58Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik

Flames 3, Jets 0 post-game embers: Nine is fine

I do not think it can be understated just how horrible the Flames were to start the game.

They were terrible. It was the kind of play that made you stop and think, well, all good things must come to an end. Even if it is against the Jets – a team that doesn’t exactly look like they’ll be competing for a playoff spot (they’re still under .500) – well, hey, these things happen. Dennis Wideman is back, after all. And they weren’t great against the Red Wings either, were they? Outside of the 3M line and Brian Elliott, there was no hope–

And then the 3M powerplay unit got two goals and Elliott got a shutout. That’ll do it.

Our regularly scheduled Elliott update

Elliott is currently riding a 128:28 shutout. Remember when his save percentage was so horrible it was unsalvageable? It’s now at .910. That’s not amazing, but that’s looking pretty salvaged. He’s tied with Ben Bishop! He’s even almost up with Chad Johnson, who’s still sitting at .913.

Switch to even strength only, and Elliott’s save percentage jumps up to .920 (Johnson’s is .922).

The Flames are basically like a well-oiled machine these days. Only when they aren’t performing optimally, Elliott is, and he’s ready to bail them out until they can get going again. Because seriously: Elliott is the one to thank for the Flames not entering that first intermission down. He kept them in the game. They regrouped. And he got his second straight shutout.

And while it’s Elliott rightfully getting all of the attention nowadays, a sincere thank you to Johnson, because the Flames wouldn’t be where they currently are without his play earlier in the season, either. The Flames hedged their bets by getting two goalies who had good numbers, but neither of whom was ever a full-blown proven starter. It paid off with Johnson in November. It’s paying off with Elliott now. This team isn’t sitting second in the Pacific (one game in hand pending) without the work from the two of them.

Almost as though the Flames got the ideal goaltending tandem – and we are finally seeing it manifest as expected.

A night of highs

For the first time, the Calgary Flames won nine games in a row.

For the first time, Mikael Backlund scored 48 points in a single season.

For the first time, Dougie Hamilton scored 44 points in a single season.

Backlund and Hamilton probably aren’t done yet, in all likelihood (Backlund is on pace for 58 points; Hamilton for 53). We hope the Flames aren’t, either, because if they hit their 10th win they’d tie an Atlanta Flames record – and maybe even set themselves up for a brand new one. That’s obviously less certain, but they have beaten the Penguins and the Bruins earlier this season…

Anyway. You’ll notice Backlund has tied Johnny Gaudreau for the lead in team scoring once again, though Gaudreau has played 10 fewer games. Sean Monahan took a step forward with 46 points, while Hamilton’s big three-assist night caught him up to Matthew Tkachuk.

Michael Frolik hasn’t hit a career high in points yet, but he’s inching towards it. He sits at 41 now – that’s six Flames with 40+ points – and is just four away from tying his career high. He’s on pace for 49. (There’s a pretty good chance every member of the 3M line will be a 50-point scorer. That’s the shutdown line.)

The best powerplay

Carrying on with the 3M lovefest, you know who led the Flames in powerplay time last night? Finally, their best unit.

We know the 3M line is literally one of the best in the entire NHL, and there’s similar evidence to draw that conclusion regarding Mark Giordano and Hamilton’s pairing, too. And this is a group that tends to get the worst zone starts. So imagine what they could do when put specifically in a position to succeed? Like, you know… on the powerplay?

The 3M forwards all got 4:17 on the man advantage, while Hamilton finally – finally! – led the Flames’ defencemen in powerplay time with 4:14. This has been a long time coming, but it’s pretty hard to argue with results. Not only do they simply look better than the unit with Gaudreau and Monahan – they’re chasing less, they’re dictating play more, they’re just more composed and in control in general most times – but they scored two goals.

The Flames’ powerplay is now clicking at an even 20.0%, 14th in the NHL. It can probably get better if the team defaulted to their top powerplay unit. The real one – the one that consists of arguably the best five-man unit in the NHL.

We have to talk about Troy

There are a couple of things really holding this year’s Flames team back. The first is their lack of defensive depth. The second is Troy Brouwer.

You probably noted his 5v5 CF of just 6.25% in the recap. Kent Wilson noted how he was at 0% after two periods. He was on the ice for one shot attempt. One.

Incredibly tiny sample sizes beware, but Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg shot up about 60% each when they were separated from him for not even a full minute.

That’s not enough to draw a hard conclusion on. You know what is, though? We’re almost 70 games into this season and Brouwer doesn’t even belong in the top nine, and rarely looks like it. Right when the Flames were on the verge of escaping their indefensible contracts (mostly Smid, Wideman), they went and added another one – and it’s drastically awful.

