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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today

Flames 4, Penguins 3 (SO) post-game embers: 10 is zen

What more can you ask of a team, really?

#10

What a ride. Not only last night’s game, but this entire streak.

You’ve probably heard it a few thousand times now, but this is now the best win streak in Calgary Flames history and ties the record for overall Flames history, matching the 1978-79 Atlanta Flames, who also hit #10 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And here’s the best part: this is not a fluke.

Sure, the PDO is a little bit high: 109.05, mostly boosted by Brian Elliott (and for one game, Chad Johnson) and his bonkers 96.83 5v5 SV%. They’re also shooting 12.22%. Of course, these numbers are not sustainable. But that’s the nature of the win streak. It takes a little bit of good luck to win even three or four games in a row, much less 10. It’s going at a rate of once every 38 years for the Flames.

But here’s the better stats: over this streak, the team is at 52.93 CF% at 5v5, score and venue adjusted, third overall in the league. They’ve scored 29 5v5 goals, the most, and allowed nine (!), the fourth least over the course of this streak. Score adjusted, they’re third in the league in expected GF%. They’re earning this.

And it showed yesterday evening. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team very close to the Flames in the fancystats listed above, the good guys kept neck-and-neck against a great (albeit, battered and bruised) Pens team. They were generating plenty of grade A chances, and really could’ve put this one away in regulation a handful of times.

The magic number is down to 9.5 after L.A.’s loss last night. As we look out into the future, it’s more likely that Flames wins bring that number down to zero more than Kings losses. This is a scary team.

#10 (refrain)

Let’s bring it to the man who got us #10, #10 himself: Kris Versteeg.

This is a game full of unexpected heroes (as we’ll see later), though we probably could’ve expected that. 3M would have their hands full with Crosby. Monahan would be glued to Malkin. That left the bottom two lines to feast on a decimated and depleted Penguins depth.

And the guy who would take charge would be Versteeg. He provided the primary assists on the goals from Wideman and Gaudreau, and then provided the game-winning shootout goal:

The winger brings such immense value that it would be foolish not to re-sign him at the end of the year.

Johnny Gaudreau is magic

He is a wizard man and we are blessed to have him.

That’s a bunch of Stanley Cup champions that now need ankle insurance. Johnny rules and that’s all I have to say.

The unusual suspects

Every once in a while, the universe will provide such random and unexpected yet serendipitous moments which we don’t really understand but cannot help but accept. I’m talking about finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk, hitting every green light, bumping into old friends, Deryk Engelland and Dennis Wideman scoring goals in the same game, and the fourth line taking the Stanley Cup Champions to the cleaners.

Let’s go about this, mini-embers (sparks?) style:

Dennis Wideman:

Well this is odd. Our favourite punching bag, taken out of the press box for one last go, was the best 5v5 CF% player. It’s probably been the first time in forever we could say that. After cutting his lip open after being highsticked (not called, of course) and disappearing down the tunnel, we figured that it might be a short night for Earl.

Not so fast.

The Flames’ bottom pairing defence has not been that great this year, which has been pinned on Wideman, and it’s taken a few bandaid solutions acquired for cheap to at least present it as a functional group. And when one of those bandaids went down, it was back to Wideman.

And he did put in a performance. Against a team that probably would’ve crushed him on any other night, Wideman was the best possession player and added a weird goal to boot.

I guess there were some weird no-calls and a goal that maybe shouldn’t have counted, but we count our blessings.

The fourth line:

While 3M was busy working on Sidney Crosby, the fourth line took their usual duty, and their corsi statline to go with it. At 5v5, Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan each had 0% offensive zone starts, while Alex Chiasson had 16.67% OZS. Each finished with 5v5 CF% above 70%, leading the forwards.

Stajan, as always, has been consistent. In a year where many figure that he’d be eating press box popcorn at this point in the season, he’s been a stalwart on the fourth line. The Franchise is a 0.04 CFrel%, which doesn’t seem like much until you consider that he was a -5.47 CFrel% last year. He put in some heavy PK work and added an assist on a goal he was originally credited with.

Bouma was actually noticeable for the first time in a long time. I’m thinking particularly of a penalty kill play where he was the origin point for a 2-on-1 with Stajan (which he also shot three feet wide on). There’s a lot about Bouma that hasn’t been up to snuff this year, but (again) let’s be optimistic and hope he can keep up the good work.

Don’t forget about Chiasson too, who contributed a primary assist and managed to draw a penalty from Stajan high-sticking him. Frequently miscast as a first liner earlier in the season, he is now being miscast as a fourth liner. He might be due for a minor promotion to third line duty with Bennett and Versteeg, ’cause that line could use a rebuff.

And I’ll leave you on that note.

