Post-Game: Flames finally win!

It took them four tries, but the Calgary Flames have finally gotten into the win column. Don’t let that statement fool you, though: it wasn’t easy. It took the Flames 62 and a half minutes and some nice individual efforts from the fourth line (and Matthew Tkachuk) to get them a hard-fought 4-3 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres.

It was not pretty. It was a game that lacked beauty and flow for much of its duration. But for the Flames, it was a direly needed two points.

THE RUNDOWN

The hometown squad looked really nice for the first three or four minutes of this game. They were skating. They were making nice passes. They were holding onto the puck and entering the offensive zone with purpose. Then they got a power play and the wheels fell off for a bit. After bumbling around with the puck on a few zone entry attempts, the Sabres got back to even strength and made the Flames look like a junior team for awhile. On a shift that saw three different failed zone exits, Buffalo scored off a Tyler Ennis shot that was tipped by Zemgus Girgensens (the Pride of Latvia) to make it 1-0.

The Flames gradually figured it out, though, and after a couple nice shifts of pressure, Brett Kulak’s point shot led to the first goal. It was a weird sequence, though, with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik scrambling around the goal-mouth for the rebound. The refs blew the play down, then realized they shouldn’t have and let the goal stand. Shots were 14-6 for the hosts.

The Flames had some pep early in the second, aside from burning off the first couple minutes of the period without gaining entry into the Buffalo zone. But a few nice shifts – including a loud goal-post by Matthew Tkachuk – eventually got Calgary a two-minute 5-on-3. But sadly, they couldn’t generate very much and Mark Giordano took a penalty (during a 5-on-3) as the Flames failed on a zone entry. That penalty didn’t result in anything, but on a subsequent Buffalo PP a point shot rebounded into the net off of Dougie Hamilton to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead. Shots were 9-4 for Calgary.

The Flames pulled even early in the third. Micheal Ferland finally got his efforts rewarded with a goal, jumping on a loose puck off a scramblely play and chipping it past Robin Lehner to make it 2-2. However, Marcus Foligno made a nice individual effort to make it 3-2: he beat out both Deryk Engelland and Kulak for a loose puck and beat Johnson with a really nice wrister. But that lead did not last long, as Matthew Tkachuk raced into the Buffalo zone and beat Lehner with a wrister of his own to tie the game – it was his first-ever NHL goal. Shots were 9-6 Buffalo.

Regulation solved nothing! Off to overtime they went, and after a pretty entertaining few minutes – punctuated by a big save by Johnson at one end and a few minutes of puck possession by the Flames at the other – Johnny Gaudreau found Sean Monahan for the game-winner. Shots were 5-2 for Calgary in OT.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

Well, they were able to overcome their woeful first 40 minutes. They dominated puck possession but didn’t make a lot of good decisions with the puck. However, they were able to score clutch goals in the third period to stay in the game, and they managed to pull a rabbit out of their hat in overtime. They were just good enough to win at the right time to capture two points.

But man, their power play is struggling. They absolutely cannot enter the zone with any speed or coordination. This is something that needs to be fixed post-haste.

THE TURNING POINT

There was a span in the third period that tilted the game. First, Tkachuk scored off the rush. Then, Tkachuk drew a crowd (and a penalty) with a clean hit on the boards in the Flames zone. That gave the Flames a power play which was soon negated and eventually turned into a penalty-killing span that swung the game towards the Flames (as they managed to keep the game tied).

Gaudreau and Monahan may have combined for the winning goal, but the Flames were in a position to win because Tkachuk caused such a ruckus on two consecutive shifts.

RED WARRIOR

As much as it’s tempting to go for Tkachuk, Matt Stajan was rock-solid for the Flames all night. For the first two periods, the only real sign of life for the Flames was the fourth line of Stajan, Ferland and Alex Chiasson.

As usual, honourable mention to Backlund and Frolik.

