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Flames 5, Canucks 2 post-game embers: Make mistakes, win convincingly anyway

First, the Flames took all of the penalties, and it was not particularly great. Then, they scored a bunch of goals, something they failed to do the last time they took a lot of penalties (i.e. the day before). And then they got a bunch of their own powerplays to work with to close things out.

It was a weird one.

All those penalties

The Flames picked up 16 penalty minutes total, but thanks to a couple of off-setting calls, only had to kill off seven powerplays.

You know, only. With five coming in the first period.

Taking penalty after penalty after penalty so early in the game the very day after penalties helped sink them was an interesting strategy, and had the chance to backfire early. Honestly, it should have: I lost count of how many goals would have been easy tap-ins for the Canucks if they hadn’t simply missed or bungled them.

The Flames have now taken 34 penalties this season, tied for second most in the NHL with the Predators (who have played one less game), and behind the Penguins who lead with 37. This, however, isn’t new – in 2016-17, the Flames led the NHL with 378 penalties (the Ducks, with 372, came in second). So while it’s very true cutting down on infractions is an area the Flames absolutely have to work on, they don’t exactly have a history under Glen Gulutzan hinting at being able to fix it.

Also: Gulutzan’s Dallas Stars, in the 2011-12 season, were fourth in the league in penalties taken with 407. In the 2013 lockout year, they dropped to fifth in the NHL, with 241. I’m not sure if there’s a relationship between a team’s penalties and its head coach – that’ll have to be a project for another time – but hopefully this year, everything gets figured out.

In the meantime, beware of early sample sizes, but the Flames currently have the fifth best penalty kill in the NHL at 89.6%, so at least there’s that.

Also: Bennett’s second penalty of the night wasn’t a bad one to take; letting Alexander Burmistrov hang out in front of the net with the puck isn’t likely to end well. Johnny Gaudreau’s penalty was just, what. And faceoff violations… I don’t see how this improves the game, but sure.

And they outscored them, too.

Offensive defence

Dougie Hamilton had two goals, and had four shots on net.

Mark Giordano had a goal, and had four shots on net.

Travis Hamonic had a goal, and had a shot on net.

T.J. Brodie had an assist, and had a shot on net.

Hamonic’s career high in points is 33, while Brodie’s is 45, Hamilton’s is 50, and Giordano’s 56. If not this season, we’ll probably see Hamilton take over as the points leader from the blueline soon, and we know Giordano can be good for it (and playing alongside someone like Hamilton will no doubt help).

The other two are a little less certain when it comes to scoring. Brodie is obviously capable of coming close to 50, but that was when he was partnered with Giordano; now that that’s no longer the case, just how much he’s capable of scoring from the second pairing is a big question (though his shots on the season pale in comparison to the top pairing’s, he does look like he belongs a little more on the top powerplay unit). Hamonic is more than worth the acquisition cost if he allows Brodie to score more, with the added bonus of him probably being good for at least 20 points.

Point being: offence from the blueline was always going to be a staple of this team. It’s been that way for some time now, and this is the best top four they’ve assembled in a while. What a great start.

Jagr point

It is really, really difficult to get a handle on the lines – any lines, really – when roughly eight billion penalties are called in a single game. To that end, analyzing who played with who is nigh impossible, because we ended up with weird combinations all night long thanks to those special team messes.

Jaromir Jagr is always going to be a point of contention, though. And he has yet to fully settle in on one specific line. So let’s make an exception for him, and go there.

At 5v5, Jagr split his time almost perfectly between Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, and Kris Versteeg, give or take three seconds. Both the top line and the third line appear to be equally in play, and right now, the top line is winning – though the significantly greater offensive zone starts (80% to 33.33%) may have something to do with that.

Perhaps the focus is a little less on “who should Jagr be playing with” and more on “whoever is getting the most offensive zone starts, that’s Jagr’s line”. And typically, it’s Gaudreau’s line getting the offensive zone starts. So maybe, once Jagr is ready, that should be his line after all. We know he has it in him – not just because he’s, well, Jaromir Jagr, but also because that’s exactly what he was doing in Florida half a year ago.

There’s also the matter of his first point as a Flame. It came on the powerplay; after Monahan, Gaudreau, and Versteeg, Jagr was the most-used forward on the man advantage. It should probably be kept that way.

Not signing Jagr until the season started has hurt, but he’s making noticeable positive strides now. Jagr in mid-season form playing alongside Gaudreau and Monahan could be really special.

