Avalanche 4, Flames 3 (SO) post-game embers: And everything fell into place

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Photo credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

I don’t understand. These are the 2015-16 Calgary Flames. When did special teams get fun?

You get a shorty, you get a shorty, everybody gets a shorty

The Calgary Flames’ power play is clocking in at 15.8% – third worst in the NHL, above only Winnipeg and Toronto.

The Calgary Flames’ penalty kill is clocking in at 74.7% – the worst in the NHL.

The Calgary Flames have scored five shorthanded goals in their last four games. They’ve now jumped up to seven shorthanded goals on the season, tied for seventh in the NHL.

Yeah, I’m confused, too.

In this flurry of shorthanded scoring, Michael Frolik leads the way with two goals, while Mikael Backlund, and now Mark Giordano and Freddie Hamilton have one each. Frolik has three shorthanded points, Backlund, Giordano, and Lance Bouma two, and Josh Jooris and F.Ham one each.

Neither Frolik nor Backlund were involved in the shorthanded scoring last night, nor did they even put up a single point, but their shorthanded efforts were similar: catch the opposition unaware, chip the puck up ahead to the other, and go for it.

Giordano’s may have been the prettiest of the recent bunch, though, primarily thanks to Jooris’ deft primary assist, while Bouma and F.Ham combined in Frolik and Backlundian fashion for their own. Thirty seconds, all on the same kill, to jump out to a two-goal lead in a second period they absolutely dominated (corsi events in all situations were 22-8 for the Flames, which is nuts, especially when you consider the Avalanche are still actually trying to make the playoffs).

This is how bad the Avs’ power play was: when shorthanded, only two Flames had a negative corsi +/- – Backlund and Deryk Engelland. At minus-one. Jooris, F.Ham, Bouma, and Jyrki Jokipakka were all plus-one guys on the kill.

Whatever it is they’ve found shorthanded recently, the Flames need to bottle it up and keep it handy for next season.

And speaking of good penalty kills…

How is T.J. Brodie even real

T.J. Brodie and Giordano led the way on the kill with 3:10 and 2:26 played, respectively. Almost half of Brodie’s kill time – 1:32 of it, to be exact – came in the final 1:32 of overtime when Joni Ortio took a penalty, and Brodie stayed out there and killed the entire thing.

It was probably one of the best examples of penalty killing we’ve seen all season. No shorthanded goals came of it, but in stakes that high, he was calm, cool, and collected the entire time, constantly clearing the puck and destroying hopes of scoring chances. Others had noble efforts as well – that Bouma block drew a lot of appreciation – but Brodie was the best player on the ice.

He played 29:20, which isn’t even a season-high in ice time for him; he has six games above that threshold, including four games in which he passed the 30-minute mark (the Flames got points in all of those games, by the way). 

Brodie spent most of his night with Dougie Hamilton, and they posted a 73.33% ES CF together. Granted, most Flames finished as positive possession players at even strength – only five didn’t – so take that number with a grain of salt, but also acknowledge that it’s completely legitimate there might be something there, which bodes well for the future.

There was a lot of talk on the broadcast about how Brodie prefers to play the right side, but when partnered with Hamilton, he ends up on the left. And yet it didn’t hinder him in the slightest. The Flames have a young defenceman who’s 16th overall in blueliner scoring, ninth when you switch to points per game, who isn’t even known for his offensive prowess, is a phenomenal skater, and can play in all situations on either side of the ice without disruption to his game.

And this was after he missed three games. This is Brodie in his first game back from injury. Remember the 10th game of the season, when Brodie, a month behind everyone else, stepped on to the ice and was the best Flame out there?

It’s like – I know he’s amazing, but I forget just how amazing, and then he goes and has games like this.

Let’s play around some more

The Flames aren’t going anywhere this season, so now, more than ever, is the time to mess around. We’re seeing a bit of it with the different call-ups getting their chances. Niklas Backstrom is going to play his first NHL game in well over a year. Brodie and Giordano have been broken up, and we’re trying out Brodie and D.Ham now.

There are 11 games left in the Flames season, so hopefully we’ll see more experimentation in them. It was previously thought blasphemous to break up Brodie and Giordano, but it’s been done… so why not take that to another pairing, and break up Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan? 

I really want to see a Gaudreau – Backlund – Frolik line, for a number of reasons. One, to get another look at how well Gaudreau and Monahan play apart from each other; the last time the Flames had that on a regular basis was when Backlund was out with injury in the 2014-15 season, which forced Monahan to take on a more defensive role while Gaudreau remained sheltered with Jiri Hudler. Two, it gives Gaudreau a full line to work with; lots of love to Micheal Ferland, but he just isn’t putting up any points alongside the other kids. Three, Backlund and Frolik are the two best corsi players on the Flames, and watching Gaudreau alongside them could be a real treat.

I’m not expecting such a line to be a long-term thing by any means, but it would be really cool to see in action while there’s nothing at stake. Monahan was behind Gaudreau, Backlund, and Frolik in ice time last night – why not just try chucking the three of them together for one game and see what happens?

