Post-Game: Fancy cats scorched by Flames

After a weekend where they captured just one of a possible four points, tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers was a big one for the Calgary Flames. They came out of the gate looking motivated and despite giving up a pair of early goals, they controlled the balance of this game and were full marks in a 5-2 victory over their guests.

Here’s how it went down.

THE RUNDOWN

The first period was basically a tale of two teams. One team had a bunch of shots but could barely beat the other goaltender. The other team had a handful of shots but scored often. Unfortunately for the locals, they were the team with fewer goals. Vincent Trocheck opened the scoring early in the first, as Jared McCann sprung him with a nice pass (around a poke-checking Mark Giordano) and Trocheck went high-glove on Johnson to make it 1-0.

The Flames tied the game about three minutes later with a weird one; Kris Versteeg accepted a pass from Sean Monahan at the very top of the face-off circles and backhanded the puck towards the net. It slid between a series of skates and just beat Roberto Luongo through all that traffic to make it 1-1. However, Trocheck scored again just shy of two minutes later off basically the same play he scored on before – though this time it was a wrister off the rush on a three-on-two rather than him being sent in alone. That made it 2-1. Shots were 10-5 Flames in the first.

The Flames continued to press in all situations throughout the second period. Unlike in the first period, they scored goals a-plenty. With Aaron Ekblad in the box for his second minor of the game (he was called for sitting on Lance Bouma), Calgary’s power play went to work. The Gaudreau unit didn’t do a heck of a lot, but the Backlund group ended up scoring. After Luongo made an initial save, Michael Frolik collected the puck and calmly skated around the net, then passed into the slot for a pinching Mark Giordano to snipe one past Luongo to make it 2-2.

With another Panther in the box midway through the period, the Backlund unit struck again. Matthew Tkachuk tipped a Giordano point shot over top of Luongo and the puck dropped behind him for Backlund to bat in to take a 3-2 lead.

Just 13 seconds later, Backlund got another one off a heck of a pass by Tkachuk. Tkachuk was behind the Panthers net and surprised Luongo with a between-the-legs pass to Backlund at the front of the net for the tap-in through Luongo’s pads and a 4-2 lead.

Shots were 14-6 Flames in the second.

The third period featured the Flames on cruise control and the Panthers not pushing back all that much. Florida out-shot the Flames 11-5 in the final frame, on the back of a trio of power plays that netted them nine shots, but they couldn’t bury anything. Sean Monahan added an empty netter to ice this one.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

They played a really good first period and didn’t have the lead. So they kept at it and had a really good second period and were rewarded with many goals. It helps that the 3M Line were excellent, especially in that second period.

THE TURNING POINT

The second Backlund goal, coming just 13 seconds after the first one, was the death knell for Florida.

RED WARRIOR

There was a lot to like on the home side tonight. Backlund had a pair of goals, so he gets this honour.

But hey, Giordano, Frolik, Backlund and Monahan all had multi-point games. Gaudreau didn’t get on the scoresheet somehow, but he was flying tonight and had a few near-misses.

THE NUMBERS

(Percentage statistics are even strength. Game score is overall. Stats via Natural Stat Trick.)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Gaudreau 71.4 75.0 0.375
Chiasson 66.7 57.1 0.400
Brodie 66.7 77.8 0.700
Bennett 64.7 75.0 0.145
Wideman 64.3 77.8 1.375
Tkachuk 63.2 33.3 1.875
Backlund 58.8 33.3 2.425
Frolik 57.9 33.3 1.250
Engelland 56.3 28.6 0.300
F.Hamilton 55.6 50.0 0.135
Stajan 55.6 40.0 0.205
Giordano 55.0 50.0 2.075
Monahan 54.6 50.0 2.210
Brouwer 52.2 60.0 0.425
D.Hamilton 50.0 50.0 0.175
Versteeg 50.0 50.0 1.200
Jokipakka 47.1 28.6 0.150
Bouma 44.4 40.0 0.075
Johnson 0.500

THIS AND THAT

Mikael Backlund remains the Flames leading scorer. He hit the 30-point mark tonight, which was the third time he’s hit that.

Freddie Hamilton played his first game since January 6, in as a game-time decision as Micheal Ferland (lower body) was unable to play. He earned some praise from head coach Glen Gulutzan for his efforts in the post-game press conference.

The Flames had two goals called back for off-sides off of coach’s challenges. Both were scored by the fourth line.

