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Wild 4, Flames 2 post-game embers: Should’ve had it

… They had it.

If you look at the Flames’ overall body of work this season, like Glen Gulutzan said, they probably deserve to be a .500 team. And they are, now. But this game against the Wild may have been their best game of the season, and they came away with nothing to show for it, all because they quit playing for a few minutes with half a period to go.

They should have scored more than just twice. They didn’t. They got a lead and they slept on it. And then, they lost. The close ones like this just hurt.

What a start

The Flames had their chances to cash in early and often. They had an outstanding powerplay to kick things off that they were simply unlucky, several times over, to not score on. Their passes were just off, but so was the Wild’s defending. And while they couldn’t quite match that initial flurry of activity, they still came away the better team.

At 5v5 alone, they had a 57.69% CF and 73.33% SCF in the first. In the second, they held it, with 60% and 52.94%. But they lost it as the third went on – 43.75%, and 46.67%. They were never totally out of it, but they also just weren’t able to find the success the Wild were.

I feel like that can be pretty common when watching a team of choice play a game. Why is it the other team can do all of these things mine can’t? Like capitalize at opportune times, on opportune chances – with the added gut stab that the Flames had more of them than the Wild? They were dangerous for most of the night.

Especially with that one guy.

Need Jagr

The Flames were short on right wingers. Jaromir Jagr was by far the best right winger on the market. The Flames finally signed him. He started getting his legs back. What he brings to the ice is becoming increasingly evident – at least, for as long as he’s out there.

Jagr played just 3:49, 3:00 of which was spent on the powerplay. He served four shifts all together. And he was a big part of the reason why that first powerplay looked as dangerous as it did – he probably had at least three surefire scoring chances on it alone, let alone picking up another couple in his remaining ice time. Jagr has yet to score a goal as a Flame; he could have had a hat trick the way he started last night.

Say Jagr is out a little longer than desired; you’re either replacing him with Matt Stajan or Mark Jankowski or Andrew Mangiapane or whoever. And that’s a net loss, because none of them are as good as he is. Few are.

Jagr was a part of the engine that generated so many chances to start the game. On the other hand, I also felt his linemates were kind of trying to force the puck to him, attempting to set him up for a goal rather than take the shot themselves. Maybe that was just me though, but you’ve gotta think once he gets that first one things will be coming a lot easier, both for him and the team.

In the meantime… so close. And if he’d been able to finish the game, they may have been able to pull it out.

All those minutes to Johnny

With Jagr out, there was some line shuffling. Micheal Ferland got his chance back on the top line, but then someone has to take his shifts on the third line, and they were given to Johnny Gaudreau.

Whenever the Flames are down a forward, it’s always Gaudreau picking up the extra spot. This was a much more extreme case, though, considering just how much time Jagr missed.

Gaudreau finished the night with 22:01 played, including 7:05 on the powerplay. Mikael Backlund played 19:47, Sean Monahan played 19:19. Hell, forget the forward comparisons – Gaudreau played 10 fewer seconds than Travis Hamonic and 15 fewer than Mark Giordano. He was leaned on, hard, to fill out the forward lines. He has 11 points in eight games, he’s leading the Flames in scoring; it makes sense, especially when the team needs offence. He will, in all likelihood, be the Flames’ leading scorer again this season. He’s the go-to guy.

Though Monahan had the more impressive game, by my eye. Seven (!) shots don’t lie.

Those two really need the chance to develop and put everything together alongside Jagr. It feels like they’re still just on the cusp.

Special teams not a problem

The Flames are no longer making Mike Smith face 40+ shots a game. They’ve corrected that habit. And in this one, they were relatively disciplined (though I still have no clue how that was a slash on Dougie Hamilton. Really… that? That’s what you’re calling?).

This time around, the Flames drew penalties. Matthew Tkachuk and Gaudreau are two of the Flames’ top penalty generators, and they did just that last night. And they really, really, really should have scored on the first powerplay – they did a great job on it, especially considering how they didn’t even have a chance to get into the flow of the game just yet before going straight to the man advantage.

It was good they scored on the five-on-three, but then, they also gave up a five-on-three goal. They had six powerplays to work with and could only capitalize on the one. A goal in that first powerplay probably changes things a fair amount. At the very least, an extra goal send them to overtime.

Still: improvement. There’s your silver lining.

