Flames 2, Coyotes 1 (OT) post-game embers: That’s what you like to see

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Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

Aside from a momentarily lapse in judgement while waiting for the second period to end, you couldn’t fault the Flames for anything in this game.

After losing their best offensive player for the foreseeable future, the Flames came back to have another great set of back-to-back games – ones that will, hopefully, provide a spark for this team and its future for the rest of this season. As things currently stand, they’re two points out of a playoff spot; however, they’ve played more than everyone else to date, and when you go by points percentage, they’re 27th in the NHL.

So there’s still a lot of work to be done, and a steep hill to be climbed. But it’s much more entertaining when you see efforts like that from this group.

Domination

The fancy stats smiled on the Flames last night, and they smiled back with a win.

From a 5v5 standpoint, the Flames completely controlled the game, especially in the third period. And sure, you can probably attribute some of that to score effects – they had a deficit to get out of – but the thing is, after they tied the game is when they really got going. From HockeyStats.ca:

flames coyotes 5v5

That’s as strong of a game as you’ll probably ever see. And granted, it did come against one of the few teams worse than them, so maybe there should be a grain of salt taken here.

On the other hand, considering how mentally fragile this group has seemed this season – dominate, have one mistake go against you, fold, rinse and repeat – maybe this is something that kicks them into gear. If not for wins, then hopefully for, at least, entertaining hockey.

They could have folded after giving up a goal in the dying seconds of the second period. They didn’t. I don’t think it was a coincidence that it was one of the kids – Matthew Tkachuk – to get things going again; the kids have often been the only bright spots this season. They’re fun to watch. And that’s energy that gets used; doesn’t get wasted by moping, but by working to tie the game.

Michael Frolik, scoring leader

With a goal and an assist, Michael Frolik now leads the Flames with six goals and 12 points total. He’s currently on a 55-point pace.

Fifty-five points out of Frolik would be a career high for him; his current is 45 points from his rookie season. That would be outstanding; unfortunately, your leading scorer having 55 points isn’t exactly the best of signs for your overall team.

But if you’re looking for individual success, as we’ve had to resort to for much of this season, you can’t really do much better than Frolik and his linemates.

Which is going to, once again, bring up the age old question nobody seems to have an answer to…

How is it that the Frolik is getting no powerplay time whatsoever?

Has he just specifically asked not to play on the man advantage, or something? That’s the only thing that would make sense. He was an ice time leader with 17:55 played last night; only Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer played more for forwards, and they had powerplay time.

Nobody’s going to complain about Bennett, Brouwer, Tkachuk, Sean Monahan, or Mikael Backlund’s presences on the powerplay. They should all be there. Linden Vey, with 2:42 on the man advantage, is a lot more questionable though. I get wanting a right shot, I get that Frolik is actually a left shot, I assume when Kris Versteeg returns to the lineup he’ll get those minutes instead, but this is beyond silly.

What team doesn’t give their leading scorer powerplay time? We’re back into single digits, by the way: the Flames have a powerplay success rate of 9.7%.

Micheal Ferland, he who deserves many more minutes

Micheal Ferland, a wonderful, clean-hitting wrecking ball, played just 8:02 last night. No special teams, as much ice time as Freddie Hamilton, and a couple more seconds than Garnet Hathaway.

And look, that’s two games in a row now this fourth line has been a lot of fun to watch. They hustle, they generate chances (even if they don’t go in), and they generally look really annoying to play against. But Ferland is a better player than his linemates, and he continues to get wasted with such little ice time.

I know a fair amount of it is the position he plays. If he was a natural right winger, he’d probably have gotten a chance in the top six, and he’d be getting powerplay minutes. But they’ve gotta find a way to utilize him better.

Ferland now averages 10:53 a game. He has seven points, same as Brouwer (17:11), Tkachuk (13:18), Bennett (15:10), and Backlund (17:10). He has one more point than Monahan (18:33).

It’s not as though he’s guaranteed to score more if he gets more ice time. It’s that he has done everything in his power to earn it. He creates chances. He isn’t a defensive liability. He drives play north. He’s even really physical, if you want that. There is pretty much nothing more this kid can do to prove he deserves more of a chance, and he’s just not getting one.

Dougie Hamilton is playing great

If you step outside the Flames fanbase for a moment, you’ll see other team’s fanbases are talking about trading for Dougie Hamilton. That kind of thing happens when rumours start floating around and don’t go away; it also happens when you’re talking about a good young player others are hoping is given up on too early.