THE NUMBERS

(All situations.)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Chiasson 83.3 66.7 0.750
Ferland 75.0 50.0 1.250
Stajan 72.7 66.7 1.240
Bennett 71.4 50.0 0.080
Versteeg 70.0 62.5 0.550
Kulak 68.5 62.5 1.350
Gaudreau 64.5 66.7 1.600
Engelland 62.9 36.4 1.000
Jokipakka 60.0 33.3 0.150
Monahan 60.0 70.6 1.120
Hamilton 59.3 56.3 0.100
Brouwer 58.6 56.3 -0.007
Giordano 58.1 57.1 1.675
Tkachuk 56.3 20.0 1.000
Backlund 53.3 33.3 0.860
Brodie 51.3 42.1 0.050
Bouma 50.0 37.5 0.300
Frolik 44.4 36.4 0.760
Johnson -0.450

THIS AND THAT

Troy Brouwer was on the ice for all three Sabres goals.

QUOTEABLE

“I thought once again five on five we played well. Specialty teams, we need to keep working on the power play and the penalty kill to get them where we need them.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan assesses the win.

UP NEXT

The Flames (1-2-1) practice tomorrow as they prepare to get back into action on Thursday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.

  • Trusty

    One thing I liked about Monahan prior to his goal was how he responded to being cross-checked high (and off his face) at a previous whistle in OT. Instead of reacting like a couple Buffalo players did earlier in the game, he did not make a big stink about it. And then the refs let what could have been a marginal call against him go on Sam Reinhart just prior to his goal. Nice move.

  • Tanner

    Is it just me or are the Flames looking much better in possession than they did the last few years? The first 2 games and the 4th one have all looked pretty good in that regard. Obviously, 1-2-1 is not the record anyone was hoping for, but the 16/17 Flames might end up being seen as much better than last year’s Flames from an analytical perspective. I also think we need to wait a while longer (and fix the power play), but maybe Treliving’s hire of Gulutzam wasn’t terrible after all. If Gulutzan can keep the possession numbers north of 50 all season, that will be a huge step forward.

    • Derzie

      Peppering clappers from the blue line is “possession”, since anything toward the net counts, but it is Dallas-Eakins-style. Proper possession with good teams includes a high degree of scoring chances. On the few chances we had, we scored. Focus should be on chances, not clappers.

      • KiLLKiND

        Depending on who is on the ice we should be firing away from the poin. With a player like Tkachuck on the ice blasts from the point is a great strategy. Him and Brouwer love to drive the net and make things happen that way. Gaudreau on the ice would utilize an entirely different strategy. You used a blanket statement with some validity. Also putting pucks on the net is never a horrible play.

        Personally I would prefer a team that isn’t afraid to shoot first. Too many teams hold onto the puck until the perfect shot opens up, and never end up getting the shot off.

      • McRib

        A four game sample size isn’t enough to determine if a style of play is producing adequate results or not. Not to mention ever since posssesion metrics were created, shot quality has been used as the main counter arguement to the possession theory (I used to argue it regularly myself), but fact is there is now overwhelming historical evidence that supports the fact that if you regularly out shoot your opponents you will win more often than not, no matter the “shot quality”. A few times in the last decade there has been a team or two in particular that has gone on historical runs (see Flames in 2014-2015. Colorado and Minnesota also bucked the trend for one season, but that’s it) that are outliers where they scored at high percentages for an extended period, but “High Percentage Shooting” is never a sustainable method and players and teams always fall back down to the average shooting percentage at some point.

        Basically if you are throwing more pucks on goal you are also more likely to get a few soft goals or favourable rebounds, which would eliminate any added benefit of high percentage shooting. We haven’t played any real strong teams yet, but if we continue to outshoot our opponents we will start to win more games than we lose. You can argue all this if you want, I argued it for quite some time as well, but more shots on goal, means more goals. Unless you have a team filled with Alexander Ovechkin’s most of the players on your team are going to have fairly comparable shooting percentages and they will score at the same career percentages no matter what you do. If you hold off shooting until you have a perfect angle you are also much more likely to turn over the puck (and you would give the goaltenders time to set up). Lastly the Flames have some of the most productive offensive defenders in the league if anyone wants to pepper the net from the blueline it’s us.

        • Derzie

          You spin your point as though it were an absolute: shoot the puck, win more. That is a faulty assumption. If it were true, teams would focus on that and all would be wonderful. It is not the case. Winning teams happen to have more shots, not having more shots will make you a winning team. Execution and quality are what makes teams work. The whole reason that there is a stats vs eye test argument is not in the numbers but the conclusions. Ignoring them or drawing incomplete or incorrect conclusions are the flaws. As an analogy, it’s like saying winning race car drivers burn more gas therefore budding race car drivers better burn more gas. Idle high (clappers from center), keep it third gear (rag the puck), use inefficient cars (shoot from everywhere). One time on Steinberg’s overtime, there was a guy who came on and said shoot the puck everytime you get it. He was ridiculed but all he was suggesting was an extreme version of your argument. I have a post-grad degree in mathematics & computing science and understand the numbers and logic. Stats are valuable, those who treat it as gospel are misguided.

