Flames 3, Senators 2 (OT) post-game embers: The sky stopped falling

Really, not all that much changed.

The Calgary Flames scored the first goal. And the second. And they won. But they’re still fighting for a playoff spot, still barely in it even after having played the most games in the West, and they still gave up one particularly demoralizing goal at the end of regulation.

Except. 

They didn’t play so hot in overtime – until they did. They had a 2-0 lead going into the third and they were doing alright. They didn’t crumble when they got scored on, and their goalie bailed them out time and time again when things got dire, until their best offensive player could do what he does best again.

And they’ll go into a break not feeling terrible about themselves.

We’ll see if that’s a long-lasting change come February. If they want to extend their season, it had better be.

Breaking up 3M

The Flames adjusted their lines, putting Michael Frolik on with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. It worked out pretty great; those three were the top Flames in terms of corsi, (The remnants of the 3M line were, of course, the next guys up in terms of forwards.)

Frolik isn’t quite the north-south driver Mikael Backlund is – though the two both excel at the craft – but it’s probably not a coincidence that Gaudreau and Monahan were getting more pucks on the Senators’ net than allowing towards their own with him added to their line. Frolik has always been a good driver of play; putting him with two struggling kids seemed to be the remedy they needed.

And you have to think Glen Gulutzan isn’t going to be eager to break that up when his team comes back. Why mess with something that worked, right? Even if it means Alex Chiasson continuing to play alongside top players, for reasons (but Backlund is Backlund; if he can drag up Lance Bouma and Joe Colborne he can handle Chiasson on his wing).

But that overtime winner did come from Backlund and Gaudreau. And it is something of a wonder that this hadn’t been tried before in a meaningful way.

If your most talented player is struggling, and two of your top veterans who consistently drive play occupy the other two positions on a line…

If things go back to not working out, who’s going to say no to Gaudreau – Backlund – Frolik? Matthew Tkachuk has proven himself throughout this season to not be a passenger; he could hop on with Monahan. Or Sam Bennett. Or Monahan and Bennett; it honestly baffles me he hasn’t been tried on the right side once considering how Tkachuk can play both wings, and the Flames’ lack of right-side depth has been obvious for, well, years now.

The 3M line got broken up, though, and it really helped two kids. So that was good.

Hopefully this is a corner turned, but progression in sports is rarely linear, so let’s not freak out if it’s not, okay?

Speaking of the two kids

It’s fair to be sceptical about these guys’ contracts. Monahan has never had great underlyings and that hasn’t seemed to change. 

Then again, he has 16 goals on the season now, leading the Flames. He’s on pace for 25, which is two off from last season, and that’s with the lowest shooting percentage of his career to date, and matching his highest shot rates (2.4 shots per game both last season and this one, while averaging less ice time this season).

If he can really turn it on and be a perennial 30 goal scorer (haven’t had one of those since a certain guy with the best smile got traded a couple of months before Monahan was drafted) then whatever, that’s fine; having 30-goal scorers is good and worth it.

Especially when he does stuff like THIS, good lord.


All credit to Dougie Hamilton for that prowess in creating that rebound to begin with, but that’s just insanity on Monahan’s part. Those are some hands. Can we ditch the guy from the start of the season and keep this one?

And then there’s Gaudreau. While his best friend went on a goal-scoring streak, Gaudreau was left trying to do everything on his own and mostly failing. Two points last night, though – first an assist, then a goal he so desperately needed – has things looking a lot better for him. (Is… is it a coincidence that this comes with Chiasson off of his line?)

And then, that other kid

There’s seemingly just no place for Bennett right now.

He had a rough night, too; while the Flames’ top two lines had good games overall, he was one of the worst forwards in terms of corsi (though at least Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg weren’t agonizingly far ahead of him). He played about as much as Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan, though he did at least get a couple of shots on net where they didn’t.

If you take a look at the Flames’ points leaders, there’s finally a collection of 30+ guys there. Backlund still leads the way, Hamilton is in second, and then there’s a trio of kid forwards – Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk – all tied for third with 31 points each.

Bennett has 19.

So here’s a question: if breaking up the 3M line can help fix Monahan and Gaudreau (seemingly, based on one game), should it be broken up further to help Bennett? When people say he’s been most successful in the NHL as a winger, they neglect to mention it wasn’t just as a winger, it was with Backlund as his centre.

Maybe shove Tkachuk over to the right side of that line and put Bennett on the left? It’d probably be more ideal than having Chiasson there, at any rate. And you have to think it would be the best way to get Bennett back into gear: just one small lineup move.

