Islanders 2, Flames 1 (OT) Post-Game Embers: Sigh

The Islanders are an unmitigated disaster right now. Their star players can’t score, and not helping that fact is that they keep scratching key contributor Ryan Strome. They couldn’t keep Kyle Okposo because they gave a shipload of money to Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and other fourth liners. They are second worst in score-adjusted 5v5 and have the least number of points in the NHL. 

Those are just the on-ice problems. They play in an obviously converted basketball arena which includes an off-centre jumbotron, reduced seating capacity, terrible sightlines, and a Honda in the front row like we’re watching the Spengler Cup. It’s very symbolic that the outside of the arena is covered in rust. Every player on their roster will probably retire before they stop paying Rick DiPietro. Their coach allegedly lives in the general manager’s basement. No matter how bad this season gets, Islanders fans are looking at us (well, at everyone) with envy in their eyes.

Yet the Flames had a tough time against the suckiest bunch of sucks who ever sucked. You couldn’t ask for an easier end to the most gruelling road trip of the season, a road trip that many thought the Flames could use to turn their season around, and they blew it. Against a bunch of chuckleheads.

A review of Janko

I kept my eye on Janko for most of the game, like everyone else. Here’s my review of him; it might be a bit different than yours.

He was given some favourable circumstances initially with Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg on the presumed scoring line. To his credit, he looked comfortable in the role. To his detriment, he didn’t look like much of a contributor.

Jankowski did win faceoffs and he did get involved in front of the net, but the team couldn’t get the puck to him. It didn’t seem he was able to find much space, but when he was open, he couldn’t get his teammates to pass to him, which is not his fault. Defensively, I didn’t see him do much besides standing and breaking up a few passes. He still looks a little unsure there, but impressive in small bits. He’s still learning a new system, after all.

Where Janko impressed was below the faceoff dots, working hard on puck retrieval, often times successful. The only critique I have with regard to this facet of the game is that he still looks like he needs some more weight on his body. Matt Tkachuk also works well below the faceoff dots, but he’s two inches smaller and about the same weight as Jankowski (according to HockeyDB, a bit heavier). Tkachuk doesn’t get outmuscled like Jankowski was getting outmuscled last night. Janko was able to keep the puck on his stick, but because he couldn’t physically beat out his opponent, he was unable to do much with it.

The difference came in the third period, where he was placed with Hunter Shinkaruk and Micheal Ferland. With 49 and 79, I liked how he kept up with their high energy forechecking, although we didn’t get to see much of that. If that was the line all game long, I could probably see them causing some real trouble. Here’s an example of what it looked like:

While remembering the general rule of 10 games being predictive and one being descriptive, I come to the conclusion that Jankowski just isn’t ready for the NHL quite yet. I didn’t notice him make a major mistake, but he didn’t do enough last night to make a difference, even a minor one. I would keep him developing in the AHL. That’s clearly where he’ll be able to succeed and grow. Let him claim a spot next year, instead of forcing him into one this year.

Final stat line: 47.06 CF%, -8.50 CFrel%, 50% OZS, 0 SOGs

Final review: 6.5/10, best new music

Some respect for Micheal Ferland

Typical narratives might read that Sean Monahan was demoted from the first line and placed on the third with Shinkaruk and Ferland. That is false, my good friends. Monahan was in the right spot. Ferland deserves the promotion.

Instead, it was Ferland (and to a lesser extent, Shinkaruk, who was somehow the worst CF% player although it didn’t really feel like that) that were buzzing and Monahan Monahaning, or whatever the hell he’s been doing this season. When Monahan left for Versteeg and Brouwer, Ferland and Shinkaruk looked the same.

This is how it has been all season long, even going back to last season. Ferland has been effective, his numbers prove it. Last night, he had a 63.16 CF% (11.73 CFrel%) with 40% OZS. He was the only Flame who really looked good for the first two periods. If you would like to see more examples, read this and this

We’ve been clamouring for Gulutzan to unleash the Ferklund throughout the season. He’s been one of the only all-around players this season. He’s shooting, he’s scoring, he’s playing physical, and he’s playing responsible. It should be time that he is recognized and utilized as a top six option.

For good measure, here’s him crushing some fool. It’s not the former Flames first rounder.

Talking Monahan

I’ve ragged on him enough, he deserves his own section.

Monahan, by possession standards, was alright last night. He had a 57.69 CF% and a +5.31 CFrel%, which is probably in his top five performances all season. He also scored, and maybe this time, it gets the monkey off his back. 

This sounds impressive, but it still feels like I’m overstating his case. He played a season low 10.32 5v5 TOI, and for the first two periods, his total contribution could best be described as floating. Even that feels too generous, because that implies that he did at least something.

As stated, he was invisible with Shinkaruk and Ferland. The other two were active, he was passive. When he moved between Versteeg and Brouwer, he seemed a bit more involved, but still kept that floating tendency at times.

