Sabres 6, Flames 3 post-game embers: We’re number two!

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Photo credit: Timothy T. Ludwig

Number one in your hearts, number two on the scoreboard. And in the NHL standings. If you’re looking at them from bottom to top, that is. With just a four-point lead on last place, with a game in hand.

Though I’ll accept number two in the draft, too. Let’s do that. Let’s make this worth it.

Other occurrences of the number two

Two points last night: Sean Monahan, Dougie Hamilton, Garnet Hathaway.

Monahan is currently on pace for 59 points this season, which would only be three short of last year’s total – and he’s currently playing through his career-worst shooting percentage. It’s 13.7% right now, which is still rather high, but it’s the lowest he’s ever been at. Monahan, at least, continues to do pretty alright offensively.

Hamilton is on pace for 37 points this season, which would be five back of the 42 he reached in his last year with the Bruins. But that’s including October, when the entire team – including him, new to a whole other cast of players and systems – stumbled, plus a couple of games on the bottom pairing. (Side note: he was with Deryk Engelland then. That’s the second pairing now. Man, it’s funny how depth supposedly works, isn’t it?) He also received more power play time with the Bruins during that career season. So he isn’t suffering either – and we can probably expect a better year next year, too.

Hamilton’s 75.00% ES CF was pretty impressive, too – but particularly so when you recognize only T.J. Brodie played more even strength minutes than he did.

And then there’s one of the real emotional heroes of the night: Hathaway, who put up his first two career points. The first came from being in the midst of a net-front scrum; the second, trying to get control of the puck through traffic in the slot. He certainly isn’t afraid to get involved with the play, particularly in the areas where most goals come from. That level of tenacity at least earns him more chances to continue impressing.

Hathaway saw his minutes jump up in the third period; he played 5:04 then, compared to 2:16 in the first and 3:12 in the second. Though that is when the lines were shuffled and he was put back on the top line, so it makes sense he’d get more minutes then. But while the concept of rewarding a kid with those kind of linemates is cool, it really does speak to just how big a hole Jiri Hudler’s absence leaves, as necessary as it was. 

Who should centre Johnny Gaudreau?

Johnny Gaudreau is a point per game player, but he failed to score last night. With just one even strength goal over two periods, Bob Hartley reverted back to older line combinations for the third period – and the Flames only got one additional goal out of it. While it was Gaudreau’s line that scored, he himself didn’t really do anything with the play.

Gaudreau had better underlying numbers with Sam Bennett than with Monahan, though. Over 8:53 with Bennett, he was a 57.89% CF player; without him, he fell to 37.50%. Through 3:59 with Monahan, he was a 50.00% player, so clearly it wasn’t a terrible combination.

And these are all very, very tiny sample sizes of not even a whole game – but what it does tell me is Gaudreau and Bennett do deserve an extended look with one another. And it isn’t something that should be dropped even if the Flames are down headed into the third period. This is a 29th place team now; I get that winning games is the coaching staff’s immediate worry, but their primary concern should be shifting towards development because that’s all there is left to get out of this season, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a whole other level of delusional.

Bennett may turn out to be the better centre than Monahan. There’s nothing on the line anymore, this is when we might as well start finding out if that’s true. At least give it more than two periods to see if a pattern starts to form.

Kill (almost) all the penalties

Dennis Wideman conspiracy-inspired or not, the Flames took eight penalties last night, some of which overlapped to form two 5-on-3s. Seven of the eight were killed. It doesn’t help that the one goal was kind of a backbreaker, nor that it was Giordano – a prominent killer – in the box, but them’s the breaks sometimes.

Here’s who led the Flames in killing time, along with what their corsi differentials were when shorthanded:

  • T.J. Brodie (8:10, -8)
  • Deryk Engelland (7:09, -12)
  • Mark Giordano (6:22, -5)
  • Lance Bouma (5:28, -7)
  • Mikael Backlund (4:20, -4)
  • Michael Frolik (4:18, -3)
  • Jyrki Jokipakka (4:17, -7)
  • Sean Monahan (3:42, -4)
  • Josh Jooris (2:42, -5)
  • Garnet Hathaway (1:57, -6)
  • Matt Stajan (0:57, -2)

And then some players had a second or two here or there, so nothing really worth looking at – and certainly not even on the ice long enough for anything to go against them.

For playing such big minutes on the kill, it’s impressive Brodie was able to prevent much from going against him. It’s still more than most, but that’s only about one shot attempt against per minute. 

