Flames 4, Penguins 2 post-game embers: A win? What now?

Winning is important, I mean that’s the whole point of the game. Though, we know first-hand to achieve that you often need to lose (and lose real bad, often intentionally) to get to that point.

Magnificent! Herrlich! 素晴らしい! Magnifique! – TJ Brodie

The realization that TJ Brodie is a remarkable defenseman may have hit everyone at different times. Maybe it was after he scored an important goal. Or maybe it was when he produced a perfect first-assist pass that helped seal a victory. Hell, it might be the crystallizing moment that you realized just how perfect of a skater he is.

The point being: during the Penguins game, no defenseman made his presence more felt than Brodie. By nearly all accounts he’s been the Flames’ MVP this season. There is reasonable case to hold him in that regard, even above Gaudreau. 

Even with the games missed due to injury, Brodie is going to top his career-high in points this year. The pride and joy of the Flames’ blueline is on pace for 53 points this season, 12 more than last season’s then career-year. At only 25, in his first year of the incredibly underrated contract extension, his on-ice results are among the very few bright moments of this season.

Despite the 36.59% CF performance at 5v5 (a byproduct of the Penguins’ dominance in the third), Brodie, along with Hamilton (40% CF), were united for nearly the entire game. The pairing we saw for brief intervals earlier this season didn’t look that bad. By all accounts this should and will likely be the top pairing of the future.

Hopefully at some point we see this pairing’s chemistry take hold and the results start to manifest. None of this happens overnight but it’s imperative to the long-term success of this team. There is a window of opportunity to see others on the blueline step up as Mark Giordano eventually sees the effect of the aging curve – something of which the team needs to be incredibly cognizant of.

BACKLUND’S SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON: REAL GOOD

It’s hard to be have any dismay with Mikael Backlund’s performance in the 2016 calendar year. The first half of the season was marred by legitimate lows in SH% – which resulted in logic thrown out the door, cries demanding he be dealt, and arguments that Markus Granlund may still be able to replace him.

Funny how both the cries for trading him quieted down as soon as his SH% rebounded and the illusions of Granlund usurping the future third-line centre spot are a flicker of a distant memory now.

Since Jan. 1 (excluding now-traded players and Garnet Hathaway), Mikael Backlund’s 13 5v5 points are good for second on the team. Only Johnny Gaudreau has more (15 total). In terms of rated stats, it’s pretty great too: 2.1 P/60 (1.0 G/60, 1.1 A/60)

Against the Penguins, we saw what’s becoming a gold standard to some in the media and others who are catching on now about his impact on the ice. His assist on the Mark Giordano goal was a superb cross ice pass which helped turn the tide in the second period. Add in an easy tip-in goal after the Flames’ power play expired and it makes for a good afternoon.

The Swede was the Flames’ only positive possession forward in the victory, sporting a 51.85% CF and 72.22% FF at 5v5. Throw in four iCF events (individual Corsi For), three scoring chances, and a high-danger scoring chance to that to prove he was a factor in contributing to the win.

BENNETT, BOUMA, AND COLBORT

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We’re just a handful of games into Sam Bennett’s tenure as a centre and the results are slowly coming together. Everything we know about Bennett shows that he tends to be a driver of play, which works since both Joe Colborne and Lance Bouma are not known for doing so. How much of that rubs off on whomever he continues to play with remains unseen, but it’s hard to be remiss of yesterday’s results.

There are still some things to address though:

Even with their incredibly favorable zone starts (77.78%), they still matched up against the Penguins’ best in Crosby, Letang, Maatta, Hornqvist, and Scott Wilson (who the hell is he?). Yet fortunately they were rewarded with four points, including Bouma’s second of the season. Even with the zone starts that may create the illusion of sheltering it ends up not being a sheltered environment if you match up against Crosby.

Bouma’s season has virtually been a wash between the injuries, lack of goals, and the healthy scratches. Two goals is an absolute far cry from where he was last season, given his $2.2M salary. Fortunately for him, this might be an opportunity for him to ride shotgun with a talented centre again to score some goals.

Though both Bouma and Colborne aren’t the most ideal options to play with Bennett, barring some change of heart by Hartley, we’ll have to wait a bit longer again for Gaudreau with Bennett. With that, it would be the best and most ideal situation for fostering the growth of both their offensive games. Any methodology or belief that says otherwise is pure farce and should be ignored.

  • MontanaMan

    Brodie has really taken over the #1 spot on the defence core. Gio has had stretches of good games but has struggled at times and certainly hasn’t had the year that he had last year. I like the leadership and intangibles that Gio brings and we can’t overlook the need for that, but his days as the #1 blueliner are over. Not mentioned is Hamilton who has struggled at times, but has really grown into a responsible and important part of the Flames defence. We often forget how young he is, but his future is very bright.