      • cjc

        That’s not quite how possession works. A lot of goals are “lucky” – take the one that went in off Hamilton. It’s pretty doubtful that was the intended play. It’s the old maxim, IF YOU PUT PUCKS ON NET, GOOD THINGS WILL HAPPEN.

        Don’t get me wrong, scoring chances are important, too. There may be individual games where teams dominate possession but get few high quality scoring chances, but over the long run teams with better possession numbers also generate more scoring chances.

        • Derzie

          Luck is part of the game to be true but to call every non-quantified event ‘luck’ is what I take exception with. That assumes the science is complete and all that is left is ‘luck’ Absolutely untrue. As to putting pucks on the net, most are a step above a dump in and several are just a glorified turnover.

  • Christian Roatis

    Tweeted this too, but:

    Treliving was on MvW today and hinted he values the 40 game UFA window more than the 9 game contract window with young players. Though Tkachuk is an 18 year old – and Treliving doesn’t like keeping them on the NHL roster – it feels more like a half season audition than a couple games for the kid.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      The zone entry on the power play needs a lot of work. No speed through the neutral zone, and it was too easy for Buffalo to jam up the middle of the ice and prevent the Flames from establishIng any sustained attack. The Flames were better 5v5, than the PP.

      Dave Cameron better be worried. That was a disaster.

      • piscera.infada

        I agree. They need to attack the zone as a five man unit. Not 4 standing at the blueline, with a trailer trying to gain the zone. Far too easy to defend. Once they do actually gain the zone, I would say it’s an execution problem. Much like the top-line, they seem too indecisive with the puck. There are lanes there, and plays to be made. I don’t dislike the set up all that much. Just need to be quicker and much more decisive with the passes, shots, and board play.

        I will say though, the penalty kill was very good, even with that bad bounce off Hamilton’s chest.

  • smatic10

    Great summary Ryan! As a watcher of most of this game, let me just echo, “it was not pretty”. This team needs to find a way to play with flow and chemistry for a full 60+ minutes, otherwise we’re going to pick up quite a few L’s this year.

    A few notes:

    PP was ATROCIOUS. If you didn’t watch the game, think of the worst PP ever…..it was even worse. The lack of confidence is VISIBLE. This team needs to be hungrier for pucks, make simpler passes, and get shots on net. Basically strip it down to the most simple PP ever to get some confidence going.

    We take way too many penalties. A lot of them are ridiculously unnecessary. Gio was the culprit on multiple occasions tonight.

    Ferland’s goal was a beauty.

    I’m starting to believe in Gully’s decision making now. Putting Backlund and Frolik out in OT first is a very smart idea. It settles the game down before getting Johnny and Monny out there. I also like that he’s quickly fixing mistakes. Grossman? Out. Wideman? Out. As soon as we get a suitable replacement for him, Engelland? Hopefully out too. I like Engelland but he was danced a couple times tonight. Imagine replacing Engelland, Wideman, Grossman with younger, more dependable talent. I can’t wait.

    Tkachuk was great. Was physical but didn’t take any dumb penalties. I’m quite impressed with how calm he seems at all times. His goal was a snipe and very much needed at that moment in the game.

    Monny’s OT winner was sick. Great set of hands. But just seconds prior, that was an undeniable crosscheck on his part. Should have been a penalty. But you know what? I don’t care. We’ve had more than our fair share of missed calls. The Hockey God’s are trying to balance the universe. I’m fine with that. Last thing, anyone else surprised with Chiasson? He’s been hardworking and consistent so far. Love it.

  • Avalain

    Yes! A win! That puts us solidly ahead of those basement dweller teams: Anaheim and LA. Otherwise known as “maybe the first 3 games of the season don’t fully represent the whole season.”

    • McRib

      Hahah. No kidding, I mean another great example would be the fact that Edmonton has been outshot fairly heavily in all three games they have won (109-83, which is almost 24%). If you think the preseason or the first three or four games of the year matters all that much think again. I mean not to be a biased Flames fan or anything, but Vancouver, Edmonton 1-2 in the Pacific division likely isn’t going to happen over the next 78 GP.

