Flames 4, Canadiens 1 post-game embers: The youth are ruining the tank

Granted, the Montreal Canadiens featured a decimated lineup, incomplete without Brendan Gallagher, P.K. Subban, and Carey Price. That’s almost like the Flames having no Mikael Backlund, no T.J. Brodie, and no… Well, we’re used to the Flames without a goalie this season, whatever.

Except they had a goalie when they needed him last night? And Sean Monahan and Dougie Hamilton had three-point nights? Okay, Niklas Backstrom is 38 years old and didn’t have to do much ultimately, but Monahan is 21 and Hamilton is 22. Don’t they know the Flames are trying to rebuild here??

It has been one year, two months, and one week

That’s the last time Backstrom played a game. On Jan. 13, 2015, he gave up six goals to the Pittsburgh Penguins on 35 shots, and… that was that. A combination of various ailments inflicted upon him over the previous years, not to mention age and the general decline that tends to come with it, saw Backstrom’s career basically end.

Until the Flames agreed to take on his contract to get an extra sixth round pick, and promised him some starts along the way. This was his first game – and he stopped 21 of 22 shots, losing the shutout with just 7:03 to go, after his team spotted him a four-goal lead. 

The Habs had 44 corsi events for through the 60 minutes, only 17 of which were scoring chances – and only seven of which were high danger ones. The numbers are pretty close to what the Flames had (41, 18, and nine, respectively), but ultimately, Backstrom didn’t need to do much: a nice little welcome back to the game for him.

His former teammates in Minnesota probably won’t be as kind when he gets his second start of the season against them on Thursday; they’re still actually fighting for a playoff spot, after all.

Four goals, seven point scorers

Monahan and Hamilton both had three-point nights, but five of their teammates also got on the board: Joe Colborne (26), T.J. Brodie (25), 19-year-old Sam Bennett, Josh Jooris (25), and Johnny Gaudreau (22).

The oldest guy to score for the Flames last night was 26 years old. The Flames may presently be “playing themselves out of the tank” – although there’s still a lot of time left, and with the exception of dominating the St. Louis Blues out of nowhere, none of these recent wins are particularly surprising – but if that’s going to happen, at least it isn’t in the form of a #goingforit team.

Twelve points were distributed around the Flames lineup last night, and eight of them went to players 22 or younger. If somebody’s going to score, it’s good it’s them.

Also, not that this is particularly meaningful – I certainly wouldn’t read much into it – but it’s worth mentioning that Micheal Ferland, despite his best efforts, was completely unable to put up any points when playing alongside Monahan and Gaudreau; Jooris already has one. He wasn’t the main factor on the play – Hamilton was – but it’s already more than what Ferland did in his time on the top line.

Get that money

Hamilton already has his money, but Monahan and Gaudreau are probably going to pass his $5.75 million cap hit.

Gaudreau has 71 points in 71 games: seventh in the NHL, and just three points back of being fourth overall. He’s now scored 27 goals this season, and has 10 games left to score three more for 30. 

Make that two likely 30 goal scorers, as Monahan is right behind him with 26. He now has 79 goals in his NHL career, so it’s all but a guarantee he scores his 100th in just his fourth season. Nobody from the 2013 draft class has scored more goals than him, and he’s just two points back of Nathan MacKinnon for overall 2013 draft scoring. Granted, it’s in an additional nine games played… but MacKinnon’s rookie season saw him put up 63 points; Monahan’s saw just 34. He’s had a lot of catching up to do, and he’s pretty much there.

Fun with single-game ES WOWY

Mark Giordano and Hamilton were paired up together for this game, and they were a 51.43% CF pairing. Brodie, meanwhile, spent most of his time with Jyrki Jokipakka, and together, they were at 50.00% CF. They were barely separated from one another. Jakub Nakladal and Tyler Wotherspoon formed a very comfortable bottom pairing that posted some of the best numbers of the night: 57.14% CF, with Nakladal being even stronger away from the last-minute call-up, and speaking to just how valuable hidden gems can be as opposed to previously established veterans.

How about some of the new forward combinations? Jooris saw himself on the top line, and even the power play, and was only about a minute and a half or two minutes behind Gaudreau and Monahan in ice time. He and Gaudreau came in at 56.52% CF, and he and Monahan were 50.00%. Jooris suffered more away from Gaudreau than when away from Monahan.

