (26:59), and Dougie Hamilton (26:02) played. Brodie was Nakladal’s most frequent defence partner, and he gave him a boost of 33.93% CF at even strength; Brodie didn’t miss a step without Giordano, though Giordano did drop off somewhat without Brodie.
With no Kris Russell nor Dennis Wideman in the lineup and a shortened bench, Hamilton got minutes he hasn’t seen since early October, when Brodie was still out with injury. While Brodie was the star on the backend, both in terms of points (two assists) and possession (leading the Flames with a 76.92% CF at even strength), Hamilton was actually a leader in 5v5 individual corsi events for with five, tied with Sam Bennett. He had 10 individual corsi events for in all situations, so that’s another five to come on the power play alone.
Remember that: Hamilton should be on the first unit power play for years to come, and he’s good at it. Though he failed to score in this game, it should be noted that he’s second on the team in power play points with 11.
Speaking of the power play
It’s taken a while to get Hamilton on there, but he’s a regular now, and that’s how it has to stay.
The Flames did get one power play goal in the game – but over the course of five opportunities, and gave up a shorthanded goal in the process. It’s great to see Hamilton and Giordano as regulars, but the forward power play time was a little messed up, as it has been throughout the year.
Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Jiri Hudler led the way with nearly six minutes apiece. Nothing wrong with that – that’s the top line, and Gaudreau’s 13 points with the man advantage have him being the one guy ahead of Hamilton in scoring.
Following that trio was Mikael Backlund, with 4:03 – but he did score, so it’s hard to complain.
Then Joe Colborne with 3:23, which… we’ve been through this so, so many times this season. Colborne has played 74:37 on the power play: 10th on the Flames, and the most ice time given to a player who has yet to score a single power play point. Stop trying to make Colborne happen; he’s not going to happen. Backlund has played 3:50 more than Colborne on the power play throughout the year and he’s scored seven points. It’s ridiculous.
Following up Colborne was Markus Granlund, with 2:31 on the man advantage.
What’s wrong with this picture? No Michael Frolik, even though he’s ninth in team scoring. And only 1:21 for Sam Bennett, who’s sixth in team scoring. And hey – once he got on the ice, the Flames scored, surprisingly enough.
With a 15.7% success rate, the Flames are tied for the second worst power play in the NHL. And things like playing Wideman over Hamilton, or Colborne over Bennett, have definitely played a role in that. Put your best players out there – and for the love of god, please stop trying to force the square peg that is Colborne through the round hole that is the power play. He can have a role on this team, but with a grand total of nine power play points in his entire career, being on the man advantage shouldn’t be a part of that.
Even when you take score effects into account, the Wild were just plain bad in the third period. They had a mere six corsi events for throughout the final frame. And true, when a team has a two-goal lead, there’s a tendency to sit back a little – but just six pucks directed in the vicinity of the Flames’ net over the course of 20 minutes is still really, really bad.
Every single Flame was a positive possession player. In all situations, Micheal Ferland was at the bottom with a 52.38% CF; at even strength, it was Nakladal at the bottom at 53.33% CF.
This team likely isn’t going anywhere this season, but if they can continue to put together positive puck performances, it’s at least a step in the right direction. Something to build on for next season, hopefully. They hit a number of goal posts; Jonas Hiller had a .826 save percentage. Bad bounces and breaks happen.
We’re in the time for moral victories now, though, and this game was one of them.
This and that
- Gaudreau, with 55 points in 55 games, is currently seventh in NHL scoring. Five of the six players ahead of him have played at least more three games than he has. It’s his second NHL season. We already know Gaudreau is going to get paid; he might as well put together some insane numbers en route towards his next contract.
- Brodie, chilling with 33 points over 47 games, fourth in team scoring. If you go by a point per game basis, he’s roughly on par with Monahan. So basically: a healthy Brodie throughout the season would be second on the Flames in scoring, and destined to approach the 60-point mark. Before the season started, I said we could reasonably expect Brodie to be a .70 point per game player, and that’s exactly what he is right now.