  • Schmenkley

    Was at the game and here’s a few observations, take them as you will….
    Johnny looks like he is learning how to play with a 6.75m dollar hockey stick, and you can feel his frustration. Don’t worry, it will come, and when it does it will be like a dam breaking.
    Monohan is NOT 100%, nowhere close. His play is stiff, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn he is still dealing with a bad back.
    Ferland/Stajan/Chiasson were a force in the first half of the game, to the point that I felt Chiasson especially, and to a lesser extent Ferland, should be on the ice more. Props to GG because in the third Chiasson was taking Versteeg’s spot on the top line.
    Gio/Brodie are over-thinking the game right now. Makes sense because the whole team is learning a new defensive system.
    Versteeg: is NOT in game shape. He was consistently cutting his shifts 10-15 seconds shorter than his line mates, which made things extremely difficult for Johnny/Monny. They would be heading up ice with the puck looking for their line mate and he would be hopping over the boards gassed. He was bumped down the lines as the game went on if I recall correctly.
    Kulak is going to be tough to send down. He played a smart steady game, and was first man in to help MT after the clean hit on Ennis. Made smart timely jumps into the rush. Work to do, definitely, but a pretty solid upside there.
    Engelland is serviceable with a competent partner.
    Who is Dennis Wideman? And does he have a place on this, or any, team?
    The power play sucked. Full stop. No flow, no cohesion, little purpose that you could identify.
    The whole team is still learning the new system, and it is pretty evident. Hockey for the most part, despite all the structure and systems that have evolved, is still an instinctual game. The Flames are getting there, but aren’t there yet.
    The ice, or the pucks, I’m not sure which, were horrendous. More bouncing pucks than I can remember seeing.

    Trash away……

  • CalgaryCandle

    Based on tonight, I think Tzachuk sticks at least to 40 games. He brings an agitating element Calgary has lacked for a long time, plus has the skill to score maybe 15 goals this season if he stays up for all 82 games.

    Maybe the goal will give Ferland some confidence in his hands. It was a beautiful backhand.

    And Johnny was Johnny in OT and Monny roofed it in the clutch. Hopefully that will turn them around too.

  • RU63

    Can someone please explain what GG’s new system is? I was at the game and couldn’t figure out what the Flames were trying to do as their “new system”.

    thanks!

    • flames2015

      I’m having a tough time trying to figure that out as well.

      Based on Vancouver’s game from my observation of exiting the zone, is they had a forward back supporting the D, for a quick, short pass and the wingers were also nearby for support and exit of the zone. For the most part, they were successful.

      But tonight, they were more of the familiar stretch passes from the D, which resulted in a quite a few icings / turnovers. Without the forwards support on the exits, there was a few plays where the D were pressured and caused turnovers and were hemmed in the zone longer.

      • Backburner

        They seem to be a little more aggressive especially in the D zone.

        I have no idea what there offensive zone entry’s are about but I notice they are offside quite a bit.

        I couldn’t help but notice the Oilers were always playing 4 men back on the blue line, then having that one guy (McDavid) cherry picking for the turnover stretch pass. It was killing the Flames.

        They really need to work on their O zone entry.

        • piscera.infada

          I would say the biggest issue with the Flames neutral zone system to date, has been missed passes which don’t normally occur from the likes of Frolik, Bennett, and Gaudreau. Honestly, I still think the top-end of the roster is having a tough go of it right now. They look out of sync, but it’s coming. The neutral zone and zone-entry systems are premised on short passes and puck support, but they still need to physically make those passes.

          The same can be said of Gio/Brodie. The five-on-three was abhorrent, but they didn’t generate too poorly when they were set-up. Gio bobbled that pass horribly on the zone entry and then took a subsequent penalty. He did the same thing on a powerplay later in the game. The first Buffalo goal came on Brodie bobbling, overskating, and thus turning over the puck. Like the aforementioned forwards, those aren’t issues you generally expect from those two defensemen.

