POST GAME: Lehner Down, Into Darkness

The Flames, in what I can only interpret as a performance art project that skewers our narrow-minded ideas about what defence is, surrendered six goals to the Buffalo Sabres tonight and moved one step closer to NHL Absolute Zero.

The Sabres won 6-3, come read about it if you’re some kind of sicko:

WHAT WENT DOWN

In the first few minutes of this game, the Flames were completely D.O.A. The Flames got into some penalty trouble in the first and even killed off an extended five on three which, given the fact that the Flames penalty kill is absolutely god-awful, was an accomplishment in and of itself. However, with the penalty trouble the Flames were in, they were unable to register a shot until a power-play of their own with 2:56 left in the first. It is hard to win without getting shots, that’s my analysis.

During the famed power play where the Flames recorded their first shot, Sam Bennett received a hit from Mark Pysyk which was called for interference. Bennett went down the tunnel after the hit and the Flames got a brief five on three of their own that they failed to convert on. The first ended with the shots 8-4 for Buffalo. It was a painful period all around. 

To start the second, Swedish god and friend of the nation Mikael Backlund put the Flames up 1-0 with some nice board-play before bringing it to the front of the net. A goal scorers goal for his twelfth of the season, six back of his career high. It’d be great if he could reach that in his final 18 games of this season. Garnet Hathaway earned an assist on the play which was his first NHL point. Not bad for a kid from Brown University with a career high of six goals in the NCAA.

However, mid way through the period, burgeoning Flame killer Rasmus “better than Nurse” Ristolainen evened the game at one during a fire drill in front of the Flames net. It was a rough moment for Jakub Nakladal and Jyrki Jokipakka who had looked pretty strong in last game’s action and in the preceding minutes. That is Ristolainen’s fourth goal against Calgary this season and he only has nine in total. Thank God he’s in the East. 

Then, a very strange power play occurred. After Brodie got uncharacteristically caught flat-footed, Marcus Foligno snapped a puck top-shelf for a short handed goal. It was pretty nice though Brodie will be seeing that in his nightmares for the next forever. Check it out at your own peril:

Seconds later, Dougie Hamilton answered right back. The recipient of a nice cross-ice feed from Sean Monahan, Hamilton found a postage stamp worth of space glove side on Lehner and tied the game at two. 

But, because the Hamilton goal meant that there would be momentary relief from misery, the Sabres re-took the lead. Nic Deslauriers took advantage of some more truly awful defensive zone play from the Flames and beat what I can only suggest was Jonas Hiller’s best attempt at goaltending to put the Sabres in front 3-2.  

To start the third, a bit of a scramble play and some nice hands from Sean Monahan resulted in the Flames drawing even and Garnet Hathaway recorded his second assist of the game, playing on a line with Monahan and Gaudreau (their separation didn’t last too long). By the way, both Hathaway assists were primary assists as well. 

The defensive horror show continued about mid-way through the third when Johan Larsson found himself alone in front of the net and beat Hiller to put the Sabres in front again. It is amazing how often Hiller has been beat this season up high once he has gone down to the butterfly. Something has gone terribly wrong in his technique but I have no idea what precisely it is. Perhaps his timing? Who knows. It sure is ugly though.

The final nail in the coffin came following (another) successful five on three kill when Jack Eichel was able to go shelf from the point with only a one man advantage with six minutes remaining in the third. That was it for the Flames who thoroughly deserved to lose this game after leading 1-0 and being tied twice. 

An empty netter made it a 6-3 final. To the Buffalo Sabres. This is our lives now Flames fans.

THE RED WARRIOR

With an honourable mention going to Garnet “the rock” Hathaway, recording his first two NHL points in his third NHL game, I am going to go with Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton and Hathaway were the only Flames players not minuses on the night (if ya like that sort of thing) and Hamilton had a goal and an assist on the night. 

The goal was Hamilton’s 10th, tying a career high in goals. For all the talk about his slow start (which wasn’t even really that bad), Hamilton has had a good season counting numbers wise. I think there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be representing team Hockey Babies at the upcoming “2016 Sportsnet Presents: Let’s Try to Wean You Off the Olympics.”

THE RACE TO OBLIVION   

Tankstandings

Not great folks. Or wait, this is great! Can it be both? I don’t know what to believe anymore. Next game is Saturday afternoon against the Penguins. That… might go badly. 