Lance Bouma was the latest beneficiary of being on the Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik line, and he was significantly weaker when separated from them. Granted, we’re still dealing with tiny sample sizes, but to go from 60.00% and 57.69% with to 16.67% and 20.00% without is pretty damning. When your overall even strength corsi is 51.61% and your linemates’ are 62.96% and 60.71%, it’s indicative you’re the weakest length.

And how about Bennett in his return to the lineup? He played with Colborne (50.00% CF) and Ferland (45.45%). He didn’t get much chance with higher impact players, and it definitely leaves one hoping for another strong winger in the near future. No slight intended towards either of his linemates, but Bennett is likely going to be one of the best players on this team in the very near future, and he needs more to work with.

    • RedMan

      good question. I wonder if they didn’t bring him back too soon, as he didn’t appear to be himself out there from the very first shift. He was very tentative with contact and was pulling up instead of finishing his checks quite often, or just avoiding big checks, which is not very Sam Bennett like.

      • Cfan in Vic

        Not sure how he’s doing today, but he was looking fine until he took a clip to the chin yesterday. It was like that perfect peck to the chin in boxing, where it doesn’t look like a hard hit, but is perfectly placed so that the head whips to the side.

        Unintentional on the Habs part, but at the time I was pretty certain that he would go to the dark room for evaluation. I didn’t hear/notice any updates after that, so I was expecting updates this morning…

  • knappsacked

    This sieason has been an absolute wreck. We couldnt buy a win to start the year, we crawled back into the playoffs in december only to watch it all crumble in january, and just when the fans have finally gotten comfortable with the tank, and the idea of a top 5 pick settled in, we stsrt winning and ruin that too. Pick one hartley! Pick onnne!

    • wot96

      Is “onnne” a metric “one”?

      For the most part, you’re right. It has been a roller-coaster of a season and even though the team looks like it has been “ruining” the top-5 pick that isn’t entirely within the Flames’ control anyway. I think the team will get a good player even if they fall outside the top 5 but, unfortunately, possibly not the player the team really needs in the short term.

      And there’s the issue. Outside the top 3 and Tkachuk, maybe, none of these players are going to help a team immediately. So the Flames still need one or two top 6 RWs and it looks like neither are going to come from the draft.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        Here is the problem with the “to tank or not to tank” dilemma. The team is showing good character by not rolling over like some teams. However, it is important to know that teams out of the playoff mix tend to have less pressure at this time so it is not necessary an indicator of how the team is going to play at the start of next year.

        It is clear that with 2 big contracts coming up this summer, we won’t have much money to go after a strong top 6 UFA forward. It is also clear that if we continue to win games then we won’t likely get an elite impact player. IMO we need elite talent next year, which means we pay for it or draft for it.

        Here is my concern, Johnny was carrying the team when there was hope of making the playoffs, Monny, Backlund, Colbourn and Frolick have really stepped it up but this only happened when we lost our foothold on the playoffs.

        I have heard experts say that it is easier to get points in October than March, but for non playoff teams this is not the case, as they continue to bring young hungry prospects up to play with desperate veterans.

        In looking at Montreal’s line up last night, it was virtually unrecognizable as far as strong NHL talent was concerned (with the exception of few quality seasoned players). I am not sure if Montreal has had a change of heart but they wont’ win many games with that line up…so are they tanking or do they just have a depth issue.

        With the shedding of some bad contracts, Calgary will still be in a crunch situation as players like Brodie and Bennett price themselves out of the Flames salary structure. The only way to circumvent this is to bring in inexpensive elite talent via the draft or less likely via a trade.

        • piscera.infada

          I have heard experts say that it is easier to get points in October than March, but for non playoff teams this is not the case…

          I’m sorry. I hear this constantly–or some other convoluted way of saying “it’s easier to play with no pressure”. Please provide one tangible example to support this. For every “Columbus was very good for the last 20 games last year” there’s a “Dallas was very good for the last 20 games last year”.

          It’s a tired narrative that while common, really offers nothing of value.

        • Cfan in Vic

          I don’t think there is a “tank or no-tank” dilema.

          The team is not going to try to lose. If you think that should be the mandate on any professional sports team, in any circumstance, I disagree entirely. It’s perfectly acceptable for some people, as fans, to be happy the team is losing and inching toward a better draft spot. There is also merit to not keeling over at this point in the season, and congealing further as a team. Trying out young guys to get a read on development, and experimenting with lines has quite a bit of value moving forward, but it’s not tanking.