          There are two parts of implementing a “system”: the system itself, and then the execution of the system. To date, it’s been the execution that has been most lacking. It’s going to be difficult to judge systems when the players aren’t executing. Now, it’s entirely possible that it’s the wrong system based on the players, but I doubt that considering they have players who have historically been good carrying the puck into the zone (Gaudreau, Bennett, Frolik, Backlund). It’s difficult to tell why they aren’t executing, but they’ve been better game over game. They need to continue that, and get better fast, because that St. Louis game is coming up fast.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Okay, before i read any of this. Please, if somebody has a link or something of this nature I could use to watch the game?

    I caught the first period. And then. The worst garbage to ever stream on the internet, sportnet now, failed completely. Now its over.

    I was loving the first period. Really really want to see the rest. Anybody know something I dont here…?…another place I could watch it?

  • Jakethesnail

    This was a posting in the line combinations the other day with many of you agreeing that Bennett should replace Monahan on the first line, which I believe is a bad move considering this is only Bennett’s second year in the league.
    Mighty big boots to fill for a 21 year old with 0 points in 4 games. It might happen one day but give the kid a chance and quit pushing him to be ” the guy.”

    Posting from Wot96 @Ghost

    He has been better than Monahan in an offensive capacity this season and driving play. Were he to play with Brouwer and Gaudreau, I see no reason why he couldn’t continue to do so as he would have the benefit of older, more seasoned, players to play with.

    It does look like Monahan may be hurt/still injured. Or maybe that’s what we tell ourselves to help us sleep at night after the contract he signed this summer. Either way, Bennett has been better and on merit he should be getting the better ozone starts.

    Backlund shouldn’t get the slot because providing offence isn’t his thing and he is valuable in a shutdown role. So…yeah, Bennett slots into the #1 centre position.

    • wot96

      And I noticed that Gaudreau slotted into the left side of Bennett and Brouwer during last night’s game. Don’t know what their stats together were but making that change mid-game is less than ideal.

      Do I think Bennett should be leaned on that heavily right now? Not really as there are other teams that have done that and it is demonstrably less than ideal for the player. But I do think that may be the best line the Flames can muster right now. Yes (it also might not be).

      Do I think he can take that pressure? Sure do. If you don’t think Bennett can take it, I suggest you don’t know much about the kid.

      • Jakethesnail

        He may be able to handle it but there is no need for him to be put in that situation. You have a 4 year veteran in Monahan that just signed a 6.5 million dollar deal, and he should be the one carrying the load.
        When you sign a contract like that along with it comes expectations.

        • piscera.infada

          This is Monahan’s fourth season. But I agree with you in principle. If Monahan is injured though, then Bennett probably slides in there over Backlund, and I don’t think he does a poor job–him and Gaudreau put up ridiculous scoring differentials when together last season (albeit in a limited sample size).

          That said, you know how Monahan/Gaudreau have produced for two season. You give them a chance to work through an early season slump. If Monahan is that hampered by injury, he shouldn’t be playing. I surmise it’s a conditioning thing.

  • flames2015

    Wouldn’t mind seeing F. Hamilton draw in for the next game in place of Bouma. For an supposed energy guy, Bouma was invisible last night as hes been on most nights. Only credited for one hit and zero shots last night.

    Credit to GG for placing Frolik and Backlund to start the OT. It threw off buffalo as they started 2 defense. Hartley always predictably put on Monahan, Gaudreau with Gio to start. So opposing teams have started to line match vs them.

  • At ES, I don’t think there are any systemic issues to worry about. Just a lot of the money players don’t seem to be executing nearly as well as would be expected. Which is good news, because we can safely assume Brodie, Gio, Monahan and Gaudreau will come around.

    The special teams remain a disaster. Systemically and execution wise. Lots of work left there.

      • I’m still seeing things I really don’t like there. On the O’Reilly PP goal last night, three Flames were lost in rotation and ended up standing in a single file line down the middle of the ice while the shot was taking place. None of them were in the shot’s path either.

        PP is worse though, for sure.

        • piscera.infada

          I would point to the Mike Fail article from last week (I believe?). One of his main assumptions was “goals will happen” against a penalty kill.

          I would say the biggest area of improvement has been in the neutral zone and at the defensive blueline. They are letting teams set up considerably less than they did in the Hartley area.

          When the powerplay is able to gain the zone and set-up, we know that rotational errors will occur, shots will be deflected, or the extra man will be missed–that’s the design of the powerplay. I think that while the in-zone play hasn’t been pristine, the proactive play regarding zone entries will have a net positive effect overall.