QUOTABLE

“I liked our resolve. We made a couple of mistakes early that cost us and some chances, but we stuck to our game. I thought for the most part of the game we had better looks and better chances and we were carrying the play.” – Gulutzan on his team’s effort.

“Backs hasn’t gotten enough credit the last few years. He’s been a good two-way centerman in the league for a long time. Maybe because his offense is coming this year everyone thinks that something’s changed but defensively he’s the same player. He’s getting a lot of looks and he’s feeling good and burying the puck this year, and it’s going a long way for our team.” – Giordano on Backlund’s 200-foot efforts.

“I’m here to go to playoffs. It’s been too many years that we’ve missed playoffs so that’s the main goal this year. I’m happy to help the team get there. I’d rather have 10 points and a playoff spot than 60 points and no playoff spot.” – Backlund on his motivation this season.

UP NEXT

The Flames (24-20-3) are back at it tomorrow for practice and play again on Thursday night when they host the Nashville Predators.

  • flamesburn89

    Huge game on Thursday night against Nashville. Really hope the Flames can gut out a win against a team that they’re battling with for a playoff spot.

  • Lucky 13

    This was one of the weirdest games I can remember, (well other than the 4 goals that were scored in a earlier game without a Flames player actually putting it in the net)

    So two 4th liners get a goal and both goals are offside. I think Bouma and F Hamilton both deserved those goals. When you need a freakin microscope to determine if the skate is in the air, it should be a goal. The skate was clearly onside(Stajan I believe) but he’s in stride so the back skate is up 3 inches in the air but clearly BEHIND the blue line… good gawd!

    Now that I feel better can we just give Backlund the Selke this year?
    Where on (earth) ice would we be without that line?

    Tkachuk has got to be one of the best 19 year olds I’ve seen play.
    I know Matthews and Laine have more offensive punch but really this kid blows my mind with his smarts.
    Never ever think about trading this kid.. ever!!

    Was that too much?
    Great game Flames, nice to see the real Monahan back in the last few games.

    The dreaded Predators are next
    GFG

  • CalgaryCandle

    Monahan, Versteeg and Brouwer are clicking again. The 3M line continues on fire. JH is too good a player to not find his form eventually. The Stajan fourth line had two goals except for that silly perversion of the off-side rule.

    If four lines can continue to chip in and Johnson/Elliott stay solid there should be good times ahead this season.

    I’d sure like to see us get 5 games above 500 Thursday. That target has been as elusive as getting the 5th goal tonight.

    GFG!!

    • Lucky 13

      If Johnny is going to have Chiasson (glued , stapled, duct taped ) to him , then perhaps Gully should have Johnny shoot the puck at Chiassons stick repeatedly until Chiasson gets it that holding his stick straight (90 degrees)will result in goals?

      The gift Johnny gave him on the PP was absolutely perfect!
      Too bad Chiasson was holding his stick at a 45 degree angle for a tip into…the corner.

      Or Maybe Johnny should just practice hitting Chiassons equipment instead.. you know like rebounds in basketball.

      I think Johnny’s last goal was off a rebound/ ricochet? Pickard for the Avs… hmmmm

      • everton fc

        If only Bennett could play RW…

        Maybe Hamilton should get a shot. Or Hathaway. Or Ferland again. Bouma/Ferland-Stajan-Chiasson would be a potent 4th line. But Hathaway deserves minutes. Even more than Freddie, who also deserves more minutes.

        • Lucky 13

          Thanks for the reply.

          I don’t know what to suggest at this point. GG has this affinity for Chiasson ala Johnny combo. Johniasson .. does that sound feasible?
          Maybe Chiasson is teaching Johnny French on da side.. “you know like da Bob yuz to talk to him”

          Bennett looks out of sorts.. can’t put my finger on it other than he doesn’t have the same tenacity he once had.
          Ferland deserves a bump up, but then when he gets it , he looks outta place. He (in my humble opinion)is best suited for bottom six tenacious play.
          Where does that leave us?

          Hathaway may be what we need with Johnny. Gritty and fast, decent hands.
          Would protect Johnny fiercely… not bad idea really
          Might spike Bennett back to his former self?

          It’s probably a pipe dream..

          • cberg

            The Gaudreau/Monahan line issue is an interesting one. When together the supplement each other well, but the line is missing a skilled board guy as well as an intimidation net-front presence. Looking at all those lacks I continue to believe Ferland is the best fit that the Flames have, but Hathaway might be interesting to try. On the farm perhaps someone like Big Rig Hunter could possibly fit that bill though I’m not sure of his skating.

