Blackhawks 4, Flames 1 post-game embers: And on they play

The last time the Flames and Blackhawks met was all the way back in November. Back when the Flames were struggling to climb out of the hole their disastrous October sank them in, back when they could still have hopes for the post-season. 

And while those hopes officially died yesterday, you wouldn’t have known it from how the Flames played. These aren’t playoff games, not even close. But they’re still games, and the Flames – a young, scrappy, and hungry group – are still playing them.

Lose a close game, get the score blown out of proportion by empty netters, stay in pace with the bottom of the league but still put on an entertaining show. That’s not a bad night.

Johnny Gaudreau’s durability

It wasn’t just Johnny Gaudreau’s skill that was debated before he made his NHL debut. Sure, he was lighting up the USHL, the NCAA, and occasionally in international competition, but let’s see him do that against real NHL defencemen— and he has, multiple times, to the tune of 73 points in 74 games in just his second NHL season. (I’m going to be so disappointed if he doesn’t finish at a point per game.)

But of course, his size was also questioned in the realm of simply being able to play, period. “He’ll get murdered out there!” detractors would cry, as though high-skilled players of smaller stature had never been able to survive in the NHL before.

The Blackhawks displayed rather unimpressive behaviour throughout the night, really kicking off with the latest inane offence thrown Gaudreau’s way that, once again, received no call:

It’s not like what Keith did was anything new. Gaudreau has been getting hacked and slashed at all season, and rarely aided.

Which just further points to how impressive he is. He’s had a lot to overcome – the concern over his size comes from a real place, on top of just how difficult it is to make the NHL in general – only to have this nonsense thrown on him, too.

And he’s never been injured, and is still tied for top five in NHL scoring. In his second season. It’s like, you already know he’s amazing – but then you sit down and think about it for a moment, and realize you aren’t even properly fathoming just how amazing he really is.

Ferland, Hathaway, and F.Ham

Micheal Ferland, who spent considerable time on the top line until recently, played just 8:23 last night. He was on the fourth line with Matt Stajan and Brandon Bollig and together, they were the only Flames who did not hit the 10-minute mark in ice time.

This is where you breathe a sigh of relief that the Flames gave him a modest two-year, $825K AAV extension: because he isn’t proving to be worth much more at the moment. You step back, realize he had one phenomenal playoff series, and the rest of his career hasn’t been much to speak of. That’s not to say he can’t get there, but the returns from this season have been lacking.

Then there’s Garnet Hathaway, who’s been rather quiet since the first few games of his NHL debut. He was out there last night, though, causing havoc, being a nuisance, and getting a fair amount of minutes to show for it.

To which Hathaway responds, “You know me,” and that’s awesome.

But entirely replaceable. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the efforts these guys do – it’s that they aren’t hard to duplicate. After his playoff showing, Ferland was the guy. Now he may or may not still be the guy. But last night, Hathaway was the guy. Bollig was traded for to be the guy, and that’s at least two kids he’s been replaced by. To say nothing of the current state of Lance Bouma, or even what someone like Turner Elson, still on the farm, could do.

I will very happily take a fourth line of guys who can actually play a regular shift and be the most annoying person ever, though. But this is why you don’t fall in love with the first guy you see just because he happens to play for your team. Because there are a lot of them out there.

Case in point, in another avenue: Freddie Hamilton, who got his shot alongside Gaudreau and Sean Monahan last night. (And already has more points playing on that line than Ferland got, in a very heartwarming, very brothers-centric moment.)

The top line actually looked pretty decent out there with F.Ham on board, posting the best even strength corsi numbers on the night: 66.67% (Gaudreau), 75.00% (F.Ham), and 78.26% (Monahan) (it should be noted Gaudreau had more ice time, likely contributing to his lower percentage). And this success came from two guys on the team who are irreplaceable… and one who was acquired essentially for free, a conditional seventh rounder whose conditions will not be met, and someone who will have to be sent back to Stockton as soon as all forwards are healthy.

At least F.Ham isn’t throwing away his shot right now, though. Two points in four games, a season-high 14:03 played last night, and aw:

His first ever NHL assist was on his brother’s goal. That’s really sweet. We will have more on this later today, because it was really, really cool.

And Dougie

Speaking of not throwing away shots…

That is a lot of offence. Dougie Hamilton played 20:58, behind Deryk Engelland in ice time yet again. What’s he gonna do on the bench? Not get the chance to keep putting up numbers like that – though he did set a new career high in goals, and is three points back of his career high in points, and that’s with him having to fight all season for respectability, so next season might just be the one to really look forward to.

No one had more resilience, at least offensively; and the best defence is a good offence. Throw in that hit on Brent Seabrook (and withstanding the ensuing Jonathan Toews temper tantrum), and you’ve got a 22-year-old who’s still rounding out into a really high-end defenceman.

He was also just behind the top line in CF%, with 60.53% at 5v5. Reunited with T.J. Brodie, their corsi together was 59.38%; his few leftover minutes with Mark Giordano saw them at 60.00%. Put good players with other good players and good things will happen.

Joni Ortio: just fine

Joni Ortio has had the last three games off while the old men have had their turns, but he didn’t look any worse for the wear returning to the crease. He saw 25 shots, stopped 23 of them, and it’s hard to really blame him on the goals that went against him considering they were the result of a Brodie turnover and unrelenting chaos that saw him lose his stick.

Worthy of bringing back? Well, he’ll be 25 years old next season, probably really cheap, easy to bury if someone else outperforms him, and it’s not like there are many other options. There are flashes of something there every now and then. Maybe there can be more over a consistent period of time. Maybe not. 

