That game was a roller coaster of emotions. It had everything: big leads. Devastating comebacks. Fights. Big saves. A Micheal scoring two goals and a Mikael scoring another two, with two Michaels out there along for the ride.
And two points – while giving up another point to a team the Flames are in direct competition with.
Well, you can’t say it wasn’t exciting.
Here a Mike, there a Mike, everywhere a Mike, Mike
Michael Stone made his Flames debut, becoming the fourth person named Mike to suit up in one game on this roster. He joined Micheal Ferland, Mikael Backlund, and Michael Frolik, but he’s a defencemen, so it’s a little different.
Just a little.
Stone played 17:09 in his Flames debut. He’s not playing in the top four just yet, although at the end of regulation he did start getting shifts with T.J. Brodie. He’ll probably move up there eventually; for now, it was his first game to get acclimated to a new team.
The bottom half of the defence has undergone an overhaul, and with a week until the trade deadline, it might not be done yet. Still, Jyrki Jokipakka and Dennis Wideman do appear to be done here, and it’s not clear Stone and Matt Bartkowski will stick around, so this is not a complete defence for the long haul.
It has more potential for improvement, though, and Stone’s a part of that. When your bottom pairing defencemen are hitting about 17 minutes, well, that’s better than 10. It’s the start of a more rounded group, though that was an odd game to debut in. (But hey, an assist on the game-tying goal!)
But as far as Mikes go, it was Ferland and Backlund who were the stars for the Flames. Ferland was bumped up to a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, while Backlund did his normal Backlund stuff. Both had two goals. Backlund had four shots on net, Ferland had three; both were leaders on the team.
This is par for the course with Backlund, but Ferland in particular had an exceptional night. He played 14:38 with no special teams time. That’s the most he’s played this season, tied with a Nov. 25 2-1 win over the Bruins. He’s now hit 10 goals this season, the first time he’s been a double digit scorer, and at 17 points, he’s one away from his career high of 18 last year – a year in which he averaged nearly two more minutes of ice.
Hopefully this is the start of seeing a lot more of him. We’ll have a bit more on Ferland later today.
And the rest
Goals are exciting and tend to get the most attention, but that’d be doing a disservice to the Flames’ two young stars: both of whom got big money deals in the offseason, and both of whom have provided disappointments throughout the year.
Not so much last night, as Gaudreau racked up four assists and Monahan three, with both playing their part in a very methodical overtime. They also led the Flames’ forwards in ice time.
Backlund has retained the lead in team scoring – 41 points – but Gaudreau has pulled into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for second place (39) and Monahan sits alone in third (38). (Dougie Hamilton rounds out the top five with 36.)
Gaudreau hasn’t scored in eight games. Monahan has been stuck on 99 career goals for the better part of this month. None of that mattered last night, because they helped fill the net – and how much do you think getting Ferland as their winger helped them do just that? Considering he scored twice, well…
Tkachuk and Hamilton also had two assists of their own on the night – seriously, four of the Flames’ top five scorers are 23 and under, this is a team with a future – while Mark Giordano put up a three-point night, including the overtime winner. He’s on pace for just 35 points this season, which is a down year for him, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that overtime goal was the 96th of his career.
So that’s a big deal.
While scoring lots of goals is a ton of fun, giving up lots of goals is a lot less so. Unfortunately, the Flames did just that.
They’d been generally dominating play when they went up 4-1, and even moreso after Hamilton’s goal. While Pekka Rinne was a sieve, though, Juuse Saros was seemingly an impenetrable wall, despite a litany of good chances. And then one went against the Flames, with Filip Forsberg making a number of players look like fools and tucking one in past Brian Elliott.
Then the Flames took a penalty, and the floodgates opened, culminating with a very bad Brodie giveaway that gave the Predators the lead.
Brodie wasn’t the only Flame Forsberg and friends made a fool out of, though he was a bit of a poster boy for defensive lapses – in particular because he wasn’t putting up any points to make up for it, unlike most of the others. He had four assists against the Devils not too long ago; this was the opposite kind of night for him.
To which I’ll reiterate my point above: this is an incomplete defence. Most everyone was bad this season until Giordano and Hamilton – two defencemen of first pairing ability – were partnered together. Brodie was left out. Though it’s been a rough year, there’s little doubt in my mind that if the Flames can establish a solid top four over the offseason, he’ll be fine. (And he’s still on a fantastic contract.)
It was a sloppy game for multiple players on both sides. That’ll be something to look at. And give the Flames credit – they crumbled in the second, but played a very strong third (and didn’t wait for the final four minutes of the game to try to make up for it, at that).
Who are you, Brian Elliott
That one was… odd.
Elliott looked all worldly to start. You couldn’t really fault him for the P.K. Subban goal; it was initially called off, even. And in the second, he had to deal with the skaters in front of him breaking down constantly.
Still, though, at some point he had to make a save, and he just couldn’t.
… Until the third period, when he went back to being great.
So what do you do with that? Well, the Flames’ next games are back-to-backs in Florida, so it probably doesn’t matter much; both goalies should get in. Still, that was definitely an odd game for Elliott, but you’ve got to give credit to the guy who got back in it, and had quite a few game-saving stops before things got even further out of hand.
Also, I’d like to bring up NaturalStatTrick’s heat map from this game, complete with goal markers:
At some point, Elliott has to stop the puck, but the Predators got golden chances. Three of their goals came from in tight, which was more than the Flames were able to work with on the other side of the ice. So yeah, Elliott needs to be much better – but so does the team in front of him.
And honestly, he’s probably still their best bet going forward, especially when you factor in acquisition and signing costs.
Controlling their own destiny
As long as the Flames stay eighth in points percentage, their fate is in their hands. If they win out, they’ve got this.
They’re probably not going to win out, though, so they’ll still need help – but making the playoffs is completely within their grasp this season, especially with three games against the Los Angeles Kings to go. The Kings have the same record as the Flames right now but for one less win in one less game played.
Their penultimate game is against the Flames. As long as Calgary manages to even somewhat stay their current course, the season could come down to that one.
So… get hype. We’re already set up for a good ending.