Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports
Good morning! Hopefully everything hasn’t gone catastrophically wrong in between my writing this and when it’s posted. By which I mean: please, Mr. Treliving, don’t do anything rash with the trade deadline.
Seriously, have you seen the team you’ve put together? Under the new head coach you’ve hired? It’s looking kinda… good.
Let’s get this out of the way early. For as much as every game the Flames play from here on out is going to be huge, few are going to be as big as these games against the Los Angeles Kings. Yes, the Flames are showing potential to aim for higher than the second wild card slot; they could also be just one losing skid away from bowing out all together.
It’s easy to pull ahead in the standings when you’re riding a five-game winning streak. What do you do next time you lose?
So that’s where taking a point from the Kings becomes especially important: because they are direct competition for a playoff spot. They now sit at a .520 points percentage, the last team in the West over .500. Everyone below them is irrelevant, full stop.
The Flames have a .563 points percentage. That’s seventh in the West. They’ve passed the Blues. They continue to creep up on – or at least keep pace with – the Ducks and Oilers. (If you want to get mad at the loser point, note how that’s the only thing keeping them back right now.)
There’s still over a month to go. These teams still have three games against each other. Maybe they won’t matter, but you can’t take anything for granted at this stage. So even though they conceding a point getting two was beyond massive, especially against this opponent.
Just like everyone drew it up
I’ll admit I was a bit nervous when Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik started off overtime. Normally, I’d trust them with anything; they got burned against the Canucks, though. And they had possession to start this one off – and gave in pretty quickly to the Kings’ aggression, conceding scoring chances against through their own passiveness.
But three-on-three is ripe to make anybody look like a fool. They were bailed out by missed tips, luck, or Brian Elliott; they survived long enough to spring T.J. Brodie, of all people, on a breakaway.
Sure, it could have been worse – Deryk Engelland on a breakaway? Dennis Wideman?? – but of all the defencemen actually likely to play a regular overtime shift, Brodie is the last one I’d expect to score. That was beautiful, though.
Honestly, it kind of brought back memories of Brodie assisting on a Backlund overtime winner back in October 2014 – although there wasn’t a breakaway on that one. This time, there was. And it was beautiful.
Brian Elliott hits the .900 mark
Elliott continues to maintain his starter’s net. This time around, he stopped 28 of 29 shots – and it’s really, really hard to blame him for that one goal against – and with a bit of luck, persevered.
He put up a .966 save percentage on the night, following up the .971 he posted against the Hurricanes. He now has a .901 save percentage this season. It’s not the numbers we were looking forward to to start the year – but lately, Elliott’s been putting them up.
The Flames have a collective .902 save percentage. That’s tied for 23rd in the NHL. No, not incredible – but clearly on the upswing. Why mess with that now?
Is it just me, or does nobody else fret when the Flames fall behind nowadays? Especially since that insane Predators game. It’s like, oh no, they got scored on. They’ll probably find a way to get it back.
What a difference a month makes.
Is it possible Micheal Ferland singlehandedly changed plans?
The Flames’ defensive group is incomplete. We know that – Michael Stone is not an ideal top four defenceman for a highly competitive team – but there’s nothing the Flames can really do about that with the expansion draft looming.
We also know that the Flames’ forward group is very much incomplete. For most of this season, they’ve been a one-line team, as 3M and 3M alone fought to keep the forward group relevant. Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan have had their fair share of struggles throughout the season, especially highlighted by their new big contracts.
Here’s a thought: what if the struggles were more pronounced not because of their deals, but because the Flames didn’t have a suitable third linemate for them?
Until it turns out they did. And he didn’t cost anything to get. He just needed to be shuffled up.
The Flames still need to up their forward corps, but they’ve gone from one scoring line to two just by moving Ferland up. He has four goals in five games now – not sustainable, but still – since being freed from the fourth line. He’s getting respectable minutes now (if only we could do something about the powerplay ice time allocation…) and doing everything he can with them.
All of a sudden – and it is very sudden, and by no means a guarantee it lasts – the Flames’ need for another quality winger doesn’t seem quite so pressing.
Ferland has been magical since getting bumped up. He’s got great hands, a hell of a shot, and the smarts to keep up with his linemates. Not just that; the entire line seems to play bigger with Ferland’s presence. He’s absolutely everything you could ever want in a power forward – providing this continues.
As things stand entering deadline day, the Flames don’t need to search for Gaudreau and Monahan’s right winger. He’s right there. Simply moving Ferland up to play with them may have done more than just about any deadline move could have.