Shoutout to Smith, again

The Flames didn’t need Smith to stand on his head this time around, but he did it anyway. This time, they actually scored goals for him, and unlike the Winnipeg game, they got out ahead first. He had the opportunity to take things a bit easier in this one, especially seeing as how he only had 29 shots to deal with instead of the usual 40+, and his defence did a great job blocking shots (nine via Giordano and Hamonic) and boxing out the Canucks.

See? Shots are going down. Hooray!

But still – and I’m not sure if this is going to be an every game thing with him – Smith made a handful of big, flashy saves that were particularly prominent as the Canucks appeared to be pressing. Hamonic got them the lead back; Smith made a big save, Hamilton scored to increase that lead. It’s probably different if Smith doesn’t make that save.

Smith has a .900+ save percentage in four of the six games he’s played this season. That’s not bad at all.

I also wanted to note that in post-game comments this is twice now I’ve heard Gulutzan talk about how Smith’s puck-handling helps reduce wear and tear for the defencemen. This time around, he said that was a factor considered in deciding to start Smith back-to-back… which does pose a question or two of just how many times they plan to start him, and in what situations Eddie Lack will draw in.

Four days off for some reason now

Yeah I don’t know either.

But as we wait for the rest of the Pacific Division to catch up in games played, the Flames are currently in the top spot with a 4-2 record. They are there in part because they are presently 3-1 against their own division. Last season, they were 13-13-3 against it. A better record probably means home ice advantage in the playoffs, and in facing four divisional opponents within the first two weeks, they needed a good start against them.

They got it.

  • everton fc

    If Jagr ends up w/Gaudreau and Monahan, then a third line of Ferland-Bennett-Versteeg will happen. Lazar will centre the 4th line w/Stajan & Brouwer on either side. That’s how I see it. I can’t see them “promoting” Lazar to the 3rd line/RW to push Ferland to the 4th line.

    • cberg

      Lots to still play out but that’s reasonable for the immediate future. Lazar has played well but nothing outstanding, whereas Jagr continues to improve and impress. If Jagr does end up 1RW, then no need or opportunity to move Bennett to 1C with Gaudreau &? Monahan so 3C it is unless Jankowski gets moved up and claims that spot, moving Bennett to 3LW/RW.

      Of course, a trade or waiver of Stajan could still happen, while Brouwer’s improved play of late has probably saved him for now. Ferland moving down hasn’t done much for me, but since he wasn’t scoring much at 1RW, not much of a change. I still would like to see him more physical….

    • Flames fan since 83

      I’m ready to see Sam centre Johnny and Sean.
      I’m coming to the conclusion that Sean just isn’t quick enough for a top line assignment.
      I like the Johnny – Sean chemistry, so they need to be on the same line. Sam’s quick, scrappy play might work in the middle.
      Thus opening up a centre position for Jankowski.

      • Stu Cazz

        Your suggesting moving one of the leagues top young centres to left wing? You have also arrived at the conclusion that he is not quick enough? You have obviously ignored his accomplishments since his 2013 draft year….do you watch hockey often?

        • Carl the tooth

          Once again and I’ve posted this a few times :Name ten centres to score over 100 goals in there first 4 seasons? I’ll help you out Monahan and Taveras are two of them .

          • Flames fan since 83

            Carl, I hear you. On the offensive side (when Sean has the puck on his stick), Sean is awesome. When he is on the defensive side of the puck, he can’t get there fast enough. A real problem when the puck is in our zone. And on the forecheck, Sean is neither quick or truculent as Sam is.

      • Sterls

        If you move Bennett to the top line I think you try him on the RW first. I envision Bennett and Gaudreau speeding down the wings on a rush forcing the opposing goalie to make a spectacular save that rebounds right to Monahan in the slot who is coming in late. Monahan has been productive in his role as #1 C, Bennett has had the most offensive success on the wing (albeit left side with better players than he currently has) so it makes sense to try what we know to see if it works first than to suddenly shift a guy to the wing who hasn’t played in during his entire NHL carrier.

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        The 4th line already has an opening for the center; Stajan was healthy scratched. Lazar was kept in or Freddie was inserted into the lineup as a result. Your choice. Janko is going to be on the Flames very soon. Play him with Ferland and Brouwer. Or Lazar and Brouwer. Doesn’t matter. He would help the 4th line stay above water and maybe even not get tossed during a faceoff. He fared quite well in ore-season where they called it exactly the same. Seems like we didn’t need Stajan on the PK last night either.

