Post-Game: Winning ugly


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(Matt Kartozian / USA Today Sports)

In the cinematic masterpiece The Fast and the Furious, noted dramatic actor Vin Diesel notes “It don’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning’s winning.” The takeaway from that part of the film is that while it’s great to win in dominating or impressive fashion, ultimately all that matters is picking up the W. Winning pretty is good, but the standings don’t reflect the beauty of the wins – they simply tabulate the points.

The Flames picked up two points in rather ugly fashion tonight in Glendale, Arizona against the Coyotes. They weren’t very good, particularly defensively, for roughly 35 to 40 minutes. But they got some Johnny Gaudreau plays from their best player and timely goals and they won 2-1 in overtime.

THE RUNDOWN

This was a weird game. There were as many fights (three) as there were goals (three), despite these guys not really being traditional rivals. For the lack of offense, we’ll summarize the game in this fashion:

  • The Flames were bad in their defensive zone for roughly two-thirds of the game.
  • The Coyotes were inconsistent in all three zones for basically the entire game.
  • The fights came about due to some really disjointed physical play from each side; teams trying to spark their benches with big checks and ending up scrapping afterwards.

The Coyotes scored first off some very October Flames defense in the first; Chad Johnson made the initial save and seemed to lose track of the puck. He got tangled up with Mark Giordano going across his crease, the other four Flames stood around in confusion, and Max Domi scored on the wide-open net to make it 1-0.

The Flames tied the game up before the end of the period, though. On the power play, they had some nice puck movement and Giordano buried a feed from Gaudreau to make it 1-1. Shots were 9-9.

There was no scoring in the second and third periods. Shots were 15-8 Calgary in the second and 10-9 Arizona in the third. The Flames had the better chances, but couldn’t bury ’em. It went to overtime and Johnny Gaudreau had a few chances, then fed the puck to Dougie Hamilton…who slid through two defenders and beat Mike Smith for the winner. (Shots were 2-1 Calgary in OT.)

WHY THE FLAMES WON

To be blunt? They won because they’re better than the Coyotes.

The Flames were quite so-so for two periods, but they were good enough to not be losing despite their own gaffes and miscues in the defensive zone. Then they were able to turn it on late and let Gaudreau do his thing. It’s also quite helpful that they won the special teams battle, as they scored a PP goal and didn’t give up one to the Coyotes.

THE TURNING POINT

The Flames penalty kill midway through the third period (with T.J. Brodie in the box) was huge and gave the Flames momentum they never really frittered away. They pressed in the second half of the period and carried that swagger over to overtime.

(Secondary turning point: Johnson not leaving the game after getting hit around the collar-bone region with a hard shot in the third.)

RED WARRIOR

Gaudreau had two primary assists and was the most dangerous Flames player tonight.

Honourable mention to the entire 3M Line, who continue to be quite good, and Hamilton for the game-winner and a generally strong game.

THE NUMBERS

(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall.)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Tkachuk 77.4 12.5 1.535
Backlund 74.1 0.0 0.855
Frolik 64.3 0.0 0.475
Hamilton 61.1 66.7 1.800
Bennett 56.0 78.6 0.405
Gaudreau 53.3 83.3 1.800
Wideman 52.5 53.9 0.350
Jokipakka 50.0 42.9 0.350
Stajan 50.0 50.0 -0.010
Ferland 50.0 60.0 0.000
Brouwer 47.4 71.4 -0.050
Brodie 47.2 53.9 -0.075
Engelland 46.2 42.9 -0.075
Giordano 46.2 69.2 0.825
Chiasson 44.8 80.0 -0.290
Bouma 36.8 0.0 -0.200
Monahan 33.3 75.0 0.050
Hathaway 29.4 33.3 -0.050
Johnson 1.950

THIS AND THAT

For the fight fans: Lance Bouma fought Ryan White, Micheal Ferland fought Connor Murphy and Garnet Hathaway fought Max Domi. Domi never returned to the game after his scrap with Hathaway.

UP NEXT

The Flames (15-13-2) head back home tonight. They’re back in action on Saturday night for a tilt on Hockey Night In Canada against Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets.

  • CalgaryCandle

    PP and PK are now coming through on a regular basis.

    The Flames pressured particularly in the second but give Mike Smith credit, he stopped everything he saw. There certainly did not seem much room out there for either team Johnson, also was excellent again. The one goal was not his fault.

    Two games above 500! I don’t think we ever were that high in 15-16. We are certainly back in the playoff picture–now just need to play 6-4 for the balance of the season to get in.

    GFG!!

  • The GREAT WW

    Oilers 4 first overall picks:

    1: Larson; decent second pairing D.