But he’s a warm body who actually displays potential, and this time around, the whole three-goalie thing isn’t causing problems.

  • Craig

    I was at the game last night, really can’t blame Ortio on the two goals. The second goal actually went in off of his lost stick! Flames were the better team at generating offence but the Blackhawks are a great team defensively and were hard to break.

    TJ Brodie has been amazing this year, but was only ok last night, his turnover was brutal. I though Dougie was the best defenceman, he was absolutely everywhere. I also kept thinking to myself last night just how good the bottom pairing is, they’re very mobile, tough and gritty, and Nakladal has that great shot. I really hope they can keep this pairing together next year. I don’t know how but they need to get rid of Wideman.

    All in all an entertaining game that takes us one step closer to a good pick.

  • brodiegio4life

    I really think hartley will be back next year which is scary. His player usage is awful. The fact engallend is still playing more than hamilton is cringe worthy. Only reason nak,and tspoon got a chance is because Russell was traded, and smid and wideman got injured. No chance hartley gives them a chance if he didn’t have to.

  • Flaymin Frank

    Ortio played a solid game but got hung out to dry on the two goals he let in. On the first one Brodie had a brain cramp and served up a beauty giveaway to Ladd who must have been mildly shocked to be given a break-a-way pass at the o-zone blue line. And the 2nd goal was a ‘what were you thinking’ moment by Stajan when he tried to take a short cut thru the d-zone slot with the puck. Throw a lost goalie stick into that mix and you have the ingredients for a Blackhawk goal. You gotta make the Hawks earn their goals, they don’t need them gifted. If you could delete these two plays, I thought the Flames looked pretty decent last nite.

    I know the points don’t show it but at least we’re not the dumpster fire that continues to burn north of Red Deer. Its a mess up there.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Ort has played pretty well lately. I’d sign him again. And Ramo too, if he takes a pay cut.

    It was an entertaining game for most of the night. A couple of unlucky goals against and some spirited net minding from Darling, otherwise the result could have been different.

  • Kevin R

    Agree Ari, bring Ortio back on a 1-2 year good price deal & find a #1 this summer. Ortio has earned a second look & a fresh start next season.

    Nakladal should be resigned, prefer 2 but no longer than 3 years as he’s 28 & in his prime years. A 3 year 1.0 mill per would be acceptable.

    I said the same thing about Ferland on another thread. He even held out for a better contract & this is what he shows. Not exactly the way to get a multi year big $$$ deal on his next contract. Ferland gets a do over next year, I really like how this kid could play but if he doesn’t bring it during the regular season, he may find himself in Stockton to start the year next year.

    Some decisions on some RFA’s is coming too. My lord, what has happened to Shore & Arnold?? Has their play fallen off that badly? It would be sad to watch them walk away for nothing, especially Arnold. Do we keep Agostino & Elson as well? Maybe we can get some value for prospect starved Vancouver. Maybe Vanc doesn’t want to go the full blown rebuild, would Ferland & Janko give Wiesbrod a woody big enough to get their 1st? I know, I know, Benning can’t be that stupid. :-}

    Freaking Oilers have just 4 lousy stinking games left, I think the Leafs are going to catch them with all their games in hand. The league has to step in here at some point & penalize this futility. They win this lottery again will be a huge mark against the league. There are more than just 1 team that really needs a franchise player really bad. As much as I hate the Leafs & their fans, that team needs a franchise player as much as any team in the NHL.

  • RKD

    The Flames play the Hawks hard, I went to game in November and the Flames had 31 shots through regulation before Johnny hockey did a few dekes and score in OT. When we have a starting goalie, stronger wingers another top d-man then I would like to take on these Hawks in the playoffs. Hathaway has done more in a smaller number of games than Bouma, Ferland and Bollig have done all season.

  • Dan the flames fan

    Ortio’s has earned the right to come back. If a starter is going to cost too much, then bring back Ramon at a lower cost.

    Last night Bodie had a brain-fart, but it goes to show that even the best in the league are capable of dumb mistakes. I’m not going to trash him over it.

    I’m more concerned with the lack of structure and push from our bottom six…again. Ferland’s showing nothing to prove he belongs in the NHL. Great speed, no finish, stone hands. Nuf said.

    I’m still wondering what a top line of JH, Mony, and Janko would look like. Janko has played right wing, and has been stated to have good hands around the net. Given he comes from a team that considered a 1-0 win to be the perfect game, what would he show if given permission to drive to score? I am thinking we might be surprised.

    If anything, the substitutes have definitely shown that we can do more at less cost. Time to move vets and anchors.

  • Oyo

    Was at the game last night and had some observations.

    I too had thought that Colborne had improved his play in the latter half of the season. Last night however, was difficult for him. Miscues and lost pucks were rampant when Colborne was on the ice.

    Ditto for Bouma who i thought really struggled.

    Let me start by saying I believe Brodie is a top 15 defender in this league but last night was not his best game for sure. The part about Brodie I’ve always liked is his calm, no panic attitude. Last night though, I became increasingly frustrated with it. His skating saved him multiple times as we all know but he misread pinches and generally wasn’t strong on the puck. IMO. I know that the numbers say different.

    I really liked D. Hamilton’s game though. Smart shot selection and physical play was nice to see. He was strong all night.
    Pleasantly surprised by Nakladal.
    Gaudreau was trying his mighty best to generate offense.
    Monahan was more physical than it looks on TV which was interesting to notice in person.
    Ortio was perfectly acceptable if not stellar.

    Ferland / Bollig / Stajan / Colborne did next to nothing to show me they should be here next year.

    Please keep in mind this is one game against one of the leagues best teams.