Flames 5, Oilers 0 post-game embers: Board up the entrances, Rexall is derelict

The Flames lost their first ever Battle of Alberta in the very arena they dominated last night. If there is one distinct positive through the ups and downs of this rebuild it’s pretty steady and fantastic goal-totals in Rexall for Battles of Alberta. Last night was no different.

And to cap it off: they did it by checking off all the pertinent boxes in what you do to a blood-rival.

It was a baptism in fire and now the fans in Edmonton are collectively losing their minds again.

THE SHORTHANDED GOAL: IT’S IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT

Perhaps one of the most important moments in last night’s pillaging was the shorthanded goal by Mikael Backlund. And though by all accounts it’s important to acknowledge the effort by Backlund on it, the cog in the whole sequence is by an unlikely tandem: Josh Jooris and Deryk Engelland.

An area that Engelland had relatively modest success in last season when Mark Giordano was finished for the season was the penalty kill. Last night was an exceptional example of him making some important decisions reading the play and helping force it up ice in Calgary’s favor.

But in order to do that, he needed help from one important person in the sequence: Josh Jooris, a penalty killing virtuoso. For correct framing, let’s break down the series of events into two sections: the first PK shift and the second PK shift:

FIRST PK SHIFT

This entire shift in the defensive zone is the foundation of everything as it establishes a few fundamental events for achieving a successful penalty kill:

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  • Aggressive F1 (Jooris) forcing a low-quality, low-risk shot attempt towards the net. Which is knocked down by Mark Giordano in a good position to break out.
  • Backlund is in prime position to support the play on the breakout while Engelland is off to the side in the event of a turnover or a potential need for a shot block if required.
  • Jooris is already on the breakout and is prepared to work through the neutral zone. Jooris has his head up and is aware of the sequence starting to unfold.
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  • Giordano exits the zone cleanly and hands it off to Jooris to lead in on the zone entry.
  • Engelland and Backlund responsibly hold back as they have at this point in the play, three separate Oilers left behind. All of which can be a theoretical issue if the zone entry fails or a turnover happens.
  • Jordan Oesterle is matching up against Jooris on the entry while Oilers center Leon Draisaitl rushes to head back for support. Predictably and intelligently he heads for the net as he reads the play very well.
  • The shot goes off, Giordano heads for the net, and Talbot stops the puck.
All of which leads to a stoppage in play as Jooris gets the shot off. The second most important aspect to how this shorthanded goal happens comes from Bob Hartley of all people. The PK unit isn’t tired, presumably, and he has the option to switch. He doesn’t. This is a huge win that obviously pays off come the next faceoff.

SHIFT THAT LEADS TO THE GOAL

The faceoff in the offensive zone starts with a loss (which is fine) and the Oilers starting their cycle out of their zone. The first thing to notice is all three Flames’ PKers are attentively aware of the breakout. The lines below point in their approximate line of sight. Out of frame is Giordano, whose stick is briefly spotted.

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Things get interesting as Oesterle drops for Connor McDavid as he’s gained speed to start breaking through the neutral zone. Jooris reads this correctly and applies pressure, giving Deryk Engelland time to setup for the impending zone entry.

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The disruption from Jooris’ pressure forces McDavid and Taylor Hall’s entry to be chaotic. This gives Engelland an opportunity to use his stick and poke it away. 

zoneentry

After that, it’s all gravy. Jooris enters the zone, the pass fortunately connects, and Backlund gets his 16th of the season. All because of Jooris and Engelland using logical decision making and reading the play to transition up ice. Engelland’s active stick results in a well-deserved assist on the play.

And here is the entire sequences events that gives the Flames a 1-0 lead:

SUMMING IT UP: JOJOO SHOULD COME BACK NEXT SEASON

I think if anything, this again proves that Josh Jooris has value to this organization moving forward. The reluctance of utilizing him efficiently and correctly is a huge hole this season. Yes, he isn’t scoring as much as last season (riding an ungodly SH% for the first half helped pad his totals) and yes, his penalty differential isn’t as sound as last season.

The difference is, again, and it’s something I’ve highlighted in the past: Jooris is the make and model of the modern NHL bottom-six forward. He can provide complimentary scoring totals, an impact at 5v5, and a value on your PK. He can also do it for cheap too, likely well below many overpaid bottom-six forwards league-wide and on this very team.