    2: RNH; overpaid 3 C.

    3: third round pick and an ECHL dropout.

    4: McDavid; finally a top line player!!!!!

    WW

  • The Sultan

    Stick THAT in your pipe and smoke it Domi! Been waiting for a Flames player to lay a beat down like that since Gaudreau went down! I think Hathaway’s here to stay ladies and gentlemen!

  • The GREAT WW

    Oilers win their 4th draft lottery in 6 years:

    McDavid: “there is no way I’m playing in that sh!t hole!”

    Bettman: “if you play there for 3 years I guarantee you will get a trade out after….”

    McDavid: “if you really mean it, I will go to that crap hole…but only for 3 years…..”

    WW

  • The Sultan

    Stockton Heat win tonight 4-0 over the Barracuda tonight as well: Gillies with a 31-save shutout, Jankowski, Shinkaruk, and surprisingly Smith and Carroll with goals. Woop!

  • Arminius

    Corsi is great and all but when the game is on the line in ot Gaudreau looks at and than elects not to pass to Backlund entering the zone and passes to Hamilton instead. And than Hamilton goes hard to the net instead of dishing it to a open Backlund

    AKA when your 5% shooting percenTage works against you

    • cjc

      Huh? Corsi is pretty silent as to what you should do in a particular situation. It’s never used to decide who you should pass to – can you imagine the amount of information a player would need to hold in their head? Ditto for knowing each player’s individual S% (btw, Backlund shooting 5.6% this year, Hamilton 4.7%)

      Anyway, Hamilton and Backlund both rock above 50% corsi – Hamilton > than Backlund this year – so Gaudreau couldn’t go wrong really.

      AKA: When your argument doesn’t make any sense, and the numbers don’t back it up anyway.

        • cjc

          Career 8.7% – that is about league average. He is a bit low this year, but only a severely innumerate person would deny that there is year to year variation in shooting percentages.

          Look, everyone knows that the defensive side of Backlund’s game is where he excels. However, it’s not like he’s lost in the offensive zone.

          Since you seem to have figured out how to read Johnny Gaudreau’s mind, I shall defer to you henceforth.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Matty seems a bit snake bit over the last few games….he has unbelievable skill that even his DAd did not possess. Once he starts to burry some chances he is going to be scary good.

  • Prototype369

    To Gaudreau, 3 on 3 is about as demanding as a scrimmage. I’m exaggerating very little when I say that he skated around the coyotes players like they were pylons. His use of open ice is as unreal as it is unfair. Props to Dougie for recognizing the pass, and driving to the net with a simple deke and finish, and to Johnson for not halting play after a save

  • dontcryWOLF88

    I think hes referring to the fact that while Backlund has great corsi numbers partly by shooting a lot, he also is a more-or-less a career 5%er on those shots. Backlund is a hugely valuable player and no team wouldnt want him….but hes not the guy youre ideally looking to pass to for that overtime finish

    • DoubleDIon

      But he is the guy who can get the puck back when your skilled guys turn it over trying to make a play. He’s also the guy who makes your PK decent. The Flames when Frolik and Backlund aren’t on the ice during the PK are last in the NHL by a wide margin. He’s also your shutdown center who gives other guys the good ice and he’s good enough offensively to play in your top 6.

      Backlund is still underrated by many and not because of corsi. And he’s better than Tkachuk WW. So is Frolik.

      • freethe flames

        And so both Backlund and Frolik should be better than Tkachuk just based upon experience; that does not mean at the end of their respective careers that we will look back and say Backs or Frolik had better careers. All that matters right now is that they compliment each other and make the Flames better.

        I missed why Versteeg missed last night. Does anyone know the nature of the injury(upper body will be the official report); is it projected long term or is it short term?

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          The line of Backs,Frolik, and Matty was dominant last night. As good as Backs and Frolik has been, Matty has served up some elite play making for his wingers. He simply can do some things that even Johnny can’t.

    • cjc

      Backlund is a career 8.7% shooter, Hamilton at 5.8%. If it was all about S%, Gaudreau should have just carried it himself.

      Last year, Backlund had 2 overtime goals (second to JG’s 3 goals). Guess who connected with Backlund on both those goals?

      Last night Hamilton had a better read, he was moving, and it was a higher percentage pass for Gaudreau to make. Gaudreau didn’t look at Backlund and think “Backlund? You mean Mr. Stone Hands? no chance!” Were their spots switched Backlund probably would have scored.

      Backlund has great corsi numbers because he prevents other teams’ best players from shooting. He himself does not take a tonne of shots.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    As for Hamilton scoring…. id say its a badge of Flame fan pride to see Hamilton stepping up with consistency. Leafs want him now? …well thats got to cost more than a taylor hall then… by a fair bit these days.

