If the Calgary Flames are going to pick up two points at times through the rest of this season, the very least they can do is make sure it’s the future of the club driving it.
And last night, it was! Hooray! The Flames may now be up to the sixth worst team in the league, but at least it was players 25 and under forcing it.
Four of them were called up, and we’ll have more on them later today. But as for the rest…
En route to 2 x 30, 3 x 20
Sean Monahan scored his 27th goal of the season last night, bringing him within just three goals of reaching 30 for the second season in a row. Johnny Gaudreau, who had to sit out due to a bad case of Duncan Keith’s Immaturity, is sitting at 28 on the season. So five more goals between the two of them, appropriately distributed, and the Flames will have two 30-goal-scorers who are just 21 and 22 years old.
But wait! It gets better! Sam Bennett busted his 18-game goalless drought (but just three without a point) with a two-goal night. That puts him at 17 for the season, meaning another three goals from him and he’ll have hit 20 as a rookie. He’d be the third Flames rookie in a row to accomplish this feat, the other two being the guys mentioned in the paragraph above. They’ve got six games left to do all this.
Bennett is now sitting at 35 points through 71 games, which puts him at juuuust under a half a point per game pace. Monahan scored 34 points in his rookie season, though, and that clearly hasn’t stopped him from turning it on (he’s now the leading scorer out of the 2013 draft with 155 career points to Nathan MacKinnon’s 153, but he’s also played 13 more games than he has, so grain of salt but still pretty dang awesome).
And what of the other young’uns? Micheal Ferland had a two-assist night playing alongside Bennett and Joe Colborne, so that line had a good night – and Ferland did in particular, since he broke off a 13-game pointless drought.
Colborne continues to have a career year, and while his 17.8 shooting percentage should raise a few eyebrows, at least his points are split pretty evenly between goals and assists. He’s not going to be a top player, but if he can play modest minutes (his 14:33 last night falls under this category) and chip in some points here and there, it’s hard to be displeased with him in the big picture (they key is to not overuse him, but hopefully the Flames will soon enough have players that will force this).
T.J. Brodie’s shooting percentage is roughly on par with his career average, so he may not be a double digit goal scorer on the regular, but he’s approaching the 40-assist mark this year so that’s just fine. His partner Dougie Hamilton, meanwhile, has hit the 40-point mark for the second season in a row, so the high-end future of the backend looks to be in very good, always-ready-to-score-but-also-defend-well mode. They could combine for 100 points next season. Toss in the older Mark Giordano and it could be 150. That’d be neat.
Four lines: rolled
Brandon Bollig, it should come as no surprise, got the least amount of ice time with 11:55. He passed the 10 minute mark! Matt Stajan and Ferland had 12:42 and 12:59 respectively, and forward ice time topped out at Mikael Backlund’s 17:03, with Derek Grant’s 16:45 and then Monahan’s 16:01 following up.
So while the Coyotes aren’t a high caliber opponent, it’s still nice to see everyone getting a chance, particularly with four call-ups playing in one game. Brett Kulak is a bit different, being a defenceman and all, but Grant got the game he wholeheartedly deserved following his kickass time in the AHL this season, while everyone else was given as fair a shot as the other players on the team. This is, after all, the time to let the kids roll with it; that’s why you brought them up in the first place, presumably.
Kulak played the least out of the defencemen, but was only short of Jakub Nakladal by a minute. Also we’re talking about a game in which Deryk Engelland played more than Giordano, which is all kinds of not-particularly-expected, so I’m not reading too deep into defensive ice times for the sake of my own sanity. It’s the end of the year, he’s been better this season than the last, his second kid just entered the world, do whatever, nothing matters anymore, whatever.
Our friends, the special teams
The Flames’ special teams have been a horrific artifact throughout the season. At least it was only power play goals that went against the Flames, but yeesh, killing two of four definitely leaves room for improvement, as their season-long league-worst 74.5% success rate can attest to. It was actually almost three power play goals again, except falling on top of the goalie is a no-no and good way to get it waved off.
On the plus side: two power play goals for the Flames brought them all the way up to a 16.5% power play, tied for fifth worst in the NHL! Considering how they were on the verge of falling into single digits earlier, there has been a marked improvement over the season; still, the Flames literally have a top five scorer on their team, so it’s not unreasonable to hope for more. (It’s actually a requirement if this team is going to get out of the rebuild phase.)
The only pucks that got past Joni Ortio all night were ones on the power play. So mark that two games in a row in which none of the four goals that have gone against him can really be held against him.
Basically, he’s done enough. To be the starter? Probably not if the Flames are serious about getting back into the playoffs next year, but to have a regular NHL shot without two other goalies clogging up his space and forcing him to have basically zero chance and set him behind the eight-ball for months through the season in two different leagues? Well, he didn’t deserve that to start with, but he’s pretty much the best goalie on the roster at the moment so he certainly doesn’t deserve that next season.
Cheap contract, games here and there and throughout the year, and see if the then-will-be 25-year-old from Turku has enough in him to maintain NHL-level play throughout the year, whether it be as a starter or back-up. There’s nothing wrong with giving him that much. And if the Flames decide to have a more competitive camp – say they decide to sign both James Reimer and Jhonas Enroth, somehow – then at least don’t mess around and cut the cord with someone before the season starts.
Ortio in a comfortable environment looks to at least be capable of something worth pursuing.