The nice thing about back-to-back games is they come with a built-in excuse for losing. You have a sluggish first period (getting, say, only three shots on net and seven corsi events total)? Travel. Of course you’d hope for a better team to rise above that – but the Flames aren’t exactly a better team.
And make no mistake about it. While the Leafs are lacking in personnel, and are very deservedly right at the bottom of the league, they’ve still got Mike Babcock who has made quite the difference for them.
The Flames have won a lot as of late, but the only really surprising win was over the St. Louis Blues. Not beating Toronto was a little surprising – but the Flames beat the bottom-feeding Canadiens the day before, so the tank balances out.
The return of the shorthanded goal
Matt Stajan’s sixth of the season marked the Flames’ sixth shorthanded goal in six games. They now have eight on the season, which is tied fifth in the NHL, alongside Montreal and Chicago.
(Speaking of Montreal – Paul Byron has three shorties this year. That could be 11 for the Flames! Which would be second in the NHL! Oh well.)
Granted, Stajan’s goal maybe shouldn’t have gone in – that was a bad one by Jonathan Bernier – but it’s impressive that in a game in which the Flames gave the Leafs six power plays, they still outscored them on their own power play, 1-0.
Okay, so I’m not gonna piss Josh Jooris off
I’m going to go out on a limb and say Nazem Kadri probably doesn’t have a high opinion of the Flames after this season. First, there was the throat-slashing gesture towards Mark Giordano; now, there was a clean hit on Johnny Gaudreau… followed by a tag-team matchup against him.
Kadri hits Gaudreau. Gaudreau, evidently displeased, slashes the backs of both of Kadri’s legs. Kadri gets called for embellishment, for some reason; as he goes down, Gaudreau skates away and Jooris jumps on top of him.
I’m not totally sure how I feel about this? On the one hand, Kadri is the only party in this incident that did nothing wrong, and if that’s how Gaudreau reacts to taking a hit… eh. On the other hand, it does further show how little use players like Brandon Bollig can have. He’s not going to protect Gaudreau because he shouldn’t be on the ice with Gaudreau, period. (We saw that earlier this season and it was, predictably, bad.) And Bollig was the only Flame to not even crack 10 minutes last night. At least Jooris can play while he’s beating on someone.
On the other hand, though, nobody got hurt, the games are meaningless now, and it was kinda funny.
The top pairing
Normally I’d call whatever pairing T.J. Brodie is on the Flames’ top pairing, but when he’s partnered with Jyrki Jokipakka, maybe a little less so. The Flames’ top pairing is probably more accurately described as whichever one has the most of Brodie, Giordano, and Dougie Hamilton.
(Ice times don’t count so much last night – the number of penalties the Flames took skewed them towards special teams, and Bob Hartley still seems hesitant to use Hamilton on the kill. He actually played the least out of all Flames defencemen last night, but we’re talking about a difference of 5:10 in ice time from top to bottom – not that big. Everyone was used pretty evenly.)
So Giordano and Hamilton are back together. And this could – should – be the death of the “Dougie Hamilton was bad when he joined the Flames” narrative, in part because it’s been months now and we’re long past it being time to get over it. But also in part because of what Rick Ball and Kelly Hrudey were discussing on the broadcast: it takes time to get integrated with a new team. (We’re ignoring the part where everybody not named Johnny Gaudreau was bad in October, apparently.)
Hamilton has spent almost a full season on the Flames now. His career high was 10 goals and 42 points in 72 games with the Bruins in 2014-15; now, through 73 games with the Flames in 2015-16, he has 10 goals and 38 points, on pace to hit 43 – just barely an improvement, but more impressive when you remember how he’s had to claw his way up the lineup and onto the power play over the course of the season.
Then there’s Giordano who, with an assist, set a new career high himself with 49 points. Of course, he was on pace for more the previous two seasons, before injuries ruined his Norris campaigns – 60 in 2013-14 and 65 in 2014-15 – but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. He’s on pace for just 55 this season – though he, like Hamilton, also had a bad October, so…
And when you look at the Flames’ even strength corsi numbers – so taking out the inflictions they suffered on the penalty kill – Giordano and Hamilton were the only positive players.
Huh. They lost, but it’s not October anymore.
Hey, didn’t I see this before?
The Leafs scored two empty net goals on the Flames, a result of two pathetic efforts on their part the Flames’ part. The first one was rather odd, with Micheal Ferland’s stick breaking, and then Ferland deciding to skate right into Giordano en route back to the bench for some reason, but hey, sometimes things just happen.
Neither goal was particularly flattering towards the Flames, though, nor should they be.
The last time the Flames had two empty net goals scored on them? Dec. 9, 2014, in… Toronto. In the Flames’ last two trips to Toronto, they’ve had four empty net goals scored on them.