Post-Game: Zach Attack (or That Was Parise)

If you’re a fan of bad pun headlines, this was the game for you. If you’re a fan of the Calgary Flames playing a solid 60 minutes of ice hockey but falling short, you’re in the wrong place.

The Flames gave up three goals in the first period and dropped a one-sided match this evening by a 6-2 score to the Minnesota Wild. As a result, the Flames are pushed to the verge of playoff elimination. Aside from a few flurries here and there, the Flames did not look like a team that should be anywhere near the post-season mix.

THE RUNDOWN

The Flames never led this game, but they got down five minutes in on a weird goal. Zach Parise scored his first of the game, ending a long cold string for him, with a goal from the red line that got up and under Niklas Backstrom. The Wild scored again about a minute and change later, with Parise converting on a Charlie Coyle feed that beat Backstrom five-hole to make it 2-0. With Mikko Koivu in the box, the Flames power-play got them on the board, as Johnny Gaudreau chipped in a rebound off a face-off win and initial shot that was saved by Dubnyk. However, Parise scored the eventual game-winner on a Minnesota power-play – Sean Monahan was in the box – off a nice tip-in on a Ryan Suter low point shot. For a guy that scored three goals, Parise wasn’t really covered all that much in the first period, which probably explains why he scored so much. Shots were 10-9 Minnesota, but attempts were 23-14 Flames.

The Flames answered back six minutes into the second. After a few back-and-forth plays that died in the neutral zone, Jakub Nakladal went for a skate and rifled a slapper from just inside the blueline that beat Dubnyk to make it 3-2. Just when it looked like the Flames might have a shot, T.J. Brodie got called for hooking and then Jared Spurgeon scored on the power-play to make it 4-2 and erase any chance the Flames had for a comeback. Shots were 16-8 Flames and attempts were 27-11 Flames, but a fair chunk of that was score effects after the Wild got up by a pair of goals and were content to sit back a bit.

The Wild continued to sit back and relax, but the Flames had a couple decent chances in the third that they couldn’t connect on. With Brandon Bollig in the box, Spurgeon scored his second power-play goal of the game to make it 6-2 just past the midway mark of the period. And just after another Bollig penalty expired, Nino Niederreiter scored a nice goal (off a nice pass from Pominville) to make it 6-2. Shots were 11-8 Minnesota, but attempts were 19-18 Flames.

THE NUMBERS

(All Situations!) CorsiFor% OZStart%
Colborne 68.97% 53.33%
Gaudreau 76.67% 52.94%
Monahan 72.41% 52.94%
Hamilton (D) 69.49% 52.63%
Giordano 67.86% 43.48%
Bouma 61.76% 37.5%
Hathaway 52.94% 37.5%
Jokipakka 42.86% 35.71%
Nakladal 66.67% 33.33%
Backlund 69.23% 30%
Stajan 52.63% 30%
Hamilton (F) 40% 30%
Frolik 71.05% 30%
Brodie 57.14% 29.41%
Bollig 46.15% 28.57%
Bennett 63.33% 28.57%
Ferland 57.89% 25%
Wotherspoon 50% 12.5%

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

Their goaltending wasn’t great. Much of that wasn’t entirely Niklas Backstrom’s fault, but he certainly didn’t steal this game for his squad. He allowed three goals on 24 even-strength shots (which isn’t ideal).

Their penalty-killing was pretty bad. Much of that had to do with allowing Minnesota to move around with impunity on the man advantage, which allowed the Wild to get first and second chances. And they scored three goals on five shots (on five potential penalty kills), which is pretty bad. The Wild got high-quality chances and made them count.

And in general, the Flames seemed content to let Minnesota dictate the pace of the game at even-strength – particularly after they got down a few goals. There wasn’t much of a push during this game and aside from a couple energetic power plays, the Flames weren’t particularly dazzling.

RED WARRIOR

A few Flames had decent games, but I’m gonna go with a sentimental favourite around here: Jakub Nakladal. He doubled his NHL goal two (to two) and was buzzing around much of the night.

Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau were also quite good. And stick-tap to Freddie Hamilton, who came in on late notice in place of a banged-up Josh Jooris and ended up playing a good stretch on that top line. And Tyler Wotherspoon got his first point of the season and played well despite being buried in terms of zone starts.

