Devils 2, Flames 1 post-game embers: Not good enough

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.

A battle

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.

  • MontanaMan

    Two key players and what to do to get them going: 1) Gaudreau; 2) Gio. Both have been terrible and Gaudreau must lead the team in giveaways. If GG can’t get the two of them going, the team will be sellers at the deadline and top five selectors at the draft.

    • The GREAT WW

      And Monahan….and Brodie……there is a long list of players playing like crap under GG (all top 9 forwards except those lucky enough to play with Chuk).

      Unfortunately outstanding goaltending from time to time is keeping GG around….

      WW

      • Trevy

        I have to agree…I’ve been preaching this for weeks that the inconsistency of this seasons Flames is what’s going to do them in and fall short of the playoffs. Contributing to this fact is the play of our core players, Mony, Gio, Brodie, Bennett and to a degree Johnny G. We seem to be a one line team while the rest seem lost with no direction.

        As much as I hate to lay blame, you have to direct some if not most to GG. He actually has done an admirable job staying the course from that dreadful start to climbing back up to respectability, however it’s his job and the rest of the coaching staff to keep the drive, motivation, determination and focus embedded into his players brains. This is what separates the great coaches from the good coaches. He’s learning as much as these young players and unfortunately, that is reflective of our play at times. We’re not expected to win every game, but the effort should be there every single game, no excuses. I sometimes question our talent, are they actually good enough, have they reached their peak or just a wall, it’s all too hard to tell, but seeing the way they’ve been playing has me worried at times. You sometimes start to wonder how this team would perform with a Boudreau or Babcock behind the bench.

        Bottom line, I’ve been a Flames fan since they moved to Calgary and always will be, but I truly don’t see them as a playoff team this season, at least not until I see a true identity emerge of a young, talented, hard working team game in and game out. Finishing the season in the middle of the pack spells failure to me, given the talent we have. Hopefully tonight’s game will be a wake up call..

  • Ole YELLEr

    Pretty well the only positive I can get out of the Flames “effort” in that game is they shouldn’t be tired for todays game after doing so much nothing yesterday.

  • Brownblazer

    Gaudreau is not looking good lately- not nearly as dangerous (esp. as last year). Not sure what it is … is it the big contract, coaching system, teams knowing how to play him? The one thing that makes me question his effort level is his current lack of back checking. When he first came into the league that is what I noticed he did differently than other small players and I knew he would stick and have success in the NHL. He was a relentless back checker who would pick the pocket (often) of an unsuspecting player with the puck from behind.

    When is the last time we saw Gaudreau do that? Where’s the effort? Maybe he’s pacing himself for the long NHL season, maybe coach says don’t waste your energy on that etc? I don’t know, but I have a feeling that is a part of his game that energizes the rest of his play (ie like Iginla needing to be physically engaged in a game to wake him up).

    • BlueMoonNigel

      TROLL!!!

      No real Flames fan would ever question the effort of the face of the franchise.

      Go crawl back under the rock you and your stinking half-pint jagoffs occupy.

      • Kevin R

        I’m a Flames fan & I think there is something wrong with our top players. I don’t know what it is, They don’t look the same, something is missing. There is no chemistry except that 3M line & you know what, that 3M line is having fun playing together. Gaudreau & Monahan used to have fun playing out there, you could see it. Bennett used to dangle, agitate & have a lot of cocky moments, I don’t see that this year. Have no idea whats going on with Brodie. Our possession numbers are up and everyone is thrilled about that, but this team hasn’t been anywhere close to the enjoyment of watching them compared to the last 2 years. Down 2-0 used to be no problem. How can our young up & coming team play like an old team so quick?

        So, something has to give. Is it the players or the coach or both? I’m giving this team & coach a chance & a pass this year because I think the expansion draft is preventing teams to make moves, we have some anchor contracts coming off & we had some early distractions to our top players (injury/contract) & truly believe we are getting the penalties/no penalties shaft from the Wideman effect. A lot of bitterness in the official ranks that Henderson’s career is done, missing two vertebrae’s in his neck & Wideman was given back his $$$. See a Blog of Paul Stewart if you don’t think this is just conspiracy theory. Wideman is un-tradeable Thing is, I won’t be so understanding next year. If we are looking like the same lost no chemistry group even though the possession game numbers are there by November next year, Treliving has some decisions. If this is the coach he envisioned, he will have to make some significant changes to the core. Otherwise he need to get a coach that knows how to get his top money players to have fun & be successful.

        • Brent G.

          I think you summed up my thoughts very well. Thank you!

          After last nights game all I wonder is why this team seems to consistently pull the disappearing act. Other than that one lucky playoff bound year, they have been inconsistent. For some reason I keep going into a game with optimism they will play like we all know they can, but deep down I know it probably won’t happen.

          Maybe it is fun that is lacking. Sign a big contract, expectations increase and suddenly this is a job. I think Calgary doesn’t presently have enough talent so teams can shut him down. To me he often has the body language of a discouraged player because it is him trying to make one man show it this year. One of Monahan or Bennett needs to figure this out and preferably both. That will create noticeable results.

          • Kevin R

            Well look at the Leafs. They have some real talented young players that are kissing the ice because of the opportunity to play in the NHL. They had zero expectations going in & a goalie that is playing lights out & keeping them in games & covering for any mistakes they make. They so look like the Flames young team in 2014. Problem with success comes expectation. The thing I think the Leafs have going for them is they have a coach like Babcock that will get these guys to that next level of playing consistent when it’s not so much fun because the rest of the league are on to what they bring. That’s what happened to Gaudreau. He’s getting shut down & he’s getting frustrated. But the problem is, when he carries the puck in, even I know he’s going to curl & feather a nice soft pass to a trailing d-man. The opposition are literally anticipating this & are picking off his passes & often getting 10-bell scoring chance the other way. I’ve been preaching about throwing Bennett/Monahan & Gaudreau onto 1 line & just cut them loose, try to have some fun. They all are very talented players, maybe something clicks. I don’t know anymore.