Other things I think would be neat to see as we close this season out:

  • Jakub Nakladal with top four minutes. Jokipakka got a shot, and we know Engelland isn’t really a top-four guy. Nakladal’s the only one of the group who has yet to get even a 20-minute game.
  • Jooris in the top six, if even briefly just on Monahan’s wing. They only played 30 even strength minutes together last season, but their CF was 57.1% over that time. Ferland – Monahan – Jooris? Jooris has been a healthy scratch throughout this season, but probably not deservedly.
  • If the Flames are still swapping call-ups… Derek Grant. He made his triumphant return to the Stockton Heat last night after being out for about five and a half weeks with a broken jaw. He returned in Brodie-like fashion, not even missing a beat as he scored two goals and put eight shots on net in the Heat’s 5-1 win. If the Flames do not re-sign him it is going to be extremely disappointing.
    • SoCalFlamesFan

      I don’t know about hate but Isn’t is likely Monahan has to have more defensive responsibility when Gaudreau is half way to the red line waiting for a breakout pass. I think Gaudreau is great but unless you are on the powerplay someone has to cover two players. I was watching last night that was often Monahan.

      • piscera.infada

        That’s Hartley, not Gaudreau. Have you not noticed this until now? The strong-side winger (and sometimes the weak-side winger as well) for the Flames is often outside of the defensive zone behind the opposing team’s defenseman–and it’s been that way since early last season. It leaves the centre with a ridiculous amount of coverage responsibility and far more difficult decisions for the defensemen under pressure. Yet we wonder about “defensive zone coverage” and “difficulty clearing the defensive zone”.

        Watch some of the “structured teams” play hockey in their own zone and the neutral zone, and compare it to what the Flames routinely do. The wingers bail far too quickly, far too often for it to be a player issue. The wingers often end up stretching the play much too vertical as well. It’s all systems–the lack of breakout, the lack of structure, the lack of puck support, only being able to consistently generate offense off the rush. And here’s the kicker: those issues being remedied would likely lead to stronger possession numbers.

          • piscera.infada

            I think the “stretch pass” is a nice, easy label, but it’s much more descriptive if we start referring to it as “rush offense”. While the frequency of the “stretch pass” is symptomatic, it’s the entire offensive “system” that’s the real issue here. Everything is created off the rush, and that makes it very difficult to sustain.

            When that top line gets it in their head that they’re going to set up in the zone and work the corners below the goal-line, they create a ton of zone time, and a lot of chances. Yet, it’s never a consistent effort. Make no mistake, that top line is great at generating off the rush, but it’s still such a low percentage chance of converting on what they generate. A lot of the time it results in a block, or an easy save, and the puck is immediately down the ice.

            When the Flames have been their most dangerous over the last two seasons, it’s been when they apply consistent pressure offensively.

          • Bean-counting cowboy

            I agree 100%. I am commenting because I am the one who accidentally trashed you, then promptly propped you to compensate but unfortunately can never take back the trash 🙁

        • SoCalFlamesFan

          I had noticed this earlier in the season, for the record. I only mentioned this now as there seems to be people blaming Monahan for the lack of defence on the first line.

      • Thunder1

        I think you do, Ari. A couple of days ago you suggested that Monahan probably won’t ever be a true first line centre. Today you say you hope to split apart our team’s best forward pair.

        What gives? I’ve followed for a long time… commented rarely. I speak now because I think you use your soapbox to grind a personal axe against Monahan. I get how much you like Backlund. I do too.

        However, Backlund is not now, wasn’t then and never will be anywhere close to as good as Monahan is. In fact, when the Flames are ready in a year or three, Monahan will be leading the way and Backlund will be playing behind him or somewhere else.

        • piscera.infada

          You’re entirely missing the point. I’m not even sure it’s worth explaining honestly.

          No one is saying Monahan is bad. No one is saying Backlund has better offensive output, or a higher ceiling than Monahan. No one is saying Monahan is a bad player.

          People are saying Monahan is not good defensively by any statistical measures (that is proven). People are saying that perhaps it might be fair to see what Monahan’s offensive output is away from Gaudreau (I for one, believe it would actually be surprisingly similar) before the Flames offer him term and dollars on a new contract. People are saying that Bennett may have a higher ceiling both defensively and offensively. People are saying that Monahan might be outmatched defensively to be a true number-one centre in the Western conference (which is reasonable).

          (Most) Everyone will agree that Monahan has shown great potential as a young NHL player. He also has years to grow into his role, and hopefully answer all those questions. However, he (Monahan) is not infallible (or anywhere near that).

  • freethe flames

    I would like to see Grant come up and play with Johnny and Monny. He was on a tear before he got hurt and seems to be ready again. If he has found his offensive mojo why not give him a kick at the cat. Or he could play lw with Sam but who play RW?

  • MattyFranchise

    Agreed piscera. That kid that jumped from junior to the nhl on a bottom five team that already has like 150 points isn’t playing like Bergeron already.

    Therefore he must be terrible.

    Btw that was sarcasm.

    • piscera.infada

      I’m still incredibly high on Monahan and his potential–probably moreso than a lot of the regular contributors to this site. That said, I do understand the questions. They are entirely fair to ask as well, I feel (as I firmly believe most of the people who ask them do as well) that the answers are not bad, nor do they shine a negative light on Monahan or his progression. It’s tough to argue with a kid having that much offensive success so early.

      • Thunder1

        Piscera… If, honestly, it may not be worth doing, why do you do it anyway. Like, twenty times a day.

        You speak of people questioning Monahan… I speak of Ari in particular. I believe her blogs suggest an anti-Monahan bent that cannot go unchallenged. If it were a one off, I wouldn’t care. Ari consistently questions his worth. Every time she does and I read it, I am going to point it out.

        Boring Sean Monahan – funny

        Anti-Sean Monahan – Ari.

        • piscera.infada

          Why do I do it? Because in particular instance: 1) you are wrong about Ari (in fact, she has been an ardent Monahan supporter for as long as I can remember), 2) the ad hominem argument against her is getting trite and taking away from good hockey conversation, and 3) there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the entire Monahan “debate” which follows from the previous two points.