Ducks 3, Flames 1 post-game embers: Failure to adapt

The Flames had a big opportunity with this one. If they’d won in regulation, they would have been right up there with the Ducks in points percentage, and a real threat to get into the top three of the Pacific Division. And not by games played, as they were before – but for real.

Of course, that’s a bit of a tall order. The Ducks are a team filled with talented players that have often had the Flames’ number, that one 8-3 win aside. That order grew even taller when Calgary lost one of their best players to illness.

And still, they hanged in there for most of the game, at least in score. But only scoring one goal is going to hurt you more often than not, failing to capitalize on a two-on-zero is pretty awful, and your special teams simply can’t be that bad.

But at least it wasn’t a blowout.

Life without Hamiltons

No Freddie Hamilton is a given at this point. Would he really be worse than Garnet Hathaway’s allotted 6:47? Oh well.

No Dougie Hamilton, however, is the much bigger loss. The good news – he should be back. The bad news – well, you remember in 2014-15, when Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie were the Flames’ only reliable defencemen who could play big minutes? And the Flames desperately needed a top four guy, and they got him in the 2015 offseason? Yeah, this is what happens when you take him away.

Remember all that stupidity about trading Hamilton earlier in the season? This is what you get when you don’t have him in the lineup. Not pleasant, is it?

Without Hamilton, Brodie had to play 27:10, including nearly 10 minutes of special teams time. Giordano had to play 23:30. Deryk Engelland and Dennis Wideman had to play about 22 minutes each. Those two should not, under any circumstances, even be on this team next season, even for cheap; this is what the Flames have to deal with when one of their three good defencemen goes down and they have nobody else to replace him with.

You gotta think Wideman would have gotten more ice time if he hadn’t taken two penalties, too. (Limited sample size, naturally, but in 14:55 with Wideman, Brodie was a 28.57% 5v5 CF guy. Away from him, 100%.)

Please feel better soon, Dougie. Don’t leave us again like this. And please let the expansion draft hurry up already so the Flames’ bad contracts can expire and they can finish putting together a real top four.

Mikael Backlund, the ultimate warrior

I have never, ever fathomed how on earth it could possibly be that some people don’t like Mikael Backlund as a player.

It makes no sense. He’s so well-rounded, there’s a part of his game that should appeal to every single hockey fan. Does he put up points? At least half a point per game for five years now. Does he drive the play north? Yup. Make his linemates better? Literally everyone, all the time. Able to play in all situations? Yes. Gritty? He may not be a hitter (except last night, he had three), but you watch him on the penalty kill – especially that five-on-three against the Avalanche, which he is still in all likelihood hurting from, and in what world is that not gritty? He has even dropped the gloves in defence of his teammates before. Multiple times.

He may not be elite in every facet, but he basically embodies every single thing that’s fun and good about the game. Top that off with the blatant passion he displays on and off the ice night in and night out, and just, he’s everything there is to love about hockey.

Another goal last night, the Flames’ only one of the game. Third in ice time, behind just Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Played in all situations, the most-used forward on the penalty kill who continued to be a threat even then. Second in team scoring. Literally four shot attempts went against him at 5v5 the entire night. Probably not at 100%.

He’s just. Really, really good.

Fix your powerplay

Troy Brouwer is out for an extended period of time, and with it, so is a right shot on the powerplay.

Which is apparently crucial, if you’ll remember all the powerplay time Linden Vey got back when Kris Versteeg was out.

So… 5:30 for Alex Chiasson on the man advantage? Are you kidding me? More than everyone not named Brodie, Gaudreau, and Monahan? Seriously? Backlund, Sam Bennett, and Matthew Tkachuk gonna get snubbed like that? Michael Frolik and Micheal Ferland are RIGHT THERE, the hell with your right shot.

Geez I mean I’d probably prefer Wideman playing forward for that long on the man advantage over Chiasson if having a right shot is that important to you, at least he actually is just a powerplay specialist at this point in his career. What is this. Adjust your powerplay to the guys you have, don’t force inferior players in (and for five-and-a-half frickin’ minutes at that) because you just need to have your precious right shot and it couldn’t possibly work any other way. Get out of here with that nonsense.