It’s kind of curious, on the other hand, how Bouma ended up with the most minutes for forwards. Apparently actually taking penalties oneself didn’t stop one from killing them (Hathaway’s two penalties led the Flames, and yet he was tasked with killing others’… and evidently, there is still much to learn there), so it looks like everyone had a clean slate to work with.

If anything, for me, this tells me that going forward, the Flames’ top killing unit, assuming all personnel are available, should be Brodie, Giordano, Backlund, and Frolik. (Backlund got himself in the offensive zone a couple of times there, too.) That’s a good, aggressive unit composed of four excellent defenders who have also shown proven ability to put the puck in the net, or at absolute worst, get it out of their zone, sometimes in a controlled manner.

Also interesting: Stajan’s apparent fall from grace. He only played 6:56 last night, the lowest on the Flames. Throughout the season, he’s averaged 1:43 on the kill, one of the most-used forwards. He’s seemingly been falling out of favour as the year has gone on, and there are still another two years left on his (relatively pricy) contract. Where might we go from here?

  • CofRed4Life

    I was so disappointed that Bennett and Gaudreau didn’t stick. That could be such a dynamic duo. Please Bob, don’t stop something just because it doesn’t work for 2 periods. Please, in the name of development and the future.

  • brodiegio4life

    here’s something I was wondering, say the flames luck out and get either laine or puljujarvi, and say gaudreau and bennett are a pair. Do you put your finn at RW on gaudreau’s line, or do you put him 2nd line with mony. This would essentially create 2 first lines which is very similar to what Chicago does. Have a 1A and 1B line.

    • freethe flames

      The problem with this is do we have the other parts of a 1a 1b line yet. We also might win the lotto and get Matthews.

      Personally I would not break the Johnny/Monny pairing up as I believe they play well together. What they need is a RW who will compliment them. Could one of the young Finns make this a top end line absolutely but there are no guarantees they would have chemistry.

      Bennett continues to show signs of being a high end player but has yet to get there, would he benefit from playing with a more skilled set of wingers yes but I see some chemistry developing between he and Ferland.

      Assuming we draft one of the Finns I would consider starting the preseason something like this:
      Johnny/Monny/Finn
      Ferland/Bennett/Poirier(if he comes ready)
      Agostino/Backlund/Frolik
      Bouma/Grant/Hathaway

      But truthfully I want to see lots of Mangipani, Shinkarik, Jankowski as well. Next year may look a lot like this year in regards to results but make it be because we are giving kids a chance and not watching vets who are not keeping up.

    • Parallex

      Yes.

      If you put all/most your premium talent on one line then that one line see’s the toughest competition the oppo coach can muster all night long. Better to create two pairs of premium talent (with complementary talent as the 3rd) and force the opposition to either overwork their own guys or allow your premium talent to play against lesser talent.

  • freethe flames

    Let’s not annoint Hathaway yet. Yes he’s been sound but he is what he is; a high energy 4th liner and teams need these guys. I have no problem with him playing above his grade level at this point but let’s not make him into something he is not. In many ways he is what the first line needs except it needs to be someone with a bit more offensive pedigree.

    Stajan’s decline is the product of Hathaway’s ability to play on the PK along with Bouma playing better. Being stuck with Bollig as a regular linemate will hurt anyone’s game, but better Stajan than one of the young kids. Until management decides to audition some of the prospects from the Heat this is what the lines should like: Johnny/Monny/Hathaway, Ferland/Bennett/Jooris, Bouma/Backlund/Frolik and Colborne/Stajan/Bollig.(who really cares if they average 8 minutes a game at this point) This entire bottom line needs to be replaced from within.

    Shake up the defensive core as well and look to the future. Play Dougie with Brodie, Play Nak with Gio and play Jaki with Eng’s and once Wideman returns alternate him and Eng’s.

    Hiller should only play if Ortio gets injured. Backstrom should be given his look and moved on from.

  • Bob Cobb

    How do you let Buffalo score 6 times on the “BEST DEFENSE IN THE LEAGUE?” Gio, Hamilton, Brodie, should have been able to handle Eichel.

    Just remember, Eichel is good, but Connor is McBetter!

    They only scored 1 on Edmonton….and whose at the bottom of the West now?….So last year was a fluke?

    Later, La Losers….this post is all in fun!

    • RedMan

      Hey, welcome back! we haven’t seen trolls here for some time. things must be better in E town, and trust me, we are very glad to hear that! I sincerely hope you go on one of those annual end of the year tears and win all those meaningless games!

      10 days ago, everyone on your homepage (ON) were ready to fire the entire staff, trade all the core, and crucify the coach before you all collectively jumped off a bridge.

