30TJ Brodie, Brian Elliott

Flames 5, Canadiens 0 post-game embers: Eight is great

A little over six weeks ago, the Montreal Canadiens annihilated the Calgary Flames, defeating them 5-0 as Carey Price–

No wait, wait, that wasn’t how it went. Sam Bennett scored a meaningless goal with two seconds to go, a sad little silver lining on top of what had been one of the most miserable nights of the season.

Last night, though, the Flames showed the Canadiens how to close out and get that 5-0 shutout victory.

Congrats, Brian Elliott

There have been several games this season in which Brian Elliott deserved to pick up that elusive first shutout. You can date this as far back as Oct. 25, when he returned to St. Louis for the first time and had his shutout bid spoiled by an iffy powerplay early in the third period. Elliott still trails Chad Johnson by two, though he has effectively taken the starter’s reins and appears to be in no rush to give them up.

It wasn’t a goalie win – the Flames outshot the Habs 38-24 – but shutouts are shutouts, and shutouts are awesome, and the Flames have four on the season and Elliott finally has one to his name.

Since this win streak started, he has posted save percentages of: .821 (that bizarre Nashville game in which he made several game-saving stops as well, because why not), .920 (Tampa), .971 (Carolina), .966 (Los Angeles), .946 (Detroit), .943 (the Islanders), and now, 1.000. Is it any wonder the Flames are rolling? That’s a combined .938 save percentage. Toss in Johnson’s .947 against Florida and you have an extremely good starting goalie – you know, what Elliott was in St. Louis – and an extremely capable backup.

Elliott’s save percentage for the season is now .907. Remember when he was basically the worst in the NHL? Not so much anymore. He’s barely behind Marc-Andre Fleury (.908) and Ben Bishop (.910), goalies the Flames supposedly should have been trading for; this guy cost nothing at the deadline.

His even strength save percentage – which is a more accurate base to judge on – is .918. Bishop’s is .919. Fleury’s is .916. Elliott dug himself up out of that hole.

A first of the season

Of course, Elliott is only part of the story. Something else that helps? The Flames are scoring goals now, too.

They only needed one last night, but scoring five provided an extra nice bonus: they now have a +2 goal differential.

It’s the first time the Flames have had a positive goal differential all season. Towards the beginning, they were trending towards the worst in the NHL. Even as they seemed to be getting better, they still kept falling victim to blowouts.

Before the last Montreal game, the Flames were slowly trending in that positive direction. They’d beaten the Florida Panthers 5-2, and had a goal differential of just -5.

… Then they gave up four to the Predators, and that was that. Then they somehow scored three? Then they gave up seven to the Oilers. Then four to the Leafs. Then five to the Canadiens. And they were buried in a negative goal differential hole once again. They even got a 5-0 loss to the Coyotes in for good measure.

It may have taken an eight-game winning streak, but no matter: they’re finally in the green.

Why does this matter so much? It both does and doesn’t. When I’m looking at something of a flop team – one that may not make the playoffs – I’m at least hoping they have a positive goal differential, if for nothing else than as a point of pride. But teams with positive goal differentials also tend to actually make the playoffs. Seven teams in the West have it; all seven of those teams are in playoff position. Nine teams in the East have it; two are just outside of the playoffs, while the Islanders, occupying the last wild card spot, are at -1.

If you score more goals than you give up, chances are you’re a pretty decent team with a shot. That’s a statistical hurdle the Flames have finally cleared.

Speaking of scoring goals and getting points

All the love in the world to Mikael Backlund, but Johnny Gaudreau has finally taken his rightful place at the top of the Flames’ scoreboard once again. And all it took was a four-point night! He now has 48 points in 57 games and is on pace for 61, despite missing 10 games this season (otherwise, he’d be on pace for 69). Remind me how his contract got to be too much for him and he’s actually worthless and needs to be traded away ASAP?

Sean Monahan, Michael Frolik, and Micheal Stone were also big points winners last night with two each. Monahan jumped up to 45 on the season – on pace for 55, which is still a down year to be sure, but not a panic-inducing one – and is now third in team scoring. Frolik hopped up to 39, one away from being the sixth Flame to join the 40-point club, and he’s on pace for 48, which would be a career season for him. Stone doubled his Flames output in reduced minutes.

Mark Giordano also became the 11th guy to score at least 10 goals for the Flames – Alex Chiasson is up next, he’s still sitting at eight – and he finally cracked the 30-point barrier. T.J. Brodie, with a handful of glorious chances, should have cracked the 30-point barrier, too; alas, he remains at just 29.

