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Ducks 4, Flames 3 post-game embers: Not good enough

There are three games left in the Flames’ season before things get really serious. That means they have three games to figure things out, because they have not been playing up to par for… well, probably a couple of weeks now.

Nobody is expecting them to be world beaters, not at this stage, but they absolutely have to be better than that, and we know they can be.

Thank goodness for them, though, that they’re guaranteed at least another two home games – because that would have been a rough way to say goodbye to your home fans.

Say goodbye to home ice

The maximum number of points the Flames can now get is 98, and that’s only if they sweep California. In other words: San Jose, with a three-point lead, is the only team the Flames can really catch anymore; meanwhile, Nashville is just one point back of them, and could force the Flames to open against the Chicago Blackhawks.

So that season finale against the Sharks could end up being massive, depending on how both teams fare over their next two games. As long as the Flames win one more than the Sharks before they face one another again, third place in the Pacific will be up for grabs. If not, then it’ll be a wildcard spot – and who knows how that one will turn out?

Though I gotta be honest, based on how the Flames have played against all of their potential playoff opponents this year, the Ducks are the only ones I’d really prefer they not face. I have no idea how that 8-3 win from way back actually happened, but it looks increasingly like it was a fluke. Calgary was just soundly outplayed in this one – maybe not to begin with, but they were especially dominated in the third period (which team was playing on the second half of a back-to-back, again?). The way they were completely boxed out from attempting anything, especially after Anaheim took the lead, was masterful.

The bottom defence pairing

Matt Bartkowski and Deryk Engelland in particular could have had better games.

Yeah, they’re the bottom defence pairing; chances are they’re not going to perform any miracles. But they were out there for the Ducks’ final two goals, including that backbreaking game-winning one with just three minutes to go in regulation.

… Why was the bottom defence pairing out there with three minutes to go in a tie game? Bartkowski had more shifts in the third period than he did in the second. Why? Has he somehow proven himself to be a viable candidate to help hold a lead? Not that the game-winner was entirely his fault, but is that over with now?

This is the part that concerns me. If you’ll recall in the playoffs two years ago, one of the reasons the Flames were able to beat the Canucks was because Willie Desjardins realized far too late he didn’t have to roll four lines. The Sedins had limited ice time against the Flames because for some reason, getting… whoever was on the Canucks’ fourth line at the time, like hell if I remember… their fair share of ice time was more important than actually playing the guys who could score. And I shouldn’t have to remind you who one of Desjardins’ assistant coaches was back then. (I’ll give you a hint, his name was Glen.)

Late in a time game against a potential playoff opponent, potential division champion, and the Flames’ already very suspect depth continued to be used. I can’t really figure out why.

… If it’s to rest players, then could we see, maybe, like, Rasmus Andersson instead? It’s not like the Flames have a whole lot left to play for in these three games.

3M line back on the board

Mikael Backlund’s line has done virtually everything for the Flames this season. They kept them going when nobody else could, and they were quickly identified as the line that could handle just about anything thrown at it.

With an added bonus: while Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan slumped, Backlund became the Flames’ leading scorer, and even hit 50 points for the first time in his career.

And then he stopped scoring all together for six games.

Well, Backlund got back on the board, as did Michael Frolik, who had been undergoing a three-game pointless streak. Frolik is now at 44 points on the season: one off from his career high from way back when he was a rookie.

Frolik also led the way for the Flames with four shots. He’s been shooting a fair amount this late in the season; it was nice to finally see him rewarded, six games after his last goal. He’s been due.

Rough night for Johnny Gaudreau

Plus/minus is a hell of a mostly pointless stat. But remember earlier in the season, when Gaudreau was struggling, and one of the things brought up was how he was proud of having never been a minus-player in his career, and yet there he was throughout the year, carrying a negative on his stat line?

He still has the chance to dig himself out of it, but he was a -3 against the Ducks (-6 on the season now), and the Ducks only scored three even strength goals.

It was the game-winning goal he takes the most blame for, outright leaving the would-be goal scorer so he could do… well, I’m not entirely sure what.

Gaudreau isn’t a bad defensive player – I think that label gets assigned to anyone who’s a high scorer; then you throw in his size and, well – but he could have had a better night. It’s also odd just how much lower his corsi was from his linemates’ (Gaudreau 42.31%, Monahan 50.00%, Micheal Ferland 55.56%). When he was away from them, four or seven more shot attempts went against the Flames. All it takes is one bad shift for that to happen. Gaudreau is one of the players the Flames really need for that to not happen to.

Here’s to Kris Versteeg

Seven Flames are over half-a-point-per-game: Gaudreau, Monahan, Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk, Dougie Hamilton, Frolik, and… Kris Versteeg.