I understand why Gulutzan is tempted to use him extensively, despite 90% of games this season pointing to the opposite. Whenever he’s put into the 2/3C role, he tends to start succeeding again. Then it feels that the Monahan that Calgary had for the past two seasons is back, and his usage goes up. It doesn’t go well, cycle repeats.

Maybe Mony noticed that Gulutzan wasn’t playing him anymore and woke up. He got third line usage tonight (ahead of Janko, and behind Stajan for 5v5 ice time), and that seems to be workable in this given moment. Gulutzan just needs to resist the temptation to move him back up again. With Matthew-Mikael-Michael working miracles right now, that should be easy.

A few line recommendations

The Flames’ middle six looked promising in some bits, but overall, disappointing. I’m going to spit some thoughts about how to improve that.

  • I really liked the Versteeg-Monahan-Brouwer line, mostly because Brouwer digs up the puck, Versteeg can dodge people and draw all the attention away from Monahan, who can float to his heart’s content and get open in the slot. It worked for the Flames’ only goal last night.
  • As you can tell, I also like Ferland and Shinkaruk together. I would be happy if Bennett or Janko was slotted in there for Toronto’s game, depending on what happens with call ups. Monahan was invisible around these guys. Worse case scenario, Freddie Hamilton.
  • Never let Garnet Hathaway play again. Send him down before Janko. Hathaway isn’t offensive (in both senses of the word), but I feel the team flows a lot better without him in the line up. The team clearly needs goals, and they aren’t going to get it with Hathaway in the mix.
  • A suggestion the FN staff has been tossing around is Ferland-Monahan-Versteeg (maybe swap the wings?), which seems promising and functional. The caveat is that you have Shinkaruk-Jankowski-Brouwer on the other line, which seems less than promising and functional. 
  • For pairings, Giordano and Hamilton is looking just fine, thank-you-very-much Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello, and Kyle Dubas.
  • As for the other defensive pairings, they all looked fine. Wideman was all over the place last night, but was also the CF% (63.33) and CFrel% (14.18) leader. Odd.
  • The only change I would make would be to put Kulak in instead of Engelland, who was far and away the worst player last night (43.33 CF%, -15.99 CFrel%). You can argue about Kulak versus Jokipakka, but ideally, they are both in over Engelland. 

Other stuff I noticed but doesn’t take up more than a few sentences

  • Brian Elliott looked good last night, his only regulation goal against coming on an unforced error leading to an odd man rush. He faced John Tavares, one of the league’s best players, clearly hungry for a goal. He’s reasserting himself into the goaltender conversation, and that’s nothing but good news.
  • This team is quite clearly the 3M line and a whole bunch of third lines. I miss Johnny Gaudreau.
  • The Flames took four really dumb penalties last night. Thankfully they killed them, but it was still eight minutes that could have been better spent elsewhere. Please stop with the Wideman effect nonsense, because it paints over the fact that the Flames are routinely taking bad, bad penalties. The Flames need to cut out their nonsense, and we need to cut out ours. 

  • cjc

    “Please stop with the Wideman effect nonsense, because it paints over the fact that the Flames are routinely taking bad, bad penalties.”

    This. Engelland took two really dumb penalties last night. That elbow in the second was completely unnecessary. All 4 penalties taken by the defense is not a good sign either. 4 d-men (Gio, Hamilton, Wideman, Engelland) are averaging close to 1 PIM per game.

    Sure they’re nice guys, but since we’ve been running season-long experiments it’s time to have a game without Engelland and Wideman in the lineup.

  • FL@med

    No mention of Brodie having a brutal game? Also, wow.. That’s a quick turn of mood. One minute y’all say Hathaway is great, next minute you say he should NEVER play again? The two faced FN Writers never fail to impress me.. Oh by the way, the good puck movement, and offensive play that occurs when Hathaway isn’t in the lineup sure showed last night…

        • Well the March 7th one was about rewarding his AHL play, which we all agree, has been great. The other one was about how he had a good game and is a better option than Lance Bouma, which isn’t exactly “great”. Not to nit pick (and in the overall interest of stopping this), but it’s a major stretch to say any of those articles really argue for Hathaway to be a regular inclusion on the Flames. Props for digging those up though!

          I still think he’s bad and not worth it at the NHL level. Others don’t agree. Attack that, not the writers of this site (especially don’t lump them all in if they don’t agree with that). Final word.

  • Jakethesnail

    You say Elliot reasserted himself into the goaltending equation? He plays one good game and all of the sudden back in the mix? Try showing a little consistency in net ,then people might jump back on the Elliot bandwagon.

  • Juan Valdez

    Strange how nobody’s talking about the atrocious giveaway by Hamilton in overtime. I know he’s been playing better lately, but I have no idea what he was thinking on that play. For whatever reason he panicked and passed it right to the Islanders player at the blue line in the offensive zone.

    • everton fc

      He’ll get on the scoresheet when he’s deployed properly. But there’s no way he’s left unprotected, which is great.

