Flames 3, Sharks 2 post-game embers: That’s more like it

Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

Even if the Flames had lost, that would have been a pleasing game to watch.

Did they play at their best for a full 60 minutes? No, they did not – but they played a far more complete game than their previous two. A not-so-hot first led to pretty good second and third periods, and combined with some timely (and, honestly, unnecessary) stops from their goaltender, the Flames were able to pull out a win.

A regulation win. Over a division rival. They probably won’t be competing with the Sharks for a playoff spot – the Sharks are, well, good, and should be a favourite to win the division for a reason – but that was a statement game.

It was against a tired opponent down a player for clerical reasons, but it was still against a superior opponent. And they didn’t just hang in there: they won.

Thank you, Chad Johnson

Aaron Dell had a pretty good performance, but Chad Johnson was undeniably the best goalie on the ice. Of the 27 shots he faced, one was a penalty shot late in a tied game that had the chance to be a total backbreaker; the last one, a last-second chance to tie the game shorthanded.

It’s that last one that cannot, under any circumstances, be allowed to happen.

You can make the argument that the Flames shouldn’t have been put in that position to begin with, that Johnny Gaudreau should have been awarded an empty netter rather than seeing his team go on the powerplay, but things like Mikkel Boedker’s last chance have been an ongoing problem for this team.

It’s been discussed before: the Flames have gotten sloppy at the end of blowouts, conceding goals for no real reason. The one saving grace to those game endings? They had built up a big enough of a lead that it didn’t matter.

This time, it mattered.

That would have been one way to completely sully a night in which the team built up a hell of a lot of good will. This… this has to stop happening. 

On the bright side, I can understand the lack of urgency from learning about preventing this stuff at the end of blowouts. This time, though? Way, way, way too close for comfort. If Boedker’s final scoring chance doesn’t drill this into their heads, nothing will.

Johnson was buying his teammates bottles of wine after shutouts; now it’s time they buy him something nice.

The only line worth a damn

Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, and Michael Frolik created all three goals for the Flames. Nobody else really did anything of note.

Well, that’s a bit of a lie. Matt Stajan had a good chance. Gaudreau continued to do Gaudreau things. Even Garnet Hathaway fantastically crashing the net (and then bleeding his own blood) led to something.

It’s just those are all minor, one-off instances, and the 3M line was the only one that was a consistent threat, with at least one of them involved in every goal the Flames scored.

Even just look back to the Flames’ second goal of the night. The Flames finally got a powerplay to work with, and they squandered it immediately. The unit out there couldn’t make clean passes, couldn’t get it on net, were forced to retrieve the puck.

Right up until Glen Gulutzan finally decided to put the first powerplay unit out there, and Tkachuk scored instantly.

The 3M line, with Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton backing them up, should be the Flames’ first powerplay unit. They’re the only ones really doing much of anything nowadays, Gaudreau’s attempts to contribute aside.

They weren’t the top corsi players this game, no, true – but they didn’t have the benefit of the 80% offensive zone starts that Gaudreau did. Meanwhile, if you want a big ol’ “yikes” regarding zone starts: Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg had 75% offensive zone starts. They were the second and third worst corsi players on the Flames. Bennett was at 37.04%. Things are pretty bad right now.

The Flames are a one-line team, and that line is Backlund’s.

And your top scorers are…

Considering the previous section, this should come as no surprise.

Backlund leads the way with 29 points. Gaudreau and Tkachuk are tied for second with 27. Frolik and Hamilton are tied for third with 25.

There are your top five scorers on this team: one line, an All-Star who has a penchant for making something out of nothing (and really shouldn’t be counted out, even as he continues to go scoreless), and that young defenceman Toronto thought would be traded based on literally nothing.

On the one hand, it’s great news. Tkachuk is 19 years old, Gaudreau and Hamilton are 23. They’re young! Some of the Flames’ top pieces have so many more years ahead of them.

On the other hand, it’s a little distressing regarding Bennett and Sean Monahan. It’s not the end of the world; they’re young, too, but they were expected to play bigger roles this season. Especially Monahan, considering his contract.

Life without Micheal Ferland

The Flames lost Micheal Ferland late in the second period, and so had to make due without him throughout the third.

Gaudreau was, unsurprisingly, a beneficiary, playing 7:56 in the frame: the most out of all the Flames’ forwards. And that’s the guy you always want to double shift, anyway: say what you will about the Flames’ top line (and we are all saying a lot), but Gaudreau is still probably the most dangerous player on this team. 

That said, Lance Bouma got quite the notable bump, too. He played 5:29 in the third period, whereas his linemates Stajan (2:39) and Hathaway (2:12) were left on the bench (when they weren’t getting extra time with Gaudreau, that is). Hathaway not seeing as much ice is understandable; Stajan is the better player, but the Flames lost a winger, not a centre.

