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It doesn’t seem to matter how much the teams change: games against the Minnesota Wild will forever remain boring.
Although a tied game late in the third with multiple penalties being called – including one stretching into overtime – is undoubtedly exciting. Especially when the Flames are able to do that thing where they have consistent, dangerous pressure. And are only thwarted by a stray body or well-placed stick. Multiple times.
Those parts were pretty exciting.
Not so much vengeance after all
There are several reasons why the Flames deserved to win that game. (Almost) everybody keeping their cool was one of them.
The last time these two teams faced, Johnny Gaudreau’s finger ended up broken. If any team was trying to be the aggressor last night – at least before Matthew Tkachuk went a little overboard – it was the Wild. They were the undisciplined ones; the Flames even managed to make them pay for it once on the powerplay, which was nothing short of a miracle.
(That overtime powerplay was pretty nuts, too; they definitely could have scored on it.)
The Flames didn’t take the bait. They played a cool, collected game. Mikael Backlund’s line was brilliant at generating constant chances, including on just that one shift in the third period; the Flames just calmly scored goals and played most of the game with a lead instead.
The best revenge is two points. (Though I will confess a part of me was hoping the Flames would take a two-goal lead and then go to town on some certain opposing player hands in the final minute, but this was probably the better way to go out. No suspensions, for one thing.)
Can somebody help Matthew Tkachuk find his chill
Remember back during the Penticton games? Tkachuk stood out, both in good ways – he’s pretty good at hockey – and bad – he was completely out of control.
For the most part, he reigned that stuff in when he made the NHL. Um, kind of; the fact that he leads the Flames with 49 penalty minutes – getting kinda close to double the next guy – is pretty bad and telling, but he has at least looked less wild out there.
Until last night, when he took a bad offensive zone penalty at the end of an amazing shift for his line; and then, when his team killed it off, headbutted Marco Scandella.
No. No. Absolutely not. That’s completely unacceptable under normal circumstances. But forcing your team to kill two penalties in the final 10 minutes of a tied game, particularly when your second penalty was an egregious show of stupidity, cannot fly.
The Flames were able to kill off all three powerplays they faced. They were pretty good at it, too (if you’re keeping score at home, their 78.0% penalty kill is now the fifth worst in the NHL). If they hadn’t, then Tkachuk would have been to blame. I’m amazed he even got a shift after that.
If it were up to me – and obviously it’s not, but if it was – I would healthy scratch him the next game (providing he doesn’t get suspended first). He was reckless, he could have cost his team the game (and one day, if this keeps up, he probably will), and he could have hurt someone. Actions have consequences. Time to learn that.
The ongoing saga of Sean Monahan
Since being relegated to the fourth line for two periods against the New York Islanders, Monahan has scored three points in three games, including this one. This game he got a secondary assist, but it was the result of him being involved in the play and collecting the puck in the offensive zone – ensuring his team would have it before he set up Jyrki Jokipakka for a shot, one that Kris Versteeg capitalized on the ensuing rebound – that led to anything happening.
Though Monahan was among the weaker corsi players on the Flames (and once again with sheltered zone starts, at that), he looked much more engaged than he has at several points throughout the season. If this is going to be a regular thing from now on, then good, we all very much welcome it – and will probably even more so if he keeps it up when Gaudreau returns to action, presumably on his line.
Monahan didn’t get first line centre minutes last night – he played 18:03, almost four fewer minutes than Backlund (with the same amount of special teams time for them both). Backlund earned those extra minutes – six shots alone for him – but it’s good to see Monahan appearing to round back into form, eventually.
Dougie Hamilton: a reasonably good hockey player
There has been a lot of unnecessary talk about Dougie Hamilton this past week.
Here’s where we’re at: Hamilton is a core player on this Flames team. He’s one of the best defencemen they have, easily. He’s one of the best offensive generators on the Flames – five shots last night, 73 on the season to lead the Flames (top 20 in the NHL), behind only Michael Frolik and Backlund for top corsi players on the Flames against the Wild (and second on the Flames throughout the season, behind only Tkachuk), quarterbacking the powerplay the way he was – he’s a treat to watch, and he’s going to be a big part of this team’s future.
Seriously. He’s been fantastic, and it feels like we’re on the verge of watching him rise to another level.
So it was good to see him get over five minutes on the powerplay – seriously, as poor as the overall powerplay has been, Hamilton was constantly on the verge of making things happen – but for Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland, two players who shouldn’t be here at all next year, to get more ice time than him is baffling.
He’s better. Let’s accept that and run with it.
Technically, the Flames, with a 12-13-2 record, are in a playoff spot. They’re in the second wild card spot in the West, but a playoff spot is a playoff spot.
If the Predators, Stars, or Jets – all of whom are playing today – win their next games, the Flames will be out of a playoff spot. The Preds can lose in overtime and this will still be the case. Fact is, the Flames have still played more games than everyone else in the NHL.
Going by points percentage, they’re a .481 team. That’s not good.
Here’s the good news: they’re 24th in the NHL. That’s good when put into context that a week ago or so, they were 29th, 30th.
We are seeing the Flames improve. We’ll see what things look like when other teams start to catch up to them in games played later in the season, though. So don’t get too excited… but maybe get a little excited if they can keep this going.