This and that and then some

[Hello friends! Ari here to round this out for a little dual-author embering, or whatever.]

  • It was the guys you normally wouldn’t expect to score last night, except for one: Gaudreau, who picked up his 49th point of the season, and retook the team lead in scoring. The Flames still don’t have a 50+ point guy – they’re one of eight teams in such a situation, and the only playoff team – but they’re getting there.
  • With his assist, Chiasson picked up his 100th career point, which is always a neat milestone.
  • When your fourth line centre has 21 points on the season, you’re doing alright. When your third line centre has 23 points, you could still be doing better.
  • Micheal Ferland came so close to his first assist in 15 games with that little give-and-go with Gaudreau that Marc-Andre Fleury thwarted. He’s scored six goals since being moved up the depth chart – and during this win streak – but has no assists. That’s still a bit of a warning flag, but he clearly has the ability to actually keep up with Gaudreau, so not a big one.
  • The Flames had so many quality chances Fleury (or dumb luck) wouldn’t budge on. Of note that Gaudreau and Wideman led the way with four shots each, while Monahan, Giordano, and Engelland had three apiece.
  • Big minutes from the top four defencemen, as each played over 20 minutes, sheltering Wideman and Matt Bartkowski (who was entrusted with more ice time than his partner, if you were getting any ideas). Engelland was the biggest winner with 5:12 in penalty kill time, which– well, at least the Penguins only got one powerplay goal.
  • It’s absurd how much better the Flames’ powerplay gets the second it’s the 3M line unit with Giordano and Dougie Hamilton out there. It’s absurd they aren’t being utilized as the first unit.
  • The Penguins may be injury-depleted, but considering the talent they still have, that was a major test. A good offseason could be massive for the Flames.
  • Boston is a bit closer to the Flames’ level – two fewer points in the same number of games played. Good thing it doesn’t matter if they pick up any points on Wednesday, but it sure would be nice to set a franchise record.
  • Eggs Bennett

    Affirmed that BT made the right move getting Elliott over Fleury. Even at the same draft pick cost, I think Moose is the better goalie. Not to mention MAF’s atrocious contract. Yuck.

  • Eggs Bennett

    Elliott even commented post-game about that illegal goal “You’re not getting that call. It’s 87.” Lol anyone else on any other team and it would’ve been disallowed.

  • Chiz

    I know that during a winning streak,you don’t want to mess with the lines or the chemistry. But does anyone else think that maybe it’s time to give Lazar a shot over Brouwer on the third line? It’s not like the line is contributing a whole lot as it is. Maybe a night watching from the press box would be good for Brouwer.

    • AmericanHoney

      No; it’s not time. This is Brouwer’s first year on a big contract. You basically have to keep putting him out there and hoping that it all comes together.

      • al rain

        The more Brouwer sits in the press box or is further demoted the less likely Vegas is to consider him. If I’m management I’m getting everyone else on the team working on getting #36 some points.

    • flames2015

      Knock on wood. Until the streak ends, nothing should be changed. As bad as brouwer has been, hes still decent on the PK. Lazar is a big question mark. Until there is a injury, i don’t see lazar in the line up until the boys clinch a playoff spot

    • Zalapski

      Trash it all you want. The second the AHL season is over they need to get Bart of the lineup. Watching him get stuck behind the goal line is frustrating and he is a boat anchor. I could see Wideman/Eng’s being a better 3rd pair. Kulak is the answer for our 6th d man and he needs to be turned loose.

    • kittensandcookies

      Yeah, he’s pretty bad. I can see why everybody else gave up on him. But he’s simply filler until someone from the farm can prove themselves next year.

  • Stickhandler

    The Flames are truly playing some outstanding hockey as a complete TEAM. So proud of the rebuilding they have accomplished after 3 full years of rebuild. So unlike the welfare darlings to the north. GO FLAMES GO!!!!

  • Jessemadnote

    How about a bit of love for Brouwer being a major part of that overtime penalty kill? The guy is in a slump to be sure but to defend the way he did against Malkin Crosby and Kessel shows a huge amount fight. He definitely pitched in with for this win.

  • kid presentable

    i thought that was the best i have seen monahan play defensively. he had a good stick, stuck to malkin pretty well, and transitioned the puck out of the zone well with his hands and passing. hope to see him continue to play a strong 2-way game

    • Jessemadnote

      Monahan’s defensive numbers actually look really good this year. His corsi/fenwick and faceoff percentage have risen every year he’s been in the league.

      • The Doctor

        I agree. It’s clear he has learned a lot since first coming into the league. He could always score, but the other stuff has come a long way. I remember he was horrible in the faceoff circle his first year. It was like a gimme to the other team, especially if he was up against anyone who was really good.

