The whole thing with the Flames being completely unable to win in Anaheim would be much more annoying if Anaheim wasn’t a good team.
They are, though. They’re doing what many hoped the Flames would this year: recover from a horrific start and go on a tear to cement themselves as a team with a solid chance in the playoffs. They key difference here being that while the Flames were a fluke team last season, the Ducks actually are a good team, and didn’t magically stop being one when the seasons turned.
A loss in Anaheim was to be expected, naturally. Good teams tend to beat bad ones.
Preparing for life after Hudler?
The power play aside, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan barely saw any of Jiri Hudler.
Their most frequent linemate? Micheal Ferland. Their second most frequent linemate? … Brandon Bollig.
I have no words.
(Just kidding, I have lots of words. I always have lots of words.)
I understand the obsession with size when it comes to a contact sport. I’m all aboard that train; one of the reasons I’d love the Flames to be able to draft one of those giant Finnish kids is because, well, they’re rather large. Size is important. Big, physical players of top-six abilities would be awesome to have.
Here’s the key phrase: of top-six abilities.
I don’t doubt Bollig tries his heart out, but let’s be honest with ourselves: there is no good reason for him to ever, ever, ever be on the same line as Gaudreau. Ever.
So while the Flames will one day, hopefully very, very soon have to prepare for life after Hudler, that wasn’t what last night’s game was about. It was about putting a physical presence alongside Gaudreau, and it worked out so well Gaudreau got a point! On the power play. With Hudler.
If the only answer Bob Hartley has against the Ducks (a team that has thoroughly outwitted him since, well) is “put Bollig on the top line”, then that says pretty much everything you need to know about last season’s Jack Adams winner.
Gaudreau, with Bollig, was a 0% CF player. Monahan, with Bollig, was a 0% CF player. That’s great if he somehow “protected” them or whatever, but what good does protecting do if you’ve completely destroyed your top players’ abilities to even so much as get a single shot attempt off? What are you protecting them for, exactly? Conceding that you have no way to defeat Anaheim and just trying to take the loss without injury and move on to the next game? What a confidence-inspiring strategy.
Gaudreau, with Ferland, was a 50% CF player. Monahan, with Ferland, was a 42% CF player. Better, though it didn’t take much. And at least with Ferland – who, depending on what happens at the trade deadline, should probably be first in line to be Hudler’s replacement – you know he has some top-six potential. It may never come to fruition, but there’s only one way to find out. And at least he was capable of being well over a point-per-game in junior.
The definition of insanity…
… doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
SCENE: The Flames’ fourth power play of the game. It is not too long after their third power play, in which Mark Giordano scored a goal, assisted by Gaudreau and Hudler, with Monahan and T.J. Brodie also on the ice. The Flames are now down 2-1. You have a prime chance to tie the game.
- Giordano and Brodie, your top defencemen
- Sam Bennett, one of your greatest hopes for the future
- Mikael Backlund, who has produced as of late, including on the power play
- Joe Colborne, who remains the most-used Flame with the man advantage who has yet to record a single power play point this season
That’s now 76:39 spent on the power play without anything to show for it. And true, Colborne only went out for 1:33 this game, but at this point, is that not 1:33 minutes too many? At least most of the players who deserve more of a chance than him with those minutes are above him in power play ice time.
Except maybe Ferland.
Did you forget Frolik?
To this date, Michael Frolik has played a grand total of 17:27 on the power play: 15th on the Flames. He has 23 points this season: ninth in Flames scoring, with fewer games played than everybody above him (and every regular below him, too).
I just don’t understand.
“Hey, let’s give one of our best players in all situations a grand total of 10:56 in ice time! Seven more seconds than Bollig! Because… reasons!”
He’s 6’1 and 194 lbs. Does he just have to put on another six pounds to be worthy of a go on the top line? Somebody get the trainers on that.
The most heartbreaking ping of them all
The Flames hit a couple of goalposts last night. Gaudreau. Brodie.
Tyler Wotherspoon, who is still looking for his first NHL goal.
Here’s the thing: he had some serious jump to his game. He played 14:08, more than Jakub Nakladal, even. He got a fair shake at minutes – something he hasn’t gotten since, like, March 2014 or so – and he was doing the best he could. And here’s the thing: his best was a lot better than what we’ve seen from so-called established regulars who make a couple million every year.
The ping off the goalpost; another chance later on where he broke through to go in on the slot. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ladislav Smid do that? I probably saw Deryk Engelland do that once, I think there was something like that on Bennett’s four-goal night back in January, but he had Bennett with him and Wotherspoon just singlehandedly created his own chance.
It’s really, really easy to write a player off when you never give him a chance, isn’t it? Not to say Wotherspoon is the hope for this defence group’s future, but to say: just how long have we been sitting on this? Just how close were we from letting what looks to be a solid bottom pairing guy slip away for no reason?
Wotherspoon and Nakladal looked good. Wotherspoon, in particular, had three shots on net. Played 1:19 on the penalty kill. Should probably get to play out the rest of the season in the NHL and re-sign with the Flames as a good option for cheap depth next season.
Okay, it’s too early to proclaim that just yet; it’s been two games. But I was holding up a healthy level of scepticism after the first game: it was against the Canucks, and they are bad. But this game was against the Ducks, they are good, and Wotherspoon was a minimum 50% CF against every single Ducks player at even strength. He led the way for the Flames with 72.73% 5v5 CF.
At absolute minimum, he deserves to stay in the lineup for the next game. Maybe the Kings kick his teeth in, but we’ll never know if we don’t try, right? And he’s giving us good reason to keep trying.