Finally, a stick-tap to Backstrom: you could tell he was trying, but the game was 2-0 before he really got his legs under him and began to see the puck well. He deserved better than what he got tonight.

THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM

The Flames are now three points out of last place overall and 15 points back of Minnesota for the final playoff spot in the West. Their “tragic number” is one; any combination of a Flames loss or Minnesota win and the Flames are mathematically eliminated from the post-season.

UP NEXT

The Flames return home to regroup. They’re back on the practice ice tomorrow and back in action on Saturday night when they face the Chicago Blackhawks in the late game on Hockey Night in Canada. There’s a distinct possibility that they’ll be mathematically eliminated before their game even begins.

  • Captain Ron

    Thanks for the help in my fantasy playoff pool tonight Zach!!!

    A lttle bit of good fortune tonight with the Nucks getting a point, Jets, Jersey, Carolina, Coyotes, and even the Leafs??? All winning!

    Oilers be Oilers as usual though…….

    “Meant Coyotes leading at the moment not winning”

  • redhot1

    How about Ferland starts doing something. Shows some half decent dangles and speed in the neutral zone, but doesn’t do much else. How many games has be played with SM and JG and he has basically nothing to show for it.

    At least be effective in the cycle or go and retrieve pucks. Something. I barely see him get big hits lately.

    • The GREAT Walter White

      Yup: Ferland is a major disappointment this year.

      Bennett is too.

      They are young so too early to write them off but I was expecting more from both of them this year.

      WW

      • cjc

        I’m not sure how we can read Bennett’s season as anything less than satisfying. His P/60 are ahead of where Sean Monahan was as a rookie, and consensus is that he’s better defensively. His possession numbers are better as well. This, all with constantly shifting (and generally less talented) linemates. None of that is meant as a knock against Monahan, who is also shaping into a fine center.

        Sure, Bennett isn’t top 10 (11th) in rookie scoring. But let’s break that down a bit:

        -In terms of ice time, he’s 8th
        -In terms of PP ice time, he’s 9th
        -In terms of age, he’s the fourth youngest (behind McDavid, Eichel and Larkin)
        -Almost every player ahead is either a generational
        talent or playing with superior linemates

        That’s without getting into fancy stats. Context is everything. All in all, he’s right where we’d expect him to be. Just watching the games, he’s making the right decisions with the puck most of the time and creating offense despite limited resources. After all, he flourished on Backlund’s wing earlier this season. He’s still learning to play center at the NHL level. He’s not going to win the Calder, but he’s got the chops to become an elite player in this league. Major disappointment? No.

        • Just a Fan

          Being a disappointment is not the same as being ok with the result. Being a disappointment is not living up to expectations. Tell me you didn’t expect Bennet to have a better season then he did. You are not alone. Go back and read some of the comment from the start of the season. Spoiler alert. They are filled with Calder talk.

          • piscera.infada

            Spoiler alert. Those were unrealistic expectations. If someone doesn’t live up to unrealistic expectations, who’s at fault there? The individual failing to live up to the expectations? Or the individual setting the bar too high?

            When Monahan came on the scene, Flames fans were starved for young talent. We saw him, and we all naturally got excited. Was he a calder trophy finalist? No. Did he lead rookies in scoring? No. Was he a number one centre? No.

            The next year, Gaudreau came out, and expectations were a mixed bag–literally everything from “he probably ends the year in the AHL” to “if he can play a whole season without getting injured” to “if he put up 40-ish points, I’ll be happy”. His rookie season shattered everyone’s expectations.

            So, now, we have a rookie forward who has been bounced around a lineup (when he probably should have been playing centre from the beginning). He’s put up points at equal to, or better than Monahan’s rookie year. He’s done that while playing significantly better defensively than Monahan ever has (actually, he’s leading this rookie class in those metrics, by a non-negligible amount). But because we aren’t starved for young talent anymore, and because he’s not shattering all expectations, he’s a disappointment? No. He’s not.

            Sure, Bennett could have been in Calder contention this season, why the hell is that the baseline? Is Gaudreau any less special because he finished third in voting last year? Is Monahan any worse because he wasn’t a finalist the year before? The answer to both is obviously “no”.

            Sometimes expectations are so baseless, that they’re meaningless, and therefore need to be adjusted.

