Flames 4, Blues 1 post-game embers: Is this the same team?

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…

Moose

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.

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.

  • Backburner

    It’s just nice to see the Flames actually play like an NHL team again.

    If Wideman keeps this up, we might be able to actually move him at the deadline!

  • brodiegio4life

    although I think Bennett will surpass monahan soon, I still think mony and johnny and sam and tkachuk are better pairings for the future. Monahan isn’t the type of player to carry the play and create chances, he’s a finisher and that’s why I think he’s a great fit with gaudreau who can create scoring chances out of really any situation and let mony finish them off. Also bennett and tkachuk would piss a lot of other teams off playing together. What does everyone else think?

    • T&A4Flames

      As Arii suggests, I have no issue with CGY trying Bennett with Gaudreau but I mostly agree with you. I just don’t see Bennett and Johnny being as good of a fit as Johnny and Mony. Like you said, Monys a finisher whereas Bennett is as much playmaker as a finisher.

      • cberg

        I loved the lines just as they were. Four pretty solid lines all contributing. And again, WHICH was/is the #1 line? Numbers do not matter, result do. Great game.

      • brodiegio4life

        yup I’d say Bennett is definitely a more all around player than monahan which is why I think it’s more important to put monahan with gaudreau. Just looking at his goal last night it’s obvious Bennett is the type of player who can create his own scoring chances whereas monahan isn’t as good at creating chances for himself he’s more fit for a roll where his main job is to finish off plays created by his linemates, which he is very good at.

        • Parallex

          Counter-point: If Monahan can’t create his own chance (and Chiasson sure as heck can’t create his own chance) then oppo teams can elect to zero in on Gaudreau. Ergo The Flames need to either split them up or put a RW with them that can create his own chance to create tentative opposing defense.

          • brodiegio4life

            well ya ultimately the ideal situation would be to have a top line RW to play with mony and Johnny but the flames don’t have that option right now. Brouwer and Bennett are a pair and backs and frolik are a pair. I’d really like to see shinkaruk get a chance there eventually.

          • Parallex

            He’s been about what I expected. I don’t have a problem with the player (presuming said player is deployed correctly)… I have a problem with the contract.

        • T&A4Flames

          Have we seen Bennett and Johnny on the PP together for any length of time? Having both on the 1st unit may be nice as they can both carry it in and gain the zone. Have both being creative and maybe a guy like Ferland in front of the net. Although Mony is great in tight as well.

  • ScubaBrock

    Good game, Elliot/ Defensive game looking better. Might give it a couple more games before I pick up Deryk “feed me in the slot” Engelland in fantasy.

  • T&A4Flames

    “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.”

    Maybe the team is just hitting stride and now forming habits to Gully’s systems. Maybe they’ll get even better. How about some positivity.

    • Parallex

      “Maybe the team is just hitting stride and now forming habits to Gully’s systems. Maybe they’ll get even better. How about some positivity.”

      You can find homer fan rah-rah’ing in 18000 places on the internet… I come to Flamesnation for the sober analysis based on sound reasoning and logic. When they’ve demonstrated that they can be the dominating team they were the last two games on a nightly basis they’ll get credit for being that team. Until then the only type of optimism they’re due is of the cautious variety.

      • T&A4Flames

        Three ways to “logically” look at this.

        1. The last 2 games were an aberration of what they really are which is the 1st 6 games.

        2. The last 2 games are what they are and the best we can hope for.

        3. The last 2 games are a just a sign of what could be coming.

        You, sir, are choosing to look at the 1st of those; remaining pessimistic and seemingly expecting them to fail again soon.

        I will look at it from point #3, that while a string of losses maybe indeed show them selves again, it appears from these last 2 games that the players are starting to put Gully’s system together and forming good habits that support that system.

        The statement I alluded to was not one based off logic as much as it was based on opinion. I am cautiously optimistic as well but I am going to look at this as an excellent move forward. I believe this team was better than they had shown n the 1st 6 games. New system can take time, especially ones that rely on teams moving in 5 man units.