Also, who the hell is Micheal Ferland? This sky-high shooting percentage isn’t going to last, but he’s the best linemate Gaudreau and Monahan have had since Jiri Hudler, seriously. Even if he isn’t scoring goals he’s not hurting that line at all. Though it is funny he’s just not picking up assists at all – that’s now 14 goals, seven assists for 21 points this season (tied with Brouwer, so hopefully he’s not gonna go ahead and demand $4.5 million to be re-signed). Does he become a 20-goal scorer this season? It’s… certainly possible, at this rate.

Pray for the defence

From the sounds of things, there’s a little more hope for Dougie Hamilton than Stone, though nothing’s official yet. But as unideal as it is to lose any player, especially at this time of year, Hamilton is one of the ones the Flames can least afford to be without.

He’s their highest scoring defenceman, and one of their best corsi guys, too. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: he’s the Flames’ number one defender in everything but ice time. So if he can just, like, not miss any time whatsoever, that would be ideal.

If anyone is out for any period of time, though, then what happens? Fortunately it’s not like the Flames have any back-to-backs, so they’ve got plenty of time to call guys up, so it’s not like we need to have Dennis Wideman happen again. Brett Kulak is familiar with this team; he’d have to be an automatic. I don’t know if you get any other kids really in there though – say, a couple of Swedes – if only because this is still a playoff race (hell, it’s a race for position now) and that’s stressful and what rookie or teenager needs to be thrown into that high-pressure situation right now?

Hopefully there’s no real time missed, especially for Hamilton. Hopefully if someone does have to step out it’s Kulak who gets meaningful minutes.

In the meantime, salutes to Giordano and Brodie, who both played over 25 minutes.

Is Matthew Tkachuk even real

He’s 19. He’s a rookie and he’s 19 years old and we didn’t know if he’d even make the team this year and he never even bothers to wear his mouthguard properly and what the hell are we even watching here.

Monahan and Bennett had modest rookie seasons. Gaudreau’s was electrifying but came with three college seasons’ worth of buildup.

Tkachuk isn’t technically out of nowhere because he’s been putting up points for a while. Though there was always that little asterisk with them – is it him, or is it his linemates? Or, uh, is it actually just him?

He may not be able to challenge for the rookie scoring title like Gaudreau did but he’s freakishly complete. He won’t score as much as Gaudreau in his rookie season but he’s just as electrifying. Each game passes and it’s like… he’s gonna finish third in Calder voting, isn’t he? He went sixth overall? Sure, why not.

  • everton fc

    I called the Ferland goal!! 😉

    Watched the highlights… Gaudreau is becoming an incredible playmaker on that line. They have to keep that line together as long as they can – Ferland is the piece that was missing. His game is now “top-drawer” – he’s a legitimate power-forward at this level. He’ll score 20-plus next season if they leave these three on the same line. Gaudreau’s passing and playmaking, and his ability to find open space close to the net… He had a good game.

    Which Flame didn’t, though? Even the 4th line looks like it could pop one soon, though I wish Hathaway were out there over Bouma. If he were only a LW! I hope Vegas leaves Stajan alone. I’d rather see them scoop Bouma (who wouldn’t?) or Shinkaruk.

    Versteeg is a bit of a pest, hey? I didn’t like those two late upper cuts. But he’s certainly showing he wants to be here. And I liked the Bartkowski face-washed Ott, who deserves it every game it seems. These boys are on fire. Wouldn’t want to face them in the playoffs, if I were a team like the Blackhawks or Sharks…

    • cjc

      I don’t know where Ryan Pike got his numbers, but if you look at today’s numbers on Corsica, Stone has been better than Wideman by every metric since arriving in Calgary (maybe last night’s game put him over the top?). All numbers 5v5, adjusted for zone, score and venue:

      CA/60: Stone 55.69, Wideman 54.02 (OK, Wideman wins this one)
      CF%: Stone 53.26%, Wideman 50.20% (Hard to believe Wideman was over 50%)
      SA/60: Stone 29.23, Wideman 29.31 (Statistically even)
      SF%: Stone 54.44, Wideman 49.12
      xGA/60: Stone 2.08, Wideman 2.72 (Stone best on team, though small sample size)
      xGF%: Stone 60.18%(!), Wideman 47.53 (ditto)
      SCA/60: Stone 6.23, Wideman 8.85 (ditto)

      Basically this says that Stone, while allowing a few more shots/attempts than Wideman is really keeping opponents to the outside. He has excelled on the offensive end too.

