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.
It’s okay to tank, but it’s also okay to ruin talented teams’ playoff pushes too.
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) March 5, 2016
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.
TJ Brodie is the only defenseman besides Scott Niedermayer who has made me drool over his skating.
— AOL KEYWORD: Mike (@mikeFAIL) March 1, 2016
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).
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) March 5, 2016
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
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.