Kulak in

Brett Kulak finally drew into the lineup after having sat there for seven straight games. The Flames’ bottom defence pairing has been, uh, not great to start, but while Kulak had the worst CF% on the team, he still looked like an upgrade.

At the very least, he did what he said he wanted to do: kept play largely to the perimeter. He didn’t get many cracks at creating anything himself, and had some of the lowest zone starts on the team outside of the 3M and fourth lines, but he looked calm, composed, and collected throughout the 8:25 that he played.

Maybe, with more regularity, he can build on that.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I’m never happy when the Flames lose. I’m happy they played a complete game and earned a better fate.

    Jagr was great on After hours last night. The man is a beast, and Flames fans are lucky to have him.

    • Zesty14

      A complete game? Guess you fell asleep for the last 12 mins of the 3rd and dreamt the end. They snatched defeat from the hands of victory. Looked like nerves trying to rush plays that’s wernt there all to try to tie a game they shouldn’t have been losing in the first place.

  • freethe flames

    The amount of times this team bobbles the puck is uncanny. It happened so much last night I was wondering if their sticks are too short. It’s frustrating to watch how many wiffs of the puck this team has’ Hamonic on one shift had two back to back and he was not even being pressured.

    • Carl the tooth

      Bennett is a big reason Flames have one of the best Pk .its a 200 ft game and Bennett at the least will be a Topline shutdown centre. Did you see some of the shots he ripped off ? The kid is developing a rocket of a shot . I see future selke player . Last night was probably the first time I thought Flames resembled a team can’t put too much into stats at this point .

  • TurkeyLips

    Jankowski needs to be playing in the NHL like, yesterday. For Pete’s sake make it happen Tre.

    Stone is a waste money.

    Monahan and Gaudreau were the only consistent threats last night.

    Split the 3M line if, and whenever, #77 comes up. This team needs new life so effin’ bad.

    That was a crippled Minnesota team and we still scored after them, no cushion, and lost. Poor.

      • Kevin R

        I agree it’s time to split up 3M. Gaudreau-Monahan-Jagr Tkachuk-Janko-Bennett Ferland-Backlund-Frolik & Versteeg-Lazar-Brouwer Why is it so freaking Taboo to move Bennett to the wing. Oilers do it with Draisatl & he was drafted as a centre.

        Gio & Hamilton are not playing up to what they were last year. Brodie & Hamonic are what we were expecting, a better Brodie & Hamonic as a bonafide top 4. I expected Stone to carry that bottom pairing more, seems like wasted cap space for a #5. Play Wotherspoon & Kulak or Fat Ras & I can live with with the stats & be giving young guys opportunities to play 10 minutes a night. Bottom line, I am not seeing that vaunted top 4 D in the league everyone was pounding the drum about. Im also beginning to think like WW & wonder if a structure like what Tippett would bring would prevent some of the lost souls trying to play this system.

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    All I can say is that at least Kulak was not a dumpster fire. He only played 8 minutes, but part of that was Stone missed some time. Unfortunately, they were on for the go ahead goal, but where the heck were the forwards on that play? Kulak played the pass, Stone had the guy in front, but Spurg was completely alone.

    Simple fix. Keep Kulak in. Bring in Janko. Sit Stajan, Bart, Glass and Freddie. Waive Glass or Freddie. Move Bennett to the wing.

    • PrairieStew

      Actually I thought Kulak was out of position there. He came back and crossed in front of Stone and backed in on the right side of the ice leaving the left side open – this allowed the pass back to the point where Spurgeon took the shot. I remember thinking as the puck came through the neutral zone ” Where are you going Kulak, stay on your side…”

  • Flaymin Frank

    Nothing wrong with giving JH extra minutes. But he’s got to cut down on untimely giveaways. I understand the frustration with Sam B’s play but I think a trade at this stage of his career would be one that would be regretful. He’s still worth developing IMHO. His contract is pretty reasonable. Kulak is definitely an upgrade to Bart Man. I don’t care what his Corsi #’s say.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    Bang on about Jagr, but saying replacing him with Janko would be a loss is TECHNICALLY a guess. But you’re probably right.

    “The Flames are no longer making Mike Smith face 40+ shots a game. They’ve corrected that habit.”

    Coaching praise, anyone? Yes? No?

    • Skylardog

      No coaching praise. Minny isn’t going to get 40 shots on anyone, neither are Ottawa or Vancouver. Carolina is building and fast, and they owned us in our own end.

