Flames 5, Senators 2 post-game embers: Hamilton!

It has been nine games, and the Calgary Flames already have two regulation wins to their name. That isn’t a lot, but considering how those regulation wins came in their most recent two games, it’s a marked improvement. They’re also up to a -2 in goal differential, and currently in a playoff spot, even when you go by points percentage (albeit with another three western teams tying them at .500, all in fewer games played).

But it’s only October, so it’s a little early to think about that.

Then again, considering the start this team had to the season, this couldn’t have come soon enough.

Taking advantage of an inexperienced goalie

Poor Chris Driedger.

Driedger has only really gotten to play a period here or there of NHL action over the past couple of seasons. I was hoping we would get to see him tonight, with no ill will intended towards Ottawa’s other goalies, if only because Ottawa comes here once a year, and this was Driedger’s barn for three years when he was with the Hitmen – and there was no guarantee he’d ever get to revisit his old stomping grounds.

But man, it did not work out for him. The Flames didn’t have a great game, but their goalie did, and that was all it took as time went on. Sure, their corsi rose as the game progressed, and they controlled both the second and third periods at 5v5, but their first period was pretty awful.

The biggest difference here was Brian Elliott against Driedger. Though in fairness to Driedger, the Flames still might have won had Andrew Hammond been able to play the full game; it’s just that on most nights, the odds are in the Flames’ favour when it comes to having the better goalie.

Elliott stopped 31 of 33 shots for a .939 save percentage, and neither goal was his fault. His past two games, he had save percentages of .958 and .939; his first three games, he had .778, .857, and .875. Which one do you think is the real Elliott? (It’s this one.)

The Flames don’t play back-to-back until they’re in southern California on Nov. 5 and 6. It’d make sense if that’s when we saw Chad Johnson again, with no slight to him. But Elliott definitely has the net now.

Points for everybody!

Eight out of 12 forwards found their way onto the scoresheet, with Johnny Gaudreau and Alex Chiasson getting on there twice. Half of the defence clocked in, too, with Jyrki Jokipakka and T.J. Brodie each getting an assist, and Dougie Hamilton being the star of the night with two goals and an assist. (More on that at the end.)

The youth are taking over. After a not-so-great start to the season, Gaudreau is leading the team with seven points in nine games. (Also, he’s back to being a marvel to watch; particularly on that one delayed penalty call where he ran the puck up and around the entire ice with nobody able to stop him. That was awesome.) Sam Bennett and Hamilton have tied Troy Brouwer, who went pointless, for second place with six.

Three of the Flames’ top four scorers are 23, 23, and 20 years old. That’s a pretty good feeling.

It was also nice to see Chiasson come out with a strong game, overall; both of his assists were beautiful, and it was especially great to watch him bring the puck into the zone with such speed on Sean Monahan’s goal. Is he the ideal top line winger? Probably not, but the most that can really be asked of him at this point in time is to have the exact kind of game he had last night.

Penalties for everybody?

Kris Versteeg, Matthew Tkachuk, and Bennett were the only Flames to take penalties, and thus, the only Flames who were forced to sit their asses down. Bennett, in particular; after his second penalty of the night, he wasn’t allowed back on the ice for the rest of the second period, and didn’t see game action again until 12:19 into the third, after the Flames scored to take a 5-2 lead. He had three shifts in the final frame.

Versteeg had to wait alongside him in the third, as well. Troy Brouwer got to play with Micheal Ferland and Matt Stajan in the meantime; he actually fared a bit better with them, but this was also about when the Flames had really taken control of the game.

Tkachuk wasn’t allowed on the ice for the end of the second, either, and had to wait 11:46 into the third period to step back out there. He also had just three shifts in the third. 

Under Bob Hartley, the Flames were one of the least-penalized teams in the NHL. Under Glen Gulutzan, the Flames have now been shorthanded 41 times – second to only the Anaheim Ducks, albeit these are the only teams who have played nine games thus far – and have given up 11 powerplay goals, second only to the Chicago Blackhawks.

They still have a couple of things to work on. At least they’re getting points while they figure it out, but this can’t continue.

It is worth noting, however, that both Bennett and Tkachuk are expected to play an aggressive style that’s going to lend to them taking penalties every now and then. They’re also the youngest members of this team. They’ll come along.

The defence pairings, still…

Deryk Engelland is being played as a top four defenceman. He played 22:10 last night, just a couple of seconds short of Giordano and Brodie. I think just about everybody could agree Engelland is not quite on the level of those two players.

And yet, that’s what has to happen when he’s partnered with one of them.