I know it isn’t Chiasson’s fault the Flames couldn’t score on any of their four opportunities, but my god it’s probably trending towards excessive Chiasson on the man advantage for as long as Brouwer is out, and it’s probably going to be like this the entire time. 

Chiasson would make an absolutely fine fourth liner with great hustle and that’s about it. There is nothing wrong with that, except for when you refuse to acknowledge it and overmine the poor guy. Please learn to start adapting instead of trying to fit the square peg in a round hole, my god.

Penalties penalties penalties

The Flames remain the most penalized team in the NHL. Actually, at 12:14 PIM per games played, they’re the only ones north of 12 minutes; Arizona is second at 11:53, and they’re the second worst team in the NHL. It’s a pretty bad look.

The good news? The Flames’ penalty kill is still clicking at 80.7%. They’re the most penalized team in the NHL, but at least they don’t have the worst penalty kill, just the 12th worst. The bad news? That’s still not super great, and it’s evidently going to burn you.

The Flames still needed to do more, though. Not taking a single penalty still leaves this as a 1-1 game. That’s not good enough to win, obviously. It’s good enough to get you a loser point, but in a divisional game like this, winning in regulation is incredibly important, too.

And I agree, the reffing was really not up to par. Ryan Kesler is awful and the officials seriously have to do their jobs when it comes to players like him. There’s being an agitator, and then there’s committing actual infractions and putting players’ health in danger by pulling the nonsense he does. In what world did he play a clean, penalty-free game? Ugh.

But fact was, he kept doing it because it was working. At that point, you have to figure out what your priority is, what want to do. Do you want to make him, specifically, pay (and depending on how far you go, continue to put your team on the penalty kill, get suspended, or like… what, here, exactly), or do you want to put everything you have into ignoring his shenanigans and beating him on the scoreboard? The latter is preferred. Neither really happened.

Can you imagine having to live life as Ryan Kesler? Ugh no wonder he’s so awful

I think we could all use a little pick-me-up after that, so I’ll share my favourite Kesler memory. ‘Member Game 7 in 2011?

I ‘member.

  • Kevin R

    I’ve just given up on the officiating this year. Not sure how that wasn’t goalie interference, especially after watching hi lights of a few other games where goals were called off. We were almost positive they were going to call that goal off watching the replay on the Jumbo. Sick of this garbage. Then Kesler & perry to some extent were continually hacking & face washing Gaudreau. As long as Wideman is on this team forget about playoffs, the special teams are too critical & even if we did defy this hurdle & make it, I can imagine the horrible calls we are going to see in the playoffs.

    Ok, breathe :-{

    At this point I think Ferland should just knocked a few teeth out of Kesler mouth, he was getting a penalty anyways. But Ferlands presence was better than ever in these games. Protect this player in the expansion draft.

    Ok. I am really liking Backlunds game. Im a number cruncher & I really think you can’t spend too much on a 3rd shutdown line. I also am concerned Backlund will be 29 when we have to extend him to probably a long term (5-6 years) deal. Also, if he keeps this going this year & matches it next year as well, how does the number not begin with at least a 5 in front of it. So at his age I would expect his next contract is where we see regression to start. But he is so much better than a 3rd line centre. That line has been aces. Maybe keep them together. But what do we do with our young stud centres we expended 2 of the earliest draft picks in franchise history? Do you trade one? Or do we convert one to wing? I think Bennett has the wheels to be a #1 centre, he’s just struggling to get his swagger. Perhaps we move Monahan to RW, Bennett in the middle & Gaudreau on the left side & see how they do for the 2nd half of this year. Monahan is a sniper anyway, maybe it could work. I don’t know but with this reffing I am content to experiment for the 2nd half of this year.

  • Justthateasy

    Spengler Cup, now that’s great Hockey. Big ice, freewheeling, no mucking in the corners and safety of the players in mind.
    Who was the Russian that said “is boxing, no is hockey”???

  • Jakethesnail

    Big skilled teams are still the way to go in this conference. If you’re not big you need to be exceptionally skilled and we are neither at the moment.

    • Blackgold

      Exactly. Oilers got pushed around by California teams all the time. Now Sutter says they are one of the biggest teams. Quite a change in 1 year and size does matter. Mix that with skill and that is the ticket to winning in the west.