  • Sporttracker99

    Good game boys. This is the team we thought we were getting from Lord Brad T. It appears the boys are buying into the new system, getting good goaltending our super stars playing like superstars and FINALLY our blue line producing points.

  • Derzie

    Here’s a tip: worshiping Corsi doesn’t make you smart. It proves the opposite. A point was made about Backlund’s finish (which is below average) and the yammering starts about his defensive play. Backlund & Frolik are a joy to watch on the PK just as JG and Dougie are a joy to watch on offense. That’s the point. Worship is blinding.

    • cjc

      Except that, in the context of the play being discussed, there is plenty of evidence that Backlund would have finished – without resorting to corsi as an explanation.

      That Hamilton scored the goal is fantastic. There was no need for @Arminius to take a pot shot at Backlund. Gaudreau made the right play, nobody would argue that. But that is simply because Hamilton was in a better position to score, not because he thought Backlund would duff the opportunity. As I mentioned earlier, Backlund scored twice in overtime last year off of a Gaudreau feed.

    • DoubleDIon

      Backlund was 32nd in center scoring last year. This narrative that he’s unable to produce offensively is just false. Switch him and Monahan out in terms of opportunity and I bet he outproduces Monahan offensively too. He’s a top end 2nd line center offensively despite being buried in his own end and playing 2nd PP. Put him with Gaudreau and give him the starts Monahan gets and he’d be score 60 points.

      I think Corsi is a deeply flawed stat btw. A shot by Backlund from the blueline that gets blocked isn’t the same as a shot from Monahan between the hashmarks. But zone starts, puck retrieval and moving it through the neutral zone are very important. Backlund does those things while getting absolutely buried and puts up excellent #2 centerman numbers while doing it. He’s our 2nd best forward and most people don’t know it.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Anybody who has played sports themselves knows there are different players who are good at different things. Ironically, I was a player much like Backlund in my AAA days. My finish sucked. I scored more than a few as a center, but my job was mostly keeping the puck out of our own net. Other guys were better at getting them in the other net.

    This doesn’t make Backlund a bad player, that’s just not what he does the best. Backlund having similar shooting % as defenceman is the proof. D-men make most of their shots from the point…EVERYONE has way lower numbers doing that. A quality forward finisher in the NHL is in the 12-14% range for shooting percentage.

  • Greatsave

    @Arminius @Derzie @dontcryWOLF88

    For the last time, Backlund shot 10.9% over 242 games between 2012-16. He is a career 8.7% shooter. I know you all wish it weren’t so, but the way you keep making claims that have no basis in reality, is starting to look rather sad.

    Does Backlund go stretches of games where he shoots below league average? Yes he does. So does Gaudreau.

    • dontcryWOLF88

      Listen, im not dissing Backlund. I dont think you understand my point at base level. Backlund has never been a goal fiend at any time, so I really dont know why this is something we need to debate. Dont compare backlund with gaudreau….they are very very different players

      • piscera.infada

        You keep attacking a claim that isn’t made. You said “Backlund has the career shooting percentage of a defenseman”, which is patently false. I’m not sure how much clearer he can be–he gave you the indisputable evidence that it’s not true.

        You are correct. He’s not the same player Gaudreau is. No one has said he is. In addition, no one has claimed Backlund is an elite finisher–so your point about the shooting percentage of “elite finishers” has no real bearing in this discussion.

        The claim however that in overtime of the game against Arizona, Gaudreau deferred a pass of equal quality to Backlund in favor of a pass to Hamilton, because Backlund “is incapable of finishing” (the claim that started this debate) is again, patently false. The play to Hamilton was simply the easier play, and the correct play given the positioning of three opposing skaters. Tough concept to grasp, I know.

        • dontcryWOLF88

          I think we are actually agreeing. Backlund scores his fair few, thats true. Hes just not the best finisher out there, and thats also true. But look at players like Getzlaf and Thorton…even Crosby in years past. Or Karlsson in Ottawa. Some guys are just better at setting up someone else, and thats like Backlund. Again, I am ABSOLUTELY NOT dissing Backlund. He is a great player, very valuable. I would have guessed his career percentage was lower than the 10% something mentioned here. Assuming thats true, thats not so bad. Not great, but not bad either.

          No real need for us to get confrontational here. If i had only 5 protections spaces in the upcoming draft I am pretty sure Backlund would be one of them. Maybe even in a top 3. Thats not something I would have said a few years ago for him though. He is 27-28 now so unlike some of the younger guys on the Flames we are comparing him to, he should be in the center of his prime now. That is also a factor here.