            On this very issue I think its interesting to look at the Oilers and how their top line seems to be working out. On it Mcdavid is the key, but its interesting how Lucic has been a bust (too slow, North & South? hockey IQ?) while Maroon has fit like a glove. The main differences I see is Maroon seems to be faster plus he seems to have a much better IQ, i.e. knowing where to be and getting there.

            Back to the Flames, when they put Versteeg on the line with Monahan/Gaudreau it seemed to work fairly well, i.e. Versteeg’s smarts and speed added another element to the line, but they still had issues along the boards and defensively.

            Finally, on the game last night, sure Backlund had three points (I like him too), but wow, Tkachuck was a beast out there and the primary reason for those two Backlund goals. First, blocking the net and deflecting the puck up and over, followed by that great move and sick pass back to Backlund. Also, he’s #1 at drawing penalties in the whole NHL? GREAAAT addition!

    • freethe flames

      Indeed Brouwer and Steeg finally played well at both ends of the ice and for these team to be successful they need to play like that every night. In my opinion the guy dragging JH down is not Chiasson but Bennett; he and JH have no chemistry and Sam is not playing with any swagger at all. It was good to see JH pissed off and stand up for himself hopefully he will continue to play like that.

      I thought both goals Johnson gave up were great shots but I still believe he should have had them.

      Feel bad for Stajan’s line; they played well again tonight and should have been rewarded for their efforts. I can’t blame the linesman for missing either offside but it may be time to rethink the rule to something like both skates must clearly be on the ice in the offensive zone.

      The game against the Pred’s is huge as they are one of the bubble teams chasing the Flames; a win would help a lot.

    • Guest

      Welcome to the future, Derzie. Canadian teams are finally embracing the league about 6 years too late.

      Baseball was all giant sluggers that couldn’t play defence 20 years ago. Now its proven speed and defence and decent hitting is much more valuable. Ask Bautista how a bat only guy does.

      The NBA is all 3pt shots and layups. It used to be giant big men who can’t shoot or pass and crappy long 2pt jumpers after a bunch of highlight real dribbles. Oh and a bunch of losing to good passing shooting teams.

      Crosby is the new NHL. Possession monster, great skater relentless puck pursuit. The Heatleys of the NHL are dying. Its a fast skating, possession, quick pass tons of shots league. And its super fun to watch. The Burke view of the world is dying and dead. Fast, skilled and the desire and skill to play both ways. Crosby is a monster after the puck for all 200ft. Ovechin is only one once he has it. There is reason one wins. We value certain things because we grew up with them (pretty goals, great shots, big hits) – but sports evolve. The NHL is too.

      Monahan has to work at defence. He stinks and really has regressed in effort. Bennett will get there. Gaudreau is a total DH right now. Marty St. Louis was a relentless puck possession player – thats what I want JG to become. Chuck has all the tools and is learning to play the way the game needs to go (kid is really good).

      Backlund and Frolik were wasted under old thinking management and Burke/Hartley style paradigms. I’m concerned Baertchi is another guy Calgary gave away because of old pre-conceived notions.

      Anyways. Rant over. And I’m older than most of you, I can remember Dionne playing Gretzky in the playoffs as a kid. Change comes to everything.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Me thinks Bautista did remarkably well in his recent contract. An over the hill, oft-injured, can’t-play-defence slugger with diminishing power with a piss-poor attitude gets $18M from old man Rogers and the adulation of an entire nation and he’s doing poorly?

        Indians come within a whisker of winning the whole cotton-plucking World Series and what has been their biggest offseason move? $20M a year to another aging slugger whose defensive game has been below average for several years.

        The 1-D slugger will always have a place in baseball because home runs put meat in the seats and as any beer league Babe Ruth will attest to, chicks dig dingers.

        As for 87, every team would love one or two, but to my knowledge, there has only been one made. I wonder if you would have sung the praises of Crosby last season while he spent months mired in the worst slump of his pro career? Point is that there are very few Crosby-likes around so they ain’t easy to find and that as long as the game is played with a single puck, it will be exceedingly hard to have a whole lot of guys with excellent puck possession numbers.