          • supra steve

            I agree. I suspect a lot of the fans that were “expecting” better from Bennett are a bunch of teenagers or 20 somethings who have no recollection of the rookie seasons of most of the current stars of the league. Only one player wins the Calder each season, and most of those players are later surpassed by players that did not win the Calder.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            I’m not disappointed in Bennett’s results or his play. He’s been a very good addition to the a team with thin forward depth. Adding to PI’s comments about unrealistic expectations, I’ll chime in and point out that Bennett is the 8th youngest player in the league playing the most difficult position (hockey IQ-wise).

            Rookies, even rookies drafted in the top 10 don’t generally become top 10 scorers and offensive juggernauts in year 1. Time will tell, but I consider Bennett to be an excellent player and the future #1 centre on this team within 3 seasons.

          • cjc

            I didn’t expect Bennett to have a better season (statistically) – I don’t think I commented on it at the time, but something in the 40 pt. range was my expectation. He’s a bit behind that, but well within a standard deviation of most people’s predictions. Feel free to disregard me if you like – obviously it would be quite easy to pretend this is what I expected all along.

            Other people may have touted Bennett for Calder – not me. My money was on McDavid or Eichel, as was most everyone else’s.

        • flames2015

          Mostly agree. Bennett has been impressive when he was on the wing but not so much after they put him back as a center. Yes there are more responsibilities as a C and yes this is his first year so I don’t have unrealistic expectations. Seeing what Montreal did with Galchenyuk. He played 3 years on the LW and put up some good numbers. They swapped him back to center and hes had his best season yet. Just saying, it might not be the worse thing to see him have some more games as an LW.

          Ferland has some flashes of skills and has some good scoring opportunties but can’t finish. He’s no where as agressive as he was during playoffs or earlier on in the season. Sone pegged him to be a top 6 forward but i don’t see it.

          • piscera.infada

            Mostly agree. Bennett has been impressive when he was on the wing but not so much after they put him back as a center.

            This is why this whole argument that “putting Bennett on the wing doesn’t hurt him” is bunk–a refrain so commonly heard from the “how many games have you coached in the NHL?” crowd.

            The problem is not that it “hurts him” per say. However it does defer his learning curve at centre. Does it not make sense to get the development as an NHL centre out of the way as soon as possible? Instead, he comes in as a winger, and everyone says gets used to that. He gets moved to centre, and everyone says “why is it taking him so long to adjust? I’m disappointed”.

            Sure, you could make the argument that “this team was supposed to compete, maybe allowing Bennett to learn on the job would have hindered that”. Well, maybe, but would that also not be doubly true in the future? Would you still be better off dealing with any growing pains early?

            Look, this same thing happened with Seguin when he was moved from wing to centre in Boston. It made people think that perhaps, his offensive output as a centre would be muted. It takes time.

          • supra steve

            Or perhaps another way to look at it is…He was not ready to be a C at the NHL level. That being the case, the Flames could have sent him to a lower level to play the C position, OR he could play wing in the NHL. He was listed as a C/LW when he was drafted, so I really don’t think he is being ruined by playing him on the wing for the majority of his rookie season. It’s not the first time that this tactic has been employed.

          • piscera.infada

            I’m not saying he was “ruined” by playing wing–I have no issue with him starting on the wing, although I would have vastly preferred that if the organization saw him as a centre moving forward they played him as such. As I said, you can form an argument that he “wasn’t ready”, or that the team “was competing”, but neither has either proven true, or is a good enough reason to defer that development.

            I’m saying that seeing Bennett as “adjusting to centre” for the first time in his professional career, and being “disappointed”, is very short-sighted. What’s even more short sighted is taking his first 10 to 12 game sample size as a centre, and saying “maybe he needs to become a winger full time”. It’s capricious, and belies the point that aside from his counting numbers, he has actually been very effective as a centre (since his “move” [Feb. 19, 2016]: CF% at 5v5 is 49.8%; PDO: 94.7; SCF% of 52.9%–for interest sake, his SCF% as a winger this year is actually lower: 51.3%).

          • supra steve

            I think his future in the NHL, at this point, is undetermined. If the Flames were to be fortunate enough to win the draft lotto, they obviously select Matthews, then they have 3 probable top 2 line centers. So what then? Do they play him as a LW permanently? Do they move him or Mony to fill the need at RW? There’s going to have to be some fluidity to this whole re-build thing.