      Bartkowski, on the other hand, has had slightly better possession numbers than Jokipakka, but far worse SCA/60 and has a sky high PDO (109.9) to mask the suckage.

  • everton fc

    I’l come clean and apologize for thinking GG was not the guy here – note Cameron. If GG gets this team on a deep playoff run, could he be in the running for “The Adams”? He’d have to be considered, along w/Tortorella..

    • Cfan in Van

      Absolutely. Just what the doctor ordered this season.

      I also think that Stone is a nice recent add to the back end, adding some strength and toughness. Maybe not a world beater, but contributes to some nice balance to the defense as a whole.

  • Lazarus

    Like I’ve said, if Backlund finishes as our leading scorer this team won’t make the playoffs. The right order of things is being restored and it’s no coincidence we are back in the playoff mix.

    • playastation

      I’m not sure how this comment makes any sense. If he was a terrible player and lead the team in scoring… like rene borque or something.. then yes.. but yah total nonsense here bud

    • cjc

      So up until last night, when Backlund was leading the team in scoring and Calgary was already solidly in playoff position… I look at it this way – unlike last year, Gaudreau hasn’t had to do everything himself. Yay depth!

  • everton fc

    I agree on Tkachuk and Stone. Additing Hathaway to the 4th line/RW next season gives us even more of that “truculence” BB’s always pushing here. Replacing Engelland’s “truculence” on the back-end will be something to consider next season, but is we lose Engelland, and Bartkowski’s only retained as a 6/7 option, we need to backfill Engelland and Bartkowski – the 5/6 pairing. Kulak, if he’s not scooped in the Expansion Draft, is #5; a tough, rugged, COMPETENT #6 would be an ideal pickup in the off-season, if done “cheap”. I tend to agree, because of his age, Engelland may not have many suitors come free agency. Perhaps he’ll head to his off-season home in Vegas and call it a career for one more season (and maybe coach there – who knows?). Having him back for one more season sounds okay on the surface… And he may have another season or two in him… But the risks far outweigh any potential positives when we have a few young defenders on the farm on the cusp of “close”…

  • everton fc

    cjc;

    I never said we needed a goon, and I think it is important in our current mix of defenders to have someone who, with competence, can back-fill (and be and upgrade) to Engelland. I do see us re-signing Stone, and leaving him w/Brodie – why mess w/a good thing, and I think this pairing will continue to produce positive results. Our 5/6 pairing next season is the “next step”. If Kulak’s still with the organization, he’s #5. #6 could be Andersson. Could be Kylington. Could be Bartkowski. Could be an off-season acquisition. But by no means do I advocate “truculence” over competence. My suggestion was to try our best to find a bit of both. Engelland gave is this, for the past couple of seasons, and I think we can upgrade on the defencive side, over Engelland.

  • Jessemadnote

    There is definitely a bit of confirmation bias with Wideman here. He was having a terrible season, but before he was sent down he was especially low. I love Stone but Wideman slotting in for Stone is definitely not the difference between winning and losing. I think if Wides gets a couple games in, he may do a good job of settling his game down to become an effective veteran #6 with some offensive upside.

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    T-Chuk’s pass to Gio was way beyond his years. No panic, just a heads up play where most players would have shot or tried a pass to his line mate.

    I know Bartman doesn’t get much luv or ink, but I thought he looks good out there. Prior to dropping the mitts with Ott, he was grinding him into the boards like a post pounder. Love that tenacity. Ott has run around this league making a living outta cheap shots. Bart’s salary is pretty good bang for the buck.

    Nine Will Be Fine.

    GFG

  • McRib

    It looks like Rasmus Andersson could be getting he call up, because Brett Kulak was injured recently according to the Fan 960. Hopefully that is the case, time will tell.

  • The Doctor

    The other thing about Elliott is that he was absolutely killed in terms of his stats early on in the season when the whole team stunk pretty badly. You know, the 5-10 record and all. Especially during the first 20 games, we were constantly making boneheaded defensive errors, committing brutal giveaways in our own zone, and basically hanging our goalies out to dry. Not surprising that coming out of that first quarter of the season or so, Elliott’s numbers were among the worst in the NHL. Yeah, he didn’t stand on his head and miraculously bail the team out all on his own, but that’s asking a bit much in today’s NHL. It’s a team game.