  • FireScorpion

    The recent resurgence in Backlund scoring has been nice.

    My beef? Too bad he waited 40 games and allowed the meat of the season to bypass him while he wallowed, contributing zero offensively and playing a major role in the hole the team found themselves in after 40 games.

    Nice he is scoring now I suppose with the season sewered. Next season? he better bring it out of the gate

    • FlamesFan1489

      He also blatantly gave the puck away in the middle of the slot while we had an empty net. He’s a guy who needs finishers on his line because he can put puck towards the net but can’t consistently finish. He can make some serious bonehead mistakes in his own end but for the most part he’s a decent defensive centre as well.

      • Baalzamon

        but for the most part he’s a decent defensive centre as well.

        Decent? Nice understatement, Hemingway. The only two forwards in the entire league better at shot suppression than Backlund are Joe Pavelski and Patrice Bergeron.

        But yeah, I guess third place is just second among losers, right?

  • cjc

    I vote not great. We’re kidding ourselves if we think one high draft pick is going to fix this. Not that I don’t want that pick, but it would be more encouraging if the losing was at least close and respectable, and didn’t involve nightly special teams implosions.

    • FireScorpion

      One high draft pick ain’t gonna fix this. But this will be fixed.

      Monahan-Jankowski-Laine
      Gaudreau-Bennett-Poirier
      Klimchuk-Backlund-Hathaway
      Bouma-Grant-Jooris

      Giordano-Brodie
      Kulak-Hamilton
      Wotherspoon-Nakladal

      Mason
      Ortio

    • brodiegio4life

      see this type of comment annoys me, after the oilers dumpster fire of the last 8 years everyone suddenly thinks getting more than one high draft pick is such an awful thing and that the team is doomed. It’s actually how every team rebuilds, the oilers situation is just an outlier.

      • everton fc

        We need two consistent goalies (Ramo may be one, if he heals) a 1/2 RW, a 1/2 LW, and some shuffling of our 4th line. Our 5/6 d-men need to be sorted out, as well.

        Down the middle, our 1-3 centres are compatible w/any of the best in the league. I’d probably try Bennett w/Gaudreau, but that’s me. I think Monahan’s more a #2 than a #1.

        I believe Ferland is a good 3rd line RW, right now. Put him w/Backlund and Frolik (unless Frolik plays 2nd one RW w/Bennett or Monahan centring) and I think he finds his place. If Frolik’s the #2 RW, then let’s see Ferland-Backlund-Hathaway, or Ferland-Backlund-Jooris. Right now. Why not??

        A 4th line of Bouma-Jooris-Hathaway is interesting. Or Colborne-Jooris-Hathaway (perhaps Colborne gives us more upside than Bouma? Who knows…) Agostino w/Backlund and Frolik, also interesting. Very interesting, indeed. And Elson may be better than Colborne. The former is only 23. Plays w/an edge. Scores. “Etc.”…

        A line of Agostino-Backlund-Hathaway, or Agostino-Backlund-Ferland – both also “interesting”. and Mangiapane isn’t even here, yet!

        And this is w/the spare parts we currently have. On “d”, Kulak, Culkin, Kylington – all three w/one more year of pro-experience. Andersson ready in the wings…

        It’s between the pipes where we look “expansion”. And perhaps behind the bench. But the rebuild is moving along.

    • supra steve

      One high pick

      One more year’s experience for Mony, JG, Bennett, etc.

      One more year’s development for all the current prospects.

      One more year off of the bad contracts.

      Not too many of us, who have been paying attention, expect a single stud prospect to make this club a instant winner. Just another step in the rebuild, but a damned important step.

      • KiLLKiND

        That is a great summary of the reasons to be fine with not doing well this season. The biggest difference between contender and non contenders is most contenders have almost no bad contracts. Look at Chicago they are constantly turning guys over and having young players step in. Once our bad contracts are off the books, we will be far better. Instead of Engellands and Bolligs we could be having prospects and young players who have earned a look at step in. After next season our worst contracts might be Bouma’s and Gio’s. Unless We have horrible signing or take on a bad contract through trade we will be better able to compete. Plus Monahan and Bennett are still young. Once those two are 24, 23 we should be able to compete for a cup.