        • Blackgold

          McDavid is a game changer, but the Oilers are more than just him. Darrel Sutter, the great ex flames coach said they are a very good team and one of the biggest. They have a well rounded team and are well coached. Despite McDavid cooling off, they keep winning. It is great that the Flames have found a way back into the playoff picture, just don’t know if it sustainable with GG as the coach.

  • snotss

    don’t want to beat a dead horse here…but come on the officiating is dreadful…pathetic…a joke really…no matter what bt says in public he must now see a troubling trend in puzzling calls every game…take the fine bt and tell the nhl what you honestly think or maybe burke can make himself useful and go into one of his rants!!!!! p.s flames do take bad penalties{Bennett} and get rid of wideman a.s.a.p. please p.s how do you blow a two on nothing big turning point of the game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! why not Elliot in net?????tight pacific race can’t have to many games like that……

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I am not sure how this loss can be hung on Johnson. He consistently hangs in there until Calgary can get the first goal while Elliott has not been able to do this. Johnson let some long rebounds out but it never really cost him. I noticed that both Gio and Ferland had numerous shifts of giving the puck away. The turning point was the 2-0….score on that and we likely win the game 2-1 or at least assure ourselves a point.

  • Deef

    Was an entertaining game, even if Calgary got shafted with the officiating. And they were playing really good in the first half.

    Regardless, you don’t win if you don’t score. That 2 on 0 short hander miss was a game killer.

  • RedMan

    there is nothing wrong with going for an elbow to the face of Gaudreau…

    but heaven forbid you knock the stick out of the hands of the guy that elbowed him after the whistle…

    the NHL better crack down hard on this stick work and protect the guys that do the classic elbow to the face!

    honestly, for the first time in years, i have started turning games off and am finding a lot more time to do other things. o use getting frustrated over the ridiculous and obvious game management the league is imposing with their officiating.

    that Bettman is driving a punishment for the wideman debacle is obvious.

  • piscera.infada

    I (personally) won’t say officiating played a massive role in the game last night insofar as the penalties. Idealistically yes, that game was called strangely. The Flames were pushed around for the majority of the game with borderline play by the Ducks. When the Flames responded they were penalised in situations the Ducks weren’t. I mean, I can live with that I guess, knowing the reality of how the game is called. The Flames are going to have to learn how to play cleanly through that–part of the “growing process”, and yada, yada.

    My biggest issue with the game vis-a-vis officiating illustrates the massive issue I have with the NHL’s coaching challenge system. That first goal was borderline goalie interference–I understand how the call stood, with a goal called on the ice. The third goal however, was not borderline–that was (emphatically) goalie interference. There was no chance for Johnson to make the save, and when he tried to, Vermette was blatantly pushing him backwards into the net.

    The problem I have here, is again, it should not be incumbent on the coach to make sure the calls are correct. If the entire reasoning for a coaches challenge is to make sure crucial plays in a game are called correctly, I don’t see how you can reconcile the fact that a lost challenge on what was a fairly borderline (to steal an NFL reference “in-conclusive”) ruling, thus making it impossible to correct a more grievous call later on, is ludicrous to me.

    And yes, that third goal could have been reviewed. The problem with coaches challenges, is that the burden of responsibility gets shifted to the “aggrieved” coach, when it should be squarely on the officials and the league to ensure the call is correct. It becomes a reactive argument from the league–“well, they already challenged and lost”–when “getting calls right” should be entirely proactive.

    Full candour here, I’m a proponent of the human element with regard to officiating. I’m personally just fine with missed calls in principle–yes, it sucks when they affect your team, but take the good with the bad, I guess… The issue though, is that you’re making a stand to “get it right” in the face of that, but your system of doing so makes it harder to uphold those standards the system attempts to ensure. It’s inherently problematic because if you want the right calls, don’t pigeon-hole the remedy.

  • PlacidSeanMonahan

    I was at the game and watched it.

    I think I’m done with anything Ari writes as her observations are only negative, even when the Flames win.

    Everyone complained about the power play, then they fixed It and it was #1 in the NHL for the last month, and now you want them to completely change everything they have been succeeding with instead of just plugging in a similar player?

    I’m bored with writing, and so must Ari be as she insists on posting the same whiny article with a different headline each time.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah… it’s free… blah blah blah… whatever.