      • Flames fan since 83

        Thanks, all good points above.
        But just to be clear, Sean and Johnny are not playing well with anyone yet. Statistically, they are doing very well. And all you have to do is watch hockey (Stu) to realize they are not playing well.

        I agree, it’s difficult moving a young successfull centerman to the wing. All I was suggesting is give it a try, and gave support for my suggestion.
        By the way, Leon did awesome when occasionally moved to Connor’s wing didn’t he?

        • BringtheFire 2.0

          “And all you have to do is watch hockey (Stu) to realize they are not playing well…”

          You know, I was thinking the same thing. Johnny puts up points for sure, but I do get a sense of frustration from him when it comes to gaining the zone, holding on to the puck a bit longer, etc.

          But on the plus side, if Johnny isn’t in top form, he’s going to be lethal when he is.

    • Cheeky

      I’d like to see GG give Bennett some games with Johnny and Monny to see if it works. But I also like an idea of a Ferland-Benny-Lazar line (crash and bang with speed and skill)…

  • Puckhead

    The number of penalties the team has taken and the coaches history with penalty problems when he was in Dallas is concerning. It screws with the flow and makes the games tough to watch at times.

    It better get resolved if this team has any chance at being competitive in the playoffs.

    Smith is awesome – stop taking stupid penalties and help him out a bit fellas.

    • Jason.Luddu

      Calm down about the penalties. The brought them down last year, and they’ll do it again. Yeah, it’s concerning that we take this many, but I don’t think it’s a coach thing.

  • The Fall

    A centre was tossed from at least 50% of the faceoffs. I felt bad for Sedin actually, I mean, the guy know how to take a draw and was constantly being waved out.

  • Pizzaman

    Uhh any comment on why Ferly and Stajan didn’t play? if Ferland ain’t playing against the Canucks who he manhandled in the playoffs (how many years ago now) there is a message being sent.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Stajan has been brutal and was the reason why Freddie was getting in the lineup. He can’t take a faceoff without getting tossed. He can’t hit the net with a clear shot. Sad to see, but this should be exactly what Treliving was waiting for. An opportunity to bring up Janko. Waive Freddie or Kulak or both. Nobody is going to claim them. It’s not like Kulak is getting into the lineup. If an injury happens, they can just go with 5D. Or bring up Spoon or Andersson. Janko adds that 2-way play that Stajan used to provide.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    Like, I’m not going to rag on Benny every post or anything, but at least stay out of the box (the second penalty might be okay, the first wasn’t). But I notice other people showing concern about Benney as well. I hope he gains consistency here in his fourth season.

    I’m not worried about the team penalties at all, though, everyone’s gettin’ tapped on the knuckles this year.

    It’s weird to see Troy, like, doin’ stuff…i don’t know how to act, like. Do we cheer him? I mean, right now he’s playing better than…well, better than Troy.

    • Muffin

      I’ve been cheering him. He is still on this team, and we gotta give him a chance to turn it around, which it looks like he has been over the last few games.

      • The GREAT WW

        Hopefully other teams are taking notice of Brouwers improved play as well.
        If he waived his no trade clause when Jagr was signed we may be able to unload him…..

        WW

        • BendingCorners

          I cheered that comment but if unloading him means retaining salary then we are still stuck with the cap hit. It’s entirely possible that he remains good enough to play 4W and PK for the balance of his contract and we just have to live with the over-payment.

    • Cheeky

      As far as Bennett goes, everyone is expendable and this is the decision year. I really like Benny and his passion, grit, etc. I see flashes of why he was so highly drafted (skill wise) but problem is 4th overalls shouldn’t be 3rd liners. We have a surplus of centres for next year (top 9) in Monny, Backs, Benny and Janko. Does Janko make Benny expendable or does Benny make Backs expendable. Hard decisions will be made but the fact we are in that position is positive.

      We all hope that this is a break out year for Benny but if not we may have to turn him into a need (top rw?) while his value is still high. Edm waited too long with Yakupov and his value plummeted. History has shown that sometimes a true trade is all that is needed for teams to reach that final level. It’s only been 6 games so I’m not worried yet but if we are still talking about Benny like this come 30 or 40 games in (don’t get me wrong as I’m a huge Benny fan but a bigger Flames fan)…

      • Carl the tooth

        Do t forget we got Dube too and that Adam Ruzika might be another 4rth round draft steal as he is leading or tied for scoring in Ohl . Phillips is also leading whl. Lol. Can Flames draft or what?