There will always be whipping boys on teams, true. There will always be guys who don’t live up to their deals. You know what the difference is between having a fourth line centre costing over $3 million in Matt Stajan and Brouwer, though? Stajan doesn’t take his linemates down with him. Stajan’s the kind of guy you can just shrug and ignore the cap hit on, because he still plays at a serviceable level.

Brouwer is… not. At all. The Flames probably aren’t going to change their lineup while they’re still winning, but Bennett and Versteeg have real potential to help out the top nine, and they can’t because of the guy on their right wing who is seemingly not helping at all.

And if the argument is that Brouwer is just saving it for the playoffs, he’s a playoff performer based off of last postseason and literally nothing else, then how is even that acceptable? It’s leadership to actively drag your linemates down throughout the lengthy regular season when you still have to fight to make the playoffs because once upon a time you scored a Blackhawks-eliminating goal? Weird.

With Bennetts like these, who needs Bolligs

I’m not a fan of fighting in the NHL… except when it’s born of raw emotion and the participants are two players who have much more to offer.

Wow. And that’s his second fight of this win streak; remember when he went HAM on Ryan Johansen?

Remember last season when Bob Hartley flat out ran out of ideas and put Brandon Bollig on Gaudreau’s line? That line couldn’t even enter the offensive zone. Now they’ve got Micheal Ferland up there, who can also hold his own. Bennett is pretty willing to give these things a go. Matthew Tkachuk could end up being that guy, too. And these are all top-nine players.

There was never a need to waste a roster spot on a pure goon in the modern NHL, anyway – but now the Flames really have no excuse.

  • Tanner

    I wonder what the Flames would have to pay the Golden Knights to get them to take Brouwer in the expansion draft.
    Even though the Flames are on a sweet win streak right now, I wonder if it wouldn’t be a smart idea to bench Brouwer and put in Lazar for a night? That would allow Brouwer to check himself and Lazar to get some playing time.

  • MarkyOgg

    I’ve been carrying a pitch fork in most of the Wideman discussions this season, but did he do OK last night, advanced stats-wise? Didn’t see any major Wideman gaffes, so passed my eye test at least.

  • CalgaryCandle

    I spent most of yesterday morning checking with the 6 Flames D were going to be and found out Weidman was in and Andersson out unless Hamilton couldn’t play. I was worried the rest of the day. Was Weidman going to be as awful as before he was sat out.

    The good news is I didn’t notice him for the most part. What I did see is he was put out twice by GG in the last three minutes or so and played over 14 minutes on the 3rd pairing. That seems to indicate a moderate amount of trust by GG.

    Anybody else notice Weidman’s play last night?

    Was happy Elliott kept them in it till the 3M line could click. Sweet feed from Monahan to Chaisson to ice it in the third. Chaisson looked like a legitimate scorer on that shot. The Winnipeg commentator said their goalie had to have that, but it was a very hard shot from many 20 feet out–not an easy save.

    If we can take 2 home games from LA and beat the teams we should like Dallas were in. It would be nice to finish top three in the Pacific, but the quality of the opponent doesn’t change too much: Minny, SJ, Anaheim, Edmonton depending on where we end up. I just want Calgary to make the playoffs!!

    GFG!!!!

  • CalgaryCandle

    Has anyone seen any kind of update on Stone–any timelines when he’ll be back? Any speculation based on him holding shoulder when he was hurt?

    GFG!!!!

    • Big Ell

      And they put a graphic with Gaudreau only having 2 assists on the PP in something like 39 games. So he does well with Monahan and Ferland at ES but stinks on the PP with Brouwer.
      It can’t be a coincidence.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I figured it would just be a matter of time when Edmonton trolls figured out how to access the new website….riddle me this” what’s orange and blue and no longer number two”

    • Lazarus

      Maybe you all should be a little grateful. We could have Brouwer on the ice with Wideman and Bollig and Hamilton playing 2nd pairing and no PP time..or do you forget the way things were a very short time ago? All I see after every win is how horrible Brouwer was. Whiners

  • Zalapski

    What blows my mind about Brouwer is how ineffective he is at all times. He is a bad passer, not the greatest forechecker and most of the time is just, kind of on the ice. I imagined him being an average NHLer with streaks of scoring or the occasional nice play, but he does nothing out there. Even guy like Bouma or Stajan come in off the week and take a shot or start a nice cycle and grind, Chiasson drives the net with a presence. They signed him for his leadership and size, but he is such a perimeter player it’s almost like he’s just cashing a check. It’s so much easier to hide out there when you’re a forward and Wideman didn’t have that luxury. I’d like to see him bench for a game to see if he gets the message. 70 games of nothing and 4.5 million dollars down the pipe. At this point Freddie or Lazar are better options with Bennett and Versteeg.