      Minny was also missing Parise, Neiderreiter. Coyle, and Granlund. They only had 8 forwards on the roster earlier in the week. They were missing their best forwards, and still got 32. Zucker was all over us.

      We give teams time and space, we never get time and space from the opposition. Watch for it. It is easy to play against Calgary these days. Time and space…

  • BendingCorners

    Oddly, the Wild attribute their win to stellar goaltending and to a lesser extent to their top-pair D. No mention of the Flames’ mediocrity. Maybe our team isn’t that bad and just needs to finish what they start? I thought the Flames played better against Anaheim but this game wasn’t a bad effort just incomplete and a bit unlucky. Probably time to call up Jankowski and move Bennett to the fourth line, but Brouwer was at least not a tire fire and probably somewhat better than that.

    • Cheeky

      Of course Minny isn’t going to trash the Flames (no team would ever do that) “the other team was terrible, they were so easy to play against, what a joke they are, hahaha”…

  • MontanaMan

    An idea for a future FN blog – 4th Line Trending. I would be interested to see how fourth lines have changed in a relatively short timeframe, from fighters, to grinders to some teams now looking for finesse. Which teams have adapted or changed their makeup of fourth lines and how successful have they been? To take stats from 10 years ago, 5 years, even 3 years would be very interesting.

  • Fan the Flames

    The Flames looked shaky in the 3rd . On the bright side they were generating chances and looked very strong in the first. Kulak was a major upgrade over Bartkowski. The Bennett experiment is over for me he looks lost out there and didn’t get a shot it is time to move Janko in as centre and move Bennett to the wing .

    • Skylardog

      Bennett made a huge mistake on the tying goal. Went to the the man on the boards with the puck with a clear push up ice by Suter on the rush. The bad part was that a short pass put Bennett out of the play, and he didn’t even get the guy on the boards.

      Just not reading the play. Should be better.

    • Kevin R

      Monahan is playing great, why would we do that. I think Janko should centre a line with Bennett & Tkachuk. That’s our future. I think Ferland would slide over fine with Backlund & Frolik or better yet, Lazar looked good last night, put him with Backlund & Frolik.

  • calgaryfan

    played better than some previous games, Stajan and Bartkowski should continue press box duty and see how the team plays going forward. Not much else can happen until Treliving finds a way to get some help from Stockton!

    • Skylardog

      Stajan>Bennett. Hate to say it, but it is true. Bennett to the pressbox for a game, then 4RW. Gonna have to earn his spot in the top 9.

      Like that will happen. Never earned always given…

  • Squishin

    MY THOUGHTS:
    – I was generally pleased with the effort from the Flames. Much more disciplined and structured.
    – I thought Minnesota really brought it halfway through the third, and caught the Flames off guard a bit.
    – The fourth line (Versteeg/Hamilton/Brouwer) was fantastic. Tough to play against and heavy on the forecheck. That was one of Brouwer’s best games, and the dangle to set up the Monahan goal was filthy. Maybe that’s what Versteeg and Brouwer need when they play together: a solid, dependable, unnoticeable player like Freddie Hamilton who quietly does his job and doesn’t make a fuss. It was very nice to have competence and reliability on the 4th line.
    – I like the extra ice-time given to Gaudreau; he looked very dangerous on most of his shifts. He also limited his giveaways more so than the previous games. Monahan also had a stellar outing. What a sniper.
    – I don’t think Lazar or Bennett played particularly well, but they also did not have a consistent LW once Ferland was moved up. I think we should call it a mulligan and they should both dress next game. The one half-shift they played with Tkachuk was some of their best work. *chemistry alert!*
    – Kulak is better than Bartkowski.
    – Jagr was a driving factor for his 3:49 and a huge reason the Flames had a good start. Hope he’s back ASAP.
    – In general, the speed lineup seems to work better than the tough lineup. Let’s see it more.

  • Skylardog

    They played well, best game of the season so far, but in all honesty, a long way from where they should be. The effort was there for most of the night.

    Everyone should watch for time and space as I will call it. Zucker had so much room last night. The 2nd and 3rd goals for Minny were from clear open chances with time and space to make a great shot. We give up time and space easily, have all season. We are easy to play against.

    And then you watch what our players get in most games from the opposition. Tight checking, a need to rush passes, no time to think, no space to move.

    Once you spot it, then tell me what causes it. I know the answer. See if you can spot the cause.