Flames 2, Coyotes 1 (OT) post-game embers: A win is a win is two points

It doesn’t matter how pretty a win is, all that matters is that it’s a win.

Well, kind of. At this stage of the game, the Flames need to get wins any way they can. As long as those two points get added to their record, they should be good to go – at least for that one.

But that wasn’t exactly a win that inspired confidence. Calgary showed up in the second period, but for the most part, they got ragdolled on the ice. They won because the Coyotes are literally the NHL’s worst team, Chad Johnson held down the fort when he wasn’t being tied up by his own teammates, and the powerplay didn’t lose things for them as it has in the past. 

Going by the standings, the Flames are now tied for first in the Pacific Division. Going by points percentage, they are still just on the outside looking in. They’ve played themselves back into the conversation, but they aren’t there yet.

How much longer can they keep this up?

A five-game winning streak has brought the Flames back into things, but the road trip really did start the turnaround. Maybe even after the Sabres game, if you want to get really specific; since the penalty kill cost them that game it is now actually performing (up to 78.9%, four teams have worse kills). The powerplay has slowly but surely started to follow along; it is now scoring at a 14.0% clip, which is better than three teams (including the Kings, who are one of the teams in the way of the Flames officially being in a playoff position).

But fact is, the Flames aren’t going to win every game from here on out. They might even lose multiple games in a row. Limiting that is going to be absolutely key. Say they lose the next two, they’ll at least stay at .500, but that’s not really an admirable goal when there are just four teams below that mark.

The bigger the cushion they build, the more likely we don’t write this season off.

So, what does the schedule look like coming up? There’s the Winnipeg Jets – one of those below .500 teams – up on Saturday, and that’s a game this team should have. Then they have three days off, which they haven’t had since early November, followed by their first meeting with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and a rematch against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Lightning have a record really similar to the Flames, so that’s a game that could maybe go either way; the Jackets are still rocking an insane points percentage, but hey, they beat them once…

The Flames will then close out the year with six Western Conference opponents, five of whom are in the Pacific. Those games are going to be the crucial ones to watch out for. Hopefully they can stay above .500 for when they meet up.

Because that win against the Coyotes didn’t exactly do too much to inspire confidence. Mike Smith played out of his mind, yes; on the other hand, the Flames didn’t do a ton to challenge him, particularly in the first half of the game.

Frequent shooters

Though I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two Flames particularly stood out when it came to going after Smith: Matthew Tkachuk and Dougie Hamilton.

Tkachuk was generating scoring chances left and right and finished with a recorded five shots on net. Hamilton had six. Nobody else had more than three.

On that note, though, it’s probably not a coincidence that Tkachuk was the Flames’ best corsi player, followed up by his linemates and then Hamilton. Tkachuk has now gone six games without a goal, which is unfortunate; however, the fact that he’s still playing the way he is is extremely encouraging. It’s been noted that sometimes if Sean Monahan isn’t scoring, you’re left wondering what he actually is doing (particularly during his bad start to the season); Tkachuk doesn’t have that problem. He just keeps driving play, no matter what, and he continues to get his chances.

The 40-game mark is coming up, which determines whether Tkachuk will hit his first UFA year sooner rather than later; if there had been any lingering doubt for whatever reason, it’s gone now. He’s not scoring at a particularly high clip, but he is on pace for 37 points, which is a little better than where Monahan and Sam Bennett ended up in their rookie years.

As for Hamilton, what’s left to say? He’s still getting a bit shafted in the ice time department, but that sixth shot of his was the overtime winner, after watching him split the Coyotes and deke out a seemingly unbeatable Smith. He’s leading Flames defencemen in scoring by three points. Even though they aren’t being activated as frequently as Bob Hartley had them, he’s still probably going to hit at least 40.

But sure, apparently he’s not that great, thanks for your input Toronto media. You got any more of them hit pieces?

The Flames’ leading scorer

Johnny Gaudreau has played 10 fewer games than most everyone else.

Gaudreau, with 17 points in 20 games, is the Flames’ sole scoring leader. He has two points in each of his three games back. That’s probably not going to last, but it’s great while it is, especially when the last two victories have been of the 2-1 variety.

The Flames played in three overtimes while Gaudreau was out. They won one, lost one, and took the other one to a shootout (which they then won). I’m willing to bet if Gaudreau had been healthy all along, the Flames would have won all of those games in overtime; he’s a real life video game when there’s that much open ice, and he displayed that again last night (right from the first play, even; he wanted that game over). 

Remember when he sucked and wasn’t worthy of his contract and him holding out was the worst thing ever and the mark of a greedy player who had overvalued himself? Haha those days sure were silly. The way he’s going, he could still hit 80 points this season, even after those missed games. There’s a reason we were thinking he’d become the Flame with the highest cap hit, rather than just tied for it. This is why.

Top nine

If you go by ice times, the first line is really unclear.