        • HockeyRulz

          Maybe since he got his hand broken, he’s a little gun shy. The NHL needs to protect their stars. Which looks like they don’t care. Baffles me that they wouldn’t.

          Flames need some players who will use some force when these certain plays happen.

          I have seen a huge difference in the oilers since they have added a ton of grit.

          • Kevin R

            I have a few Oiler fan buddies & we all agree the Oilers play a much heavier game. Personally, with all the talent they were able to draft, they should have been a playoff team long time ago. I wouldn’t call there blue line anything special but they are playing like a true NHL defensive unit & are seeing the results of that. Flames need a little more heavier talented players. I was hoping for Brouwer to come in play a part of that & I think in the long haul he will. I had also hoped Ferland could have stepped up into a top 6 role & be our younger version Lucic. Maybe he still can but he just doesn’t seem to get much of a chance to do so. This friggin league does not come anywhere close to protecting its stars. & they don’t allow the teams to properly protect them either.

            Officiating just stinks. Just one simple example of consistency is the penalty Wideman got for a pretty marginal hold on the Jersey player that was dashing by him like usual. Yeah, I didn’t like the call but he did reach up & grab the guys shoulder. But in the final minute Monahan was going for the puck in the corner & got head locked by the defender & nothing. So what’s penally & what isn’t? I get it, they are human & miss some calls but I’m see this game after game after game. Tired of it.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I am a big admirer of Johnny but there is something missing this year. He seems to be a real sulky player this year, and it started when things didn’t go well at the end of a World Cup game when he left the ice by himself at the whistle. I saw the same thing in the game against the Sharks where he was frustrated at the end of the second period and went out a different exit. His body language is horrible.

      My concern with Johnny is that he is playing like he has nothing to play for anymore. The tiny Dynamo beat all odds to play at a high level in the NHL and was rewarded with a fat contract. Players need to stay hungry and have a fear of losing ice time, being demoted, or being called out or benched.

      I am sure that Johnny feels he needs to play with better player but great players like Crosby can still make it work with support players like Sheary.

      I love the guy but he needs to man up and get back to enjoying the game that has treated him very well.

      • MontanaMan

        I agree 100%. He’s a great hockey player and has skills with the best, but the intangibles concern me. Not a leader and not wearing a letter (unlike Monahan), complains way too much to the refs, selfish and appears to sulk when things don’t go his way. My first sign was his reaction to signing the contract extension – noticeably underwhelming enthusiasm. Will he be the next Trouba and demand a trade to a US based Eastern team?

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          Yes, if we go back to the interview on a Philly radio station where he expressed his desire to end his career playing closer to home…..was a big red flag. He really has not endeared himself to the fans since the signing and that won’t change if he doesn’t up his give a shit meter. The fans want to embrace him and give him the key to the city….now it is up to Johnny.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        What a load of horse bleep!

        So what you’re saying is that players, no matter if they are a rookie or a 10-year vet, should always play with fear knowing that a dip in their play–who cares for what reason–must result in punitive measures? The only way to keep a guy hungry in his work is to put the fear of losing his job front and centre, eh?

        Gee, do I ever want to work for you! Always better to be feared than loved, right?

        My guess is that if you are employed, it is marginally and you are one of the biggest slackers in your POE yet you are one of the loudest to proclaim how hard you work and how others, particularly management types, are always doing the pooch.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          Wow cool your jets Mrs. Gaudreau! Not that I need to explain myself to yo, I will do so in simple terms for your understanding. If a player loses his hunger that he has developed pushing himself to play at every level he needs to continue to seek out motivation. For young unestablished players, it is sometimes the fear of being demoted. All you have to do is look at how players like Johnny and Tkachuk have never looked back after stints in the press box.

          Now off you go back to your room to continue your Warcraft video in Grandma’s basement. No need to send your resume.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    The boyz in the post-game show were giddy about Chad’s performance last night saying that he kept the Flames in all night. Fair enough, but keeping your team in the game all night is not the same as stealing a win. Yet again Johnson failed to steal a win for his team. That is unacceptable for a middling team like the Flames who need points however they can get them.

    As I said last weekend, from that time until the end of the season, or at least until the Flames are still in the playoff hunt, count how many wins Johnson and Elliott steal and then you will know whether to extend either or perhaps both.

    Johnson would have been good enough last night if he had been playing for the Caps or Jackets but not for the Flames.

  • freethe flames

    I was at the game last night watching from the nose bleeds(or at least trying to between the drunks standing up to get more beer all the time). The best line was the Stajan Line as at least they played with energy; they should have more ice time with less going to the Monny and Bennett lines. At the Backs line has chemistry and should be the first PP unit. If these team plays like this going forward they will not remain in the playoff hunt for long.

  • snotss

    the flames are a mess…try and explain the effort the flames put forward in the two loses to lower ranked teams than them….a tight western conference and the four points they just threw away are a recipe for disaster{no playoffs}.the oilers will crush the flames if they play the same way earlier this week{jets devils}.good effort against the sharks but with all the good feeling after that win the flames drop a stinker against the devils…hopefully the flames don’t miss the playoffs by four points…I would not be surprised

  • Backburner

    I was at the game last night, just a few observations:

    Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett both really look lost out there, they need help. The Flames could really use a top line scorer, bad.

    Tkachuk, Gio, and Johnson are good, really good.

    Wideman is brutal. He can’t leave soon enough. Brodie needs help.

    Nothing new, just venting my frustrations here..