    • Christian Roatis

      That’s how you end up in a Ryan Johansen situation, which you don’t want. Give Monahan his 5.5-6 (reasonable negotiations still necessary) and move on. He deserves it. The dude scores at an above average rate since he broke into the league and deserves to be paid for it.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        The Johansen issue in Columbus was more complex than a Finnish GM telling him we want value for money.

        Interesting you chose $5.5 to $6 M a year as that is territory occupied by the young Oiler greats. Don’t know if you were spitballing on the amount but let’s say his agent begins negotiations at $7M or $8M a pop and justifies this figure with the same Pablum guys like you have written about this matter. Do the Flames immediately capitulate so as to not upset their delicate and fragile superstar, or do they present a fact-based case to show why they think his value to them isn’t as high as he imagines? If the latter–and it must be the latter–feelings are going to be hurt and noses are going to be put out of joint. There is no other way.

        In the end, if the Flames get him for your $5.5-6 rather than his initial 7.5, the Flames have an extra 1.5 to 2M a year to work with, absolutely crucial for a team that needs a major overhaul of talent and not a lot of cap wiggle room.

        Let’s try and keep emotions out of negotiations. It is strictly business, and money has no feelings, loyalties or other warm fuzzies.

  • Greg

    I vote on the “it’s great” side. A solid chance at our first ever top 3 pick, and we already have 2-4 players that could be on team North America. Very bright young core is about to get brighter, and in 1 more season we’ll have all the bad contracts off the books and be ready to swing for the fences.

  • brodiegio4life

    just shows how bush league the NHL and refs are. It’s blatantly obvious now that the refs are targeting the flames and the NHL isn’t gonna do a thing about it. I doubt if it was a kings or hawks player suspended the refs would be punishing them as much as they are the flames.

    • Justthateasy

      It might also have something to do with Burke coming on strong publicly. And then you have the local press debating the matter creating an issue where there is no debate. The crime was obvious so Wideman must pay (500k) and he learns.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Whiner! Whiner! Whiner!

      Flames got exploded by a not-so-good Buffalo team. Do you think the fact that they have given up might have something to do with their even sloppier play and their loss of discipline? Guys now are just playing for bonuses and trying not to get so hurt so as they can enjoy their very long offseason. Would love to stick a Give-a-Shite meter into the Flames’ players to see what it registers. Bet you the fans will rate higher on the meter than the boyz.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Whiner! Whiner! Whiner!

      Flames got exploded by a not-so-good Buffalo team. Do you think the fact that they have given up might have something to do with their even sloppier play and their loss of discipline? Guys now are just playing for bonuses and trying not to get so hurt so as they can enjoy their very long offseason. Would love to stick a Give-a-Shite meter into the Flames’ players to see what it registers. Bet you the fans will rate higher on the meter than the boyz.

  • slapshot444

    For sure hard to watch, but glad to see Kelly finally talking about the penalty situation on air. Once the least penalized team in the league the Flames are paying an un official price for the appeal for Wideman. Ironically the appeal is actually a Players Association appeal. But at least its nice to finally hear it being talked about.

    • KiLLKiND

      I didn’t see the game or hear the comment, but I’d love an article with some numbers on this. I heard one of the calls on the Fan and Loubardious said something like, “welp, I’m not even going to touch that one” in a tone that suggested he was fed up with all the phantom calls against the Flames.

      • slapshot444

        Reason being Sportsnet on air needs to toe the party line. But at one point enough is enough, Kelly has the professionalism to know when to keep quite and when to know enough is enough. This is a battle between Bettman and the PA, we (the Flames and fans) are the victims.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    The two greatest failings of this season have been 1. goaltending and 2. special teams. Player usage is next on the list at number 3.

    With the picks collected at the deadline and BT’s penchant for “gettin’ er’ dun”, I have full confidence he will adequately address the goaltending at the draft. I think he goes trade route for some young up and comer similar to what Buffalo did with Lehner (Matt Murray, Anderson or Vasilevsky). Then he goes to free agency for an established vet that could provide average tending if the young guy struggles (think Reimer and if the price is too high… even Ramo again)

    For the special teams… I don’t even know what to say. BH stunk the joint up this year with it. It’s baffling really considering it wasn’t near this bad last year. Goaltending clearly contributed.

