Just like we wrote it up. Back-to-back road games against two of the recently better teams in the Central Division were sure to be what cured the Flames’ ails, right? Everyone knew that was coming.
The Flames are now 3-4-1. If they win their next game, they’ll be back up to .500. They currently have a -5 goal differential, so maybe they’ll be making their way into the positive on that front, too, and give the Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson tandem some much deserved redemption.
The Flames got their first regulation win of the season quicker than they did last year. This still isn’t quite the cause to celebrate yet, because those first six games still loom. True, all the team can do now is move forward – and hopefully this isn’t just a hot streak, and this is what we’ll be getting over the course of another 74 nights.
That entire game was legit
The Flames lost the possession battle. At even strength, they outshot the Blues 22-15, but they were out-corsied 41-30. In all situations, they outshot the Blues 30-24, but were out-corsied 57-39.
But wait: remember, the Flames took a 1-0 lead not even four minutes into the game, on an absolutely hilarious poor attempt of a penalty kill by St. Louis. (I get he’s Dennis Wideman, but you have to give him some credit and try to not leave him wide open in the slot.) They had their first multi-goal lead of the season just a little over halfway through the first.
If you go by HockeyStats.ca’s score-adjusted corsi, the Flames trailed by roughly one event in even strength, and four in all situations. They didn’t win the possession battle, but they were also entering the third period with a 3-0 lead. That’s when they were hit hardest, with the Blues having 24 shot attempts – including a lengthy five-on-three! – over the final 20 minutes, while the Flames had just nine.
The Flames controlled the game from the start. By the time the Blues were ready to take ahold, it was too late. In part because of…
Even in the Flames’ first game against the Blues, the goaltending smiled on them more. You couldn’t really blame Johnson for any of the goals that went in against him; you could blame at least one pretty bad one on Jake Allen. The Flames were handily outplayed in that game and still made it close when they probably didn’t deserve to.
Carter Hutton is a career .910 save percentage goaltender over 77 games, prior to last night’s contest. Elliott is a .913 guy over 327 contests, and a .925 guy over 181 games in his previous five seasons. Even though he was playing two games in a row – which typically isn’t advisable – the Flames had already won the goaltending matchup.
Coming out of the first period up 2-0, there was reason for hope, but also caution (I’m not ready to trust these guys just yet). Coming out of the second period up 3-0, it just felt over; the team would have to screw up horrifically to let the Blues back in it. And, sure enough, the only goal they were able to score was the result of a bleh five-on-three. (I hate the delay of game penalty. I think it should be treated like an icing instead. I have very strong feelings about this.)
Elliott, the number one goalie you’ve been waiting for. And he should’ve gotten the shutout. He was that close to it.
Rookie + Backlund + Frolik = Success
One of the line combinations we were throwing around as far back as the summer, and again when everything went to hell and we decided to play panic mode for fun, was to put Matthew Tkachuk with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik. It worked with Sam Bennett in his rookie season, didn’t it? There are much worse linemates to give guys to acclimate to the big league.
It worked with Tkachuk pretty much instantly. He could have had four goals on the night thanks to just-missed setups from his linemates.
At 5v5, that line had no offensive zone starts whatsoever. They were three of the top five corsi Flames (Dougie Hamilton and Sam Bennett were the other two). They clicked instantly, and Tkachuk boosted the line automatically by having much more to give than Lance Bouma.
And that was mostly while playing against the Blues’ top defence pairing, too. Tkachuk was a little better when he got away from them, but against Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester, he was still a 50% guy.
Tkachuk with Backlund and Frolik was awesome. That line should stay. He’s at six games played now – and if that line stays intact, there’s no way the first year of his entry-level contract isn’t getting burned.
First line centre Sam Bennett?
I think it’s time we start giving more discussion towards breaking up Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
Until we see otherwise, and we haven’t yet, Gaudreau is the best offensive weapon on the Flames. These past two games, as we’ve seen the Flames start to round into form, Sam Bennett has started to really emerge. He went pointless in his first five games. He very suddenly has five points in his past three, and is quietly tied for the team lead in scoring.*
And Bennett has been everywhere as much as he could possibly be over the past two games. After the second period – and his latest goal – I tossed out a suggestion on Twitter.
anyway I have a suggestion
— ari y (@thirtyfourseven) October 26, 2016
I’m not saying hit the panic button. I’m saying it’s something worth considering. Especially if these past two games are the real Sam Bennett and the real Calgary Flames; it might just about be time.
*Not actually. He, along with Gaudreau and Mark Giordano, have five points each. Troy Brouwer has six. But one of those was kiiiiinda Loui Eriksson’s, if we want to give credit where credit is due… you know, as a favour to the Canucks.
Fun with special teams!
Wideman’s powerplay goal was incredible. The Flames now have four powerplay goals on the season, and two of them are his. That’s nuts. Trade value? He did some okay stuff on the penalty kill, too.
The Flames are now four-for-33 on the powerplay this season, good for 12.5% and in sole possession of the fifth worst powerplay in the league. They almost had two powerplay goals, with Bennett’s goal coming just 16 seconds after their second powerplay of the game had ended, though it kind of looked like the Flames only got it together once things were back to even strength, so the man advantage still needs a fair amount of work.
But, you know. Baby steps.
The penalty kill, meanwhile, is now at 75.7% – the ninth worst one in the league. Baby steps.