        • Parallex

          “You, sir, are choosing to look at the 1st of those; remaining pessimistic and seemingly expecting them to fail again soon.”

          Please demonstrate evidence of that. That’s actually a rhetorical request… you can’t because there isn’t.

          The point was that maybe you ought to not whine that Flamesnation isn’t a glorified squad of virtual cheerleaders waiving their digital pom-pom’s in favor of your preferred narrative.

          • T&A4Flames

            Perhaps you could demonstrate where I’m whining? You can’t can’t, because I’m not. Who’s asking for for any unwarranted or glorified “cheerleading?” Why is it so hard for you to put a little faith in things? Why can’t you show a little optimism from what you’ve seen this weekend? When do you switch over from cautiously walking alongside the band wagon to hoping on? When all is good and they’ve demonstrated a winning record?

            You don’t have to whine everytime someone calls you out for being what you are, a pessimist with a negative outlook and will only come on to talk positives when #’s support it or you can prove something by #’s. Have you not learned yet, that not all good things can be quantified or calculated. Geez man, share in the joy a bit. You’re team just beat 2 of the best teams the league has seen in the last few years. That’s a positive. While most, regardless of their comments prior to this weekend, were high-fiving and fist pumping, you’re sitting there rubbing your chin saying “…I don’t know?

            I don’t need pom-poms on FN to enjoy it. I too enjoy the analysis, both from the writers visual of the game as well as the #’s. But Unlike you, I’m going to try to find positive signs this team is making a turn as opposed to your view that they are maybe simply getting lucky and are on a hot streak. As I said, “sound reasoning and logic” can be looked at from different angles . Like it or not, your angle is the pessimistic one.

          • Parallex

            “Perhaps you could demonstrate where I’m whining?”

            … I quoted it previously. It was the spot where you whined about the writer not automatically asserting rosy declarations about the team going forward. Comment #8.

            “Geez man, share in the joy a bit.”

            I shared in the joy plenty (albeit not with excess vocalness). On the GDT I responded positively to the teams performance. Praising their full game effort. Just because I’m not not planning the parade after two good games doesn’t mean I didn’t take enjoyment.

            “calls you out for being what you are, a pessimist with a negative outlook”

            lol… I’m a ‘pessimist with a negative outlook’ for thinking that ‘cautious optimism’ is a valid view of where the team stands today? ‘kay bud, whatevs.

          • T&A4Flames

            Well ‘Bud’ I guess I shouldn’t be surprised you would see my comment as whining. You will always take the low road, that is evident in your general comments.

            I wasn’t even saying that everybody’s view should be rosy and skipping-in-the-fields worthy. I simply stated that there was a positive side to look at. You decided to extend claws and attack. The only whine was from you that someone doesn’t see the team as grey as you do.

            But ya’. Thanks for input.

  • Hubcap1

    Ari, “The Flames are now 3-4-1. If they win their next game, they’ll be back up to .500.”, wow someone who actually recognizes what a .500 record really is. I just hope that if the Flames loose their next game in OT/SO you won’t be posting how they’ve made it back to .500.

    • Arminius

      Particularly liked his post game comments on the players meeting they had after the loss to the Blues. A focus on more North-South and chipping the pucks out and in.
      Keep it simple and the chances have come with it. If that game Continues to be played going forward you have to like our chances every night.

      That’s very encouraging when combined with the improbable last 2 games being wins against two very credible teams and on the road (Along with the return of the Elliott we expected – The guy is a battler and reading the opinions Blues fans have of him makes you realize the caliber he really is)

  • everton fc

    The only changes I’d make are:

    1. Move Tkachuk to RW w/Gaudreau and Monahan.

    2. Move Chiasson to RW on a line w/Ferland or Stajan on LW and Hamilton in the pivot.

    3. Remove Bouma from the 3rd line, replace w/Stajan or Ferland on the LW, 4th line would be Ferland/Stajan/Bouma-Stajan/Hamilton-Chiasson. Bouma’s the guy who doesn’t fit into my scenarios. I wouldn’t touch Versteeg/Bennett/Brouwer – that’s a solid line.