          • piscera.infada

            Obviously, yes, if the Flames win the draft lottery and draft Matthews, they probably move Bennett to the wing. If the Flames sign Jankowski at the end of the season, and he proves to be a legit, better-than-McDavid centre, then yes, you move Bennett to wing.

            What if either of the above two (or any other myriad possibilities–either likely or unlikely) happen, and then Bennett proves to be better than Monahan next season. Do you then move Monahan to wing?

            These are not counter-points, they’re simply suppositions based on unknowns. I know a couple of things right now:

            -Aside from his counting statistics, Bennett has proven more effective at centre than at wing.

            -Bennett has already proven more effective in his defensive responsibilities than Monahan.

            -Bennett has scored at the same rate as Monahan did in their first seasons.

            -Centres are “more valuable” than wingers.

            None of that really matters (vis-a-vis Bennett’s development). I’m not saying don’t have fluidity. I’m not saying if Bennett proves over the long-term to be a sub-standard centre, that you just leave him floundering there. I’m saying, why would you choose to defer that knowledge? Why would you defer his development to a later date? Why would you look at one month where he’s actually had very good results in all but one aspect of his game, and say “not good”.

          • piscera.infada

            No offense intended, and I’m sorry if that’s how it came across–I honestly mean that (passionate debates, I guess…). I will agree things need to be fluid in a “rebuild”, and I’ve never argued that fact.

            That said, the logic of such should not be “might as well start thinking Bennett is a winger, because something better might come along”. The argument makes entirely more sense, when something better is actually present, no?

          • supra steve

            Well yes, You did come across as offensive. Did you revise your post? I was sure you had included the word “ridiculous” within your first 2 sentences about my post. Anyway, if you did, then thanks for that courtesy, because that was rather dickish.

          • Kevin R

            You know, if by some fluke we win that draft lottery& we are able to scoop Mathews, well, what a phenomenal problem to have. I look at Johnny & Monny & the chemistry is phenomenal. They are friends on & off the ice, they compliment each other, I just don’t see how you separate those two. So then that leaves you Mathews, who based on the reports, will be a franchise player. Probably our top line will be formed around him. I drool over the thought of him & Bennett on his wing. That could open up space for Gaudreau & Monahan. If Bennett & Mathews establish the type of chemistry that Monahan & Gaudreau have, who in their right mind would ever separate them. Boy oh boy, do we ever need to win that draft lottery. So as much as I hate losing, I say alternate Backstrom & Hiller for these remaining games. We can discuss locker room culture next freaking year. :-}

          • cjc

            Bennett has had a pick ‘n mix of players on his wing, few of them top-six material. I don’t know if we can attribute Galchenyuk’s success at C to playing wing for 3 years or maturation in general – it’s an untestable hypothesis. Anyway, it’s a moot point – I don’t really care if Bennett plays wing or C, as long as he evolves into a great all-round player. He’s certainly trending that way.

            Ferland isn’t really a disappointment either. If anyone was basing their top-six expectations for him on a 9-game sample from last year’s playoffs, they weren’t being realistic. He’s miscast as a top-six winger, but the Flames didn’t really have any other options. He may pan out to be a solid third line winger, if so, I would have no complaints.

        • Dan the flames fan

          I think as I watch Bennett, that he’s had a good first year, much like Mony’s. Having said that, I also think his role as a center will be vastly different. Mony is a “Set-up first, then shoot” kind of player;where as, Bennett is more driven to push the play and shoot first. IMO, Mony seems to anticipate the play better, and plays with finesse. Bennett thrives on the grittier play. Will he be the Flames number one center? I don’t think he will be better then number 2, which isn’t a bad thing. I like the thought of Mega-pane, Bennett, and Porter as a future line. Gritty, driven, and not willing to take no for an answer.

  • Pizzaman

    Redhot1 is correct on Ferland and the great WW comment on Ferland is apropos. But while WW maybe disappointed on Bennett emotionally relative to expectations he is not a bust.

  • Flaymin Frank

    The last 3 goalie starts have Backstrom – Hiller – Backstrom. Talk about being behind before the game even starts. I realize we’re just playing for self respect & lottery chances at this point but I think its also important not to trend towards the ditch at the end of the season. We’re finishing the season like we started it – zero consistency between the pipes.