Hamilton and Jokipakka haven’t been bad together, but Hamilton is being wasted on third pairing minutes. If there’s an insistence on playing him with somebody considered defensively responsible, then the Flames really can’t do much worse than having him partner with Brodie (it’d probably be mutually beneficial, too; Hamilton could probably bring Brodie’s offensive numbers up).

Since Hamilton joined Calgary, whenever he’s partnered with Giordano or Brodie, they bring each other up to above 50% CF. He had a noticeably good game, and he’s improving. The team would be better off with him playing bigger minutes.

In over 400 even strength minutes with Engelland, Brodie has a 38.6% CF. In roughly 170 even strength minutes with Hamilton, he’s at 51.6%. Granted, the zone starts are skewed, but if Giordano and Dennis Wideman are staying together – though Hamilton should probably take his spot on the first unit powerplay – this should be a no-brainer.

Hamilton!

You may have heard a new goal song after Hamilton’s goals last night. It was Guns and Ships from the musical Hamilton, specifically from about a minute or so in until about 1:20. I am very much Hamiltrash – if you’re familiar with the musical, you’ve probably seen me slip in references over the course of the past year, especially when I’m writing specifically about D.Ham – and so is my good bud, Twitter user @ktcant, who was the prime force in lobbying to give Hamilton(s, if Freddie ever gets to join in) his own goal song. 

What better song than one from the biggest recent hit on Broadway, during which the company is literally chanting “Hamilton!”? So… that’s what that was about. 

Hopefully we get to hear it a lot throughout the year, both because the song is awesome, and it would mean a lot of Hamilton goals. Hamilton is the leading scorer on defence right now, though it did take a three-point explosion to get him there. In just 16:09 of ice time, only 38 seconds of which came on the powerplay. Imagine what he’ll be able to do when he’s eventually used. What’s he gonna do on the bench, I mean–?

(For anyone about to accuse me of aggressively playing favourites, you’re half right. Hamilton really does need to get more ice time at some point, but I can guarantee you I wouldn’t be displaying nearly this level of enthusiasm if it wasn’t for the musical. It’s alright. I’ll go back to regular throw-in references after this. I’m ridiculously hype that the goal song actually happened, though.)

  • Eggs Bennett

    Anyone else really confused when they saw #6 Wideman dressed in white last night for the Sens? I thought I missed a trade or something before checking the Sen’s pregame lineup.

    Really liking Brouwer. Tough as nails (no injury concerns), stable veteran consistently making solid plays, even though he didn’t score last night. Had no opinion of him in the summer, but the signing is proving to be worthwhile so far.

  • brodiegio4life

    chiasson looked really good out there last night, I’m sure part of that was because of playing against his old team but hopefully he can continue that level of play.

  • freethe flames

    It seems that GG wants to have 3 sound defensive pairings rather than 1 really good one, one sound one and one that could be considered poor. Until some of the young guys prove themselves in the AHL and the experienced and overpaid vets go bye bye then we may be stuck with what we see. The Gio/Wideman pairing has been sound; Wideman has been better defensively this year than last and hopefully this means at some point the Flames can trade him for both cap space and an asset. Eng’s is a 5-7 guy who needs to play with a good skater and someone who can bail him out; the best choice on this roster is TJ; again until one of the young RHD is ready this seems to be the best fit. Dougie is playing better and seems right now to be less “stressed” therefore playing with more confidence by being a third pairing guy who gets PP time and plays with either JJ/Kulak both of whom can skate reasonably well and are more defense first kind of guys. The other night against StL there was a shift when Engs ended up on the ice with Grossman (score was still only 3-1) and I was worried that they would score. That cannot for any reason ever happen except when the game is blowout.

    People complaining about TJ get over it he is playing with Engs and he frequently had to bail him out. Chiasson has been solid most of the season; whether he is the long term solution with Johhny and Monny at least he plays a 200 foot game.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Another track meet for the Heat last night… this time resulting in a loss.

    Huska is in way over his head. He is stifling the defensive acumen of our prized prospects! Jankowski and Klimchuk typically known for their defensive prowess are now scoring over a ppg. Last year we could count on Klimchuk to not score and thus improve his defensive side on a game to game basis… now he is scoring like a boss and ruining everything!

    Huska has to go.

    BCC

    • McRib

      That was Stockton’s first regulation loss of the season and we actually outshot Tucson 41-33 (in most cases you would deserve to win in that scenario). Morgan Klimchuk in a 6-5 loss was +4?!?!?! How in the world is that sacrificing his defensive game for his offensive game? I mean we are now second place in our division to only Tucson (the only team that has beaten us) and you want to fire our coach?!?!? Everything is always greener on the other side right.