Yeah, the plan is still for him to be a centre. But right now it’s more like he’s being coached by Ned Flanders’ parents. Scratching him for one game is about as good as “nothing,” anyway.

Which do you go with? Gaudreau – Backlund – Frolik and Bennett – Monahan – Tkachuk, or Gaudreau – Monahan – Frolik and Bennett – Backlund – Tkachuk? Which one’s better for Bennett? Which one’s better for the Flames? Or should he just stay at centre?

Brian Elliott was legitimately good

In the midst of the Flames having really poor goaltending as of late, this performance stood out.

The Flames did control the play through much of the game, though score effects did take over in the third, and that’s when Brian Elliott sacrificed his goals, including a particularly untimely and demoralizing one at the end of regulation.

So it’s a good thing his team actually scored goals for him this time around, and didn’t just roll over and die when they faced adversity (particularly in the first when they had to kill two and a half penalties). Meanwhile, he rewarded them for their efforts, particularly in overtime while they struggled to find their footing there.

Why, we haven’t seen a goaltending performance from a Flames netminder that good since… Elliott, about two weeks ago, after which he was benched for no particular reason. 

If it really is “win and you’re in” now, then good, because Elliott deserves the next start after this one. If the Flames had lost this one, though – and fortunately we didn’t have to wait to see if he’d be able to redeem himself in a shootout – then he probably would have deserved the next start, anyway. 

Elliott has had his struggles this season, but I kind of get the feeling if he actually receives a modicum of faith, he really won’t be all that bad.

I’m only here for the hugs



    • Derzie

      They’re a middling team. Those who want more than that will negative. Those that are OK with that will be happy. Nothing has changed with this squeaker win. Same coaches. Same problems. Good outcome.

  • SGRietzey

    Not a big commenter/poster here, but on the splitting the 3M line point:

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Tkachuk
    Bennett-Backlund-Frolik

    We know Tkachuk’s not a passenger and can play both wings. No-brainer to me, might as well see if he can keep a spark going for them.

    Bennett had chemistry with Backlund/Frolik last year, whether because he helped drive play or benefited from the Backlund bump. At this point, I don’t think that matters – moving him there may give him back some confidence and help him figure things out. I admittedly do not recall whether/how often they lined up together earlier in the season when seemingly nothing worked for the team as a whole, but worth a shot on the wing for a few games to see.

    Drop Chiasson down the lineup to a role more fitting on the 3rd/4th line.

    • Just.Visiting

      I couldn’t agree with you more, and can’t believe that GG has not tried Tkachuk with Monahan and Gaudreau to try to create a top line with skill and some added grit.

      I had thought that Ferland would be a natural with Backlund and Frolik because of some of the similarities with MT when Ferland is playing at his best. However, this could be the cure that Sam needs to get back on course.

      Not crazy about sliding Stajan to the third line, but perhaps we try Jankowski there to understand where he is after we do some selling going into the trade deadline.

  • Juan Valdez

    Sorry to burst your bubble Ari, but that last goal with only a minute left to play was a real stinker. A true number one goalie would have saved that shot.

    • PrairieStew

      Cross ice one timer with a screen. Sure.

      What annoyed me about that play is about 3 seconds before it went in Tkachuk got steamrolled in the left circle – he never had the puck – was going to try and cut off a pass – clear interference ignored. But because of who he is – no call.

        • PrairieStew

          Perhaps – but did it affect the outcome ? My beef is that the play in question directly affected Ottawa’s ability to get the puck out of the corner to the right point, then cross ice for the shot. Tkachuk gets where he is going and that play doesn’t develop that way.

      • That is what happens when you play like a Sean Avery or a Matt Cooke. Look at all the bogus calls or non calls when Wideman is on the ice. Also if he continues to slew foot players all over the league and then turtle when it is time to man up, someone will catch him in the trolley tracks, eventually he will get what he has coming . I like his style of play, but he is crossing the line.

        • RedMan

          I don’t know, Oilers have been pretty chickensh*t and the league awarded them with lottery picks… like when Ference knocked out Stempniaks teeth with a sucker punch… then brought in Kassian and Lucic… and the league just rewards their goonery and ineptitude, so I’m not worried about MT.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Every NHL goalie lets a stinker in. Had we played Elliott all year, like some teams, he would have either shown he’s a #1 or crapped the bed and we would be in a bubble spot. Instead, they fall back to the guy that had a good month, then became an AHL goalie. Elliott gets the team to the shootout against the Oilers then sits the next three games. Meanwhile CJ gets three starts in a row with every goal against suspect.