          The only dilema is that of the fans, “To cheer for wins or losses”. If you think this team is better off trying to lose, you can find a nice team up north or farther east to cheer for. You’d be far more satisfied.

          • Jumping Jack Flash

            Thanks for giving me permission to cheer for Edmonton, but since I live in Edmonton and still cheer for the Flames, I will keep my allegiance. I was not looking for permission nor was I expecting a sanctimonious response but you have provided both.

            The point of my comment is quite simple. Calgary is better off losing the majority of remaining games at this stage from a rebuilding standpoint. I have followed the Flames my entire life, so I feel I am in a position to express what I feel is the best scenario for the club….that is unless you thnk I am wrong.

          • Cfan in Vic

            I guess I should have started with: Do you think the Flames would be better off instructing their players to try to lose? If the answer is “no, but they should be losing”, then what should the team do to follow your best scenario? If the answer is “yes, they should try to lose”, then I do think you’re wrong. There’s no dilemma about what the team should do, only about how the fans view the losses/wins.

            I’m glad you’re a Flames fan, and I agree they have holes in the roster that are going to be difficult to fill. I’d love a higher pick. Trying to lose will kill everything this team has been building. These guys are pro athletes who thrive on competing. If you take that away, you get the Oilers or the Leafs. Have fun with that.

  • cberg

    All the kids playing well bodes well for the future. Boy, the last several games, but generally over the whole season, Stajan’s play just isn’t keeping up. I know he still has two years on his contract, but man, he could definitely be vulnerable to a young prospect if BT can find a taker…

  • brodiegio4life

    Obviously you want a high pick, but watching your young guys, your future, put up points and carry the team to victory also shows the great future this team has. I’d say worst case scenario they pick 9th, which you can still get a top end prospect.

  • freethe flames

    My ideal off season for the Flames would look something like the following: Heat make the playoffs and go on a long run, NHLPA opts for cap increase, Flames sign Johnny and Monny long term for @13.5m combined, Flames win one of the top 3 lottery picks (I’m not to greedy), Smid and his Dr’s conclude it is best for him to retire, Flames are able to trade Wideman maintaining less than half his contract, Raymond is either traded or bought out, Dallas gets to the conference finals and the pick turns out to be a first (27th), Flames resign Nakdaddy and Tspoon, almost all the RFA’s are signed (a couple could be let go), Flames acquire a starting goaltender at a low cost(maybe part of moving Wideman), and the Flames get Janko, Mangipane and Hickey under contract.

    Well maybe I should wake up from my dream.

    • wot96

      Ya know, if he can play like that for a while…I would be okay with adding Backstrom to a a contract. Yes, I know he’s old and brittle and wasn’t tested overly last night, but he made the saves he was supposed to make and there weren’t many “aw crap..phew, he got lucky” moments.

    • Stu Cazz

      I think most of your suggestions are possible other than 1) Unlikely to win top 3 in the draft 2) Wideman trade will most likely happen at the deadline 3) Raymond trade only possible in return for another bad asset…

      • freethe flames

        I know that some are quite a stretch but that’s why I said ideal. My ideal and what I think will happen are quite different. I suspect the Heat will miss the playoffs, I suspect the Johnny/Monny contracts will be $14+m, we will draft 7/8, like you I doubt we move Wide’s that easily and I think a Raymong buyout is more likely than a trade. Personally, I would have no problem having he and Bollig be our NHL presence with the Heat next year.($1.8m savings)

    • Brodano12

      Add signing Okposo to ~6M per year for 3-6 years and take out buying out Raymond (he’s a good AHL vet and we save enough cap from Smid/Wideman already, so it’s unnecessary) and you have my ideal offseason.

      Anyone know if we can get that inception technology to plant this in BT’s head?

  • Hockeyfan

    Nice to se some chemistry building but Auston would be nice. Janko will be a very good surprise next year, he’s ready. Got to dump at least 3 contracts, Mayray, Smid and Wides. Wides can be traded for a second rounder or propest. Riding Ortio and Gillies next year would be interesting, so would Reimer.

  • Hockeyfan

    Nice to se some chemistry building but Auston would be nice. Janko will be a very good surprise next year, he’s ready. Got to dump at least 3 contracts, Mayray, Smid and Wides. Wides can be traded for a second rounder or propest. Riding Ortio and Gillies next year would be interesting, so would Reimer.