Among non-Flames stats nerds, there’s also concern that he is fifth in average defenceman ice time. Being behind Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie is to be expected; being behind Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland is a massive concern, and points a lot of questions as to just how he’s being used.

We’ve seen him relegated to the third pairing often this season in Glen Gulutzan’s bizarre “let’s play one good defenceman with one less-than-ideal one” rationale. We’ve seen him be held off of the powerplay, even though his game is literally made for it (and he’s better all around than Wideman) (speaking of, can we make a note of how bizarre it is to see Wideman go from the pressbox to 20+ minutes a game? Um??).

Now that we’re seeing him play alongside Giordano, we appear to be on the path to correction.

Of course, Hamilton has done himself a number of favours as of late, too. There’s more life in his skating, he’s getting shots on net, and he’s playing with a much more physical edge now.

I know I’ve been saying this a lot, but remember: he is only 23 years old. There is still a lot of time left in his career, and a lot of time left for him to improve. He had his first 20+ minute game last night since four games ago in Anaheim; he’s had just five 20+ minute games all year. Let’s see more of these, please.

Chad Johnson, starter?

Aside from the one goal Chad Johnson gave up – not a great rebound to surrender there – he had a good game, though he wasn’t the crucial difference maker Mike Smith was (largely in part because the Coyotes’ skaters didn’t show up like the Flames’ did).

Johnson’s career high for games played is 45, which he did last season when he posted a .920 save percentage with the Buffalo Sabres. He has played seven games so far this season; Brian Elliott has played 11. They’ve been pretty evenly split.

It should be his net for now, but with six games in nine nights (nice) coming up, all on the road, I would expect we see both goalies over the next two weeks. Johnson is proving to be an astute pickup, though – which makes sense, considering he was easily one of the best free agent goalies available on the market.

The $1.7 million he’s making this year is the largest cap hit he’s ever had. He is 30 years old, though. How much higher do you think he can go – and will it continue to be in his hometown? It’s a long season yet, but he’s fully put his name in the mix to potentially be Jon Gillies’ mentor.

  • freethe flames

    As I mentioned on an earlier thread I would like to see a Ferland/Bennett/Hathaway line. They can check, they can be pests and maybe just maybe adding Bennetts\ offensive upside maybe they could produce some points. That would then require IMO Shinkaruk playing with Monahan and Brouwer. Leave the other two line alone and basically roll 4 lines.

  • everton fc

    Ferland’s only penalty minutes are the fight he had a few games ago. He is ultra-disciplined. Bennett isn’t. Yet.

    Not sure how you could get Ferland-Bennett-Hathaway more minutes, if that line were “built”. Monahan and Bennett need to come to life. Somehow.

    Ferland-Monahan-Brouwer?

    Ferland-Bennett-Hathaway??

    ???

    Ferland’s best on LW. With Johnny out, he should perhaps be considered for some of those minutes. Not Vey.

    Shinkaruk-Bennett-Hathaway might also work, in terms of producing energy, grit (Bennett plays a gritty game) and points.

    • piscera.infada

      Might not be popular opinion, but I thought Bennett-Monahan-Brouwer played pretty well last night. I would be interested in seeing them for a few more games. I actually thought Bennett and Brouwer were good on the forecheck, and that opened up Monahan–who was skating better than he has all season. They produced a number of quality chances, and probably deserved at least one goal.

      • Kevin R

        You know, I really like the fact Bennett & Monahan are playing together & Brouwer won’t hurt them. Gaudreau was looking so frustrated, the silver lining in this is it will give him a chance to refocus & put the World Cup & rough contract negotiation behind him. It gives Bennett a chance to get excited playing the top line & it gets him & Monahan to form a little bit of chemistry, which I think is needed. Finally, they need to keep Gio & Hamilton together. I have faith in Brodie not needing to be paired with Gio.

        Not sure but I thought Coyotes somehow cloned a bunch for Russell’s because they were blocking so many freaking shots. They looked like the Flames in 2014 & were way outplayed but having a chance to win when they shouldn’t have.

        Even Coyotes PP looked way more organized than ours, in fact, everyones PP looks way more organized than ours. Either we have the worlds worst penalty kill or maybe we should review everyone else’s PP & see how they are able to control play in the offensive zone. & if it’s the penalty kill then we should watch everyone else’s penalty kill & see why it’s effective shutting us down.

