So. The Calgary Flames didn’t get as destroyed as they did against Anaheim, but they still didn’t have a particularly good game. Though they did not deserve the shutout – that Mikael Backlund goal was legit, you can tell by the way Jonathan Quick didn’t even have a temper tantrum – they were still thoroughly outplayed.
But their goalie kept them in it.
That’s not really been a common theme of this season, exactly.
The case for Joni Ortio continues
The Kings had 29 shots on net, and Joni Ortio stopped 26 of them. He can’t really be blamed for any of the goals that got past him, either.
The first was a gorgeous tip on the power play by Jeff Carter. The second was a lowlight Dougie Hamilton is probably going to be forced to watch over and over again, Clockwork Orange-style, until the concept of situational awareness at all times is thoroughly drilled into his head. And the third was a bounce Ortio wasn’t that far off from getting, and Part Two of Joe Colborne’s Really Bad Night in the Blue Paint.
The Flames were shutout, and their goalie was the only really blameless figure.
It was especially a stark contrast compared to the Anaheim game, which saw Jonas Hiller give up three goals on five shots, and Niklas Backstrom surrender five on 22.
After one, the Kings outshot the Flames 8-7, and it remained a tied game.
In the second period, the Kings outshot the Flames 15-8, and Ortio was left basically helpless on the two goals that got past him. But the Kings still had many more chances, and Ortio didn’t let things get out of hand.
In the third period, shots were even at six apiece, but by then, the Kings pretty much had the game in the bag. And Ortio did enough to give his team a real shot.
The Ducks are a good team. The Kings are a good team. They’re battling right down to the wire for the Pacific Division crown, so there’s still a lot at stake for the both of them. And though the Flames skaters generally looked better on the second night of their back-to-back, they still weren’t great.
The two older goalies had bad nights. Ortio looked good. So even though he gave up three, it was like a statement game from the young Finn.
Here’s to the top line
It was Backlund who actually got the goal (and then had it taken away for no apparent reason), but it was the Flames’ top line who had the best possession rates on the team. Sean Monahan was a 57.89% ES CF player, Johnny Gaudreau was a 56.00% guy, and Hunter Shinkaruk, rounding out the line, finished at 53.85%. (Jyrki Jokipakka, who clocked in at 55.56%, was the only other positive corsi player in what was a rough outing for the team.)
They only had five shots between them – Monahan and Gaudreau with two apiece, Shinkaruk with just one – but were also the only forwards to be on the ice for double digits in corsi for events (Monahan 11, Gaudreau and Shinkaruk 14 each). In a weak night offensively, their numbers do stand out, so it’ll be nice to see the Shinkaruk experiment continue for as long as it can.
Because Shinkaruk is being put in a position to succeed. That isn’t quite something we can say for many prospects who have come up through the organization, but there’s an opening on the top line now, and it’s his chance at it. Shinkaruk played 17:50, which was only behind Gaudreau in terms of ice time. He got 1:31 on the power play, which wasn’t exactly in the range for most time spent on the man advantage, but was still a modest total.
Small sample sizes of just a couple of minutes, but Shinkaruk did falter away from Gaudreau and Monahan, at least in terms of corsi. Which, honestly, is to be expected: two of these guys are established NHLers, and one was playing in his fourth game ever. So.
Good lord, this team is young
So the top line last night consisted of Gaudreau (22), Monahan (21), Shinkaruk (21), and they were sometimes out there with the Hamilton (22) and T.J. Brodie (25) defence pairing.
Brodie, 25 years young, was occasionally the old man of the Flames’ side of the ice. Except 25 is still really young in and of itself.
Throw in players like Sam Bennett (19) and Micheal Ferland (23) appearing to continue to develop chemistry with one another – though they didn’t capitalize, they once again had a handful of chances, including one right off the post – and this is a team of babies.
You can’t even really go with the call-ups excuse either, because of the seven players I’ve listed above, six of them have been regulars on this team the entire season. And it’s possible Shinkaruk joins them next season. (It’s also possible he doesn’t, but he’s a really early entrant to the “who’s gonna surprise us at training camp” question.)
The Flames were only missing Michael Frolik (28) when it came to regulars. And true, things have changed – the departures of Jiri Hudler (32), David Jones (31), Kris Russell (28), and effectively, Dennis Wideman (33) have dropped the team’s age – but it’s not exactly like they’re about to fill those spots with older players next season (Wideman aside, maybe).
The way I see it, there are two ways to interpret this:
- Death is imminent and coming for us all.
- The Flames are starting to shift out of the rebuilding phase as their young players take over the core of the team and gain more and more experience with each passing game. Seriously, Gaudreau and Monahan have nearly 400 games of NHL experience between the two of them, that’s nuts. But then, there’s still a lot of hockey to be played for the Flames’ new group – so the sooner they get it together, the sooner and, potentially, longer, the good times can roll.