That’s the top two scorers, a fabled lined, a great offensive defenceman, and Versteeg, who looks out of place among that group.

Remember, he did start the season alongside Gaudreau and Monahan, and through no real fault of his own ended up shuffled onto another line (and another, and another until Glen Gulutzan appears to have finally figured out that he should be playing alongside Sam Bennett). Two powerplay goals brought him up to 15 on the season, matching his goal total from last year. Tkachuk is the only one among the top group who averages less ice time than he does.

Versteeg is tied with Gaudreau for second on the team with 16 powerplay points. (Monahan is first, with 17.) He’s seventh in powerplay ice time. He’s alright, and should probably be re-signed. To think teams weren’t signing him during free agency seems awfully silly now.

  • Flaymin Frank

    The 3rd defence pair pairing. Don’t want to be too hard on them but…I think GG really needs to make sure they are out there with the right trio of forwards, treat them as a five man unit. Especially in the late stages of a period. Engs & Bart both have good playoff nastiness to them but mental errors or whatever Bart calls his mistakes are very costly to a team at this time of the year.

    Guys like Benny, Ferly, & T-Chuk are gonna fare nicely in the SCPO’s. For those who wanted a BOA, I’d say it looks to be your lucky day. Probably a first rounder. Gonna be a fun one.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Agreed. You can’t keep playing Engellan/Bart with Monahan’s line and expect them to do anything other than struggle to get the puck out. Any O-zone time will be towards the end of the shift. The bigger issue in my mind is how many minutes you are playing a third pairing. Engelland is a good PK’er, so I will give him a pass playing more than 10 minutes. But 17? All you have to do is look at results from the last few games and you will notice which pair is consistently in the red.

  • cberg

    The Ducks were awfully good at stick-blocking and as you said, boxing out. Beyond that, their size and occasional physicality really dominates Calgary, especially feasting on Gaudreau. The last thing that’s really apparent is their D which although not flashy just seems to move the puck very efficiently. Calgary was definitely in it but couldn’t get over the hump.

    • Thumper

      Yep. I felt like most of that game was spent in the Ducks zone, but just cycling around the outside. Firing shots in from 40 feet.

      Didn’t help that half the time the puck came down to our end it wound up in the back of the net (through no fault of Elliott, who had some nutty saves).

      • The Doctor

        Re: the firing the shots in from 40 feet — the other thing is, there’s a smart and effective way to shoot from the point, and there’s a useless way to shoot from the point. The smart way is to either wire it very quickly (thus making a goal or rebound more likely), shoot it into an area where a rebound might be generated, or shoot to an area where your teammate is able to tip it. We had some really useless shots from the point that were no-hopers last night. Jokipaaka style.

  • FlamesFan27

    The Flames have not looked great for a while now. Even near the end of the winning streak, they didn’t look that good. Maybe the strategy of playing themselves out of it needs to be changed and instead Gully should give some guys a bit of rest. The only big name player who played well tonight was Elliott.

    • Kevin R

      Yup. Who cares which wild card spot we get, either divisional winner is going to be an epic challenge for this team. We have way too many weak spots for this marathon. Rest the guys, in fact bring up Hathaway & Bollig & do some damage to Anaheim because our next game with them will have way more meaning for them than to us. I just want someone to smack Perry & that rat bastard Kesler silly. Stakes are about to go way up. Time to be ruthless. Put Fat Ras in, give Gio a game off, ditto Monahan & Gaudreau. Even San Jose has 1 more game at home with the Canucks, we aint catching them.Put Johnson in next 2 games as well & play Elliott in the last game of the year to keep him sharp.Time to be intelligent about this & put things in perspective regarding these last 3 games of the year.

        • Kevin R

          If you say so, but they might be collecting CPP & not sure they are up to the challenge of smacking Kesler & Perry around.
          My apology, you don’t believe in this. Gaudreau should tell Kesler to slash & break the other hand after he hacked this first one.

          • The Doctor

            I was being a bit facetious — but seriously I’m not a fan of Bollig, I found him quite useless when he was a regular under Hartley. I get the toughness thing, but IMO in today’s NHL, you need people with skill. Even your big tough guys should be able to pass and score (and note that Anaheim has that).

  • class1div1

    Perry and Kesler should open a summer hockey school called Dirt Bag Hockey.They really do excel at getting away calls.JG needs to attend and learn the art of accidental stickwork.

    • Derzie

      I blame this on the refs. The playoffs is a time for dirtbags to shine as the law of the land is not enforced. All of our matchups are bigger and dirtier. If we get a win in the playoffs it will be because the refs called the game properly. Otherwise, goons rule.

