Well, that was a fun first minute. After that, the Flames generally did alright, but it was a score effects kind of game. When you score not just the winner but also the insurance goal not even a minute in, and you’re playing a team on the second half of a back-to-back, really, all you need to do is be smart and you’ve probably got it.
And in case you make a mistake, well, just have a Chad Johnson in net, and you’ll be fine, apparently.
A good goal differential?
In this game, yes; the Flames’ 3-0 victory is the biggest positive margin they’ve had so far this season, tied with similar three-goal victories against the St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators.
On the season, no. The Flames now have a goal differential of -17. That’s the second worst in the NHL, and just barely; Matt Stajan’s marker allowed them to pull ahead of the Dallas Stars, who are at the bottom of the barrel with a -18 differential.
These are this year’s Flames, at least so far: a team you likely aren’t going to see any dominating from. Through the first two months of the season – 26 games, still the most in the NHL for some reason – they have won by more than one goal all of four times.
That’s pretty bad. Their seven other wins have been one-goal games, pointing towards a team that has had to fight and claw every which way in order to just barely scrape out points.
The Flames simply aren’t scoring. They are now the fifth worst offensive team in the NHL, with 2.27 goals per game – though their defence and goaltending is a bit better, allowing 2.92 goals against per game, ninth worst in the NHL. Johnson got lucky the skaters in front of him showed up to start; Brian Elliott, who had the last game, wasn’t privy to that.
But still, baby steps. And hopefully some more offence without sacrificing what’s starting to work defensively.
Speaking of Chad Johnson
His first shutout of the season was a 27-save 1-0 win. His second shutout was a 34-save 2-0 win. His third shutout was a 39-save 3-0 win.
So what’s next, a 40+ save 4-0 win? By the way, his previous career high in a single season was two shutouts with the Boston Bruins back in 2013-14. Thirteen games into his tenure as a Flame, and he’s got a new record.
Johnson’s save percentage is now .930, which is tied with Craig Anderson and Sergei Bobrovsky for sixth in the NHL among goalies with at least 10 games played. His even strength save percentage is .938, tied with recent Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby for eighth in the NHL among goalies with at least 10 games played.
At least at this point in time, Johnson is officially a top 10 goalie in the NHL. Let’s savour this while we can, because in fairness, it’s still relatively early in the season yet.
Then again, you could comfortably say Johnson is playing the best hockey of his life right now. He got his chance to play more games than he would have last season for the Buffalo Sabres when Robin Lehner went down, and he got off to a good start behind a tire fire of a team; now, he’s doing the same thing here, but better.
Though that is comparing 45 games to 13. So let’s be cautious about this.
In the meantime, though, he’s been great. And incredibly calm and poised in net, too. Like it’s no big deal.
The funny thing about this game? Not that you could point to the loss as solely Jhonas Enroth’s fault, but if the Flames hadn’t been able to sign Johnson, he’s the guy I would have wanted as backup.
While Dougie Hamilton is tied for second in team scoring, Freddie Hamilton finally saw the scoresheet himself last night, in large part thanks to Micheal Ferland.
F.Ham is a largely inoffensive player. That’s not to say he doesn’t really score a lot – although it did take him 15 games to get his first point this season, and he has a career four points in 48 games – he’s just kind of… there. He’s not particularly noticeable, but he also doesn’t mess up. He doesn’t contribute a ton, but he’s not a detriment. He’s really cheap and the fact that he rarely makes noticeable mistakes means he’s a good extra forward to have.
Still, it was nice to see him finally get on the board.
D.Ham, meanwhile, had a fantastic game. He’s not going anywhere, nor should he. Throughout the night he was clearly trying to create offence, and it wasn’t to the detriment of his defensive abilities (maybe that one penalty aside). While his brother doesn’t create much offence, this game aside, D.Ham constantly works to do exactly that.
You need offence from the backend, and it’s good to see him striving to achieve that. As sweet as it would have been to watch him score after all of those stupid trade rumours, he still really stood out as one of the better Flames on the night. He led the Flames’ skaters in 5v5 ice time, too.
A balanced attack
One of the benefits to getting out to such an early lead? There was no need for the Flames to have to ride anyone particularly hard. Team scoring leader Michael Frolik saw the most ice time among the forward group with 18:44 played; the least was F.Ham, at 10:17.
(If you’re joining us for the Ferland watch, he only played 11:17, which is still far too little.)
Fourth line centre Sean Monahan obviously isn’t that when F.Ham is in the lineup, but he (16:34), Mikael Backlund (16:54), and Matt Stajan (15:35) were all in about the same area.
The fourth line was clearly defined, and Alex Chiasson, Matthew Tkachuk, and Troy Brouwer were under 15 minutes each, too, but for the most part, the Flames had the ability to just roll four lines.
They rolled their defence pairings, too; the top four all got over 20 minutes each, while Deryk Engelland filled in with 18:48 (2:14 on the penalty kill), and Jyrki Jokipakka at 17:24 (no special teams time).
Just a solid team win for this group. And the goalie, mostly, but everyone in front of him still had to play.
What did we do to deserve this??
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) December 1, 2016
How many times do we have to watch someone shovel it back to the blueline, in which case the best possible outcome is the point man actually picks it up (only to probably get it again very soon after, because perimeter passing is the goal, apparently), but quite frequently they just clear it and kill their own powerplay? Good lord.
At least the penalty kill (77.3%, third worst in the NHL) is showing some signs of improvement. The powerplay (10.1%, worst) is not. At all. It’s just sad.
Harnarayan Singh was fantastic in his English debut of an NHL broadcast. I really hope we get to see him more during Flames games. Or more nationally televised games on the English side, that would be really cool, too, but I’m selfish and he’s based here and he should be a part of the Flames production team more often.
He was easily the best non-goal, non-Chad Johnson part of the entire night. Kudos.