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Flames 4, Kings 1 post-game embers: Gearing up

Turns out, when the Flames put their minds to it, they can be pretty dang good at playing hockey.

Granted, late-season games like this one are a little wonky – the Kings have nothing left to play for, and all the Flames have right now is making sure they’re in playoff form – but you can take what you can get, and this one was really good.

If they enter the playoffs like this, it’ll be a fun opening series against whoever their opponent ends up being.

Welcome to the NHL, Jon Gillies

Jon Gillies is a very tall goalie who put up some incredible numbers in his collegiate career, and appeared to be on track to an incredible rookie season when he was almost instantly sidelined with hip surgery. Upon his return this season, he hasn’t quite matched those numbers of old, but he still remains a top goalie prospect for the Flames. (Yes, yes, Tyler Parsons had an incredible 46-save shutout in the OHL playoffs last night, too, but one goalie at a time – Parsons still has to actually graduate junior, first.)

In his first game, Gillies looked like he had solid NHL potential.

He let just one goal get past him – and if we’re being honest with ourselves, it was a fantastic shot by Trevor Lewis – and he had a fair bit of help from the Kings just flubbing their attempts, too. But Gillies also had a number of great saves of his own, and was particularly strong along his posts. Nerves were apparent, and more seasoning is required, but he did everything he needed to do help his team get a win.

So he opens his NHL career stopping 27 of 28 shots for a .964 save percentage. That’s a great way to get started.

Who’s on the fourth line?

The Flames are probably not going to change things up for the playoffs. Not too much, at least.

But it was hard to be displeased with their fourth line last night, consisting of Freddie Hamilton, Curtis Lazar, and Troy Brouwer. The Flames were put in a position in which they were able to roll all four lines, and the fourth line benefited from that ice time, creating a goal. The forward-playing Hamilton has doubled his career goal output this season now thanks to his 3-1 tally, while Curtis Lazar helped make his little three-game Flames statline look a little better.

Almost certainly for the playoffs Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan will draw back in, and there’s no way the Flames scratch Brouwer (I have my doubts he’ll be taken in the expansion draft, but if he was a healthy scratch in the playoffs, that would completely seal it). But honestly – Hamilton had three shots on net. Only Johnny Gaudreau had more. Hamilton is a player who’s usually just kind of there, not likely to cost his team but not all that likely to provide something actually tangible, either – except for when he does. It wouldn’t be the worst thing to see him actually get to sub in for some postseason time. (At the very least, it’d justify Dougie Hamilton’s jersey saying D. Hamilton on the back.)

How about the powerplay?

The Flames had two powerplays last night, one at the very end of the game, and they both actually looked pretty good – especially that first one, in which both units pressured, and didn’t spend all that much time chasing.

The Flames may have a success rate of 20.5% – ninth in the NHL this season – but it certainly hasn’t felt like that, especially not lately.

Two personnel changes have occurred in the buildup to the playoffs. Micheal Ferland has at long last taken Brouwer’s spot (considering he’s been playing on Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan’s line for like a month and a half now, you would have thought this would have happened sooner), and Sam Bennett has taken Michael Frolik’s spot.

The Bennett-for-Frolik swap does baffle me a little bit – Frolik has double the number of powerplay points Bennett does this season in roughly the same amount of ice time – but it’s hard to complain when Bennett has been playing much better of late, has greater potential, and honestly, just flat out deserves it. And there are only so many players that can go on the man advantage.

A couple of things still need fixing, though. For one thing, please put Johnny Gaudreau back on his off-wing.

For another, swap Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie on powerplay units. Hamilton is lethal offensively; Brodie is not. Hamilton is also responsible defensively – we’ve seen him successfully backcheck on powerplays numerous times – and this would load up the top unit, while reuniting Brodie with Mark Giordano on an extremely responsible second unit. Versteeg actually has the most powerplay shots out of every Flame (54), so he works well on that top unit – but it’s not as dangerous as it could be.

Score could’ve been higher

Watching Gaudreau get multiple golden chances and simply not bury any of them was rough.

Things all even out, though it is unfair that out of all the Flames who got a point, five of their top six scorers didn’t, and not for a want of chances. The Flames didn’t challenge Ben Bishop as much as they could have – he only faced 24 shots, though the Flames had very little reason to mount a push in the third period – but at least it’s not through a fault of the top offensive players.