    For the special teams and the usage the best solution is for Hartley to go if they really want to turn things around. I bet BT puts him on short leash to start next year, unless a nice alternative shakes loose after this season’s end. How would this room respond to Hitchcock if St. Louis falters in the playoffs again?

  • RKD

    We need a high pick but the system and coaching isn’t working. The team is never ready to go at the start of the game and the games in which they do come really strong are usually at home and once in a blue moon. If we keep talking about special teams like pp and pk and they can’t get it going get someone in there who is an expert.

  • everton fc

    Hathaway looks ready to join the team full-time, going forward.

    How did Jooris look? I am hoping he shows some promise again, like he did last season. Also – no mention of Ferland…

    6 goals… Is it the defensive play of our forwards? Our defencemen?? Or is it all really our goaltending??? (Nakladal was -3. Ouch!)

    As they continue to skid, Hartley’s job is very much in jeopardy. I hope Agostino, Hamilton2, and Elson get some shifts with the parent club. All deserve it.

    • cberg

      From what I saw last night and the last few games, the biggest issue is defensive zone coverage from one of several forwards, versus actual D issues. The goalies haven’t been too bad, but haven’t been outstanding either. I think the overall team play in the ZD zone would go a long ways to dropping the GAA.

  • Christian Roatis

    Imagine finishing dead last and still missing out on the Top 3, especially this year. *shudder*

    I like the new anti-Edmonton and Buffalo rules, but the greed in me wishes it changed next year.

  • freethe flames

    BT needs to purge this team and many want him to start with BH. For me the number one issue with BH coaching this year is player utilization and while we are not around the team enough to know the dynamics it is sure confusing to see Colborne, Russell, Engelland be used ahead of Bennett, Frolik and Hamilton in far to many cases. Not to mention seeing Hiller again last night.

    After that we need to consider the makeup of this team and that is on BT. (yes some of the guys I am going to point out are either JF of BB signings but BT needs to deal with them.) He needs to purge this team of it’s bad contracts and place holders; hopefully Smid realizes that he has made enough money in his hockey career and retires and takes care of his health, either trade and retain 1/2 of Widemans salary, the same for Raymond although having a experienced forward in the AHL is not bad thing, Engelland should never play again above the role of a 5/6 and probably should be the 7th defenceman or mentor guys in the AHL. Bollig should be in the AHL and replace Coton Orr. Trade Matt Stajan while someone might give you something for him. Moving these guys gives room to bring up younger players or sign RFA’s who might help this team. If none of this transpires in the off season then expect another frustrating year.

    Underachievers this year need to either have a fire lit under their butts or be bypassed by other guys on the farm. Here is my list of under achievers: Ferland, Bouma, Jooris, and Hamilton(on the defensive side of the game).If these three forwarrds would have been close to expectations this team would have been better, there is no reason for those 3 forwards not have have combined for 10-15 more goals combined and significantly more hits, both would have helped this team significantly.

    When we acquired Hamilton I thought he would be better defensively and he would be clearly our number 3 defender. He has far too often not been our number 3 defender and at times too soft in his own end. I don’t put all of this on him as he does not control his partners and his ice time but he needs to step up his game next year.

    The two best things that have come out of this year are that we should be able to draft a high end forward that will help us as early as next year and the second thing is that despite a subpar year in the AHL young guys their have had a year to develop and hopefully be able to push for some spots on the big club.

    The last 19 games need to be about accessing guys like Ortio, Hathaway, trying to see if TJ and Hamilton can be a pairing and giving a guy like Agostino a good look. Also light a fire under Bouma, Ferland and Jooris a$$es.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Rules of this forum clearly and in the strongest terms forbid you from speaking evil about Dougie Hamilton. Kid can do no wrong. How dare you question the defensive side of his game. Don’t you know that a defenceman takes a lot longer to develop than a forward? Average NHL d’man doesn’t come into his own until age 28.36? It is of no consequence to you that when Hamilton reaches that age he might not be a Flame. Feel good knowing that he honed his craft/ made his mistakes as a Flame. As for Dougie being a softie, who do you think you are? Do you fancy yourself as Mike Peca ripping on JayBo? (Gosh, I wish the Flames still had that under-appreciated superstar.)