      • Derzie

        The more things change, the more they stay the same. Possession sports are effective but boring as hell (see football, international). Last night is an example, where to get excitement, the goalie has to be crap. Luongo was, 3M rewarded. I too am old (Yvon Cournoyer was my fave player as a kid). I’ve seen hockey’s generations. 70s flash & dynasties, 80s goal barrage, 90s destruction and clog, and traps, early 00s embrace of speed, current possession and stats focus. Any system that stifles marquee players like Gaudreau & Monahan is a bad system from an entertainment perspective. Change comes when the media start to call for change. 2 things are starting to become routinely written about/discussed: Loser points and lack of scoring. The last few days have had some NHL games with goalie meltdowns and those supporting the current NHL are pointing the ‘what scoring problem’ finger. Statistical blips. What the media embraces takes a few years to take. The NHL will increase scoring (or try to) and they will likely address the loser point (if the revenue dips or stagnates). I’m a fan of the 3M line but we are now a one trick pony. A reflection of the coach. A bland, group-think brand of hockey that is just kinda “there”. The best two-way forwards are king and the one-way stars are passengers. The pendulum has swung too far. If this is indeed what fans such as yourself want, then Treliving need to trade away Johnny & Monny and I need to find higher quality sports entertainment. In sports, and in life, I don’t value ‘winning is everything’. I value the experience of getting there and being entertained and jumping out of my seat when a great goal is scored is a big part of it.

    • Guest

      Not specifically to your comment, Derzie, though you don’t like new analysis of the sport; here is an excerpt from baseballs number one stat website (a site where writers regularly get hired by teams because of the actual monetary value created by innovation).

      “Since the conclusion of the PED era, baseball appears to have returned closer to its roots. Baseball appears to be a young man’s game again. Teams are hesitant to pay for seasons in players’ 30s. Teams prize prospects and pre-arbitration seasons more than ever. Teams are well aware of age curves, and aging models suggest Bautista is probably not the next David Ortiz, as Craig Edwards wrote back in November.”

      Young, skilled and cheap. Baseball isn’t hockey, but the rules (salary cap, less contact) favour young, fast and cheap – and smart. Think on that Brouwer fans, and those who want Wideman (that might be nobody) or Engelland back.

      • cberg

        The salary cap and penchant for teams to continually overpay (?) the superstars, makes the marriage of young and cheap a necessity. Being fast and smart covers over a lack of other skills so overall I’ve got to agree with you that the league is changing. I’m not sure its any better, and think many calling for the game to slow down by, for instance putting back the Red Line (e.g. Bobby Orr), could also be entertaining and have fewer major injuries, and the league would adjust to it as well.

      • Derzie

        I understand and appreciate stats (I have a postgrad degree in CS & Math) but I do not support stats worship. They are a tool and should be utilized fully but not worshipped like a religion. That is where I have a problem. It is sheep-like.

        • Guest

          Agreed stats are not the only thing. Cap management, having a well of young, useful and cheap players constantly under development and avoiding anchor contracts is the way to keep competing. A good goalie and solid coaching and you are always competing.

          The playoffs is a crap shoot. Just get there, with good possession and goaltending and good things can happen.

          • Derzie

            “Playoffs are a crapshoot”

            That is exactly the problem. One should deserve the playoffs. The NHL priority when it comes to playoffs is money. More games = more TV = more gate = more money. If the fans would let them, they would have all 30 teams be in. Right now a case can be made that 27 or 28 teams have a shot at the playoffs. That is downright silly. What it means is that there is absolutely no reason to look at the standings. Each game blends into the next with nothing real at stake. Like one big contrived reality show. The spontaneity of sport and rewards for winning is all but gone.

  • northernstamp

    In a post game interview Chucky says, “I just go out and try to make those two guys better because Backs and Fro are making me look a lot better.” But how can that be? Didn’t WW say that one player was carrying a “couple of plumbers”? Time to give it up Wally. Chucky says you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • The GREAT WW

      What did you think Chuk was going to say?

      “I’m playing with a couple of grinders; if I had some actual goal scorers on my line I would have twice as many points…”

      Look at the 2 goals Backlund scored; one was laying on the goal line because of Chuk, the other was a beauty of a pass from Chuk, which Backlund actually miss hit from 2 feet out and got a lucky bounce ( according to Backlund).

      Chuk carries that line; he is the only player on that line with elite skill. In fact; Chuk is Carrying this TEAM right now, he is the only reason we are in the playoff hunt.

      WW

      • Bean-counting cowboy

        There is no question that Tkachuk has helped that line. But haven’t we said for years that if Backlund had some decent wingers he would produce more, given his strong possession style and two-way game? Well finally Backs has his wingers and… voila! You say “grinders”, but go and look at Backlund’s wingers before Frolik showed up… a whole bunch of Bouma’s, Colborne’s, Comeau’s,and the like.

