Capitals 3, Flames 1 post-game embers: It’s not as bad as it was before

Upon returning home from a two-game road trip that saw the Flames perform well for the first time this season, they extended their winning streak by laying five goals on the opposing team, including four on a rookie goaltender.

Sometimes, that’s just the luck of the draw. And had the Flames had the chance to face an inexperienced goalie last night, maybe one of their handful of chances throughout the games would have gone in.

Not quite the case against Braden Holtby. Brian Elliott did his best to match, and indeed, played a big part in keeping the game within reach.

But it wasn’t to be. And, turns out, the Flames aren’t there quite yet.

Just one period of scoring

Losing a man two minutes in and then giving a powerplay that features Alex Ovechkin as a weapon a choice to double the lead just a couple of minutes later probably wasn’t conducive to a strong start. This was a winnable game for the Flames, but taking that much air out of the building that early on didn’t help matters.

The Capitals’ first goal was preventable; the second one was probably going in no matter what. Unfortunately, that was the difference between getting at least a loser point out of overtime, and a regulation loss.

Scoring only once, then failing to capitalize on the few chances generated in the 45-ish minutes that followed didn’t help matters. The Flames actually directed fewer pucks on net in the second and third periods than they did in the first, even though they were down by just one at that point, and had nothing to do but get one more goal to tie it up.

The two later frames were much more low-event than the fist. The Capitals have a good excuse for that: they got an early lead, and were a team on the road playing their second of a back-to-back. While the Flames didn’t appear as bad as they were to start the season, though, they still needed to do a little more.

The Mikael Backlund show

Mikael Backlund’s stat line of the night: 16:01 played (17 seconds shy of Sean Monahan’s time), one goal, six shots on net, and all while facing off against Alex Ovechkin.

Remember when Glen Gulutzan started the season not utilizing Backlund as his shutdown guy? We’re one month in, and that lesson has been very much learned. These are the types of opponents and games Backlund was made for: he’s not going to be an offensive force, but he’s going to contribute on both sides of the puck, regardless.

Though Backlund and Michael Frolik also had the best chances to tie the game up, including a just-missed pass in the third. Had they gotten that second goal, they would have tied Johnny Gaudreau for the team scoring lead.

Does Matthew Tkachuk stay?

Matthew Tkachuk has never looked more like he belonged than when he ended up on Backlund’s line. Sure, in preseason he looked good with Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer; during regular competition, he’s been the best linemate Backlund and Frolik have played with. And considering how few offensive zone starts they get – Tkachuk had even fewer than his linemates – and the quality of competition expected to go up against Backlund, that’s a real testament to Tkachuk’s current abilities.

Tkachuk did get the shaft in ice time, as he played just 10:58 – 1:10 more than Lance Bouma, and that was it. It should be noted that Tkachuk hasn’t gotten any really big minutes through his eight games so far; twice he’s hit a little over 13 and a half minutes, and that’s been it.

Still, he has four points in eight games. And that’s as a learning rookie who has only just recently been put on the exact line combination he needs to succeed. And it’s not as though he’s being fed easy situations; while Backlund and Frolik can handle top six minutes against top-tier opponents, Tkachuk isn’t there yet. Taking everything into account, he’s doing rather well, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him stick around if his current circumstances persist.

Besides, he was a part of his line’s scoring chance generation, too.

The continuing defence shenanigans

The Flames had even ice time, for the most part, from their blueline. Three defencemen played over 20 minutes; the other three were no more than 2:16 away from that marker. (That would be Deryk Engelland who clocked in at the lowest time.)

Given such an even approach, it would appear Gulutzan has finally nailed the purpose of his defence pairings. His weaker defencemen didn’t receive additional ice time at the expense of, namely, Dougie Hamilton – not as drastically this game as it has been since these configurations first stuck, at least.

However, this still provides little excuse as to how the stronger defencemen ended up with such even ice times. Just because Mark Giordano and Dennis Wideman are partners at even strength doesn’t mean they should be point men on the same powerplay, particularly not with Hamilton’s availability. It shouldn’t come as a pleasant surprise to see T.J. Brodie with Giordano or Hamilton at the end of the game when the team is most desperate to tie it up – it should be expected, and more frequently than that (they’re called special teams, after all. There’s no problem in playing Brouwer with Monahan and Gaudreau on the man advantage, even though they’re not a line at even strength, but the defence can’t be broken up?).