      Engelland has not been bad this season. Jokipaaka’s been average at best. Hamilton’s still young, but probe to errors. He’ll be okay, though never a #1. Brodie has had a soft season. No more excuses or mulligans for him. My feeling is he’s playing on the wrong side and is all screwed up. Needs to be on the right-side.

      Kulak’s a keeper. No matter if he makes mistakes – they all have been.

      Chiasson seems comfortable w/Bennett. Jankowski looks to be for real. If you go w/Ferland-Jankowski-Shinkaruk, Shinkaruk’s the guy who moves the the RW – Ferland’s resurgence is because he’s playing his natural position on LW. Don’t mess with this!!!!!

      Monahan flanked by Versteeg and Brouwer makes sense. He needs vets to help him through his slump. Stajan helped Bennett. You can see the results in Bennett’s game, of late.

      Need to keep Janko up and waive Freddie. That’s my feeling.

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        I would suggest the following:

        Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik
        Ferland-Monahan-Versteeg
        Bennett-Stajan-Brouwer
        Shinakruk-Freddie-Chaisson

        Or, if you play Janko, play him in Stajan’s place:
        Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik
        Ferland-Monahan-Versteeg
        Bennett-Janko-Brouwer
        Shinakruk-Stajan-Chaisson

  • knappsacked

    Hey christian. I know this is (likely) your first post-game embers so i just wanted to say good job, and ive really enjoyrd your work. It has been a pleasure since you started contributing regularly. Great work!

  • The Last Big Bear

    I’ve been saying this since Monahan played in the Young Stars tournament:

    Sean Monahan is this generation’s Ryan Smyth. He is a middle-of-the-rotation player who can shovel in garbage goals at an Olympic level.

    That’s not a criticism. He is a one-trick pony, but it is the one trick that’s hardest to pull off at the NHL. You take that every chance you get, and I am happy with how he has turned out.

    But it also means that when that goal scoring dries up, as it will inevitably do from time to time, he will look AWFUL. People will complain about his foot speed, his positioning, his board work, etc, etc, etc. They will talk about all the changes he needs to make, and how he’s not engaged, and about linemate chemistry.

    But in reality, the only thing that’s changed is that goals aren’t going in for him, whereas they were before.

    The goal lamp goes out, and the bar’s lights turn on, and suddenly what you’re seeing isn’t as pretty as you’d thought.

    I’m gonna leave that metaphor there, except to say that you may not be seeing what you hoped for, but there’s 29 other teams who’d be happy to pay Monahan’s cab fare home.

  • Derzie

    I understand the need to dig into numbers to help explain things but this team is still best analyzed at the non-fancy level. Wins (bottom third of the league), goal differential (dead last). This is not something line juggling or call-ups will address in a material way. This is broken at the coaching level and the overall talent level. A problem for the GM, not the players and coaches.

    Oh and Toronto media: get the hell out of our kitchen. Trying to drum up a trade for Hamilton? We see what you’re doing. You have a history of suggesting moves and trades that you don’t let up on until they happen. Beat it. We are not a team in any position to be trading away good players who are under-performing on a bad team.

  • snotss

    a team below the flames in the standings..struggling….not playing well this year like the shames!! a good chance for a win…no!! these shames are going home where they have not played well…sorry if I don’t get to excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Albertabeef

    Well let’s look at the big picture with Mony. With any player like Mony. He has played with players who could thread the needle to him. Since Jiri’s injury Mony had to play with less talented or misused players. Ferland is clearly a much better player on his natural wing. Ferland played almost 50 games with the duo and scored more points when not on a line with them. Bad coaching decisions? Maybe. Perhaps it’s not having a “Hidler” type playmaker to play the right side of the duo. Frolik was supposed to replace him but who could break up the 3M line? Then Brouwer was the new “Hudler” but seems to play better with Benny. So do we do a JG-Benny–Brouwer line when Johnny comes back? Are we better served hoping the two come out of their funk together? Point is Momy is still on pace for his 4th 20+ goal campaign. What about all Iggy’s late starts? Should we be putting that much pressure on a 23 year old? Is the “A” too much pressure? Is he truly floating? Is he not getting rest away from the rink? Hopefully he can adjust himself sooner rather than later. Hopefully he isn’t turning into another “Kent Nillsson”.

    • everton fc

      Man, I was just going to post the same. Leafs are talking a defenceman in return. Would solve the Kulak/Jokipaaka cunundrum.

      But Holland’s a centre. Where does he fit here? Could he play wing?? Is he another Joe Colborne??? Or worse????

      If the Leafs need a d-man – a Wideman… Perhaps you take Holland, throw Bouma into the deal, take Michalek off their hands… Sort of a wash, in terms of salary… Or pry a guy like Lindberg, to see if he has any value… (or Rychel, who each day seems to be a complete bust?)

      Just thinking out loud here…