      And now, a mere weak later, ON is back to “Dynasty” and “Oiler domination to Follow”. it’s been quite entertaining to be honest.

      Trust me, we are OK with the opportunity to get a decent draft pick finally, and the potential of Oilers winning a few games finally and getting out of the way of a decent draft for once in 10 years, has many of us actually cheering for the Oil! Go Oil!

      So, we will just nod, nudge, and wink at your attempted insults and pretend like the last 10 years didn’t happen so you can enjoy this brief moment.

      • RickT

        For some, especially up north, I’m sure it’s hard to fathom what it’s like to never have picked 3rd or earlier in their franchise.

        For others, it’s year after year.

    • Kevin R

      And the Oiler worms come crawling out from under the rocks. I’ll take our D core before yours any day of the year & twice on Sunday. Your Oilers will have to move significant pieces to even come close to our D core. Don’t be too quick to paint our D a failure when our goaltending has been atrocious. Talbot has been comparable to what we had last year, which most of us would covet big time. Is he a guy to take you to the next level? Maybe/maybe not.

      As for coming on here to throw stones, you loser NHL welfare bums being gifted with McDavid should have taken you over the top, not taken you out of 30th spot. 4 1st over alls, a 3rd overall & a 7th overall in the last 6 years. Lets talk about losers shall we??

      FYI, we still have 2 games in hand.

      Edit: Yeah I know you are having fun, how else are we supposed to respond? :-} I have had emails from all of my Oiler buddies this morning. You bunch of Potlicks!

      • shaner

        Love it. the yearly refrain from Flames fans. “the coilers are terrible”

        and right you are.

        however, now as an oiler fan we can’t talk about the past (aka the glory years with multiple cups, because thats the past). but also now we probable won’t be able to talk about the present because, reality as of today were higher in the standings……

        what Im trying to say is…..man we both suck and that sucks. and as much as I love the oilers, I want the flames to be a force also so our chirping actually means something and hits home hard when the other team wins or loses as opposed to who sucks a little less..because at the end of the day both teams suck way to much for what there fans deserve.

        we will get first pick again because thats what we do and because we are draft lottery champions 4 out of 6 years, but hopefully you guys get a Finnish stud second!

        ps morning beers are awesome!

        • Kevin R

          Thumbs high buddy! I was giving it to my Oiler buddy that finishing ahead of the Flames was comparable to Oil making the playoffs (& I am pulling for you guys on that one) & then if you win the lottery & draft ahead of us, well, that will be like winning the Cup. Now that, I must admit, will be an 8 Maalox event. That will burn badly.

          & I’m too old for morning beers, but a glass of Amarone (my True Blood), well….. Im in. :-}

    • Captain Ron

      Well…its taken your Oil years and numerous documented 1st overalls to pass us or anyone for that matter in the standings this time of year. So congrats I guess and for what it is worth the fans and management of every other team in the league are relieved that they just might win enough to finally finish out of the bottom three. No guarantees yet at this point but here’s hoping someone else other than the Oil get first, second, or third shot in the draft. Last year was an anomaly but it was a hell of a lot of fun! With Hiller in goal we couldn’t beat the Red Deer Rebels.

  • Theo4HoF

    The refs have been out to lunch recently. Good thing the flames are tanking cause if we were close to the playoffs I’d of pulled out my hair by now. Don’t believe in conspiracy’s but since the Wideman suspension it seems like we give up 1 or 2 5 on 3’s a game.

    People might not like this but I thought on the Monahan giveaway that lead to a goal against and the play where Brodie got burned, Ferland was close to both and could not have dragged his ass anymore than he did.

    • piscera.infada

      People might not like this but I thought on the Monahan giveaway that lead to a goal against and the play where Brodie got burned, Ferland was close to both and could not have dragged his ass anymore than he did.

      I agree. I haven’t liked Ferland’s game at all lately. The guy needs to do something (like, literally anything). He’ll have the occasionally nice burst into the offensive zone, but I’m expecting more. When Bennett took the elbow to the jibs last night, he just stood there watching it.

      • supra steve

        I was wondering if it’s time to entertain thoughts of moving him. BT has said in the past that there’s interest in him from other clubs. So, unless they are still fairly confident he will snap out of his funk, it could be time to “sell high” on Ferland?

        • piscera.infada

          I wouldn’t go that far yet, but the guy definitely needs to figure it out for next season. His skill-set has the chance to be so unique, it could be a complete game-changer for the organization, it’s just frustrating that we’ve seen it maybe once every 10 games, if that even.