  • RedMan

    It’s the four words that are cheating and not playing the system that is ruining this team. During the winning streak they played the system and the forwards came back and supported the puck out of the Zone, but now you see a lot of forwards cheating most notably Johnny gaudreau and Sean Monahan. During the winning streak you saw Sean Monahan specifically coming back and playing defensively exceptionally well, but now they’re cheating and floating. If they play like this we’re going to be swept in the playoffs. They need to play the system comma instead of playing against the system. Maybe this has to do with some of the nagging injuries that the coach was talking about? Who knows.

  • Jakethesnail

    Gonna be tough to beat Edmonton in the first round. Calgary playing mediocre and Edmonton 9-1 in last ten . The Oilers have the best line in hockey right now and goaltending is superb.

    • Jessemadnote

      Last 25 Edmonton is 16 – 8 – 1 and Calgary is 17-7-1. I’d say they are evenly matched, just had big streaks at different times. Also, keep in mind there are no loser points in the playoffs.

    • Burning Ring of Fire

      The one thing about hot streaks is that that they’re usually followed by lows, or periods of time where teams settle back down to earth. I think an argument could be made that your CoilErs may have peaked at the wrong time. If so, it will be entertaining to watch them come crashing down. As they say, a pinch is followed by a plop!

      • P0pcan

        Uhhhh…
        Oilers are 9-1 in there last 10
        Flamers 5-5 in the last 10 with Edmonton playing the same team the night before 3 times sooooo
        How did they peak early

  • Justthateasy

    All excellent comments boys and girls.
    Johnny needs to get in closer when defending. Enough with a stick reaching. He’s going to get hit anyway so he might as well take the offensive. Tie somebody up instead of letting them go by you because you missed with your stick.
    Chiasson had a chance to crush Kessler on that fourth goal on the right side but let him go right by.
    If we meet the Ducks in the playoffs we will need some tough guys like Hathaway. If we don’t, you can forget about a second round.

  • Dougiefred

    The Oilers were going through a streak like the Flames are on now when the Flames were on their roll. Each team in turn looked significantly better than the other for a time. Expect after the first round of the playoffs reality will be much more apparant

    • P0pcan

      Flames has had a fairly easy schedule when they were on a run between back up goalies and teams on the second half of a road back to back the playoffs will eliminate these advantages flames out in the first round 5 games

  • C Watson

    This is the buzz (reality) as I see it:
    With 92 points and only 3 games left – best finish = 98 points.
    Percentage chance of playing which team based on number of total points:
    98 points – 3W 0L 0OT – Ducks 59% – Oilers 39% – Sharks 2%.
    97 points – 2W 0L 1OT – Hawks 2% – Ducks 45% – Oilers 48 % – Sharks 4%.
    96 points – 2W 0L 1OT – Hawks 15% – Ducks 39 % – Oilers 43% – Sharks 3 %.
    1W 0L 2OT – Hawks 17% – Ducks 44% – Oilers 36% – Sharks 3%.
    95 points – 1W 1L 1OT – Hawks 30% – Ducks 37% – Oilers 30% – Sharks 3%.
    0W 0L 3OT – Hawks 51% – Ducks 30% – Oilers 17% – Sharks 1%.
    94 points – 1W 2L 0OT – Hawks 61% – Ducks 21% – Oilers 17% – Sharks 2%.
    0W 1L 2OT – Hawks 61% – Ducks 25% – Oilers 14% – Sharks 1%.
    93 points – 0W 2L 1OT – Hawks 73% – Ducks 17% – Oilers 9% – Sharks 1%.
    92 points – 0W 3L 0OT – Hawks 93% – Ducks 4% – Oilers 2%.
    Not all lines add up to 100% as there may be a miniscule (less than 0.5%) chance of playing either the Blues, Preds or Sharks.

  • Bucky 1989

    This game should have been over in the second period…if it wasn’t for Elliot. He was outstanding and was really pisses me off is when you see basic break downs in defensive assignments that are not the defenders fault. Gaudreau was bad, very bad on the last goal. He had the guy and then opened off. Unacceptable, Oh and quite with the whining on a slash. If you think its bad now…just wait till the playoffs. I agree with Red Man, Monahan is not good defensively and he never wins a key puck battle. Sorry, he may be our best guy offensively but just watch him in the corners…he never wins a key puck battle.

    The Flames were sloppy and the did not come out and own the ice. You could see on the third goal that not having Ferland out there screwed up that line and again left a guy open from the Ducks defence. If they truly want a chance of coming out of round one, they need to win this next game or at least leave everything out there.

    Lets see where they are at in 24 hours!