Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports
Good news! The Calgary Flames now have a goal differential of -3. That’s fifth in the Pacific, and eighth in the West – which is certainly much better than when they were near last.
Unfortunate news! They still haven’t had a positive goal differential all season. But their latest two games have left a lot to like, and against the Panthers, the dam broke and the goals finally came back.
If they can keep this up, they’ll get there. There’s reason to believe in them.
Corsi% last ten games, Calgary’s over 54%. #allin
— Travis Yost (@travisyost) January 18, 2017
For once, no thanks to the goalie
Chad Johnson would only give up two goals, but they were both pretty bad ones to give up.
Sure, you can blame the breakdowns that led to them, and indeed they played a part. Especially on Vincent Trocheck’s second goal, which saw an ill-timed Dougie Hamilton pinch leaving Mark Giordano having to defend against an entire line.
But Giordano isn’t the last line of defence; Johnson is, and he got beat twice in the exact same spot on goals he really had no excuse to let in. Compound that with just how well Brian Elliott played against the Oilers on Saturday and, well… was starting him the right call?
In the end, they won once the 3M line broke out. But I think there are a couple of things Johnson’s performance last night reminded us of:
- The Flames have two good goalies.
- We can’t discount Elliott’s superior career history.
It’s easy for me to say in hindsight, but maybe the Flames should stick with the hot hand. No matter what, though, you hope they get it right for the next games: because those matches against the Nashville Predators (who fell out of a playoff spot in points percentage with a loss to the Canucks) and Edmonton Oilers coming up are extremely important.
The Flames were fortunate their offence came back to life in this one.
Wasn’t even close
The Flames basically slaughtered the Panthers throughout the night. The only time the Panthers got much of anything going was in the third period, when they had three powerplays to work with; the Flames completely owned the corsi battle throughout, otherwise. Jyrki Jokipakka and Lance Bouma were the only guys to finish with sub-50% 5v5 corsis, and even then, they still weren’t particularly bad.
The Flames outshooting the Panthers 29-22 is actually really flattering to Florida; via HockeyStats.ca, the Panthers didn’t seem to realize just how many goals they’d fallen behind until there were only seven minutes left in the game.
They had a similar performance against the Oilers too, although not quite as dramatic.
These are the game that make you think it’s possible for the Flames to make the playoffs this year. The problem is they also have those other games against the Jets and the Devils when they just plain suck. They’re inconsistent – but when the times are good they’re actually good, and not just the result of a percentage-fuelled huffing like 2014-15 was.
This is a team on the verge of turning the corner. Next offseason is going to be huge.
3M does it again
They’re pretty clearly the first line, right? Sean Monahan (18:53) had the most ice time of all the centres, with Sam Bennett (15:15) and Mikael Backlund (15:01) following up. Monahan had the benefit of 4:26 in powerplay ice time though, one of the leaders on the Flames, which begs another question.
Backlund’s line is the most productive… and it was his line out there creating both powerplay goals. His unit should be the first one.
The Flames’ top scorers, based on what we know from this season, shouldn’t be a surprise, either. Backlund leads the way with 32 points. Matthew Tkachuk is in second place with 29. Michael Frolik is tied for fourth with 27. Johnny Gaudreau (28) and Monahan (27) are up there, too, but fact of the matter is, it’s a pretty clearly defined line that’s doing the heavy lifting in Calgary.
If the 3M line is scoring, then chances are the team is doing well.
That said, Monahan has started getting back into gear as of late, and Mark Giordano had a monster game. Regarding Giordano in particular, he’s now up to 22 points in 47 games played – still behind Dougie Hamilton (27 in 46) in defencemen scoring, but edging closer to being on pace for a 40-point season, which sounds a bit more like the guy we know and love.
It’s easy to see why the 3M line plus Hamilton and Giordano is the Flames’ top unit.
A little more on Tkachuk
He’s on pace for a 53-point rookie season.
That’s… that’s good, right? Monahan and Sam Bennett’s rookie seasons saw them score 34 and 36 points, respectively. Gaudreau had a 64-point season, but his offensive numbers are generally absurd. (A little less so this season, but he’s still up there in team scoring after having missed 10 games, so…)
Tkachuk is now tied with William Nylander for fourth in rookie scoring, although Nylander has played in two fewer games. Still, Tkachuk has continued to impress, and his 21 assists are the second most out of all rookies (Mitch Marner has 26).
We’re over halfway through the season now, and he hasn’t faded whatsoever. And for all the boneheadedness he has a tendency to exhibit – he leads the entire NHL in penalties taken – he drew two against the Panthers, one of which the Flames scored on (and that he assisted on).
… My god, that assist.
That pass … ? pic.twitter.com/REK7eL1FtP
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 18, 2017
This kid wasn’t playing around when he said Corey Perry was his favourite player, was he? And this is just his rookie year. He’s going to get smarter and more well-rounded and probably more explosive as his career goes on.
Though he does have two of the best linemates any rookie could ask for.
Justice for the fourth line
Freddie Hamilton, Lance Bouma, and Matt Stajan all deserved better. It’s not like any of them did this:
I mean, that’s what started all of these goals getting called back for the faintest of reasons, isn’t it? And yet I can’t recall seeing an offside that egregious since it happened.
Really unfair, especially considering it’s not like guys like F.Ham or Bouma score a lot. The Flames didn’t need those extra goals, but it’s just… ugh. (And almost calling off the empty netter, too; it was a meme by that point.)
As a side note, I’d really like to see Freddie in the lineup more; I trust him more than I do Bouma or Garnet Hathaway as far as fourth liners go.