Last night: a primary assist on the Backlund goal, two scoring chances, a single high-danger scoring chance, and two shot attempts while on the PK. 

HUNTER SHINKARUK: SHAVE YOUR BEARD BUT YOU’RE ALRIGHT, KID

Personally, I’ve been very fond of watching Hunter Shinkaruk in his limited sample so far. I feel, at the very least, there is just more there in a ceiling and as a player already than former Flame Markus Granlund.

I think, for fans, and for what we’ve learned with Granlund is that building up an appropriate sample before rushing to irrational or sweeping declarations is incredibly key here. That said as the games have gone on, he’s found himself more and more engaged at the NHL level.

Last night, again, was another even night for the young winger: 50% CF at 5v5 and a shot. Shinkaruk wasn’t strictly attached to the Gaudreau and Monahan’s hips, his even dispersion of ice-time saw him with Monahan, Bennett, and Jooris as his centres. 

The flexibility is a nice facet of his game, but if he can find his offensive game at the NHL level, it gives the Flames an added layer of potential scoring talent on the wing. Which they’re ever-so desperate for.

MIKAEL BACKLUND: CAREER YEAR, GREAT NIGHT, A SWEDE BOY

We’ll keep this section short. Seriously just marvel at this pass:

backlundpasscolbort

The now-elder Swede finished the night at 5v5 at 56.7% CF along with: six iCF events (two shots, four shot attempts), and four scoring chances. No centre on this team can drive play at Backlund’s level yet, again cementing proof that the value he brings may not always reflect on the score sheet, but he certainly helps others rack up points too.

BRIEF THOUGHTS ON GAUDREAU: 30 GOAL SCORER

He’ll need two points on Tuesday to be at a point-per-game again and it would probably just add yet another series of zeros to his pending contract. The diminutive winger is at .88 PPG in 156GP in the regular season. It’s hard to comprehend how some wrote this young man off well before he made the NHL.

Proving them wrong is only the icing on the cake that is Johnny Gaudreau.

At 5v5, Gaudreau was the Flames’ best possession forward last night: 64% CF. As usual Johnny did his regular routine of contributing nicely. He finished night with two shots, two scoring chances, an even strength goal, and a power play goal.

Also, he went up against Connor McDavid: and won. Not only did McDavid not get any points, but he was held to just 37.5% CF when out against Gaudreau.

Pay him and get him a partnership with Skittles.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    After the Oilers won the McDavid sweepstakes, I thought the Oilers would be able to right the ship in short order. At first, they were trending well in attracting a very good coach and a real NHL GM. This season however has been no different than the last 8-10. I’m much more pessimistic after watching that game and listening to McLelland last night. That team is broken and the locker room is poisoned with selfish players that don’t give a crap.

    Maybe it was handing out $6M contracts to young players that didn’t earn the pay day. Maybe it was successive coaching changes that taught the players not to be afraid of a coach, or his ability to affect player personale changes. After picking high in each draft for a decade (including 4 First overalls) only a single player is untouchable in my mind. Its obviously McDavid. Kelly Hrudy made a big deal of Eberle’s lack of effort on the first Backlund goal, but watch Hall on the same play. “The fastest LW in hockey” mailed in a backcheck. While he wasn’t the primary culprit, he was in a position to help and didn’t.

    I’m convinced tinkering is not enough and a radical teardown/rebuild is needed. If they do go down that path, the Oilers do have enough trade assets to improve quickly, but I don’t believe the team management has the kahunas to make those kinds of changes. I’m also not convinced Chiarelli is adept enough to get full value out of the assets he does have. I look at the overpayment for Griffen Rienhardt and my eyes roll back in my head. Futility thy name is Oilers.

    • freethe flames

      Those assets are diminishing every game. They are never going to get the value they think they should for Yakapov, Eberle or even RNH(his defensive effort on Colborne’s goal was as bad as Eberle’s on Backs shorthanded goal). The only one of the floaters that they might get good value for is Hall and even then there are so many examples of him being a floater that I would not being willing to overpay for him.

      But I digress; while it is fun beating the Oiler’s lets not forget our team still has a lot of work to be done and we should not let our young guys off the hook. Monahan needs to get stronger, he is entering his 4th season and should no longer be called a kid(age aside he is an NHL veteran), same for Dougie, same for Johnny, Ferland has to get better as well. Guys who have 3+ years of pro hockey need to step up. The AHL guys like Poirier, Shinkaruk, all need to get stronger and step up.