          I mean, I think the pay-off has the potential to be so big, that you kind of need to hang on to him. Remember, this is also a player that took a long time to get going in the AHL as well.

          • wot96

            I agree. Before we start looking at selling players like Ferland, I think you need to look more carefully at his deployment, Qual Comp, and his role and in the latter case what he has been told to do by the coaches. Maybe that’s more systems than anything – you get the idea.

            I will give Harley his due in that he stood by Ferland when the world was ready to give up on him because of his off-ice problems. But that doesn’t mean that Ferland is being used right.

            If we accept the idea of these lines working as pairs with a complimentary third, then why couldn’t Ferland be used on a first or second line as the guy that forechecks and makes the defence make mistakes? That wouldn’t require him to stay on his preferred wing. Or he can be used in an energy role further down the line up, particularly if you don’t believe in the pairs paradigm.

            Guess what I’m saying is that what Ferland is being asked to do may not fit in well with what he’s best at. He may never be a Gary Roberts type but I cannot believe the team should give up on him at this point.

          • freethe flames

            This goes to player deployment. Many on this sight have complained about BH deployment of players; and this is one I can live with. Ferland needs to get back to being physical because that is what makes him productive, it’s also what makes him valuable playing with Bennett(hopefully). Let’s also not forget that he is not some grizzled veteran who is playing below his salary.

          • I just don’t see this. He has had a few games where he was a beast of a power forward but other than a handful of games has he really been anything special? I am not trying to bash him and he is still a fine 3rd-4th line player and that is not nothing but if he becomes anything more than that I will be surprised. Also he gets injured a lot. His style of play when effective is really taking the body. Unfortunately a good percentage of the time, he can get the worst of a hit.

            Bottomline I am not sure that the style of play that makes him appealing (when he is actually doing it) is sustainable.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          It is tough to make that call after less than a year…I must admit Ferly leaves you wanting more. I come to believe that he may not be a big point getter in the NHL much like Backlund but then I see how Backlund is actually scoring and the most improved player on the team. You can tell that Ferly has been on a tight rope with Hartley… The old Ferley would have gone after the offender. .He needs to get back with playing with an edge.

  • RedMan

    starting as one of the least penalized teams this year and last, things have changed since the day Wideman appealed the suspension, and penalties are up 63%…

    and just as glaring as the phantom calls are the missed calls, such as JG being tripped and dumped head first right in front of the official or the interference on Gaudreau as he tried to get to the puck that led to a goal no call in either instances. or the other game, Brodie being held blatantly. These are calls that are made every time, except now they aren’t.

    What am I getting at? If we get a top 3 pick this year, we can thank Wideman and the less than honorable officiating.

    All in all the Flames have a lot of work to do for the remaining 18 games in evaluating talent, working on special teams, looking for chemistry, giving prospects a try out.

  • MattyFranchise

    Let’s all just stop complaining about the refs. They’re just giving the Flames time to practice their special teams play because they clearly aren’t doing it at their actual practices!

  • travisbell

    I’m just curious to hear some other opinions about Hartley’s (more likely the guys above him) use of Ortio given their position in the league.

    I’m having trouble understanding this unless they’ve already decided to walk on him (which is interesting because of that whole group 6 UFA thing). There’s been lots of discussion about this so maybe I missed this as being kind of the general consensus.

    Given their second worst record in the league, I would expect them to play him a lot to see if he’s got what it takes but it seems like every time he gets a chance to, they make some move that results in him playing less. I am of course talking about Backstrom now. I figured he was just a pure salary dump/exchange to get the pick since the salaries were almost equal. Then I hear they’re planning to see “what he’s got”!? Huh? I mean maybe it’s that he gets 1 or 2 games, he bombs, and they go back to rotating Hiller/Ortio but it doesn’t sound that way.

    The only conclusion I have is that they might actually be exploring that group 6 UFA thing deliberately. Correct me if I am wrong but they won’t owe Ortio anything if he gets classified as a group 6, right?

    • supra steve

      I expect we will see a lot more of Ortio this season. However, when we’re playing BUFF, EDM, WIN, TOR etc. I won’t be surprised to see Hiller or Backstrom. Losses to those teams greatly enhance lotto potential, and old/washed-up goalies help to deliver the desired result.

      • travisbell

        > Losses to those teams greatly enhance lotto potential, and old/washed-up goalies help to deliver the desired result.

        Hahaha, touché.

        I quite honestly expected Ortio to mostly go the distance at this point. You think back to when Ramo got going, it was when they gave him a chance to string a few weeks together. This 1 in, 4 out out rotation seems counter-productive.