Though Giordano didn’t work out at the end and was a catalyst for Washington’s empty netter, I still take Giordano and Brodie out there in that situation every single time. Quite frankly, they have a better chance of success than any other combination possible.

For what it’s worth, by my eye, Brodie played a solid game, too. His 56.52% CF at 5v5 would seem to agree with that; only Backlund’s line performed better by that metric.

Is it just me, or…

Does it feel like nobody else can really keep up with Gaudreau? Or at least, not the players he’s playing with on a regular basis?

Gaudreau is the one creating offensive chances out of nowhere; he had a golden setup he and Alex Chiasson just missed connecting on. He’s apparently the only one that can enter the offensive zone on the powerplay, in which the solution seems to be “just give it to Johnny and he’ll do his thing and we can come in after.”

It’s not that Gaudreau can’t do a hell of a lot by himself – it’s that his team would be better served when he ends up playing a regular shift alongside someone who thinks and sees the game on his level. Maybe it’s the lack of preseason, maybe it was just this game, but it feels as though that’s been hard to come by thus far.

  • Longshot1977

    Couldn’t agree more on Gaudreau. It honestly does look like he’s skating out there by himself much of the time. It’s one thing for Monahan to “sort of” keep up, but Alex Chiasson is in no way a complimentary linemate for someone with the abilities of Johnny Hockey. I don’t know how to fix this, but hopefully the Flames get it figured out quick.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Perhaps it’s time to split him and Monahan up for a bit? Sure Versteeg is fitting in with Bennett, but isn’t it more important to get the top offensive player’s linemates worked out?

      The other option is putting Versteeg back on the top line. He at least knows when to stop and when to skate right past an open net.

    • everton fc

      Chiasson’s managed to “keep up” most shifts. He just doesn’t have the skill-set to play w/Gaudreau. He’s a 3rd/4th line grinder at best, and would do us more good replacing Bouma on the RW/4th line.

      Monahan’s the one who can’t keep up. Often Johnny’s in the o-zone, and there’s no centre. And Johnny’s seems to be frustrated to the point of trying to do to much, himself. Hopefully this gets ironed out soon.

      Putting him w/Bennett and Brouwer can’t hurt. How would Versteeg/Monahan/Chiasson fare?

      As for Tkachuk… I say keep him here.

      • Parallex

        I don’t think Chiasson should play that high in the order. Put Ferland there and switch Versteeg back to his strong side on RW and bump Chiasson back down to play alongside Bouma and Stajan.


        … I’d give that a shot.

        • everton fc

          Agree Chiasson shouldn’t be there. He wouldn’t be, on any other team in the league. He’s a competent 3rd/4th liner. If he played LW, he’d be good w/Backlund and Frolik.

          I think Ferland’s better on LW. So I like your 2nd line. Ferland-Monahan-Versteeg. And your 4th line…

          Move Stajan to LW, slot Freddie in at centre, Chiasson on RW… Move Bouma’s contract… Bring up one of the kids on the farm…

      • Jakethesnail

        Tkachuk has look alright so far with 4 points so on pace for 41.For a flame fan all I’d be concerned about is how he holds up over an 82 game schedule.
        The travel is one things and playing against huge men can take its toll . It happened last year with Draisaitl and Bennett both last year, as they slowed down the last 20 games.
        This being his first year would make it even harder later into the season.

        • jakethesnail

          Tkachuk at 18 is a lot stronger than Draisaitl was at 19. And if he can continue to perform well with Backs and Frolik, I am all for Tkachuk staying for the duration of the season. He has an NHL type body already and can’t learn much going back to Junior.

          Comparing Flames players to Draisaitl is no way to judge the talent on this team! You did it with Bennett too, even though Bennett is a year younger than Draisaitl.

          • Jakethesnail

            I think it’s a good comparison and How can you comment on Draisaitl and his strength? Draisaitl was 6’2 and 215 not 6’1″ and 195 and it served him well to go back . Besides what is the rush? Why would you burn that first year ? That is just as important to the future of the Flames as keeping him here.

          • Arminius

            Again. Keep your Oiler BS on ON. No one here gives 2 shits about your knobs in orange.

            [redacted – I am sure you’re capable of making a point without exploding like a 13 year old with roid rage; additionally, he made a point that contributes to the conversation (which your post lacked)]

            Sick and damn tired of this! FFS!!!!

