Post-Game: Afternoon Delight

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(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)

There’s something about the Calgary Flames and afternoon games. In recent years, it always seems like weird stuff happens in afternoon games – whether they’re played in Calgary or on the road. Thus, it was probably a comfort to the home side that this game wasn’t overly crazy aside from an offensive outburst. The Flames played a really great first period and held on for a 5-2 victory over the visiting New York Islanders.

THE RUNDOWN

The opening period was full of pep and energy for the Flames early, as they generated a bunch of good rushes but just couldn’t beat Thomas Greiss. Finally, roughly 15 minutes into the game, they figured the Islanders out. What followed? Four goals in 4:40.

Michael Frolik finished off a really nice sequence by the top line (3M) and top pairing (Giordano & Hamilton), where they generated roughly four or five good scoring chances in rapid succession. The final one, from Frolik, was off a rebond where he was able to careen the puck into the net off of Greiss’ inside leg to make it 1-0.

On the very next shift, T.J. Brodie jumped into the rush, skated the puck beneath the Islanders red line and bonked the puck in off of Greiss’ back foot to make it 2-0. It looked like he was trying to pass it into the slot, but a goal is a goal.

A couple shifts later, the top line was involved in an offensive zone board scrum with the Isles. Ferland collected the loose puck from that scrum, skated towards the slot and beat Greiss with a nice wrister to make it 3-0.

Finally, the Gaudreau line got sprung on a three-on-one and Gaudreau fed Sean Monahan for a tap-in to make it 4-0.

Shots were 21-8 for the home side.

The Islanders changed goalies to begin the second, putting young Jean-Francois Berube in goal. The Isles were better than they were in the first, but the Flames seemed fairly content to hang back and defend for the most part. They got one back, as John Tavares bonked in a rebound to make it 4-1, but otherwise they didn’t threaten too much. Shots were 10-9 Islanders in the second.

The Flames and Islanders each added a goal in the third period. Kris Versteeg got a goal off a nice three-on-one rush – caused by Josh Ho Sang and Travis Hamonic colliding in the Calgary zone – which gave every Flames forward line a goal.

Jason Chimera scored with a nice top-corner wrister from the face-off circles in the Flames zone to make it 5-2. The Islanders had a two-man advantage for a bit in the third and then pulled their goalie, but just couldn’t get anything in the net. Shots were 17-7 for the Islanders.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

To be honest? They seemed befuddled by the Islanders’ defensive zone play and by Greiss for a good portion of the fist period. But they figured things out, started playing with the puck more along the boards and behind the net, and the Islanders opened up shooting and passing lanes for them.

Once they got themselves a lead, they were savvy enough in their own end (and got good enough goaltending) that they were able to ride this one out.

THE TURNING POINT

The Ferland goal to make it 3-0 was probably the back-breaker for the Islanders. It gave the Flames a big lead, dug the Isles a big hole, and gave the home side the breathing room to just roll lines and take it easy for the remaining 40 minutes of play.

RED WARRIOR

Let’s break tradition and go with a collective six-man unit: Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk, Michael Frolik, Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano and Brian Elliott. The skaters were really good early on, while the netminder held them in this one as the Isles pushed late in the game.

THE NUMBERS

(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Stats via Natural Stat Trick.)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Hamilton 63.4 53.9 2.375
Tkachuk 62.9 44.4 1.175
Giordano 60.0 53.9 0.725
Chiasson 58.3 60.0 1.060
Backlund 58.3 50.0 1.210
Frolik 56.1 50.0 1.150
Versteeg 52.7 66.7 1.250
Bouma 52.2 60.0 0.200
Stajan 50.0 60.0 0.570
Bennett 50.0 66.7 0.960
Brodie 50.0 58.3 1.225
Monahan 48.3 57.1 1.850
Brouwer 47.4 72.7 0.240
Gaudreau 46.7 57.1 1.050
Stone 46.0 58.3 -0.025
Bartkowski 45.2 66.7 0.450
Engelland 44.1 66.7 0.375
Ferland 42.3 57.1 1.075
Elliott 1.800

THIS AND THAT

When the Flames:

  • lead after 20 minutes, they’re 16-3-1.
  • lead after 40 minutes, they’re 26-0-1.
  • score first, they’re 19-7-1.

The Flames were 24-24-3, at the .500 mark, after their January 24 stinker in Montreal. Now they’re 10 games over .500.

QUOTABLE

“I thought we used the back of the net really well a few times. And again, winning battles, catching them. Ferly’s shot’s a great shot, from pretty far out but it’s a great shot. We sorta caught them in their own zone. That’s where we have to play teams. We can’t get into track meets, we give up too much when we do that. When we play simple, we can have some good zone time and dominate..” – Flames captain Mark Giordano on the team’s adjustments in the Islanders zone in the first period.

MAGIC NUMBERS

Stick-tap to our pal (and yours) Pat Steinberg for busting out the slide-ruler to do the initial calculations on these!

The Flames magic number to clinch began the night at 14.5. Their win drops it to any combination of 13.5 Flames wins or Kings losses clinching a playoff berth for the local sports team.

