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The Flames, overall, played an outstanding game. They were in it every step of the way; neither team outplayed the other to create a lopsided environment. Sure, there were mistakes that led to goals – on both sides. But overall, that was a quality effort from two teams who both put up a good fight.
Sorry, I should have started this with a caveat: I was talking about even strength.
Thanks again, powerplay
The Flames had five opportunities against the worst penalty kill in the NHL. We can try to be fair to them – one of those opportunities didn’t even last nine seconds, coming at the very end of the game – but still, that’s four whole powerplays they had to work with.
And to be fair, the powerplay did look better. More time was spent in the offensive zone, more pucks came within the vicinity of the net.
But to be fair to the overall scheme of things, that’s not good enough. One or two games into the season, it’s a sign of something positive to build on.
This is a team at the bottom of the NHL in points percentage. If you’re trying to accomplish something, moral victories do not count. We are far too deep into the season for that.
Just one powerplay goal at least sends them to overtime.
Two powerplay goals wins them the game.
They had zero. Against the worst penalty kill in the entire NHL.
And Chicago’s penalty kill still is the worst, for the record – barely. They’re in last place with a success rate of 70.2%. The Flames are 29th with 73.9%.
One guess as to who has the worst powerplay in the league. Here’s a hint: you saw a whole lot of it last night.
The Flames have scored six powerplay goals on 67 attempts. Let that sink in for a second. Six. Only the Ottawa Senators have scored fewer – they have five – and on 51 attempts for them. The Flames have an 8.9% success rate.
And it would be one thing if this was unpredictable. We called this a bad move before Dave Cameron was even hired. There is no grace period here. There are only losses.
Top four defenceman Dennis Wideman
So it would appear the Flames have fully set defensive roles, at least for the time being. Brett Kulak and Deryk Engelland man the bottom pairing, and they do a decent job of it, at that.
Then there are the other four. Last night Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, T.J. Brodie, and Dennis Wideman all played over 20 minutes each. Minutes were balanced from the blueline.
This is the part that hurts – because Wideman has been a deserved healthy scratch for seven games this season, and yet, he is in the top four. He can’t really skate at the level he needs to anymore. Ryan Hartman’s goal wasn’t entirely on him – it was also on his teammates who didn’t recognize that they left the worst possible person back to defend. They shouldn’t have to be in that situation, but it’s almost completely unavoidable at this point: there is going to be a bad skater that has to be watched out for.
The only solution to this right now is to slot Jyrki Jokipakka back into the lineup. And maybe he does improve things, but he hadn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire before he found his way into the pressbox, either.
We’re near the end of these three horrific contracts on defence. The problem for this season is that we’re still in the midst of the death throes. The Flames do not have another top four defenceman at this point in time – or, if they bump Kulak up (and maybe they should) and slot Jokipakka in alongside Engelland on the bottom pairing (again, maybe they should), then they might.
But this is a period of time we simply have to tough out. The top four is incomplete right now. Maybe it’ll be Kulak later. I have a gut feeling Oliver Kylington is in the NHL by sometime next season; maybe it’s him. (That isn’t actually based on anything factual, by the way. Total gut feeling. Don’t at me.)
There’s good reason to have hope for the backend next season, especially if this whole Giordano – Hamilton thing sticks. But in the meantime… this is what we get.
Bennett and Monahan were rolling
I’m hesitant to call Sean Monahan’s line the first line, because for most of the season so far, Mikael Backlund is the only one who has really deserved the honour of being called a first line centre. And technically, last night he was; he played the most out of all of the forwards.
But Sam Bennett, playing alongside Monahan’s wing with Troy Brouwer flanking the other side, put on a show – and it resulted in two quick goals.
They weren’t especially beautiful; Bennett’s in particular was really greasy. Then again, getting in the blue paint was a theme last night, so it’s good to see Bennett on that.
These past two games, with Bennett playing on Monahan’s wing, have seen him get the most ice time he’s experienced this season at over 19 minutes in each. And he’s clearly starting to bust out of his funk. He’d been pointless in six games straight; now, he has nine in 19 – not anything to write home about, but much better than where he was at before (and now tied for third in team scoring alongside Brouwer).
So. Does this mean Bennett stays on the wing? Monahan’s wing, even when Johnny Gaudreau comes back? That’s much too early to call, especially if the plan is to keep Bennett at centre. But in the short term, there’s no reason to break them up – especially when it looks like both of them are getting their confidence back.
The bottom six
Stajan – Vey – Chiasson
Ferland – Hamilton – Hathaway
I mean… yikes?
Micheal Ferland’s line is plenty entertaining for a shot in the arm, and has recently been buzzing around the net, too. Matt Stajan’s line actually beat them in corsi this game, but they were also the beneficiaries of more favourable zone stats.
But boy, will Kris Versteeg’s return to the lineup give this group a much-needed boost. Not that he was lighting the world on fire before he was injured, very few Flames were; still, he’s a better player than most of the guys in that group.
And how much better does a Ferland – Stajan – Versteeg line look to you? Almost like an actual third line, if that’s the way it ends up.
Another benefit to Versteeg’s return to the lineup? If the Flames are so damn insistent on having a right shot no matter what personnel they have available to them on their failure that is a powerplay, at least he should be taking Linden Vey’s minutes, no question. (Vey played almost as much on the powerplay as Monahan, Brouwer, and Bennett. Think about that one for a moment.)
That game-winning goal
So… yikes. That was a bad one, wasn’t it?
Chad Johnson absolutely had to have that shot. It would have helped if Glen Gulutzan could have actually challenged the goal, but it wouldn’t have been necessary if Johnson had stopped it properly.
It’s okay. I mean, it’s not, because that specific moment cost the Flames the chance at even a point. But it’s also okay, because good goalies will let in bad goals sometimes. The key is to try to limit those as much as possible.
The good news is the Flames still have two good goalies on the roster. Things didn’t go their way this time. It did the last time they played a close game against Chicago. Onwards.