Well, that’s probably not the start anyone was looking forward to this season, was it? Damn those jerseys look good though.
The Flames’ first period was awesome. They were aggressive, they were constantly in the offensive zone, they scored two goals and came away with a 63.83% CF at 5v5. They were fast, their passes connected, they outshot the Oilers 2:1 and they looked dominant, a Connor McDavid breakaway opportunity aside.
And then it stopped.
The Flames managed just 11 shots over the remaining two periods. Even though they were down for most of the third period, they had just eight shots on net. Their second period was listless; their third period, uninspired.
The three shots the Flames had in the second period came from Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie; not a single forward was able to put the puck on net until nearly five minutes into the third period, courtesy of Matthew Tkachuk.
That’s not good enough.
There are, however, a couple of built-in excuses. The Flames’ top line has barely played at all, and need to get up to speed. The entire team still needs to work on effectively playing a new coach’s new systems. We’re seeing some flashes in their play; hopefully, as the season goes on, those flashes will translate into complete games.
Besides, we have to keep in mind that it’s only been two games. Every team is probably going to lose back-to-back games at some point in the season. It’s something that happens. It’s okay. The sky hasn’t fallen yet.
Stop taking penalties
In game one, the Flames took eight penalties (one offsetting). In game two, they took another six (two offsetting). It burned them more in game two than in game one, but fact is, this isn’t something that can continue.
They took a lot of penalties in their first two games of the season last year, two, so it’s not as though this is a totally new phenomena; on the other hand, we probably shouldn’t be looking at the start of last season as “things the Flames should aspire to,” because their October a year ago was exceptionally terrible.
Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that with Bob Hartley at the helm over the course of four seasons, the Flames took a grand total of 1,068 penalties. That’s the same number as the Minnesota Wild; only the Carolina Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks had fewer calls against. Say what you will about Hartley, but his teams, for the most part, did not take penalties, and that’s including any perceived conspiracies Wideman-gate brought about.
We’ll see how the Flames fare under Glen Gulutzan as the season goes on, but it’s not off to the best start. Even if the penalty kill is improved, you aren’t going to win that many games if you’re constantly taking penalties during them.
Who was on McDavid duty?
McDavid scored three points last night, blah blah blah, he’s good, we get it, whatever.
We’re talking about the Flames here, so we’re going to talk about who faced off against McDavid the most. Because this was a home game, Gulutzan had control over the matchups. McDavid is obviously the Oilers’ top line guy, so here we have it: the players Gulutzan trusts the most to go against other teams’ top players.
At 5v5, McDavid saw Brodie (9:43), Mark Giordano (9:42), Mikael Backlund (6:52), Michael Frolik (6:15), and Lance Bouma (5:04).
Out of those guys, Bouma is the one most setting off alarm bells in my head; Micheal Ferland has a history of better underlying results and should still be the left wing on that line. Still, the forwards got the job better done than the defencemen, but, in fairness, McDavid had 80% offensive zone starts when lining up against Brodie and Giordano.
Against the forward group, he dropped down to 66.67% offensive zone starts. His corsi numbers also went up when he got away from Backlund’s line. Frolik had the best game of the three, but don’t forget: there’s a reason he and Backlund are a package deal, and it’s because they’re the ones who can be most trusted to shut down the opposition. Backlund was the most effective at containing McDavid.
Hopefully we start to see them used in the same capacity on the road.
Keep Kevin, Kulak
I apologize for the horrible set up to this section, I was just trying to think of alliteration and then I was thinking of The Simpsons and–
The point is, here, maybe it is good. Jyrki Jokipakka’s addition to the lineup was much needed, and much appreciated. It’s a wonder he was ever scratched at all. Though he didn’t play too much – he was grouped with Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland for the lesser ice times on defence last night, with just 16:15 to his name – he actually ended up with one of the higher 5v5 ice times at 13:31. During that, he had a CF% of 71.43%, second only to Hamilton. Sure, the fact that he got a lot of offensive zone starts probably had something to do with that, but his composure and capable play were strong assets.
Also, the goal he scored was pretty nice, too.
It was great to see Jokipakka subbed in for Nicklas Grossmann, but now, Brett Kulak needs to make his way into the lineup, too.
Outside of Brodie and Giordano, Wideman had the worst possession stats on the defence. We know who Brodie and Girodano had to face, so we’ll give them a bit of a pass; Wideman’s most common opponents were Patrick Maroon, Leon Draisaitl, and Darnell Nurse. Sure, his 37.50% offensive zone starts probably didn’t help him much, but when you can barely keep up and, in particular, when you end up largely responsible for a shorthanded goal against…
Point is, is there anything Wideman can do that Kulak can’t at this point? Having a pairing consisting of Wideman and Engelland isn’t ideal because neither is actually known for their footspeed. Adding Kulak to the lineup makes sure all three pairings have at least one member who can actually skate on them. It’s time for Kulak to draw into the lineup. If he impresses, he stays there; if he doesn’t, then he gets to play top minutes in Stockton and we can try Tyler Wotherspoon again.
Besides, didn’t Kulak and Engelland work well together in their limited time to start the 2015-16 season? The answer is yes, yes they did.
But the defensive depth isn’t up to snuff. The Flames have an option just sitting there who might be able to rectify that. Time to put him in. After all, he made this team, didn’t he?
PASS IT TO THE FLY pic.twitter.com/rCDFdAtrqu
— NHL (@NHL) October 15, 2016
So like… if something notable had happened during that moment, would the highlight have had the fly on it, or would they have just desperately tried to use only alternative camera angles? I have the important questions here.