          • BobB

            Re-read comments #12, #17 and #20.

            You tell us which of those three comments has the worst language, is the most off topic and is the most combative toward another Nation’s member.

            When you’ve decided which of the three it is – the post least needed on FlamesNation – please, by all means, request the author of said post be banned.

          • 3 Little Birds

            I understand it’s Halloween and all, but man, why do you let a Ghost get to you so much.

            He is in your head, and running your show. You fly off the handle even when he makes a hockey comment, and I’m aware of the slough of non-hockey-troll-esque stuff.

            When someone pushes your buttons, and you let them, they win.

            You will have a more enjoyable experience when you master the zen like art of not sweating the small stuff.

            After seeing Craig Anderson play an emotional game last night, my idea of “small stuff” has changed.

            This is just a hockey blog, no big deal friend. Things could be worse than Ghost…just saying.

            Happy Halloween all

  • brodiegio4life

    monahan has been awful so far this year… although he’s usually a slow starter and goes through cold streaks before going on long stretches where he racks up points…
    also 2 main areas that have to be improved for next season is a first line RW and #4 dman, hopefully with all the extra cap space this summer treliving can make some moves to find those 2 pieces

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Kent Wilson said the same thing on Twitter last night. I’d love to see it, because for me Bennett is the Flames future 1st line center. I also see Brouwer complimenting Monahan along side Versteeg.

      • McRib

        “Bennett is the Flames future 1st line centre”

        Bennett is already out preforming Monahan from a possesion standpoint and a counting stats standpoint, the future is now. Obviously Sean Monahan’s game isn’t a 100% right now, after missing all of the preseason with injury, but Bennett is far superior already without the puck and on the defensive side.

        I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, I think Sean Monahan ends up as a winger for us in his prime, especially if we get another Top. 10-15 Centre pick (Nolan Patrick, Gabriel Vilardi, Cody Glass, etc). All the best pure goal scorers throughout history have been wingers, as they get better looks playing on the weak side and he is just that. Time will tell what becomes of a Mark Jankowksi, but if we get another top centre this year (let’s say a Cody Glass, because I don’t want to think about a Top. 3 pick) I think this move will start to become fairly obvious in the coming years. If anything even if you don’t agree, I think it is time to start to consider Monahan playing the wing on the PP fill time. It would be a benefit to have two players who could take faceoffs on PP regardless of him playing wing full time, although I don’t expect much from our PP under Cameron (see below).

        • Kevin R

          Not totally disagreeing but I find Monahan has been a lot more consistent on his face-offs & at this point I would give the edge to him over Bennett. Also Monahan’s 4 goals put him on a 35 goal clip despite having what many here are saying a horrible start. He is a pure sniper & ultimately, I see a destiny of on the wing down the road. I am very intrigued to see how Bennett would play with Gaudreau & maybe move Monahan to the wing on that line. The Backlund Frolik Tkachuk line is playing well enough to deserve 2nd line minutes. Not wanting to sink Brouwer on the 3rd line with Ferland but if we don’t start scoring more, desperate times lead to desperate measures.

        • _vntony

          While I agree with you that Bennett may very well end up as Calgary’s 1st line centre, I just don’t know if he’s ready.
          I wouldn’t go so far as saying Bennett has been “far superior” than Monahan.

          Though Bennett has had some early season success, from what I’ve seen, I find Bennett still having difficulty with breakouts and entering the zone.
          All the other centres (including Stajan *this year*) have had more success getting in the zone and setting up plays better than Bennett so far.

          Bennett also needs to work on getting more pucks on net.
          Last night’s game I don’t think he even had a shot on goal.
          I feel he has all the tools to be a number centre, he just isn’t there yet.

          But to get Gaudreau going, maybe this is what the Flames need to try!

  • calgaryfan

    Monahan does not skate at a first line center level, it does not look like he spent any time working on it in the summer. He needs to spend less time lifting weights and more time with a skating coach.

    • Derzie

      Sean is an elite finisher but his weaknesses are more visible this year. At this point though, I feel the coaches are the main reason players are under-performing. Other than those 2 blips in Chicago & St Louis, the team looks disheveled. Certainly not a team that looks headed to the playoffs. 4th line is working. Backlund/Frolik as shutdown is working, goalie is now doing his thing. The D is still non-ideal. Brodie & Gio look uncomfortable a lot. Offense has goals for some reason but looks awful doing it. I take cues from the fans at the dome as well. It’s a bit like a mausoleum most of the game. Just uninspiring hockey overall.