I’m taking out special teams ice time for this. There were quite a few powerplays and penalty kills throughout the game; let’s remove those and see just who was trusted with the most minutes during standard, even strength play. I’m excluding overtime for this, too.

Tkachuk led all forwards in 5v5 ice time with 14:37 played, but Gaudreau was right behind him with 14:15. (Left wing, eh? And Micheal Ferland still deserves more minutes.) Alex Chiasson (13:28) and Michael Frolik (12:52), their right wingers, follow up behind them, while Mikael Backlund (12:51), Bennett (12:37), and Monahan (12:21) are all grouped pretty close together after that.

Technically, that makes Monahan the third line centre, and Backlund the first, but it’s really close. Monahan and Bennett are expected to score more than Backlund, and that’s only just really started to happen. In the meantime, this is what being able to roll lines looks like, though the Flames are presently 20th in goals per game.

I have but one suggestion for this group: when Kris Versteeg gets back, bump Chiasson out and keep Ferland in the top nine.

Gaudreau – Bennett – Versteeg

Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik

Ferland – Monahan – Brouwer

And then Matt Stajan and two friends. That… really doesn’t look so bad, does it?

Goal differential

One thing I get pretty serious about is goal differential. Having a negative one is like a mark of shame; even if the Flames don’t make the playoffs, I want them to at least have a positive goal differential.

They are very, very slowly making their way towards that. Earlier in the season, they had the worst in the NHL, partially thanks to multiple blowouts against them. They finally had a blowout of their own against the Ducks, though it could have gone better; that said, they’re at -9 now.

Single digits. Still not great, but not -20. In their division, only the Vancouver Canucks (-14) and Arizona Coyotes (-24) are worse; in their conference, throw in the Dallas Stars (-17) and Colorado Avalanche (-19), plus they’re tied with the Jets.

If they keep winning, they should get back in the green at some point. They’ve gotta limit the losing, though. And some more multi-goal wins would be nice while they’re at it; they’ve only had five of those in 30 games played.

    • Juan Valdez

      If we’d won those first two games of the season, the Oilers would be near the bottom of the standings right now.

      They’ll be there soon enough 😉

  • Greatsave

    Say they lose the next two, they’ll at least stay at .500, but that’s not really an admirable goal when there are just four teams below that mark.

    If that’s not a sufficient case for not talking about the “.500 mark” as though it’s meaningful at all, I don’t know what is. The “.500 mark” should be the bare minimum a team expects, not something to aspire to.

    Meanwhile, at game 30, let’s look at the special teams over the first 15-game segment and the second 15-game segment:

    First-15: 8% PP, 72.1% PK, 3 SHGF, 1 SHGA

    Second-15: 20.9% PP, 87.5% PK, 3 SHGF

    Much more respectable, and even bordering on good. So I hope people will at least shut up for a while about the assistant coaches.

  • Guest

    Regarding goal differential. Calgary is -10 is PP goal differential plus -5 on empty net goals. Assuming that’s balanced going forward they are around their record. It’s not as bad as it looks.

  • wot96

    Why compare the Flames to the Oilers. It’s troll bait. Anyone complains about the trolls and then goes and lights up the Oilers when the article is about a game involving a different team is really just trolling themselves. Surely you can feel good about your team and yourself without putting someone or something else down?

    @ Greatsave – very good point on the special teams.

    • The Real Slim Brodie

      Woops call me classless too I guess lol. Good games lately for our flames. Some we shouldn’t have won but we did. On the other hand we have lost a lot of games we should have won. Gfg

      • wot96

        I did not call you, or anyone else, that does this classless. I said you were baiting the trolls. I’m honestly not in a position to call anyone else classless.

        I just think we need a bit more than schadenfreude to sustain us is all.

        • The Real Slim Brodie

          I know you were not calling me classless I never said you did. I was talking about myself bud. Because of my comment about connor mc lass less. Chirping about something that happened a year ago after being the bigger person back then he has sunken to the oilers level after only a season and a half.

    • Arminius

      One of life’s greatest truths is when you have the chance to dump on the city of Edmonton or their sports teams you do it.

      People that don’t agree to that arent true blooded Calgarians. (Or too new age)

      Or maybe I’m just old and not liberal enough. Participation ribbons for all! No negativity..forget that. Fuel the hate

      • piscera.infada

        You’re missing the point. You’re the first one to piss and moan the second “Train” (or whatever he calls himself now) starts posting all over these threads. Just acknowledge that you (and posters like you) are the reason they’re here.

        Yeah, Edmonton sucks, Lucic is overpayed, and McDavid looks like a jaundiced potato with teeth… We get it. Hell, they get it. It doesn’t need to be the first thing to come out of people’s mouths on a Flames’ blog.

        • Arminius

          I guess it’s a good thing it’s still a free country eh?

          And yeah Train was a pissoff. Not a fan of a thread getting hijacked with nonsense non stop. Go over to ON see how often my name appears before you say I’m the problem

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    How about mcdavid chirping the Philly bench all night and then Philly erases a huge lead and wins in regulation. Looks like he is the classless player he couldn’t even win after chirping.