      • Kevin R

        Was talking to a buddy last night about this. Look at some of the career years we got from players, Backlund, Colborne, Gaudreau topping last year, Monahan tied with McDavid for points since the AS Break, Gio having a full year, Brodie talking yet another step to being elite. All this & how n the f*@# are we in the bottom tier of the league? Next year is critical we move forward to becoming a winning playoff mix kind of team. Some thoughts:

        1/Colborne, what a break out he has had this 2nd half. You have to sign this kid, you have to pay him his 2.5 mill as well. Lots of risk to do so & even more risk not doing so. The only other thing I can think of is I consider his value peaked like Hudler & Wideman were after last year. Maybe he’s a piece that will get us that goalie.

        2/We need to find what it will take to compliment Bennett & get him to Gaudreau/Monahan level. Getting a lethal scoring line is what will be needed. I am intrigued with Ferland, Shink & Janko & see how these 3 could maybe fill one of our top 6 forward spots, & not be just functional, but eye popping breakout type of results giving Bennett his own identity/line.

        3/I like Ortio, the more the kid plays I think the better he will get. The team plays better in front of him than Hiller or Backstrom, that’s for sure. He’s not a #1 & it is so important to get this right. We need better than average goaltending for this team to make the playoffs. This is going to be the most analysed & talked about topic at the draft & summer. Like I said, maybe Colborne is one of the pieces that can pry a Bishop out of Tampa. Test drive Bishop next year at 5.9 mill, resign Ortio for under a mill as backup & we technically go into next season 2.5 mill lower in cap expenditure than we did going into this year. We would have a goalie capable of taking us into the playoffs & past a few rounds. Would also get a year to see how he does in a Flame uniform before giving him a Rinne type of contract. I don’t know what to do on this quite frankly, glad BT has that job.

        4/We need to move some $$$ so we don’t hamper next year as a wasted year because of stupid contracts. Realistically, I have no problem keeping Eng’s for his last year, Smid is going impact the starting lineup but that has LTIR next year written all over it & we get the cap room back. Monahan & Gaudreaus deals are what they are & like Mike said, give them their money, they are becoming a very big part of the face of our franchise. We need rid of Raymond, Wideman possibly Stajan’s contracts (preferably without buying them out). I think we have Stajan for another year, could think of worse things but Wideman & Raymond are moveable.

        5/ Last, I know I will get torched for this, but I don’t care. I don’t want to see Ferland fighting the likes of Kassian & Hendricks or Nurse. If he is a top 6 player that I am hoping he’ll be, we need a different role out of him. I know everyone trashes how bad Bollig is but no one propped him for what he did last night. That game could have got out of hand & Oilers have a few hacks that could have really hurt some of our talented players if they see there is no deterrent. Last night you saw what value a guy like Bollig has. He knows he is a press box scratch on many nights, he knows his role, he’s been around, he’s tough as nails & I have no problem having him next year. His 1.3 mill is not the reason we have cap issues. In fact, I would even consider signing him to a couple year extension at $700k if Hunter Smith isn’t ready. Last night I really appreciated having him in the lineup.

        Good blog Mike. Thanks.

        • wot96

          Respectfully, no, no and more no.

          Colborne has had a career year. Someone will overpay for him. It should not be the Flames. He is a bottom six forward (deployed erroneously by Baaaaab Hartley) and the pay you are talking about can’t be afforded unless the team can peddle some other overpays – spoiler alert, they won’t be able to get rid of more than one of those contracts except by buyout. Flames should peddle his rights if they can’t sign him for half of what you suggest.

          Ortio’s es save% is good enough to be starter level. Consistency is his enemy though. But the Flames cannot afford any of the big FA goalies available. Not til Wideman, Engelland and Raymond come off the books and that (high paid goalie) is not the way to go anyway.

          I would rather have Ferland pummel people than Bollig. Ferland can play, Bollig can’t. What I would prefer is another Ferland. And where was Bollig after Keith slashed Johnny the other night? Having a scrapper doesn’t mean people won’t take liberties, it means rolling three lines. Yay.