    Most of the time I just come here to read the comments anyway, but judging by how the comments sections have been shrinking. I guess that most of us are tired of the content on Flamesnation.

    See ya

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    One of the biggest differences that I have seen from the team this year, is thatJohnny is creeping up to be a point per game player again this year but he is not showing that game breaking ability like in the past. He does not seem to feel confident in his shot like he used to and is electing to pass.

    If you look at his points this year very few come from his current linemates…that should say something. Put Johnny with Backland and Frolik so that he spends more time in the offensive zone and can get back to being the target guy.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Lack of game breaking ability is absolutely tied to his linemates. If the two of them can’t score on a 2-0 breakaway, then something is wrong with one or both. Johnny uses both, and rarely gets an assist. Bennett is showing that he doesn’t trust Chaisson by hanging onto it too long.

      I would be inclined to put Johnny back with Versteeg and Monahan. That gives Johnny a skilled wonger, a la Hudler, that can actually put the puck in the net. And occasionally pass to an open player. Ferland could slot in with Bennett. I really don’t have much use for Chaisson as an offensive player. He’s been good on the PK or adding some grit. Better used as a 4th liner, IMHO.

      Oh, and playing Bouma and Hathaway in the same game is pointless. Literally.

    • 3 Little Birds

      “He does not seem to feel confident in his shot like he used to and is electing to pass.”

      Kids acting like he just had a broken thumb.

      Oh, wait, he did.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        Great use of quotations to emphasize your point, however he was not doing much shooting before his injury. Goaltenders are playing him to pass or deke primarily.

  • Derzie

    Article is a perfect summary of the game. We need Dougie. Backlund has arrived. Chiasson & handedness are hallmarks of GG’s weaknesses. Ducks are human garbage. Refs are inept and the league does nothing about it. It’s going to take a team with guts to leave the ice when refs irreparably botch a game. Make a statement, fines be damned. Let our star get hacked and award goals that shouldn’t count? We’ll give sportscenter a highlight to remember by putting our suits on and going home.Maybe then Bettman will wake up and realize the game depends on letting skill do its thing.

  • ginganinja

    The Flames may get penalised the most, but they also get the 5th most powerplays. Can’t exactly blame EVERY loss on officiating which is what I see here after every bad result.

  • amaninvan

    Why won’t Brodie shoot the puck? On the powerplay, he makes great passes and is great with keeping the play alive, but negates himself offensively by constantly looking to dish it off. The Ducks were content to give him all the time and space he wanted at the point, realizing his reluctance to shoot means no one has to cover him. Surprise us all, shoot the darn puck once in a while!

  • DJ_44

    As a Canucks fan that always enjoyed reading FN for intelligent articles and comments I have to chime in.

    I watched the game last night, and most flames games this year (thank you GameCenter Live). I recommend you back off on the “Flames get screwed by the officials” crap that has creep in to you psyche ….. from an neutral observer, this is not the case. Despite the Rick Ball/Kelly Hrudy drivel you are subjected to on a nightly basis …. the officiating is not against the flames. Kesler is a master at what he does. He is a prick of the highest order, coupled with one of the best centers in the game. The Flames did not convert on their chance the Ducks did (what a shot by Silvferberg).

    Watching the Flames play on their winning streak and last night had nothing to do with officiating…. aside from Backlund’s line, there was not really of an effort. That and the Duck are a good team.

  • Just.Visiting

    I agree with the comments about the PP. I would actually have Tkachuk on the first unit with Monahan and Gaudreau to play the body in front of the net role.

    If they had chemistry, I’d put them on the same line and move Ferland onto the 3M line, as he would be a great fit there and has earned the ice time.

    For context, Tkachuk played RW in junior and did just fine with it and has shown that he is quite adept at adapting his game.

    The other option would be to move JG to the right side, as he plays more of a rover style anyway and this offers more access to the centre of the ice for options to move to the net or to pivot for set up of either the defence or the other forwards. This would also see him passing to the ideal side for Monahan and Tkachuk, where he is a deadly passer.

    Seems to work for the Hawks, where both Kane and Panarin play the off wing on the same line.

    Given we’re at most a bubble team at the moment, I don’t see what we have to lose by giving it a try.

    The idea of having these three on the same line with one playing the off wing might actually warrant its own article?

    Happy New Year’s to all.