  • Joeymullen'sghost

    Brower is to Bennet what Wideman was to Brodie. It’s time to let the kid skate without having an anvil chained to his ankle and see if he can evolve like we hope. Time to bench Brower

  • Flaymin Frank

    Wideman is not ever gonna regain his former glory or foot speed, but he’s still plays a decent game. But when he gets out ta position or makes a bad pinch, he’s simply too slow to get back into position. We need Stone or Kulak back asap.

    It took a while but its nice to be looking down on provincial rivals. They’ll be gripping the stick hard today against les Habs.

    GFG

  • Lucky 13

    Well after a 9 game winning streak I was hoping for a love fest for our beloved team.
    After all this is a Flames record, (not franchise) and I’m proud of what our team has accomplished. Adversity is the most used cliche, but we’re winning in spite of it.

    Yes we have some anchors and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been vocal about this… especially #36

    However, I’m just going to keep those thoughts to myself for time being, as I have a great appreciation for this team.
    We sometimes forget about how this team has evolved and made significant strides over the course of the season. Remember when we questioned everyone on the team? GG, coaching staff, heck we even were jousting at our goalies and our little Johnny Hockey. It’s only human nature to question players and coaches when things look dismal. I’m guilty of it too and for the record, I’m grateful we didn’t pull the plug on Gully or traded anyone away in panic mode.

    For today I’m going to be savouring what this team has done and leave the negative comments aside.
    I’m flying my Flames flag on my vehicle and driving around town (with my jersey on ) with pride!

    • dontcryWOLF88

      The flames have been playing very well, and deserve the streak they are on. Last night though? That was not pretty. If the jets didnt insist on taking a seasons worth of high sticking penalties and sucking just as bad as the flames, then we could have easily seen a different outcome there. Ill stop complaining about a 3-0 victory now. Fair enough?

      • Lucky 13

        @ dontcrywolf88
        Haha, so true. It was an ugly win and I’ll take it. Thank goodness the Jets thought they had to keep the sticks high last night.
        I’m not judging anyone based on comments today, just my own way of reflection on this team. It’s my “Remembrance” tribute to the team, if you will.

        We all love this team, that’s why we’re on here.

      • The Doctor

        I honestly don’t think the Flames were as bad last night as some people are making out. They had their bad stretches, no question, but they typically managed to get themselves out of trouble before too long. IMO they never had that chickens-running-around-with-their-heads-cut-off look that they often had earlier in the season. Even when they were in trouble in their own zone, they managed to remain patient and composed, for the most part .

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      The team has made remarkable strides in the last 20 games. We are not getting much help from teams playing LA, NASH, or St.Louis to gain some distance. We have been getting help from teams beating the Oilers and the Ducks.

      It must be frustrating for the teams chasing us to not gain much ground despite winning. IMO we could have lost 2 of those games of the 9 game winning streak but we also could have won a few games outside of the winning streak that we dominated.

  • kittensandcookies

    Although Ari and Ryan both state that the Jets came out flying, apparently this is their recent modus operandi – they come out hard, but they can’t score at all and then the other team takes all the momentum.

  • Cheeky

    Good to see the team finally rolling along, even Stockton is winning… Realistically though what to do about next year’s lines – If Monny is #1, what is Benny and Backs? To me (and most of us) Backs is #2, but the top pick in franchise history can’t be #3 right, so a true top 6 would be GMF, with Tkachuk-Backlund-Bennett (sooner or later reality is he’s a winger). Why not try out Frolik-Lazar-Brouwer (if Vegas doesn’t claim him) as the 3rd – get Lazar going maybe? I know, I know don’t break up the 3M line…Just thinking ahead to next year and as for this year – keep streaking!

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      The draft is used to measure potential. Once a player cracks the NHL line up advancement should be based on merit. IMO Backlund is the number one Center this year. The organization has Bennett or Monny pegged as the number one Center but this is not the case. I remember people saying Backlund was only lacking an NHL caliber shot….which he seems to have found. Quite simply, Backlund would bring much more to his wingers than Monny and Bennett do…right now. Backlund and Johnny would have the potential to be Bergeron and Marchant.

      • kittensandcookies

        I don’t care who’s #1 or #2, I just wish we had three scoring lines as that drastically increases your chances of going deep into the playoffs.

  • everton fc

    Chiasson’s had two pretty good games, of late. Perhaps he could help Bennett and Versteeg?

    Bouma-Stajan-Brouwer. Reads like a 4th line. But I have to agree – Brouwer may need to sit a game. And if they leave him unprotected..