Anyway, this probably won’t come as a surprise, but for all their recent struggles, Bennett and Versteeg were better with Ferland on their line than Bouma. At this stage of the game, it should be readily apparent that Bouma has hit his ceiling as a fourth liner.

No more words needed

  • Deef

    What was Hamilton doing in those last 10 seconds? Chatting with the bench? Talking about his game winning goal? Holy Hell that could have been really REALLY bad!

    • Lucky 13

      Funny comment.. Not sure why you’re picking on Hamilton though?

      Tkachuk had the puck on the right side and if you were watching, Hamilton was where he should have been, on the right side along the boards to accept the pass.

      Giordano was on the left side and should have been aware of Boedker’s position. It was his responsibility to watch the middle of ice and should have been outside the blue line roving. Gio’s gaffe, not Hamiltons.

      Anyway, I’m just happy we won and Johnson was magical.. Magic Johnston?already taken, how about Chad “the rock” Johnson..

      Thanks Ari for putting that picture/ video up of Backlund and Hamilton!!

  • everton fc

    This may get multiple thumbs down… But w/Ferland out, I’d like to see Klimchuk get some games up here, as he plays LW. Heck, we could use his offence, if he can produce. Or, this may be Jankowski’s opportunity centring Bennett. I’d be okay with this, as well.

    Of course, Versteeg can be swapped to that side, as we have Freddie/Chiasson/Hathaway to use on the RW. But that’s a mighty thin right side, though I always felt Hathaway could provide some offence, if moved up to a 3rd line role.

    We shall see. Ferland’s a big loss, if out for a long period of time.

    • Parallex

      This circles back to the WWYDW regarding Bennett. They can either move Bennett to wing and call up a Center (i.e. Jankowski) or they can call up a winger (Klimchuk would be my preference if it’s a cup of coffee recall, Shinkaruk if it’s a longer recall).

      Ultimately, Brouwer is close so I wouldn’t bet on anyone being recalled.

      In either event I’d really really really like to see Chiasson bumped down in the line-up. He’s not a talent that should play that high in the rotation. Put Versteeg out there with Johnny & Sean if there’s anyone that can be a Hudler 2.0 for those two on the team right now it’s Versteeg.

  • TheGirlOutWest

    25.1 Awarded Goal – A goal will be awarded to the attacking team when the opposing team has taken their goalkeeper off the ice and an attacking player has possession and control of the puck in the neutral or attacking zone, without a defending player between himself and the opposing goal, and he is prevented from scoring as a result of an infraction committed by the defending team.

    57.4 Awarded Goal – If, when the opposing goalkeeper has been removed from the ice, a player in control of the puck (or who could have obtained possession and control of the puck) in the neutral or attacking zone is tripped or otherwise fouled with no opposition between him and the opposing goal, thus preventing a reasonable scoring opportunity, the Referee shall immediately stop play and award a goal to the attacking team.

    So, explain this please? Gaudreau shafted?

  • CalgaryCandle

    Nice to see Johnson baling out the Flames once again like during the six game winning streak. Arguably he’s been the best Flames the last three games he started. GG clearly trusts him more than Elliot.


  • Arminius

    That’s more like it yes. But were it not for Johnson we’d have lost to a tired Sharks team playing Aaron Dell. Lucky to get the result and now to take advantage of a Devils team on a b2b Friday and than the Coilers.

    • redwhiteblack

      3M + Chad and a few others playing really well. Monahan not working to the level of that contract. He was so money in the past. What appears to be his new norm is not good enough.

      A lot of this game is mental. Hope he can figure it out because if he does the playoffs and beyond are more likely. Be fun to see him ignite again but it is concerning how different he seems out there now consistently.

      • Baalzamon

        to be fair to Monahan and Gaudreau, both of them are shooting well below established career norms (and Backlund is shooting well above his).

        Gaudreau and Monahan are both shooting just over 10%, and Backlund just under 12%. By the end of the year, Backlund will probably be back under 11%, and Gaudreau and Monahan will probably be up to 12%.

  • Greatsave

    I know it’s in style to blame every bad call on refs and Wideman, but in this case I think the refs were justified to not give the automatic goal.

    If you looked at the replays, you’ll see that Burns was closer to the empty net than Gaudreau was, and even though Burns wasn’t in the shooting lane yet he was diving to get there. So technically I think the refs have reason to not give an automatical goal based on the “without a defending player between himself and the opposing goal” clause.

    It’s just bad luck for Gaudreau that he pinged it off the far post. Given that Burns still couldn’t reach it, it would have been a sure goal if Gaudreau had just managed to direct it slightly to the right.