        • McRib

          Hahaha, I hope so. Glad the Flames turned over the farm this year to our youngest prospects with the most upside and it seems to be panning out. I listened to a ton of Stockton games last year on the radio and had a hard time even hearing someone like Klimchuk’s name, due to lack of ice. I was critical of the Flames letting go of Agostino and Grant this offseason, but considering the fact that it has opened up more ice time to higher ceiling prospects, I am totally on board and very happy with the results so far.

          • Bean-counting cowboy

            Yah… I was being sarcastic. The Heat are turning it up, Connor is starting to look… dare I say… generational, Backlund is playing well… WW is running out of things to complain (or be wrong) about.

            Although Klimchuk won’t keep up this pace (36% shooting %), it is nice to see the percentages even out from last year for him.

            Amazing he was plus 4 given that score. Klimchuk is 1st in the league on ppg basis right now, tied with a few others, the most of which have only played two games.

            If Klimchuk keeps this up I can see him as a good fit on the Backlund/Frolik line in a shut-down role given his defensive first game.

            Next year:

            Gaudreau/Monahan/Top Free agent RW or via trade

            Tkachuk/Bennett/Brouwer

            Klimchuk/Backlund/Frolik

            Stajan/Jankowski/Ferland

            Extras: Hamilton, Shinkaruk

            Bouma traded or demoted

          • supra steve

            If Shinkaruk/Poirier can’t beat out Stajan next training camp, then it’s probably time to let them find a better situation elsewhere. Stajan’s playing great so far this year, but it’s a young man’s game.

          • everton fc

            Players on the Heat I think are getting close to regular NHL duty:

            First Tier:
            Hathaway
            Jankowski
            Shinkaruk
            Gillies
            Wotherspoon

            Next level:
            Klimchuk
            Prybil
            Anderrson
            Kylington
            Mangiapane
            Lomberg (yes, Lomberg)

            Poirier will not play in the NHL w/the Flames. Smith is -3.

      • knappsacked

        I think the joke was he was imitating walet whote, but opposite. Now that huskas forwards are scoring, all that is left to comllain about is defense??? But klimchuk may actually be an nhl proslect guys. Poirier still hasnt turned it on tho.

      • ThisBigMouthIsRight

        Absolutely… My only take-away from the Heat game was the Special Teams.. Tucson 2/7- Stockton 0/6, Flames/Heat Really should bring in some top PP/PK Coaching Specialists into the fold of the organizations. Possibly upgrades in the Goalie Coaching Department too? Anyways, Nice games by Both teams last night. Go Flames.~!

  • The Fall

    Flames are the highest scoring team in the league (one game in hand).

    Elliott is looking like the real deal.

    If they can improve to be league average on special teams and take fewer PIMS, we may have decent run this year.

  • RKD

    They didn’t play great but Hamilton had a great showing, Sam Bennett keeps improving and Elliott was solid once again. Goaltending wins you games in which you are badly outshot and played. Couldn’t get that last season.

    • piscera.infada

      I was at the game last night. The Flames didn’t play great, and yes, they were outshot, but to my eye they weren’t that necessarily outplayed in the second or third period. Elliott bailed them out in the first though– it’s a beautiful thing that they appear to have found competent goaltending finally.

      The numbers appear to back this up too. They had a score adjusted corsi for percentage of only 25.41% in the first. After that they were 57.86% and 60.4% in the second and third, respectively. They were roughly even in scoring chances in the second and third as well (48.93% in the second, and 51.57% in the third).

      They need to stop taking penalties like they did in the first though. Throws everything out of whack, and in the case of last night, puts you in a hole.

      One final note. When Hamilton is on his game he’s an absolute difference maker. Hopefully he figures out how to bring that with consistency in short order.

    • RedMan

      Oiler trolls are funny –

      glad to see the Flames get their game back on track?

      from a team that has tied the record for the longest streak out of the playoffs (will likely set the new record this year), have finished dead last or bottom 5 so many times in recent memory one cant keep track, but win a handful of games at the beginning of the year and they are all of a sudden “glad to see the flames get on track so we have a BoA”! haha funny! please, tell me what the Oil v Flames record is over the last 10 years?

      hahaha ya, i’m glad the flames are back on track as well!

  • OKG

    SO long as Engelland is top 4 for us, we are basically Rangers West as are the Oilers. high scoring teams with great goaltending and poor possession.

    Not sure how we take the next step. May not even be Engelland’s fault. When Monahan is off the ice we are a 52.83% possession team when he is on the ice we are a 44.18% possession team. Basically we have one forward line that is absolutely killing us, and it’s supposed to be our best line. It’s time to put Monahan on the third line at 5-on-5.