Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports
No team is ever going to have a perfect season, 1972 Miami Dolphins aside. And they played considerably fewer games than the 82 that make up the NHL’s regular season.
So fact of the matter is, sometimes you’re going to play well enough and still lose. It happens. Maybe it’s one single moment that costs you your chance at victory. That doesn’t mean you played poorly, or were failures. Sometimes that just means you didn’t win.
The Flames lost to the Rangers. They still had a good game, though.
That was ridiculously evenly played
Looking at the stat line for this game is kind of nuts.
Both teams had 32 shots on net. The Flames narrowed out the Rangers with a faceoff win percentage of 51. Both teams had a powerplay each (both tripping calls!); both scored on it. The Flames had 22 penalty minutes to the Rangers’ 12, but we have Kris Versteeg to thank for that. The Flames threw 20 hits; the Rangers, 22. The Flames blocked 13 shots; the Rangers, 16. Both teams had 11 giveaways.
The Flames did win the fancy stat battle, though: 70 total corsi events to the Rangers’ 56. Twelve high danger chances to the Rangers’ 10. And that wasn’t score effects, they pulled ahead early in the second period and didn’t look back.
Then, of course, there was the score: the Rangers beat the Flames 4-3. They got the one extra edge on the one stat that mattered the most. Though if there was any sort of game that would justify the loser point, it was probably this one. Alas.
Getting ready for this kid
Sam Bennett didn’t score any points. He was partly responsible for the second goal against. But man, did he have a good game.
His whole line did, actually – right up until the point Versteeg decided to get into a fight without his jersey tied down, for some reason – but Bennett did have the weakest zone starts of his group, for whatever that may be worth. He also helped lead the way on the team by being on the ice for six high-danger scoring chances for (half of what the Flames were able to muster).
Bennett only has a goal and an assist in his last five games, which is disappointing (especially when you remember the goal was in the literal last second after a 5-0 Montreal blowout). He only has 20 points in 54 games this season, which is really disappointing – that’s 10th in team scoring. And it’s understandable that some may be past the point of wanting a good process and wanting actual results already.
But the process is there, and if Bennett keeps this up, he’ll be scoring sooner or later.
The refrain that he’s only 20 has gone around a bit, so I want to throw in a bit more context. Remember how he lost basically a year of development to shoulder surgery? Also, he’s seventh in forward scoring in his draft class (Aaron Ekblad has scored more, but has a lower points per game); he’s also younger than everyone above him not named Dylan Larkin. Some guys – like Leon Draisaitl and Sam Reinhart – are nearly a year older.
So here’s a kid who’s still pretty young, who lost out on nearly an entire season, whose most consistent linemate all season has been Alex Chiasson (and even then, his linemates haven’t been consistent), and he’s still top 10 in team scoring. Is this where we want him to be? No. Is it understandable why he’s only at where he’s currently at? Yes.
So when really good efforts like yesterday’s come along, even if you don’t see any points, you’re still pointing towards a brighter future.
Speaking of brighter futures
Okay, let’s get this one out of the way nice and early: the Flames have just 27 more games of Dennis Wideman!
He played 22:50 yesterday. Thankfully, that was still less than T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, and Mark Giordano; less thankfully, it was all of five fewer seconds than Giordano had.
So, um. Yeah. That’s generally not something you like to see. Take away meagre special teams time, and he was actually second in 5v5 ice time, behind just his defence partner.
The Flames really do not have an ideal situation on defence this season. Not all of that is on Wideman; it seems as though someone has challenged Jyrki Jokipakka to be aggressively bad, while Deryk Engelland remains nothing more than a bottom pairing defenceman at absolute best. The Flames could always try giving Brett Kulak real minutes, because it’s not as though they have anything to actually lose there, but for as long as they’re not going to, Wideman is the guy.
He did score 50 points that one time a couple of years ago, or whatever, at least.
The point once again being this: we know Wideman is bad. Wideman is probably actively costing games at this point, one way or another. It is very, very hard to see any other team in the NHL wanting him for any purpose. So we just have to ride it out for 27 games. This is a very fixable problem, it’s just that the solution is time.
Lose and you’re out
I don’t believe anything is official yet, but we can probably expect Chad Johnson to start the Flames’ last game before their bye.
The timing isn’t the worst thing ever. Johnson hasn’t played since Jan. 24, so he’s had two weeks off now. He hasn’t had that much time off since the end of the calendar year, when he went about a week without playing at the end of 2016 and start of 2017. And I do think there’s reason to believe he’s been fatigued as of late, so we might just see a better Johnson suit up now that he’s had a bit of time off.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
Elliott wasn’t at total fault for this one – uh, that third goal in particular aside – but he wasn’t going to stay unbeaten forever. And this was his second sub-.900 SV% game in a row, so fair enough.
The Flames will need both of their goalies performing well in order to have a strong finish to the season (albeit I would still say it’s more dependent on Elliott than on Johnson). So now it’s the other guy’s turn to take the reins. Elliott put together a good run, including the start of this game – there were constant scrambles around his net and he didn’t let them go in. Strong start, meh finish.
Nine games until the trade deadline
The Flames are currently sitting ninth in the west with a .518 points percentage.
The Blues are eighth in the west with a .529 points percentage, and they just lost their sixth highest scorer for the season – all the while trade rumours are circling their second top scorer.
Things probably won’t be that much clearer by the end of the month in the standings, but if the Flames are going to sell, they really don’t stand to lose much at all; certainly not a player the caliber of Kevin Shattenkirk. Versteeg is probably the best guy they have they would give up, and that’s an if.
So far it’s really just been Vernon Fiddler for a fourth, so so far, the seller’s market isn’t that great. We’ll see just what approach the Flames will be taking over the course of this month as a team that has a shot of making the playoffs, but likely won’t do anything meaningful this season.
At least if there’s one area you can trust Brad Treliving in, it’s trades.