They’re still there, they’re still getting their chances, they’ve still got their games, and they’ll probably be ready to go for the playoffs, where they’ll probably be the ones making the most noise.

Can we get Rasmus Andersson now?

Fourteen games ago, Rasmus Andersson was called up on an emergency basis, which meant he wouldn’t be able to play unless Hamilton couldn’t go. He was able, so Andersson sat in the pressbox. The Flames converted his recall into a regular one, and he has… continued to sit in the pressbox.

It’s been silly for a while now, but it’ll be embarrassing if he doesn’t at least get to make his NHL debut in Game 82. It’s a meaningless game. The Flames and Sharks won’t face each other in the first round. Oliver Kylington made his NHL debut in a meaningless Game 82 a year ago; now it’s Andersson’s turn.

Besides – it’ll be especially nice to have a more concrete idea of what you have in case you need it sooner rather than later.

  • Azim

    Whatever this game meant or didn’t mean, a nice relief to see the team play a solid game again. Now, let’s get some consistency!

    Also … can we just put “Dougie” and “Freddie” on the back of their respective Hamilton jerseys? Will the league allow this, or is too uptight? Someone in Flames marketing should get on this. We missed the boat already on “Richie” and “Robyn”, let’s not miss this window again.

  • kid presentable

    don’t worry, i’m sure bartkowski and engelland will lie down for zone entries and shots against the sharks and all through the playoffs while andersson gets no games. it’s the flames way. why play youth who have a chance to improve when you can play reliably awful vets? just ask wotherspoon and kulak

  • TheRealPoc

    Score effects in the 3rd kinda sewered their overall possession numbers, but the 4th line was terrific thru the first 40 last night. Lazar and Hamilton were noticeable for all the right reasons.

    • Sober rock guy

      The Flames only have two call ups left. Stockton is in a righty playoff race right now. It is probably more important for them to make the playoffs than stealing away two players so they can log 10 minutes in the show. Yesterday they were saying that the Flames first playoff game is probably Wednesday, so they get a decent break after San Jose anyways.

      • HOFer_dirty30

        They can say some of there regulars are injured and call people up as emergency recall but I don’t see it happening unless some guys are tired or banged up

  • HAL MacInnis

    I don’t want to take anything away from Gillies. However, those highlights of him contorting himself to make that save and leaping on the ice for a rebound reminded me too much of Ortio. Ortio had great reflexes, but he chased the puck too much, I felt. Were those moments of Gillies game just weird moments or was he really all over the place? (I, obviously, didn’t catch the game.)

    Oh, and don’t hate me. Just an honest question here. *covers his face from flying projectiles*

      • HAL MacInnis

        It’s hardly a damning statement, man. I’m just concerned about our goaltending prospect and wondered how he performed from a perspective of how Ortio was. You could have at least answered my question before shooting me down.

        • Cheeky

          I thought he played ok but there is definately a problem with coaching tactics regarding the goalies. For such a big guy he was on his knees alot similar to most of our goalies the past couple yrs. Compare to Bishop of same size who covered the net better. Elliott lately has changed his style staying up more and covering the net better which has turned him around. Im no expert but as an opposite team I would just shoot high. Gillies will be good but we need a different goalie coach with better tactics.

          • Justthateasy

            Yup. First thing I noticed was that he was on his knees. Not only going to his knees but staying on his knees and resting on his knees while looking behind the net for the puck. Mind you he was still tall enough to cover the net even on his knees. Being tall should not be an asset to be depended on; it should be a bonus to make you the best.

  • Brodano12

    The whole Gaudreau on the right side of the powerplay needs to happen. That 1 minute tactics video was great. Last night, the PP entry looked much better, with us using multiple different entries, all looking well practiced. However, the best chances on the PP came when Gaudreau was on the right side, and he was able to play give and go with Monahan and Ferland to create a golden opportunity for Ferland. The stats show he had a ton of PP points last year when on the right side so I don’t understand what is taking so long. I’ve noticed Gaudreau playing more on the right side lately, probably because Ferland is also a LW, but it’s inconsistent.

    Other than that, Bartkowski is literally the only weakness we have.