      Don’t forget how Tre got Hamilton last year. It was the most brilliant tactical move since Rommel outflanked the British in North Africa. Since the Hamilton deal, I don’t question any of Tre’s moves. Even if I don’t understand it, like the 3 goalies at the start of the season, I know it is right because Tre made it. I love Tre cause I can switch off my brain and let him do all my thinking for me. Because Tre said Hamilton is an A-1 stud, how could be anything but that?

      If you want to diss the great Dougie Hamilton, dump your garbage elsewhere, not on this forum. You have been warned, Troll!

  • everton fc

    Nice to see monny coming back into his own and back at 60pt pace. Probably wont hit 30 goals but still putting up points in the full tank mode this team has tumbled into

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Kinger, Burkie and Tre will and should use this late-season point splurge by Monahan against him during the tough negotiations for the big contract. Grill him on why he couldn’t get goals and assists when the games meant something and the team was starved for scoring. Rub his nose in that stat that shows the relative value of a goal in the outcome of a game. Badger him that Gaudreau has carried him for the past two seasons and that he is little more than the moth to Hockey’s flame. Sound harsh? It should. It is negotiating. The Flames can’t get stupid and spend money foolishly as they have done with several contracts on the roster. Money is going to be pretty tight and the needs excessive in the nest few years, so the team had better hold Monahans feet to the fire while it still can.

      • Brent G.

        I will thank my own personal hockey God every day that you are not the GM of the Flames and, thus, not involved in negotiations. Being tough is one thing, belittling your 2nd best forward is beyond stupid.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          Blast him with cold, hard facts, challenge him to be the best that he can be, and then make an offer that isn’t crazy, stupid and potentially lethal to the long-term health of the team. That is bad because…

      • Primo

        Hey Mr. Knowledgable…Monahan is 21 years old and has proven thus far to be at the top of his draft class. He is by far the best of the 2013 class and he is still a young developing young stud….go follow curling or rugby..bye bye!

          • BlueMoonNigel

            Why is paying a man a fair wage for a fair day’s work such a horrible and toxic idea?

            Admittedly, the negotiations to reach a contract can be nasty, but that is business.

            The Flames need to keep a stern hand on player costs as they will soon be having cap issues. If a tough but fair negotiating process with Monahan and Gaudreau can result in the team not overpaying for the two, why is that so terrible?

            Hiller was given a 2 year contract for a total of about $9M. Has he given the Flames $9M worth of goaltending during this time? Real question. Check comparables. Let’s say that they could have got him 2 years ago for $8M instead of $9M. Why would that have been so awful?

            My message is simple: don’t overpay if you don’t have to in a cap world. Presumably, the reason Russell is gone is that the Flames perceived his monetary value as less than what he thinks he can get in the open market and as an impending UFA he has ever right to seek his fortune.

          • freethe flames

            I don’t think anyone has a problem with wanting to keep salaries under control (BT seems to have been good with this) it’s you tone for the negotiations and your tone in your writing.

          • BlueMoonNigel

            If Monahan’s people enter negotiations with a figure that starts with $9 and you as the Flames are not willing to go above $7, there is a $2 million gap. Do you battle for it or do you give in? If you decide to duke it out, how to bring the Monahan side around to your side? Facts yes, but not all facts are understood equally. In the process, harsh words will be exchanged and emotions will be hurt. It is part of the process.

          • freethe flames

            How can you be sure that negotiations begin with unreasonable demands like your example. I can’t believe anyone including Monahan’s agent believes he is worth $9m. What are young 25-30 goal scorers valued at in today’s market? Start with that upperend salary and do your comparisons from there. Might there be some harsh words and differences of opinions absolutely but you can’t allow this to destroy reputations and perceptions. Even when it was clear that Russell wanted more than the Flames were prepared to pay the public appearance came across s positive.

  • freethe flames

    So far Monahan’s draft class only 2 forwards of significance have signed new contracts Lindholm @ $2.7(2 year bridge) and Barkov @ $5.9(4 year). Monahan’s 3 year stats are very comparable to Barkov and closer to MacKinnon’s; if your the Flames do you try and get Monahan signed close to Barkov’s numbers are do you wait for MacKinnon’s numbers to come out. Personally if your BT you get it done before MacKinnon if your Monahan you wait for Mackinnon. Get her done BT.