UP NEXT

The Flames (36-26-4) are off tomorrow and then have two days of practices to ready themselves for a Thursday evening match-up with the Montreal Canadiens.

  • flamesburn89

    Gotta love how the Flames kept plugging away even after Greiss made all those saves in the first. The Flames just kept out playing the Islanders until they were finally rewarded.

  • Truculence

    If we could somehow improve that third pairing, I like this team’s chances against just about anybody. And like a fellow commentator said in an earlier post, Stone is still unbeaten as a Flame!

    Could he be this year’s Rhett Warrener?

      • KobasewYa

        But it’s still important to be process based and not always results based. The team is playing really good. They’re a playoff team and are exciting to watch. It’s not being negative to think about what they could do with one other strong defender on the back end or someone to play with Bennet and Versteeg. Like the original poster said, that could bump them up from really good to they are serious cup contenders.

        Stone has been getting outshot pretty badly almost every game.

        • cberg

          At this point in the season, after the TDL, there is zero possibility of bringing in someone new until the Black Aces arrive in another month or so. Musing about impossible what-ifs may be nice to dream about, but the reality is getting the most out of the guys we have is what is going to count. Everything else is for off-season discussion.

          Given that, your point, well, a point is clear that upgrading 1-2 players can make a huge difference. Just see what has happened with Stone & Bartkowski, along with moving Ferland onto the line with Gaudreau and Mony. Almost a night and day upgraded team.

      • kid presentable

        we are 7-0 because the whole team is playing well. every time engelland and bartkowski are on the ice we bleed chances, shots and zone entries against. neither of them can handle the puck and bartkowski is good for 2-3 unforced giveaways every shift. we might be able to survive their shifts while the whole team is rolling, but when the margins are thin, they’re gonna be big detriments on our chances.

        • Truculence

          A-men. As I’ve stated before, that third pairing is still getting lit up whenever they are on the ice. It sucks to see the Monny line out there getting pinned in their own end when they are out with Bart and Engelland cuz the latter two can’t take the puck away from the opposition along the boards.

          Don’t get me wrong, they do have their good days, but they are few and far between. When I watch the true contenders, their bottom pairing is usually defensively responsible against the bottom six of the opposing team, and that’s all you can really ask for.

          In the offseason, I think the priority should be to get Brodie a true top-4 partner like Alzner if possible, and retain Stone as an excellent #5 defender rather than a fringe #4 defender.

          • Rudy27

            Perhaps the problem getting out of their own end and giving up chances is less to do with the 3rd D pairing, and more with them being matched with Mony’s line. Jonny is a light weight and Mony isn’t as effective fighting for the puck as the other three centers.

  • Prototype369

    Bennett and Versteeg need some relief from the anchor that is Brouwer. Honestly, he didn’t even pass the eye test, and the flames played really good today. I know you shouldn’t fix anything that’s not broken, but if at all changes are to be made, that’s the first thing that needs to happen. Give Lazar a chance, I honestly believe he won’t be worse

    • OKG

      Even Freddie Hamilton (Mr Forgotten) would be an interesting look there. He’s had some absolute snipes this season and he’s a tenacious and responsible player.

      Anyways the OZSs were hilarious, the only player with less than 50% OZS was our 19 year old rookie.

    • EST. 1980

      I agree, Brower is doing more harm then good. Either switch him with Lazar or move Chiasson up with Versteeg and Bennett and put Lazar with the 4th line. The Stajan line have been reliable and are playing respectable minutes.

    • cberg

      Both agree and disagree. He’s of the least as far as points go, but I haven’t been tracking him specifically to honestly comment on other aspects, like screening, the boards, on-ice leadership….. I think he’s fine, and we know what he Can do, so I’m giving him a break. At this point in the season salaries are irrelevant, its the team that counts, and right now the team is doing just fine.

  • Pizzaman

    I cant believe I am going to cheer for the Canuckleheads two days in a row – beat those Ducks! With the Sedin zombie brothers, that crappy defence and Dead Man Willie as coach we better hope Miller really really wants to show he is not quite dead yet.

    • supra steve

      Boy, have you got it tough.

      I lived in Edmonton from 1987 thru 1992. The Flames were a strong team and won the Cup in ’89, but the Oil prevailed in ’87, ’88, and ’90.

      These Oilers are only 2 points up on the Flames, and have no cup wins since that one in 1990. I seriously hope you don’t get to witness anything similar to what I did back then, except for the Cup victory by the Flames.

  • TheoForever

    Adding Bart and Stone has made a big difference. Brodie is looking like the Brodie of old.
    Finally they put Ferklund with Johnny, looking good, should have done it a long time ago.

    Is it my imaginations or is Johnny getting slashed a lot less with MF on his line?

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    What’s with this stretched out sked – I guess we’re making up for all those ‘games in hand’ we had all season. Anyways, the Habs will be a really good test for the Flames on Thursday.

    Even the dishonest Calgary media are starting to pile on Brows during their between period panel discussions. It was nice to see Bennett get the first assist on Steegers goal.

    Johnny’s game is really starting to ramp up of late. The puck looked like it was on a string at times when he entered the zone.

    Bring on Les Habs.