      • Parallex

        I’m not sure he’s “done”… but he certainly didn’t do anything to make the prospect of losing him anything to lose sleep over.

        The only reason I think he may not be “done” is that…

        A: He’ll probably work for cheap, and
        B: The organization is familiar with him

        The way I see it the Flames are basically getting 16M in cap space from Jones, Hudler, Ramo, and Hiller. But that will pretty much be entirely eaten up by the raises for Giordano, Gaudreau, and Monahan. In that respect having a backup goalie willing to work for 600K is probably something they would want in their back pocket. No goalie you get for 600K on the open market is liable to be any good so maybe you go ahead and think “better the devil I know”.

      • RealMcHockeyReturns

        Probably right unless he plays super well which hurts our “Matthews-score”. But might as well play him and then have him be an RFA and trade his rights for something.

    • piscera.infada

      First, you would never “explore that group 6 UFA thing deliberately”. It would make no sense. At least if he’s still an RFA you can control him, and if it comes to an impasse where he refuses to play for you, you can trade him for a late pick. So no, you wouldn’t do that.

      So with that assumption, I’m not sure there’s anything more to this than Hartley. I doubt Treliving is falling over himself to force Hartley’s hand in regard to goaltending. Keep in mind, while the group 6 UFA status is a very real possibility, it’s only about 8 more full games he’ll have to play (out of 18 remaining). It’s not out of the question that Ortio will play 50% of the remaining games.

      They acquired Backstrom simply so they could get something (the pick) for Jones–nothing more. He is not a solution here, no one has ever said anything to that end. There’s a distinct difference between “let’s see what he’s got”, and “let’s see if he’s the goalie for the future”.

      The simple fact is thus: Minnesota needed to clear space in order to take on Jones’ contract, being that Minnesota was probably the only team that wanted Jones, the Flames need to take some contract back. The most sensical move for both teams is a goalie who hasn’t played all year, and who isn’t under contract next year (he basically has no value at all). Backstrom wouldn’t waive his NMC without being promised “some” games. Therefore, if he doesn’t waive his NMC, you get nothing for Jones. It’s fairly easy to see that yes, the Flames need to play Backstrom for a few games simply to honour a deal they made with him. They won’t come out and say in the media that “we don’t want to play him, but I guess we have to”. So, that’s why.

      All that mentioned, the Flames are in all likelihood going to carry 3 goalies the rest of the way, but I would be very, very surprised if Hiller gets another start. Getting Ortio playing time, and out of Group 6 status is the most important thing, and it will happen. None of issues you mention above are more than loosely corollary, if that.

    • cberg

      Your take i.e. Ortio is interesting, I guess we will see how the team proceeds.

      As for Backstrom, he had a NMC in Minnesota and only would waive IF the Flames promised to give him some game(s) so he could showcase himself for another couple years either in the NHL or Europe. Hey, perhaps he’s still got it and could be a filler here for a year or two?

      As for Hiller? Hmmm…. want to tank without letting anyone suspect that is the plan? Give the guy a few games in thanks for being a loyal soldier all year (and look good to outsiders in the process)? Put Ortio on a “starters schedule” i.e. multiple games, rest, multiple games… and see how he does? Given up on all of them so who really cares? Believe Hiller is the best chance to win…? Lots of different possibilities and we really have ZERO insight to the real truth.

  • travisbell

    > First, you would never “explore that group 6 UFA thing deliberately”. It would make no sense. At least if he’s still an RFA you can control him, and if it comes to an impasse where he refuses to play for you, you can trade him for a late pick. So no, you wouldn’t do that.

    How does that work if the Flames don’t wanna offer him a contract though? I guess that’s my main point here. Or you’re saying they would regardless (go for bottom dollar see where they meet) and then they would try to shop him? Leave him in the AHL being the worst case scenario if no teams wants to offer anything?

    • piscera.infada

      How does that work if the Flames don’t wanna offer him a contract though? I guess that’s my main point here. Or you’re saying they would regardless (go for bottom dollar see where they meet) and then they would try to shop him? Leave him in the AHL being the worst case scenario if no teams wants to offer anything?

      I’m saying they would regardless of if they wanted to or not. If Ortio’s an RFA, he really has no choice. You qualify him, and if he refuses to sign, you trade him to the highest bidder. If you don’t want him, you sign him and then trade him to the highest bidder. Now granted, given how he’s played this year, the “highest” bidder won’t be very high at all (future considerations?), but that’s okay.

      Honestly though, I see the argument that Ortio would be done with the organization, but he really doesn’t have much pull in the situation. He also hasn’t played well this year, so it wouldn’t be a big loss.