      • everton fc

        I think, as a fan, I’m just trying to find a way for Ferland to get more minutes! And, for Bennett to perhaps stay in the pivot role.

        But others said they looked okay together. Monahan did have 3 or 4 shots on goal.

        A good thing.

        • piscera.infada

          I’m with you on Ferland–I’ve been a big proponent of Ferland with Gaudreau-Monahan all the way back to last year. If he proves consistency (not to say he hasn’t been consistent this year, but last year…) over the next few weeks, there’s no doubt in my mind the coach will give him a huge bump in ice-time and responsibility.

          As for Bennett, they’ve asked Gulutzan about it, and it sounds like the plan is pretty well cemented that Bennett is a centre. Problem is, teams were targeting him every game. They’re giving him a role on the wing simply to get his confidence back. I think that’s a fair idea at this point, and it’s almost necessity now with Johnny hurt.

          My hope is that when Johnny is ready to return, the team is playing better, and it takes some pressure off Bennett to step back into his centre-ice role. I don’t think he’s been necessarily bad as a centre this season, but when the team isn’t playing well, and you’re a 20 year old centre being hard-matched most games against the Toews’, Kopitar’s, Pavelski’s, Backstrom’s of the world, that has to be a horribly sinking feeling. He’s a centre long-term, and a damn good one sooner rather than later.

          Final point. Hathaway needs to stay. They need to figure out a way to keep him when this team gets healthy (if ever). What he brings has been sorely missing outside of Ferland and Bennett thus far. I’ve also liked F Hamilton’s game on the fourth line–simple and effective.

      • Baalzamon

        They did play well as a line. Which is astonishing because Bennett, historically, is a terrible winger.

        Might as well keep the lineup the way it is for a bit (aside from switching out Vey for Shinkaruk). Should probably find a few more minutes for the fourth line (especially Ferland), perhaps at the expense of Bennett and Backlund (who both played over 19 minutes last night).

        On second thought, definitely want someone other than Wideman to play with Brodie. Maybe

        1. Giordano – Hamilton
        2. Kulak – Brodie
        3. Jokipakka – Engelland

        But no big hurry to change things up on the back end I guess. Should probably shoot for a little consistency on the short term. I still think there’s something to be said for a Brodie-Hamilton pair, though.

  • brodiegio4life

    Looking at the flames schedule has given me some cautious optimism. The last 12 games were definitely the toughest stretch of the entire season. Their upcoming schedule up until the Christmas break is fairly easy and has a ton of winnable games.

    DET, BUF, CBJx2, PHI, NYI, TOR, ARIx2, WPG, and VAN

    The only really tough games up until Christmas are vsANA vsTBL and @SJS.

    Rest of the games are @BOS, vsMIN, @DAL which really aren’t that tough either.

    To say they could be sitting a couple pts into a playoff spot by Christmas really isn’t that much a stretch…

    • piscera.infada

      I’m not sure how much I really buy strength of schedule in absolute terms, but I agree with you. The Flames schedule has been extremely tough since those first 5 games. It’s certainly not an excuse for their record, but I do think that things have been slowly coming around over that time.

      They do need to continue growing over the stretch you eluded to, and if they play well, it could be enough to propel them back into relevance. I said prior to the season that I thought they would hover around .500 for the first 20 to 30 games this season as they work the kinks out with the new coaching staff, and then they would push towards a bubble spot. It won’t be easy–especially without Gaudreau–but it’s still not off the table.

      • kittensandcookies

        It’s not even so much that Calgary’s schedule’s been hard, but everybody else’s has been so easy. Like WTF is with Edmonton’s??? Three B2Bs the entire season????

        • piscera.infada

          It’s not just back-to-back’s though. After their first five games of the year (where they admittedly played absolutely horribly), they played 11 of 13 games against teams that made the playoffs last year, and 10 of those games were against teams that are commonly referred to as “contenders”. Those “contending” teams had a combined record last season of 448-224-76 (.600 winning percentage)–note: I did include the teams they played twice (Chicago and St. Louis) in that total twice.

          Like I said, not an excuse, but they’ve played some very, very good hockey teams over the last 13 game stretch. If they had played better in their opening 5 games, we’d probably be able to (rationally) digest the ~.500 record (semantics aside) fairly easily.

