One of the teams in this game played the night before. One of them is in the bottom 10, league-wide. One of them is nowhere near a playoff spot.
That’s the team that won.
These are the ones you have to have
There’s absolutely no excuse for the Flames losing this one, for pretty much all the reasons said above. Of course, you give the New Jersey Devils credit – and you recognize that they’re still an NHL team. They may not be a good one, but they belong in this league. And there aren’t any guaranteed wins, as the Flames are increasingly finding out.
See, here’s the thing: that’s two of the Flames’ past three games that they’ve lost.
And a loss to the Sharks would have been understandable. They’re one of the better teams in the NHL. But losing to the Jets – especially after they lost one of their top scorers – was a problem. And this loss to the Devils only cements it.
It’s the way they’re losing. The game against the Jets was pathetic. They rebounded against a good team. And they then went back to same old, same old against the Devils.
If anything is going to kill the Flames this year, it’s inconsistency. They aren’t going to win every game they, in theory, should – but that’s four points left on the table. They’re still in contention to be a top three team in the division, but every time they supply an effort like that, it slips further and further away.
They have more games like that coming up next week, too: they’re barely above the Florida Panthers in the standings, and the Nashville Predators have just passed them in points percentage. They have to be better against these teams. Otherwise, they can kiss the postseason goodbye, and they’ll have nobody but themselves to blame.
Unacceptable, especially in the first
The Flames had a 5v5 CF of 21.43% in the first period.
They had a bad start against the Sharks as well, but were able to come back against that team’s backup goaltender. They weren’t able to do that against the Devils.
And lo and behold: the Devils’ only two goals came in the first, during which time the Devils out-corsied the Flames 22-6 at 5v5.
Process that for a moment. The Flames, rested, came out against a team that played in overtime the night before and got outplayed. Handily. Embarrassingly. And it directly cost them the game.
And throughout the game – but especially at the start – they had a problem generating anything. They couldn’t enter the zone (and when they did, it was usually just one line actually able to do it, no guesses as to which one) (same applies to when the powerplay switched units; only one unit looked occasionally threatening). They overpassed the puck. They barely challenged Keith Kinkaid, and it took them well into the game to even tie the Devils in shots.
When your fourth line is probably your best line, chances are pretty good you’re not going to win.
The one time Sean Monahan is visible…
Sean Monahan broke an 11-game goalless drought. He now has 11 goals on the season, which is tied with Michael Frolik for second on the team.
He has 24 points total, which is sixth on the Flames. During that 11-game goalless drought, he had four assists.
Remember at the start of the season, when people were freaking out over Johnny Gaudreau not living up to his contract? (And in fairness, since his point streak was snapped, he’s had just five points in the past 11 games, and three of them came in one game.) Where’s the freak out over whether Monahan is living up to his? Because he isn’t.
Quite frankly, outside of the 3M line, Dougie Hamilton, and Chad Johnson, it’s difficult to be satisfied with any Flames performances as a whole this season. Those five alone have been good enough to vault the Flames up into playoff contention in a weak conference. At least one of the other top three lines absolutely has to start showing up, and the sooner the better.
Chad Johnson: the hero this team doesn’t deserve
The Devils had 17 high danger corsi events to the Flames’ seven. They had multiple scrums around the Flames’ net – flurries of chances within seconds – and Johnson was able to hold the fort each time. Quite frankly, the 2-1 final flatters the Flames, and it’s pretty much all thanks to Johnson.
He stopped 34 of 36 shots, good for a .944 save percentage. In his past four starts – since he got the net back from Brian Elliott – he’s had save percentages of .966, .926, .926, and last night’s .944. He’s only won two of those games, but he’s deserved far better fates in the two he lost (again – that Jets game and now this Devils game the Flames absolutely needed to have). It all comes back to the Flames skaters not showing up for the games they absolutely have to have if they hope to be a playoff team.
That said, Johnson’s excellent stretches are more plentiful and memorable than Elliott’s have been. Here’s to him keeping it up. We’re over halfway through the season now and it seems all but certain he’ll be the one sticking beyond this year.
How much of this past week has been the Flames playing to the levels of their opponents?
Two teams below them in the standings; two horrific games. One team at the top of their division; a fantastic effort that yielded a win.
These Oilers are not the Oilers of the past decade. (Acquiring a generational talent is good for turning things around when absolutely nothing else has worked.) So do the Flames play up to their level today? They can’t be happy with their performance against the Devils; combine that with the fact that the game against the Oilers is far more meaningful (divisional rival they’re in direct competition with for a playoff spot), and you would think it should be a good effort.
At the very least, one better than the way the Flames debuted the season. They’ve had 40 games to get used to their new coach’s system. We’ve seen flashes of fantastic play from them over that time. It should be a completely different matchup this time around.
Or you would hope so. It’s time for them to show their worth – again.