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.
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:
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.