    • PrairieStew

      And….

      A quality start by my definition – 2 goals or less and .920 sp% or more. Elliot’s had 11 quality starts of 22, but 6 of his last 9.

      Johnson by comparison 16 quality starts in 30 – none in his last 4.

      Would far rather see 60-70% of games with a quality start, rather than the just over 50 at this point.

  • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

    Let’s go:

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Frolik
    Bennet-Backlund-Tkachuk
    Ferland-Stajan-Brower
    Bouma-Hamilton-Versteeg

    Chiasson
    Hathaway

    Gio-Hamilton
    Kulak-Brodie
    Engeland-Wotherspoon

    Wideman
    Kevin

    Run with Elliot for awhile…

    A guy can dream….

  • everton fc

    Hathaway deserves minutes when he returns. He’s the type of player this team needs. Ditto Ferland.

    I’ll say this about Freddie – he forechecks and backschecks with surprising regularity. I like this about his game. He’s not at all afraid to throw his body around. If Bennett were mvoed to LW, and Stajan slotted in as 3rd line centre, a 4th line of Ferland/Hamilton/Hathaway might produce points.

    Trouble is… We have Bouma. And they’ll play Bouma. I’d rather play Hathaway over Bouma, but that’s me. Others may differ.

  • Kevin R

    I must say, there is something real sexy about a true top line of Gaudreau/Backlund/Frolik but Backlund is older & Gaudreau & Monahan have a real well documented chemistry over the past few years, so I would be more than happy seeing Gaudreau/Monahan/Tkachuk & then Bennett/Backlund/Frolik

    Then again, I did like how Gaudreau/Monahan/Frolik played & would not be heartbroken to seeing that kept together & let Backlund centre two of our youngest most important future core players of Bennett & Tkachuk.

    So I guess I like all of your suggestions Ari. The common denominator is get Bennett to the wing on one of the top two lines.

    Let our vets take the 3rd line or bring up Janko to play with Ferland & Brouwer

    Blend that 4th line all you want. But GG needs to seriously look at these suggestions.

  • KiLLKiND

    I disagree with the lines posted here are the ones I would like to see.

    Gaudreau – Backlund – Frolik
    Ferland – Monahan – Versteeg
    Tkachuk – Bennett – Brouwer
    Bouma – Stajan – Hamilton

    I really think Calgary needs Bennett to get going and he played really well with Tkachuk in the preseason and this hasn’t been tried since. Brouwer plays the same style and having Tkachuk face easier competition he could really excel and put up some points. Gaudreau Backlund and Frolik are the best point scorers in each of their respective positions and should be relied on for offensive starts and to get points. If Backlund and Frolik could put up the kind of points they have with Tkachuk imagine how well Gaudreau could do with them. The other two lines are to be expected given the remaining players. I do worry about the Monahan line as Ferland is the only play driver on that line.

    • everton fc

      Here’s a couple of ideas, if I were “coach”:

      Gaudreau-Monahan-Tkachuk;
      Bennett-Backlund-Frolik;
      Versteeg-Stajan-Brouwer;
      Ferland-Hamilton/Bouma-Hathaway/Chiasson

      “On paper”, Ferland-Bouma-Chiasson would be a good 4th line, if Bouma can play offence and defence. But I like Hamilton more in that role. As for Chiasson and Hathaway – love Hathaway, but Chiasson has shown he can play if deployed in a more reasonable role.

      My ideal 4th line would be Ferland-Hamilton-Hathaway, but that means benchind Chiasson, which he doesn’t deserve, along w/Bouma, who for me doesn’t add much either way. I think Hathaway has untapped offencive ability far more than Bouma and Hamilton. “Just me”.

  • Rudy27

    I’d like to see a tweak on the PP. Good puck movement, a strong body in front of the net, and a heavy shot from the point are key. Having Brodie and Johnny taking shots from the point just ain’t cutting it.

    Why not have Hamilton on the first PP line and put Brodie back with Gio. That gives good puck movement and a heavy point shot on both units.

    • Greatsave

      Wouldn’t mind having Dougie on Gaudreau’s PP unit, but it would require flipping Gaudreau and Versteeg for it to have a meaningful impact. And it might hurt the Backlund unit too much to be a net positive. Especially if they prefer having a right-shot across from Giordano.

      That’s why I suggested bringing in Wideman on the PP. Either in Brodie’s current spot or in Dougie’s current spot (with Dougie moving to Gaudreau’s unit). Maximize Wideman’s strengths with PP time and minimize his weaknesses with ES time.