Let’s be honest with ourselves: that game was pointless. Sure, there was a little bit to get out of it; Rasmus Andersson and David Rittich made their NHL debuts, after all, and that’s always special. But in the grand scheme of things? Useless.
You can’t really analyze a game like that. Why was Michael Stone a leader in powerplay ice time? Uh, probably because Mark Giordano, who is never a healthy scratch, was a healthy scratch. Nothing to see here, really.
With one exception: did anyone play well enough to force themselves into the playoff lineup? Two years ago Sam Bennett made his NHL debut in a useless Game 82. He assisted on a Micheal Ferland goal as the Flames lost 5-1 to the Jets. Nothing truly meaningful could be discerned from that game. But Bennett did make the playoff lineup – though Lance Bouma being injured earlier that week probably played a part in that. (Recall that, even though Bennett performed extremely well over his first nine playoff games, as soon as Bouma was healthy he bumped Bennett from his spot on Mikael Backlund’s wing down to the fourth line. That was absurd back then but it just reads as an even more horrific lineup decision now. Wonder what happened to the guy who made that call?)
So, with a couple of days off in between the regular season’s end and the playoffs, practices will be underway – and could there be a lineup change to go with them?
If anybody has a shot based off of Game 82, you have to think it’s Curtis Lazar. Not just because he scored the Flames’ only goal, either; he showed more jump and enthusiasm than most in that game, and didn’t look too out of place alongside Michael Frolik and Matthew Tkachuk. Not as good as Backlund, obviously, but if Lazar makes the lineup he won’t be doing so in a top six spot.
Really, the only guy he could conceivably displace would probably be Lance Bouma. It actually fits: Matt Stajan moves to the left wing, Lazar takes centre, Troy Brouwer remains unscratchable on the right. (Next game is what he’s here for, right??) Just because Lazar is in the Flames’ longer-term plans doesn’t mean he can’t play right now, especially considering what was given up to acquire him and the fact that he can’t be sent down.
You would hope Rasmus Andersson made something of a case for himself as well. He looked much more alive when he was playing alongside Dougie Hamilton as opposed to Dennis Wideman. It was great to see him get that chance.
Also, at least it was something of a confirmation that Glen Gulutzan isn’t married to left-right pairings 100% of the time – just 99% of the time. But hey, that’s something, isn’t it?
Stray thoughts to go out on:
- I do not say this lightly: Lazar has a smile that rivals Jarome Iginla’s.
- When the Lazar trade happened, I wasn’t a fan of it. The saving grace to it was that the Flames consciously kept to a particular age group. Tkachuk’s reaction to Lazar’s goal, specifically, struck me. They’re about the same age. I’m hope that means something.
- I believe that was the first time Tkachuk has led all Flames forwards in ice time.
- What more did Johnny Gaudreau have to do to pick up a point? His entire line was buzzing offensively. Hopefully it counts on the scoresheet next week.
- Always nice when nobody gets hurt in these things.
- Happy the Flames have mostly stopped dressing players like Micheal Haley. Every Sharks fan I know loses their mind when he’s in the lineup.
- How much more confident would you feel if David Schlemko was still on the Flames’ third pairing? That one hurts.
- At 23 years of age, Dougie Hamilton is a 50-point defenceman. He cost a 15th overall pick, plus two seconds, to acquire.
- Andersson was picked immediately after the third pick the Flames gave up. To date, he has played the same number of NHL games as those three players selected combined.
- How many active defencemen have had 50-point seasons by the time they turned 23? Ten. Well, 11 now with Hamilton.
- Hard to be grumpy at a 45-win season. The loser point is what keeps the Flames out of a divisional playoff spot. Maybe they’ll learn to lose games in 65 minutes rather than 60 next year.