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?