  • Lucky 13

    All 3 forward lines getting in on scoring.Gotta love that. I thought Versteeg had a great game, he was definitely engaged in this one and I loved the Bennett pass to Versteeg for the one timer. Versteeg scored the same way last time on his off wing … on the PP .. might be something there.

    Like others, I want Brouwer to be successful, but when you are able to play a heavy game and don’t you are invisible. Say what you want about Chiasson, at least he hustles his butt off. I’d rather have Chiasson on my wing than Brouwer any day and I agree Lazar would be better than Brouwer at this point.

    Ferland has 3 goals in his last 6 games…. good to see him rewarded for his efforts.

    I hope we give Montreal a taste of their own medicine when they visit us this time!

  • Just.Visiting

    Great game today-firing on all cylinders.

    Three lines going, with some really strong signals that Bennett’s luck is going to change.

    I really like the stability that Stone has brought. Plays a nice simple game-stay in position, play the man and finish the check, protect the goalie and get the puck out of the zone. This has also seen Brodie playing much closer to his ability than had been the case.

    I’m happy with the current lineup, but continue to struggle with not having Ferland on the first PP unit given how the first line is now playing. He can certainly play the in front of the net role.

    Given recent PP performance and the demonstrated lack of chemistry with Brouwer, why wouldn’t they try Ferland? If the salaries were reversed, they’d certainly make this change based on relative performance over the last few weeks.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      In fairness to the coaches, they have always wanted Ferland to be the winger on that line but it wasn’t clicking. The big difference I am seeing is that Ferland is not trying to change his game to accommodate his linemates…. Like he was doing in the past. He seems to see himself as more than a 4th line banger.

  • Guest

    Could only listen today, but sounded like one of the strongest games this season. I really wish Wideman had been benched sooner. Between him and Ferland finally being put on the top line, its addition by subtraction and rearrangement. Our 4-6 D be better and Brouwer getting claimed in the expansion draft would be awesome, but we are remarkably better with those changes and good goaltending.

    I have been saying we are as good as the Oilers just with a worse schedule and goaltending. Now I think we are better.

    How long until Lazar plays? Does he play more than three games unless there is an injury?

  • Pond Hockey

    You never want to be the weakest player on a competitive team – unless maybe you’re signed up for 3 more years at $4.5M per.

    Hopefully Tre can trick the Knights into thinking that he’s not just any anchor, but a special Golden anchor.

    Time for me to go look for shooting stars and start making wishes. When is the next big meteor shower anyway? No harm in going big in the wish department.

  • smatic10

    To be honest with you, Chiasson exceeded my expectations for this year. I was expecting a Setoguchi2.0. But Chiasson skates hard and is responsible out there, he plays perfectly fine on that 4th line. I’m not sure why people are saying to make him sit and push Brouwer down. These days Chiasson brings more to the table than Brouwer does on the ice. The ideal scenario would be to make Brouw sit but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

    Also, If we want Brouwer to get claimed in the expansion draft, we unfortunately can’t make him sit now.

    As long as this team continues winning, I could care less how Brouwer is performing.

      • Guest

        Brouwer isn’t a terrible player, just an overpaid player that will likely get worse over his deal. He’s better than Bouma and maybe Chaisson.

        Question, if we expose Brouwer should Calgary eat say 1-1.5 annually to have Vegas select him? At 3.0 he is still overpaid but its in the ballpark. I like that more than trading away say another 2nd round pick next year to make Vegas take him.

        Side note. Janikowski is probably going to be ready next year. Where does he slot in? Trading time with Stajan? I can see Bouma getting waived to the AHL early in the season as well. We’ve been lucky this year on injuries so its nice to have a little depth.

        • Pond Hockey

          Maybe Vegas sees something in Stajan and selects him. Hard to know what they will be looking for.

          On the bright side, we don’t have much to offer them.

        • OKG

          Brouwer is a very specific player. He has a great shot in the slot usually. It’s his only NHL skill but it keeps him here. Back in my day we used to call that a “Floater” but because he also hits, he is confused as a grinder.

          Now the problem is that

          1) Your center, whether Bennett or Monahan can’t be your primary grinder on a line. He has too many responsibilities up high.

          2) Versteeg is not a grinder. He’s a player who is also a “floater” except just five times as skilled as Brouwer with the puck on his stick.

          So we need to either replace Versteeg with a player who’s just as skilled as Versteeg but a grinder, or keep Versteeg/Bennett and add a true grinder to get in on the forecheck, like how Ferland is doing for Johnny/Monny and how Frolik is doing for Backs/Chucky.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          I agree, another multi point game for Janko last night…. He is outgrowing the AHL quickly. I can see Janko and Rasmus cracking the line up next season.

      • cberg

        Sometimes fans’ comments are (kjef78643nn387!!)…beyond the pale. We’re 7-0 with the current line-up and top echelon in the NHL over the past several months. Get over it.

  • Despo

    Beside Elliott who was again fantastic Mike Stone should be mentioned as the Red Warrior. He was everywhere in the 5:3 PP late in the game with huge blocks.

    If the Flames as a whole start to play consistent 60 minutes, there will be a lot fun in the next couple of weeks.