  • Zorn

    I think maybe Monahan is still not 100% physically or mentally. At least that is how it appears. Whatever the reason, he needs become more engaged. He is doing absolutely nothing to help Johnny out of his funk so time for some shakeups.
    Bouma down to the minors (so what if he doesn’t clear waivers, at least we shed a bad contract) & bring up Shinkaruk.

    #1 – Gaudreau, Bennett, Shinkaruk
    #2 – Tkachuk, Monahan, Brouwer
    #3 – Versteeg, Backlund, Frolik
    #4 – Ferland, Stajan, Chaisson

    #1 – Giordano, Brodie
    #2 – Kulak, Hamilton
    #3 – Jokipakka, Wideman

    Might just wake some of these guys up.

      • Arminius

        Definitely dig your lines man.

        No need for us as fans to get down on our boys. I’m liking the bunch we have; the young core most of all. They’re a fun loving bunch and still growing. They’re going to be really good together soon, and yeah the new Coaches may take a while to get things sorted but as much as we’d all like it to bean immediate switch it rarely works like that.

        Contracts coming off the books after this season and the window will open than.

        Will be down in Calgary for the game against Dallas on the 10th and possibly Rangers on the 12th too. Can’t wait! (Regardless of what their record is at that point!)

  • mattyc

    In my humble opinion I though Gaudreau was the one that was struggling last night. He had a ton of bad defensive plays (a few times leaving the zone or his point man too early, a few poor/risky passes). He certainly wasn’t alone: Wideman had what i thought was his worst game since the first game of the year, and Giordano didn’t look that good either.

    Wasn’t all bad though: the Backlund line was dominant; there were many shifts where the Ovechkin line couldn’t even get the puck! Brodie was also dominant as the game went on, and Elliott was great.

    It’s a shame the offense couldn’t get more going — but I sure wouldn’t bet on Gaudreau struggling for long.

  • Petzl

    I’m really not into the Brodie on his natural side bullshit, the guy plays so much better on his off side its not even funny. Why force a round peg into a square hole?

  • McRib

    How bad of a coach is Dave Cameron “ringing around the puck along the boards on a PP dump in” is a legitimate NHL zone entry coaching method?!?!?! I mean that’s Jr. B bush league stuff.

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    There are times when Johnny over estimates his offensive abilities and it results in a bad turnover but that’s the price one may have to pay for his at times electrifying plays. He hasn’t met his ideal centre man in Money Hands this year but Sean could still be on the rebound from back injury woes.

    Gio looked horrible at times last nite – very uncharacteristic of this guy who sets the gold standard for effort & team work.

    PP is not short for Passing Practice. Three steps for improvement; 1.Simplify, 2. Shoot, 3. Score.

    Time to reset & reload for Chi Town.


  • Baalzamon

    Switch Gaudreau and Versteeg and then utilize the Monahan line as a 3rd unit. Maybe exchange Chiasson for Ferland too.

    I mean… it’s worth a try, isn’t it? Sean is certainly struggling (goal production is fine, but no assists yet). Maybe scaling back his minutes for a bit would be beneficial.

    1. Gaudreau – Bennett – Brouwer
    2. Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
    3. Chiasson/Ferland – Monahan – Versteeg
    4. Bouma – Stajan – Ferland/Chiasson
  • WildfireOne

    Not to pile on…
    but if Johnny and Money are the question, Chase-on!is NOT the answer.

    I’m so sick of our 14-million-dollar line being pinned in our own end. Every time they’re on the ice, seemingly.
    Granted, Monahan is probably not 100% and cannot help as much in the D, but it’s abundantly clear that Chaisson cannot keep up with his linemates’ hockey sense and vision.
    While I’d bet that Chaisson is better than Hudler in every physical metric, the ability to think the game makes Jiri a far more effective linemate for Johnny. Dollars to donuts says Tkachuck, who’s used to playing with elite players, fits in better….

  • Derzie

    It’s easy to point out the the bad, because there is so much, but what about those exceeding expectations? For me it’s Stajan, Ferland & Backlund. That’s it.