You know what? I’m cool with this. The Flames suck in Anaheim, but there was no point in changing that now; not when this entire season, as a whole, sucks in general. Let’s save the inevitable page-turning for when the Flames, as a group, are ready to turn the page as well. Hopefully next year!
And hey, at least on a night in which it at first looked like the Flames had completely given up, they came back to score the occasional goal (before getting scored on again). They still rolled over and died for the most part, but at least there was a bit of bite to their game.
Just five more to go!
Let’s talk about the number 20
For the first time in his career, Mark Giordano scored 20 goals. Not just that, but it’s been quite some time since any blueliner in a Flames uniform has hit that mark.
Mark Giordano just scored from blueline, becoming first #Flames defenceman since Dion Phaneuf in 2005-06 to notch 20 goals.
— Wes Gilbertson (@WesGilbertson) March 31, 2016
Really, 10 years since that’s happened? Remember when the Flames had a top four consisting of Giordano, Phaneuf, and Jay Bouwmeester? (And Robyn Regehr, but nobody was really expecting him to do things like score goals.) Granted, Giordano was only just starting to break out that season – he scored 11 goals, the only time he reached double digits before becoming the Flames’ captain – while Phaneuf got 10 before he was traded and Bouwmeester had… like… three.
Will the Flames be able to repeat this feat before another 10 years pass? Giordano’s 9.9% shooting percentage is higher than his career average of 7.5%, so it maybe shouldn’t be counted on. T.J. Brodie only just got his sixth goal of the season, and he’s only taken 1.1 shots per game throughout the year (Giordano’s at 2.6), so perhaps not.
So… how about Dougie Hamilton? He and Giordano both led the Flames with four shots on net each. He’s set a new career high in goals, and he’s one point back from reaching his past career high in points. And this season, he’s taken 2.3 shots per game – and his 6.2% shooting percentage isn’t too far off from his career average of 5.9%.
And that’s without going into the caveat that the Flames have a 22-year-old defenceman who has posted back-to-back double digit goal seasons. Who should, in all likelihood, only get better. And with what should be full years of top four minutes and frequent power play time coming up, he seems like a pretty good hope to reach 20 at some point.
One last note on the number 20: this was the first time Jakub Nakladal broke the 20-minute mark in ice time! He played 20:41, behind just Giordano and Brodie, and set a new career high. The entire game was a tire fire, but at least he was finally given the chance to just be straight up fed minutes: and his 64.71% ES CF, third on the team, shows he at least deserved them. He was largely kept away from the Ducks’ top dogs, but that’s fine. He got to play quite a bit, and with five games left and Nakladal an upcoming UFA who should be brought back, he might as well get those minutes. Nothing to lose, but maybe something to gain.
Hunter Shinkaruk, point-per-game Flame
Move over, Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau only has 73 points in 74 games, which is not a point-per-game. Hunter Shinkaruk, though? He has two points in two games. He’s doing awesome.
In all seriousness, though, it’s great to see Shinkaruk on the board. He has 10 points through 14 games with Stockton, and now, he has his first two points in the NHL. He was right in front of the net for both of them. It could have been his goal in Arizona, but ultimately, that one went to Brodie; still, he was right in front of the net. Just as he was when Giordano’s point shot went in off of him.
Shinkaruk had a good night. He played 17:02, which was the most ice time any Flames forward got, albeit tied with Mikael Backlund. That included 2:15 on the power play, again the most time any Flames player spent with the man advantage, albeit tied with Sean Monahan and Joe Colborne (of course Colborne). And he had three shots on net, to boot: the most of any Flames forward, and tied for second on the team, along with Nakladal.
This has been a fun start to Shinkaruk’s Flames career. With Michael Frolik out for at least two more games, one of Shinkaruk and Emile Poirier is going to have to stay up – and Shinkaruk seems to be en route to sticking around longer.
Gaudreau’s return should push him out of that top line left wing slot, though. But… maybe we’ll see him shift over to the right side? The Flames have tried Micheal Ferland, Garnet Hathaway, Freddie Hamilton all up alongside Gaudreau and Monahan, but none of them have really quite been projected to be the sort of scorer Shinkaruk is.
If anything, Shinkaruk might just be becoming a guy to keep an eye on at camp next season. At absolute worst, though, he’s a great story right now.
Sam Bennett + Micheal Ferland
Is there something here? Neither scored any points on the night, but both combined for the Flames’ first real scoring chances of the game. This follows up a game in which Sam Bennett scored twice, and Ferland assisted on both goals.
Ferland with Monahan wasn’t working – and maybe even playing on his off-wing had something to do with that – but there’s no harm in closing out the rest of the season with Ferland alongside Bennett. Ferland has exhibited scoring chances throughout the season, though his lack of production throughout the year is at least somewhat troubling for any future predictor of top six status. And he may not work at all with Bennett in the long term.
But as long as there aren’t many top six forward options to try at the moment, this partnership is worth exploring through the season’s end. The early returns have decreed it so.
It’s nice that Joni Ortio was spared
It just is. Jonas Hiller gave up three. Niklas Backstrom gave up five. Sometimes their defence tried to help them. Sometimes they didn’t, especially on that first one.
But at least Ortio got to hang out with the injured fellas and not have to worry about this disaster of a game. His save percentage has been through enough this year.