        Not sure how anyone can’t give Backlund his due this year. He’s always been the team’s best two way player and now he is leading the team in scoring. He bleeds red, hates the Oilers and Canucks, puts the team first and wants to make the playoffs with a passion. How can we not love this guy?

        • cberg

          Al l of this “Backlund’s great, give him some wingers” versus “No, Tkachuck is carrying the line and team” stuff is missing the main point. That being, they are both excellent players and together make a great combo, along with Frolik that every great line needs: speed, hockey smarts, skill, toughness, grit/support, boards, defensive responsibility and can I say IQ again? Backlund is a very good to great overall two-way player, but Tkachuck has CLEARLY made that line much, much more effective.

      • Scary Gary

        You’ve officially lost your marbles.

        Super skills results:
        Fastest skater – Backlund,
        Hardest shot – Backlund (103.3 mph; Ferland right behind him).

        Pretty good skill for a “grinder”.

  • BobB

    Ok. 3M is a golden line, we all know that and that is great. The heavy minutes 1B line

    Why doesn’t Gaudreau-Monahan-Versteeg work? It’s the same line as with Hudler, and Versteeg I think is equivalent. That was our 1A line. If that was rolling again..

    Ferland-Bennett-Brouwer third line, looks great on paper.

    I understand injuries and such but doesn’t this all seem too easy, too obvious?

    I honestly cannot figure out how the above cannot work?

    GG has me baffled. It’s like we’re in bizzaro-land and all the match-ups less 3M have voodoo all over them

  • cjc

    Look at the shot chart from last night’s game:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/florida-panthers-calgary-flames-2017011703/

    (scroll to the bottom of the page)

    it’s clear that Calgary did a good job of keeping Florida to the outside and limiting the high danger chances. Defensive masterpiece for the most part.

    Bennett played better, unlucky that he took two third period minors. Can’t wait until he or Gaudreau break out again.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    And for those still hating on Gulutzan, NHL.com “enhanced stats” has the Flames at 15th in the league with 50.3 ‘shot attempts close’ after last night’s game (just above Chicago and Anaheim), nearly 3 percentage points increase from last year. We have held down a play-off spot longer than we ever did last year. Things are moving in the right direction. Flames seem to be out-chancing and out-shooting opponents more often than not lately and there are some shooting %’s that are bound to come up with guys like Gaudreau, Monahan and Bennett.

    Next year with another year of progression from Monahan and Bennett, plus the addition of a top 4 D after the expansion draft should have us consistently in the hunt for the next number of years.

    Time to start looking at the positives Flamesnation!

  • The GREAT WW

    If Gaudreau keeps this level of play we may need to think about sending him home for Hall…

    How does a guy like Bennett with all that skill slide so bad?!

    WW

    • Stu Cazz

      Gaudreau needs to play with the right players which means the organization needs to bring in a skilled top 6 guy. Bennett is simply not ready for NHL primetime and the only reason he is playing is that he is the Flames top draft in history….Flames need to deploy both players more effectively and I think it’s on the GM to make some moves….

  • Burnward

    Gaudreau and Bennett would benefit amazingly from Chiasson plug gone.

    Any time he gets possession over the blue, he fires it into the corner. Sammy has to battle, tough for a kid, and Johnny isn’t effective there off the rush.

    Either get a bigger centreman with Johnny that can win that battle and get it free, or get a winger that can think along with the kids and not put them in tough positions.

  • Thunder1

    @Guest…

    “Monahan has to work at defence. He stinks and really has regressed in effort.”

    Monahan’s game score…

    corsi for 54.6%

    o-zone starts 50.0%

    game score 2.210

    one goal and an apple to boot!

    WTF more do you want from him?

    • Guest

      You are right, I was too hard on him based on the early part of the year. I love Monahan. He has real hockey IQ at both ends. Its effort – when he plays in his zone, attacks and closes space, he is really good. Calgary was right to think of him in a Toews light type of way.

      He has been much better recently, and I think if he continues to push we definitely roll into the playoffs.

      • Thunder1

        Agreed… he did stink for a while there. Knock on wood the old Monny is back. You are right. We need him to lead us into the playoffs. I’ve spent the past year or so proclaiming him as our number one, undisputed centre but his play this season has made me look the fool at times!