    • T&A4Flames

      “His days as a #1 blue liner are over.”

      Really? People are so quick to judge and then flip flop back the other way when suddenly the player hS a few fantastic games. The part about Backlund in this article highlights that, perfectly.

      It’s possible Gio’s days as #1 are done but he’s been playing some amazing hockey the last few months, breaking his own season goal total mark already. If you mean to say that Brodie has surpassed Gio as the #1, maybe say that. Gio is a #1 D. We just happen to have 2 of them.

      • Cfan in Vic

        That’s exactly how I see it too. Gio hasn’t been as consistently dominating this season, but the injury he sustained last season is realistically still being overcome. It’s not an excuse for him, but he has been ramping up all season long. Clearly cap hit plays a part in the perception of value.

        I’m more than thankful for both those guys.

      • MontanaMan

        “People are so quick to judge”. “It’s possible Gio’s days as #1 are over.” Thanks for disagreeing with me, then going on to say the same thing.

  • freethe flames

    I would like to see TJ take the next step and be moved away Gio; this will be a heresy for many Flames fans but I would love to see how good he plays on his natural side. Playing him with Hamilton is the future. Gio should be matched up with Nak if he is good to go. Now is the time to experiment not the first 20 games of next season.

  • Greg

    I too would like to see a permanent Brodie & Hamilton pairing, especially for next year. If they take on the heavy lifting, I think a Gio & Wideman second pairing could actually be fairly successful in a 2nd pair, softer minutes, offensive role – one that would likely help inflate Wideman’s value for the trade deadline next season when his contract is expiring.

    Kevin plus the other bad contracts can hold down the fort on the 3rd pair for 1 season, and then we can re-evaluate what to do for 2017-2018, when we’ve got all that dead cap space rushing back to life. As much as the flames could use another top 4 option, I think you can’t allocate any more cash to the backend, so make due with this for now, and spend whatever you have left this offseason on goaltending and maybe a scoring winger if the Gaudreau and Monahan contracts leave any room for it.

  • brodiegio4life

    both gio and brodie are #1 dmen, and Hamilton is on his way to becoming one. Andersson looks like an absolute steal, and kylington has a ton of potential. The future is bright my friends. Now let’s just get a damn goalie (gillies?)and top line winger (draft 2016) and this team could be a force

  • Hockeyfan

    Suggestions about changing the draft so teams that finish best over last 20 games receive better pick odds through a full non playoff team lottery, seems to be a better idea every day. I hate cheering for a team to lose to get a pick and that’s what were left with. The Coil have set a terrible precedent and the NHL has got to do something about it. 14- 25%, 13-20%, 12-16%, 11-12%, 10-10%, 9-9% to 1 at 1% until the first 14 picks are decided.

    • Cfan in Vic

      I was thinking about this, and I have one problem with it.

      I think rewarding teams for their performance through the final stretch would prevent a lot of teams from maximizing their assets by trading valuable free agents at the deadline. For example, forget trading Hudler/Russel/Jones before the end of the season because the final stretch matters for draft order.

      • Hockeyfan

        Very true. I just think the Coil picking low for 6 years has screwed up the draft system. it would make for more interesting deals throughout the year though. Would like to get rid of seeding for playoffs as well. Top 8 in each conference get in, then play 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15 etc. We will never see Edmonton in a con final the way it is set up. Also see this as spreading the player skill around the league more.

  • freethe flames

    If we move Gio and Brodie away from each other I think we get the best of both worlds as they both can mentor someone else. It is possible both pairing could be strong regardless of who Gio’s new partner might be. I look at the prospects in the system and am hopeful: +Spoon, Kulak both did not look out of place in the bottom pairing, Nak and JJ are quite capable of bottom pairing as they are proving, Culkan made real progress last year and it seems Morrison is beginning to come along, then there is the real youngsters like Kylington, Andersson, OlaMatteson, and Hickey. They have not arrived yet I am hopeful out of 7 young kids will be true NHL players and some have top 4 potential.

  • Oyo

    The best solution i’ve seen about trying to eliminate tanking and still giving the worst teams highest pick is actually fairly simple.

    It orders the teams by the total points they accumulate AFTER they are mathmatically eliminated from playoff contention.

    so if a team is out by the 60 game mark, then they have 22(!) games to accrue points towards the draft.

    and in contrast if a team only gets eliminated with 7 games remaining, then they have only that time to get points.

    highest points wins 1st overall.

    bad teams that get eliminated early get more time to get points but have to try to win to draft higher.

    eliminates all the issues.