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
The last two Jooris shifts prove why he is a viable PKer.
— AOL KEYWORD: Mike (@mikeFAIL) April 3, 2016
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.