  • Thunder1

    Ari says…

    “Technically, that makes Monahan the third line centre.”

    Life’s good when your third line centre leads your team in goals, game winning goals, face off percentage and has seven points in his last five games.

    Hang on to your dreams, Ari!

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    And Stockton is burning up the AHL! And it’s the kids getting it done.

    Bodes well for the future of this franchise to see the big team on the cusp and some real legit prospect depth.

    Never been this excited as a Flames fan. If you turned Wideman/Engelland 9 mill into a 5 or 6 mil legit top 4 defender next year and filled the bottom pairing with our cheap, solid depth… this team will be a contender next year I can feel it.

  • Justthateasy

    Can somebody outline GG’s style and philosophy and what the differences are between this year and last year.
    I keep hearing about the new system but what is it?

    • Derzie

      Boring style (think Minnesota, Arizona) with stay at home D and a reliance on goaltending. To contrast with Hartley who kept the shots from the outside, relied on blocked shots and breakout passes. He released the D a lot. Hartley= High Risk, excitement. GG = Low risk, boring. Unfortunately for the fans, boring wins in todays NHL. Stars in Hartley’s system are the skill guys: Johnny, Monny, Gio, Brodie. Stars in the GG system are the defensive guys: Backlund, Frolik, Chad. Dougie scored in OT last night doing what GG wouldn’t like, but we sure do.

      • Greatsave

        Boring style (think Minnesota, Arizona) with stay at home D and a reliance on goaltending. To contrast with Hartley who kept the shots from the outside, relied on blocked shots and breakout passes. He released the D a lot. Hartley= High Risk, excitement. GG = Low risk, boring. Unfortunately for the fans, boring wins in todays NHL.

        I don’t know where all this is coming from. Especially the bolded part. The implication is that D-men don’t have the license to go now? That doesn’t seem true, especially with Gio and Brodie and even Engelland joining rushes?

      • Greatsave

        Stars in Hartley’s system are the skill guys: Johnny, Monny, Gio, Brodie. Stars in the GG system: Backlund, Frolik, Chad. Dougie scored in OT last night doing what GG wouldn’t like, but we sure do.

        So I guess Gaudreau’s 6 points in 3 games and Monahan’s 7 points in 5 games are consequences of their disregard for Gulutzan’s system, 25 games into their new coach’s tenure? And not because they’ve begun to learn and execute said system?

        Curious to hear how you concluded that Gulutzan does not approve of Dougie’s OT winner.

        • Derzie

          There is an element of getting used to it for sure but they won’t reach the same numbers under GG. They are too good to be held back but they won’t have career years.

  • Truculence

    Damn, I watched the game and thought that they were the far better team in the last 2 periods. And, yet, listening to Ari and Pike it seemed like they were lucky to win this one.

    They were playing a game on the road against a stingy team and they beat them. They beat them despite having already played an insane amount of road games relative to other teams. And yet they still dug into the gas tank and won.

  • Derzie

    GG hockey is boring. Plain and simple. Thus the theme of this game summary (and most of the summaries to date). ‘Winning ugly”. I’m not supporting Hartley because winning is more important than exciting, but exciting IS important. We could just ‘sim the game’ like a video game if all we cared about was winning. Entertainment is both.

    • Nighteyes

      I think due to the amount road games the Flames have played this year, it looks like GG system is boring. But its not really, its just effective road hockey. Its frankly more of a pleasure to watch a non-tire fire defensive system in our zone and than it was to watch Hartley’s system. Moreover, his system just looks less exciting because there are less stretch passes and thus less high speed rushes from the forwards; when the whole team moves up the ice as a unit the speed is going to look less apparent. Hartley’s “high-risk” system wasn’t all that entertaining, I mean, do you remember how many of those stretch passes failed, and how many times a blocking shots mentality in our zone ended up right in our net?

      • Greatsave

        Moreover, his system just looks less exciting because there are less stretch passes…

        Even this, I have doubts over, because there have been stretch passes leading to scoring chances, especially with Gaudreau actively looking for them.

    • Danomitee

      We could just play run and gun hockey like the oilers have been doing unsuccessfully for the past decade.

      It’s a matter of opinion. You want drama and scoring chances both ways, that’s exciting because it’s nerve wracking. I’d much rather have a steady defence and some resemblance of actual control, teams playing great quit complaining.

      • Schmenkley

        Yeah I don’t recall exactly how many 2 on 0 breaks we had under Hartley, but it wasn’t a lot I can tell you……..low risk does not necessarily mean boring, it just means low risk……

  • Justthateasy

    Thank you for all the input on the systems. I do prefer the control game that we are playing now. We do have an upgrade in talent and we do have an upgrade in toughness and especially and upgrade in goaltending. I notice more sticks in the lane in place of blocking shots.