  • Lucky 13

    I guess we could leave the bashing alone at present. I did notice Brouwer last night and he was using his body effectively.
    Had a couple of nice hits in the game. PK was great during overtime and he was on it. So there’s that.

    Even our beloved bloodied Wideman was good in the game.
    Goes to show we have a team mentality and that’s more important than individual stats.

    I also need to remark on the initial high sticking call against Gaudreau. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a call reversed like that… it was clear the puck struck the Penguin player in the face, but credit to the refs for a least talking about it before sending Johnny to the box.
    Yah I know, they blatantly missed Wideman’s bloodied face from a high-stick but what do you expect? Its Wideman and he’s getting no love from officiating.
    Even though I hated the call against us on Crosby’s tying goal in the 3rd ( I watched it several times) I honestly had a hard time drawing conclusive evidence that Elliott was interfered with…don’t be hating just because I said this.. I used to officiate hockey and that would have been a tough call to make, even with the replay.. just saying

    Hoping for a 11th straight win against the Bruins tomorrow.

    • Kevin R

      I think my biggest beef at the game was when there was 35-40 seconds left in the 3rd period. Pens dumped it into our end, Engellend was skating back to retrieve the puck & was blatantly tripped. No penalty. Don’t believe me, watch the last minute of that 3rd. Then I thought, OK, this is like a playoff game, crucial time, let em play. When we got the horse crap penalty to Gio in the 3rd I was livid. Not that what Gio did wasn’t a penalty. It was. But for Christ sakes call it even for both teams. I’m sick of this. I’m sorry, but I hear fans from other teams complaining about this kind of inconsistent officiating & what it tells me is the league has a problem & I can’t honestly understand why when you have 2 refs on the ice. NHL has the most controversial & in my opinion worst officiating of all the professional sports leagues.

  • kittensandcookies

    Stupid PDO.

    Hey kiddies, if you’re going to use PDO, stop using it to support your narrative when it’s convenient.

    Check the Flames’ current SEASON PDO. Then check the Oiler’s current SEASON PDO.

    • kittensandcookies

      So trashers, if you bothered to look, you’d know that the Flames’ season PDO is still below 100. In other words, luck is still “available” and hell, they could win the rest of their games. And PDO would be satisfied!

      The Oilers’ PDO is still above 100, why they could lose all their games and a piano could drop down from the sky and crush McDavid!

      • That’s not how PDO works.

        Having a PDO <100 does not mean you are owed luck or that luck is "available." PDO generally regresses to the mean, but there's no saying when it happens and how it happens. For all we know, the Flames could see their SV% drop and their SH% drop and free fall while the Oilers can have the opposite happen and win out.

        • kittensandcookies

          Of course that’s not what it means.

          It’s useless.

          For crying out loud, do you also pick mutual funds based on how they did in the past?

          It’s *the exact same logic problem* – you’re

          PDO IS COMPLETELY MEANINGLESS – you cannot tell me AT ALL if a team is going to do better or worse based on past PDO!

          CLASSIC OUTCOME BIAS!

          • The problem with your “outcome bias” conclusion is that it actually applies the other way around.

            When the Flames were winning games in a completely unsustainable ways in 2014/15, people felt PDO was unnecessary because it did not reflect the outcome: the team was winning, and all was fine. When the Flames were clearly outplaying everyone else and losing 4-0 anyways, some felt that PDO was meaningless because the team was really just terrible and not unlucky.

            PDO never guarantees or owes you wins or losses, but it is a useful indicator that a team that is winning/losing is likely to stop winning/losing. It’s an indicator, and that’s how it’s used, and that’s how it has always been used. Evidence for this would probably be FN calling that the Flames would probably crash in 15/16, and also calling that the team would rebound after February of this year. It’s the same reason a meteorologist may not get the weather correct tomorrow, but will accurately predict the 14 day forecast. Short term results are random, long term are predictable.

            Outcome bias, in this instance, would be invoked when insisting the opposite: that PDO is meaningless because of the result. Wins are wins, and losses are losses, and there is nothing to take from them besides the result as a result. You can do this, but it would the same thing as buying into a mutual fund and then selling it the second you make/lose cash.

  • ThisBigMouthIsRight

    Is it me? or could the coaching staff focus on “How To Clear or Get The Puck Safely Out Of The D-Zone Effectively & Immediately” Stop messing around with soft chip outs or trying to make a fancy play out. Just Get The Puck OUT! Argh! Maybe step up the high pressure defense again(you know, check the guys with the puck?), I hate the guys just standing still and waving their sticks around. Other than those Defensive pet peeves of mine this team is really starting to come together… So incredible to watch. Keep up the positive progress! Go Flames Go!