    On defence, sit Grossmann, play Jokipaaka. But these means no minutes for Kulak. Perhaps Wideman can be moved sooner, than later?? Or, he bounces back and has a season that helps push up into the playoffs?

    Also – our goaltending tandem is what teams that win playoff series roll with. Regardless of the save percentages, I feel confident with this statement, as it relates to Elliott/Johnson.

  • jandrewyang

    Looking at the hockeystats.ca data for the last two games

    If you apply the notion of quality shots against CORSI by taking scoring chances then you see an interesting and arguably more valuable insight. In both games, Calgary generated approximately the same number of scoring chances as the opposition, despite score effects and finishing with a lower CORSI. As a percentage of shot attempts, Calgary is generating a higher rate of scoring chances which should be a better predictive stat* than the blunt and overly used/misused stat that CORSI has become.

    PS Ari’s continued disdain of Monahan seems unabated.

    *Saying nothing about longer term success this season.

  • oilersuck

    Where is the ideal place to slot Monahan? He is really good at scoring goals and pretty average everywhere else. Calgary doesn’t have the centre depth to push him at the moment but maybe he is best suited as a scoring winger.

  • I’m starting believe Gulutzan has a good system and it was just taking some time for players to learn and apply it. As for the discussion about being .500 I’ll call the Flames a .500 team once they have more than half of the available points in games played. At 3-4-1 the team has 7 out of a possible 16 points; a win in the next time would make them 4-4-1 with 9 points out of a possible 18 and therefire, by definition, a .500 team. Getting just the loser point is a set back to a below .500 team trying to get to .500, always.

    • everton fc

      I was critical of GG at the beginning, like many here. But he seems to be a good guy – a guy I think players could rally around. I hope his “system” is kicking in.

      I think the bigger challenge is the continued consistency of the PP. Huge. When it clicks, we win. When it doesn’t, we will lose.

    • Greatsave

      I think there needs to be a stat that more closely reflects the reality of where teams sit above or below par. I suggest that this should be the percentage of points a team has earned versus the number of points actually handed out.

      This means that an OT/SO game counts as 3 points, where the winning team only earns 67% of all points handed out.

      By this metric, the Flames are currently .368. They have played 8 games with 3 ending in OT/SO, meaning a total of 19 points were handed out in those 8 games. Having earned 7 of them, they are thus 7/19 or .368.

      In order to reach .500 by this metric, the Flames need 3 straight wins (1 can be OT/SO). If they win 3 straight in regulation, for example, their record would be 6-4-1 with 13 points out of 25 (26 if one was an OT/SO win).

  • snotss

    well well this is how the flames should have looked from the start of the year…oh well lets not dwell on this rebirth lets hope they keep it going….well done flames

  • Juan Valdez

    Great win last night.

    Biggest thing I noticed over the last two games is we weren’t hemmed in our own zone for extended periods of time.

    Been especially impressed by Versteeg. When he’s on his game he makes it look so easy.

  • Schmenkley

    Holy hell people! We just won in St. Louis, for the first time in like, what? Six seasons? With a dominating performance where the “black and blue” “play heavy” “grind you down” Blues only had like 11 shots total against half way through the game……enjoy it a little….

    Are we world beaters? No, not yet, but if I see a few more games like that I can see it……

    Pittsburgh didn’t look anything like a world beater half way through last year, with many, many people starting to question whether maybe Sidney Crosby had passed his best before date…..look how that turned out, with a new coach injecting a different attitude into the room….

    I am in NO WAY trying to compare this years team to last years Pens, but the constant doom and gloom on this site over the last couple weeks was oppressive….

  • Thunder1

    Ari’s Monahan hate is showing again.

    Only a fool would split two great pairs into one “hopefully better” duo.

    Nice try, Ari. At least you’ve got nearly seven more years of subject matter for your vitriol.