Photo credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports
There’s been a fair amount of fuss regarding Johnny Gaudreau scoring the majority of his points at home this season. But as we’d have it, throughout this final major home stand, it isn’t so much Gaudreau showing off – it’s Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik.
They are, evidently, still going at it.
Collections of points
Backlund is now riding a four-game point streak, while Frolik is on three. Throughout this homestand so far, Backlund has picked up five points, and Frolik, seven.
They’ve been dominating the ice, though that’s kind of what they do anyway; out of all regular Flames players, they’re the top 5v5 corsi players, with Mark Giordano being the only other guy to sit above 50%.
Backlund has tied a career high in points with 39, now, and Frolik would be on-pace for the same number had he been healthy all year (which would put him on pace for 45 over 82 games: his previous career high). As it stands, Frolik is sitting at 32 points and he’s seventh in Flames scoring, while Backlund is fifth.
This recent points surge has helped both of them numbers-wise, but they’ve both kinda been at it all season. The longest Backlund has gone without points is nine games; after that, five, but mostly it’s just little stretches of two or so games here and there. Frolik has gone five games in a row without a single point, and four a handful of other times, but otherwise, his record has been decorated without scoring throughout the year as well. (Johnny Gaudreau, who is over a point per game, has as many four-game stretches without a point as Frolik does.)
Both Backlund and Frolik have exhibited a trend of being roughly just above half a point per game players as they’ve settled into their careers, and we’re seeing that continue this season. They’re just good, all-around players. You may not like the timing of this particular set of scoring, but they’ve kinda been doing this all year.
The third linemate
It probably doesn’t matter who gets put on a line with Backlund and Frolik. They’re probably going to do well. Sam Bennett flourished while playing beside them, and he’s a potential elite talent, likely to turn out better than them both. He hasn’t done quite as well with other players on his line.
Joe Colborne picked up another two points while playing alongside them, the entire line clicking to start the game – some fluke successes they capitalized on and rode to victory. The trio performed pretty well together, though Colborne is definitely the most replaceable part of the line; who’s to say if it hadn’t been Kenny Agostino in his place, he wouldn’t have picked up some points as well? He was clicking well enough with the European Mikes in his first two games.
Which kind of has me thinking: why not try Micheal Ferland on that line? And not just for the idea of having three Mikes on a single line, but maybe to get him going. There aren’t really many options for the top line, and it’s not that Ferland doesn’t deserve an extended chance up there, it’s that absolutely nothing is happening for him while Sean Monahan and Gaudreau continue to pick up points of their own.
The last time Ferland picked up a point, Giordano and Sam Bennett assisted on a goal back on Feb. 29; before that, it was him and Matt Stajan assisting on a David Jones goal back on Feb. 17. He had four points in February, none in March to date, and that’s with him playing in what should be ideal circumstances.
It’s just not happening. Maybe, with the way they’re going, Backlund and Frolik can kick his game into gear; when Ferland was becoming an established part of the team back in the playoffs, he already played with Stajan and Jones in a defensive role, anyway.
But then who goes on the top line to close out the year? The Flames need another high-end winger so bad, but for now, I’d suggest trying out Josh Jooris up there. Why not? He’s a good possession player, the right side is natural to him, and he hasn’t gotten much of a look up there at all. We’re just existing closing out the season anyway, might as well play around a bit more.
Ice times across the board
This was a game with fairly even ice time distribution. Maybe it’s because the Flames got out to an early lead, but they had long stretches of no offensive activity following the first period, and it felt like they were playing more for the sake of playing than actually trying to win. They already had that 3-0 lead built up, though, and it’s not like the Winnipeg Jets are any good themselves, so…
Forward ice time ranged across the board. Frolik played the most with 17:59, while Freddie Hamilton the least with 12:04. That’s not a particularly big gap, with four lines rotated throughout the night. Though to my point above – Ferland only played 12:28, second least among forwards, all night, which is kind of strange for a supposed top line guy.
He was hovering around Lance Bouma and Garnet Hathaway ice time; F.Ham had the greatest corsi of that bunch (50% CF at ES), while Jooris and Bouma were just below him. Hathaway and Ferland posted numbers closer to Brandon Bollig, i.e., not good.
As for the defence, everyone had to step it up in Dennis Wideman’s absence when he left only partway through the first period. Mark Giordano played 26:16, Dougie Hamilton and Jyrki Jokipakka came in at 25:23 and 25:21 respectively, and Deryk Engelland posted a cool 23:19. Jakub Nakladal even got to post a cool 15:16, which is the third most ice time he’s ever gotten.
Is it time for Nakladal to get a few more minutes? Maybe – we already know what Engelland is, do we not? Giordano’s performance was better with Nakladal than with Engelland, and that was with worse zone starts. Now’s the time to experiment, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try.