    • snotss

      they still have to win those games!!!!!!!!!!!!!!..with the way the flames have been playing lately nothing is a sure win….they need to win now who ever they play,not looking forward to easy teams!!! at the moment the flames are a “easy” team to beat.

  • The GREAT WW

    Looks like Chuk is going to be a really REALLY good player!!!

    My guess the top 3 picks from this years draft will be:

    1/2: Matthews/Laine.

    3: Chuk.

    Sorry Oilers and Canucks fans; you had your chance to draft him…..

    WW

    • Jakethesnail

      It’s a long season and a long career before you start praising him as the third best pick in the draft.He has probably already hit his ceiling and most likely will be a 40 point grinder through his career.

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    Solid performance by the Flames Gang – thought for sure that Smith was gonna steal this one tho.

    Still shaking my head on the Wideman interference call just moments after Moneyhands got his lower back jackhammered in front of the net. I suppose he’s gonna have to carry that cross for a long time.

    Props to T- Chuck for possessing the ability to dangle in tight areas whilst chewing his mouth guard outside of his mouth.

    Hey, the Desert Dogs are down on their chin straps so its not our biggest victory but its a timely one for this fragile group. Two points is two points.

    GFG

  • PrairieStew

    Brodie and Wideman let up on that goal – they thought the Coyotes were going to get called for too many men. There were 6 guys on the ice as the puck came out to the point, but neither the guy going off or the one coming on touched it so the refs let it go.

    US Thanksgiving one week away – and according to Elliot’s Axiom – the Flames need to be within 4 points (or is it 6?) of a playoff spot by next Thursday. Given that they are just 2 out now. with a home date with Chicago and road games in Detroit, Buffalo and Columbus, they need at least 2 more wins in the next week to stay in touch.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Lol. Poor Ghost. Trolling is hard when your team is 3-6-1 in the last 10 and on a 4 game losing skid.

    I do agree to the extent that you cant tell what any of these guys will look like in 3-4-5 years time, let alone the end of the season.

    Although redraft at this particular point is Laine-Matthews-Tkachuk.

    • McRib

      Edmonton has lost the last four and they can now look forward to playing LA, Dallas, Chicago in the next three. LMAO.

      Tkachuk is looking like the third best player from the draft and he is also the most underdeveloped from anyone behind him with plenty of growth left in his game once he adds another 15-20 pounds of further leg/core strength. Tkachuk is only going to continue to separate himself from others behind him in the future. How about that stud Oilers defensman Larsson (3 Points in 17 GP, -2)?

  • Just.Visiting

    Miscellaneous observations about what I’ve been seeing lately.

    -Johnny was playing a lot better recently before the injury. This was a huge loss. The refs need to call the penalties to mitigate the potential for this type of thing to happen to a star player. Fans are paying big amounts for their tickets, and an injury like this severely impacts the entertainment value they receive. The league and fans lose with every needless injury to a star, and the hopes of an entire franchise can disappear for the year.

    -Dougie has been in my doghouse for a while for the play in his own zone and his propensity to take poor penalties. He’s looked a lot better the past two games, so I hope he keeps it up.

    -Brodie and Gio have turned a huge corner too. Brodie, in particular, looked great last night!

    -Ferland has been playing very well and deserves to play top nine minutes.

    -Matt T is playing a much more balanced game now and showing his skill more fully, instead of running around hitting everything that moves. That’s nice to see, and had been my biggest concern about keeping him up. He looked great on his goal from the right side last night. Everyone else has been tried on Monahan’s right side with very limited positive results, so why not try Matt to see if it works. He played that side in junior so it’s not like it’s foreign to him. And did I mention how great he looked going to the net from that side last night? Then move Ferland to the Mike line with Backlund and Frolik.

    -Kulak is much better than I originally thought he was.

    -Chad is a very calming influence that sees the guys in front of him play with greater confidence.

    -I like what Hathaway brings to the lineup. My preference would be to keep him around and on the fourth line.

    -With Johnny out, let’s see more fully what Hunter can bring. Perhaps left wing with Sean and Matt, so Hunter can try to be Johnny light for the next bit?

    -The current third and fourth line makeup is going to make it really difficult to score goals, especially when teams can focus their defensive coverage on just two lines. I’d much prefer Sam back at centre with Brouwer, so that Sam becomes a better centre.