        • Cheeky

          Was going to add Dube but figured he’s still a couple years away but yes he will be an impact player for us. BT and scouts have done great work to get us here…

          • The Doctor

            Watching Bennett last night, I think one reason he’s struggling is that he’s trying to do too much out there. He needs to simplify his game a bit. Oftentimes lately (including multiple times last night), he tries to single-handedly barge or stickhandle through two defenders, gets predictably knocked off the puck and that’s it. He needs to make more use of hanging on to the puck, distributing it, maintaining possession etc. I just think he’s a little too impatient with the offensive side of his game right now. Related to that, he still hasn’t entirely gotten the fact that certain stuff that worked in junior (e.g., deking out two defencemen) will not work in the NHL. He’s trying to run when he needs to learn to walk first.

    • flames2015

      Exactly. Versteeg needs to get off the first PP. He’s too passive and plays have been dying on his stick and he’s making some bad passes leading to chances the other way.

      • Cheeky

        Versteeg is a good 3rd liner, but agreed top pp he isn’t. Last year it worked ok (we also didn’t have other options) but last year wasn’t anything to write home about. We need a shooter to compliment that top pp (whether thats Hamilton or reuniting Gio with Brodie).

    • Flames fan since 83

      CMC, I also think there needs to be a shooter on the first PP. Stone or Dougie I’m thinking.

      This would make the defenders come out and cover the point more. Allowing to open up down low for Johnny and Sean to work.

    • Rudy27

      I think if you want only 1 defense man for the 1st PP it should be Hamilton or Giordano. You need the threat of a big shot from the point to open up space in the middle for guys like Johnny and Mony.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    “…which does pose a question or two of just how many times they plan to start him, and in what situations Eddie Lack will draw in.”

    I have no doubt that after the train of goaltenders since Kipper, GG will go FULL Last-Year-Talbot on Smith.

    Which I like.

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        I don’t know about that. Yes, it’s often a good move to play a guy against the team that ditched him, but with Smith on almost a week’s rest and playing the way he is…wouldn’t you be obligated to go back to him? He’s comfortable, calm and awesome so far…and two points are hard to get in this league…

        • flames2015

          Smith is awesome, there’s no denying that. But you also don’t want to have your backup not see any game action for weeks into the season. Carolina would be the best game for Lack to draw into, playing against his former team should be that extra motivation. I believe he was suppose to draw in against Vancouver, albeit that blow out to Ottawa, the team wanted to get Smith back in to redeem himself.

          • BringtheFire 2.0

            “But you also don’t want to have your backup not see any game action for weeks into the season.”

            Yeah, that makes sense. Wish I had more confidence in Lack, but he needs to get confidence in himself first.

          • ThisBigMouthIsRight

            Unfortunately Lack’s former team will also know all of Lack’s Weak spots and exploit them. Looking at the schedual I would imagine Lack’s first game will be against @STL on the 25th, As the Flames play @NSH the night before.

  • UpTkachuk

    I thought Hamonic had a very strong effort last night. Aside from jumping up to pot a goal, he was totally solid in his defensive game, (physical and puck moving) and is making our second D pairing the envy of the league…

  • BendingCorners

    Johnny-Mony-Jagr
    3M
    Sam-Mark-Kris
    Ferland-Curtis-Brouwer
    If you’re going to move a center to the wing, move the one who isn’t scoring not the one who is.
    Waive somebody and call up Mark for 3C. It’s his natural spot and he is ready.
    Arrange PP and PK duty so regular linemates play together; this reduces the shuffling afterwards.
    I’ve been trashed many times for saying Sam is a winger but when GG tries this – and he will – and it works, I will happily post “i told you so” in large capital letters.
    Happy Sunday 🙂

    • Schmenkley

      I would go the other way; move Bennett to top line wing, leave 3M alone, put Janko between Versteeg and Jagr, and have Ferland/Lazar/Stajan/Brouwer/Glass rotate on the 4th.

      Put Kulak in for Bartkowski; pretty solid line up.

  • Stajanforadirtyboot

    “Matt Stajan still has value for the Flames”
    Hey Ari remember this beauty you wrote. It’s true..his value was proven last night. He is a valuable high paid bench warmer. The team….the fourth line….and the penalty kill were better with his arse cheeks firmly planted in the press box. Stay there Matt and if you can buy a bag of popcorn for the other Matt as well. Hopefully he will join you sooner than later.

  • Justthateasy

    Maybe I should say something intelligent so my post actually appears.
    I want to see a POWER MOVE to the net instead of skating around and trying to pass into a crowd in the slot.
    Ahem… Johnny and Mommy both.