Slow starts: A death knell for playoff hopes?
Seven straight games of slow starts (per HNIC) and back-to-back games when the team randomly shows up when it’s too late. As much as we had hoped to see this team turning a corner mere weeks ago it feels like this is October all over again which, among many other stories, is quickly becoming concerning.
If this team has any aspirations of tasting postseason hockey this year then the ship needs to be righted. It starts – obviously – with the youth and young core regaining form. I’m looking at you Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett.
While there is no denying Gaudreau is a special talent on the ice, he has struggled mightily this season finding consistency. Bennett, fresh off his healthy scratch versus the Nashville Predators, saw some unreasonable luck on the Anton Slepyshev goal and is still trying to find consistency. Sean Monahan, who has goals in five straight, is starting to resemble the Monahan we all know and love: a guy who scores goals.
It goes deeper than that with roster inconsistencies though. Alex Chiasson is a forward on this team, good in a role suited for him, floundering in a role he is in now. Troy Brouwer is not at the level you would expect and you have to hope he can offer more. The list goes on and on, and it’s getting tiresome.
Jyrki, my boy, why? Play Brett, seriously
Gulutzan on 3rd goal: “I don’t know what we are doing. I actually have no explanation for what our D were doing. It was a complete mistake.”
— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) January 22, 2017
Gulutzan is of course talking about this incident which might be one of the most glaring gaffes the Calgary Flames have given up all year:
Just an awful decision and read by Jokipakka. pic.twitter.com/6cFoEuCATW
— AOL KEYWORD: Mike (@mikeFAIL) January 22, 2017
Really, all Jyrki Jokipakka had to do was stay on his side to make it an evenly balanced situation. It was 100% avoidable. This of course doesn’t excuse Chad Johnson, but the situation was manageable if played correctly.
There was some promise – or hope to say the least – that Jokipakka could step up this season, take a leap forward, and cement himself as a NHL-caliber defenseman. Not an elite puck moving defenseman. Not a second-pairing, solid option defenseman. Just a defenseman that could play minutes for you while not being a complete liability.
Unfortunately for Jokipakka it’s hard to discern what actual value he provides in the lineup. You have to ask yourself what does he offer that Brett Kulak offers already. In 35 games this season, Jokipakka’s CF% at 5v5 is dead last among Flames defensemen at 44.62%. His FF% is 43.88% and his SF% is no better at 45.62%.
His GF%, which surprisingly stronger than expected than TJ Brodie’s 37.74%, is slowly eroding, too. Relative to his peers, you see even more startling results showing the drudges of playing him over Kulak (via Corsica Hockey):
Note – Positive stats in Rel.CF60 and Rel.CF% are good things, while a positive Rel.CA60/FA60/SA60 is a bad thing. Read as “Player x surrenders y more CA60 than his peers”.
You can expect someone like Dougie Hamilton to generate more shots than his peers because that’s who he is. More often than not you’re a beneficiary of it because he creates more than he gives up. The concerns primarily lie with how limited Jokipakka’s usage is, but the results produced in that time are concerning. Virtually across the board the team doesn’t benefit from him on the ice.
Listen, Kulak may or may not be the answer, but at this point you need to play him. It’s not that Jokipakka gets any special teams time either. Virtually all of his minutes come at 5v5 which means you’re not impacting pairings or tandems in existing special teams roles.
Just stop being negligent and play Kulak so fans and the team know what he actually is. Minor adjustments might actually help right this ship.
Why matchups can matter: 3M vs McDavid line
There is no denying Connor McDavid will eventually become of the most electrifying men in the NHL. We can accept that, and managing McDavid every night is an opposing team’s nightmare. Not every team has the luxury the Flames have in having a bonafide shutdown line. McDavid vs Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, and Matthew Tkachuk? 18.75% CF at 5v5. In that he only had two shots on net.
Hamilton and Mark Giordano were a big part of that too, playing 8:21 at 5v5 against McDavid and keeping him to 25% CF.
Here’s the thing: One lapse in a matchup at 5v5 resulted in McDavid scoring. Another lapse in a matchup led to substantial offensive zone time and McDavid drawing a penalty. If you give this kid rope, he will take all of it, and when you play him against an elite shutdown line like the 3M line you can get good things like this:
3M line really did a number on McDavid tonight (early on in the first period): pic.twitter.com/oGcQd5Hfu4
— AOL KEYWORD: Mike (@mikeFAIL) January 22, 2017
What is this goaltending?
It was incomprehensible to start Johnson last night. After being pulled for three goals on five shots you would have to hope Brian Elliott could fair a bit better. Only slightly, but even then it isn’t anything to be impressed with. It’s hard to actually decipher what is wrong in the crease for this team. Is it something in the water? Did those dastardly Shelbyvillains spike the water supply in Calgary?
Regardless, here we are, at what appears to be another crossroads after last year’s roaring tire fire in net. Who do you go back to? Is it Elliott’s time play consistent games or do you immediately go back to Johnson, again?
This, among other topics, is exhausting and there aren’t any easy answers.