          • Kevin R

            Ok, I get it & expected this kind of response. But consider this. What if. What if Colborne finally broke out & what we saw was him finally consistently playing the way everyone felt he warranted being a 1st round pick. He’s exactly what you want from a bottom 6 forward. It just took him longer to get there, not unlike Gio.

            Why can’t you afford a big ticket goalie??? With Ortio as a decent back up, why not Bishop? We spent almost 9.0 mill this year on goalies, Dallas spends over 10.0 mill on Lehtonen & Niemi. Just saying.

            If Ferland is the top 6 power forward we want him to be, I disagree, I don’t want him getting kicked out of games dealing with clowns every team has, especially when games have meaning & we need him to score. Bollig, who cares. He’s usually scratched from the lineup anyways. Disagree with me all you want but most NHL teams have these kind of guys in the lineup. Bollig was in the lineup last night, saw no problem rolling the lines last night.

        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          Kevin R – Goaltending was the reason why we were in the basement early and often this season. A good stretch from Ramo and Ortio are the only reasons we are not 30th right now. That is how bad it has been all year.

          Colborne and Backlund have lit it up in recent months, but where were they when the games mattered? No pressure games (for the Flames) this last month. Joe needs to be re-signed, but a bridge deal or one year prove it deal is required. He hasn’t been consistent enough, and his play leaves you wanting more.

          Bishop’s salary and new deal will kill us cap-wise. The trade would cost us big time too. I would first look to STL at Elliott or Allen; Elliott is older so would likely be the one dealt. He’s been pretty awesome in STL and I think we have the defense to help him keep those numbers.

          We need a top RW and a top 6 LW (for Bennett). Whether Shinkaruk or Poirier fits that remains to be seen.

          • RickT

            Backlund was always there. He has 42 points on the season, and not all of them have come recently. He does the right things literally all of the time, they do not always contribute directly to goals.

            However, preventing a goal is just as important to a win as scoring one (because, of course, then it means that there is one less goal that your team needs to score).

    • Greg

      I’m not convinced Chiarelli is all that great a GM either. He’s got a few ok trades in his portfolio, but there’s a bunch of really bad whiffs in there too… Versteeg for Bochenski, Peverly for Wheeler, that huge overpay for Reinhart, and of course the brutal Seguin trade.

      I’m glad everyone up north thinks they finally got a good GM but I certainly won’t be sad (or surprised) to see him manage to steer a mcdavid lottery straight into mediocrity.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I really like the sequence breakdowns on the PK that led to the goal. I was hoping for more of them this year after seeing them in the Flames playoff run, but I imagine they take a lot of time to put together. Thanks for your efforts Mike, they are appreciated.

    • mk

      Something to keep I mind, even adding Crosby or Ovechkin didnt make their teams great overnight. I agree that there are serious issues with how their team is built, but I believe it’s more realistic to see how McDavid drives the Oilers this coming season. Possibly with many of the other core players gone/replaced.

      • MattyFranchise

        Those boys up north need some #giveas***

        Constant coaching changes hurt their team big time.

        Would love for Battle of Alberta to be great again. First period last night was awesome. Rest of the game? Not so much.

        Flames rekt them

    • deantheraven

      I proposed a few posts ago that he get the reins next year, at least to Christmas. I think Backstrom would be fine as his back up and a fantastic mentor. This would solve so many problem on so many levels: 2 keepers for the price of 1 FA starter; an easy answer to the “who do you protect in the expansion draft”; and placeholders keeping the crease warm for Gillies or whoever gets traded at the next deadline because, expansion draft. If these two can provide league average goaltending The Flames should be in the mix next February.

  • al rain

    There’s an old story about Grandpa’s axe. I keep Grandpa’s axe because it has a little bit of Grandpa in it. One day the head broke and I replaced that and I still keep it because it has a bit of Grandpa in it. Then the handle broke and I replaced that and I still keep it because it’s still Grandpa’s axe.

    That’s the Oilers. They can change something every year but they’ll never be any different. They can hire a new coach, get a new goalie, move some guys around the front office, get a half dozen first overalls but you can’t scrub out the stench of all the stinking.

    What we saw last night is what happens when you become losers. Not losers as in went on a losing streak or had a bad season, but honest, unequivocal, down deep in their heart LOSERS. And that, my friends, is why you NEVER tank.