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Stars 2, Flames 1 post-game embers: Seen this one before

When the third period started with the score all tied up at one, I felt as though I was watching a loss. Sure enough, that’s exactly what it turned into.

And it was the exact same problems that have been plaguing this team as of late. Now, for the first time this season, they’re under .500 – which shouldn’t be that high a bar to begin with. Especially not with this year’s expectations.

Special teams were bad again

The Flames lost 2-1. The Dallas Stars scored two powerplay goals. That’s kind of the game right there.

Well, that and how the Flames failed to score on their own powerplay yet again, but let’s take this one thing at a time.

For the third game in a row, the Flames have surrendered two powerplay goals. Twice they lost; the third game, well, it’s nice they were able to tie things up. But really – this absolutely has to stop.

Over the course of three games, the Flames’ penalty kill has fallen from top five in the NHL to 26th. They’ve fallen 10 points, from 86.8% to 76.6%. Three games. Glen Gulutzan has gone off about the penalty kill a couple of times now (hell, he did it yesterday morning, too): the Flames are being too passive, allowing for too many easy zone entries, and it’s costing them. He hasn’t liked their kill when Mike Smith was masking their failures; now, he isn’t even doing that.

It’s not acceptable. And so, a threat emerged: that the penalty kill personnel may be changed up.

Against the Stars, the primary penalty killers were Michael Stone, Mark Giordano, Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Troy Brouwer, Matt Stajan, T.J. Brodie, and Travis Hamonic. Some of these names don’t belong – I’m sure you can figure out which ones – but in the spirit of a new penalty killer, I’ll toss out a suggestion.

How about Matthew Tkachuk? He doesn’t have the two-way reputation Backlund and Frolik do, but he’s still a contributing member of a really good shutdown line. I think it’d stand to reason he could probably kill a penalty or two. What’s the harm in trying, at least?

As for the powerplay, the last goal Calgary had on the man advantage was Kris Versteeg, with a five-on-three, against the Wild. The last 5v4 goal they scored was Johnny Gaudreau against the Canucks. They have a 15.0% success rate now, tied for 21st in the NHL. Not good enough.

Speaking of that, though…

Let’s complain about the refs!

When it comes to a horrible call in a regular season game, the worst one that immediately comes to mind was Jim Joyce taking away Armando Galarraga’s perfect game in 2010. The widespread reaction after was nothing but support for both pitcher and umpire, in part because Joyce owned up to his mistake immediately after the game and apologized.

I get that baseball is very different from hockey, and there’s one way: an umpire was held accountable for his bad call.

We’re not going to see that in the NHL any time soon. We’re not going to get an explanation for why the refs watched Dougie Hamilton and Kris Versteeg both get high-sticked and let play continue. Or how crosschecks right in front of the Flames’ net that send players careening to the ice are okay. Or why, exactly, Travis Hamonic’s lightest of light taps when getting up after being crosschecked hard into the ice was called a slash.

If you open the replies to that tweet, you’ll even find an Oilers fan baffled that Hamonic was the one who got a penalty out of that. Any given night in the NHL, I can open my Twitter feed and find fans of just about any team losing their minds because they have no damn clue what is and isn’t a penalty anymore. Every single night.

Reporters can go to the dressing room and ask Hamonic about the penalty. They can ask Gulutzan what he thinks the team needs to do about taking penalties. But they can’t ask the officials what they were thinking when they called only Hamonic for an infraction, or what they were watching when Versteeg took a stick to the face and fell down to the ice that apparently everyone else in the building saw, if the roar of outrage was any indication.

There is not one single hint of accountability. Last night, it hurt the Flames: that Hamonic penalty ended up being a goal against, and it was a one-goal game. And maybe the Flames’ powerplay wouldn’t have done anything with more opportunities, but you can’t let players swing their sticks around like crazy and catch guys in the head with no repercussions. It’s a pretty cut and dry call to make.

Maybe the horribly inconsistent reffing helps the Flames one day! But it shouldn’t. It’s frustrating across the NHL and occasionally results in games devolving into utter chaos. And as of right now, there is absolutely no reason to think it will ever get better.

That said, though…

One goal?

So if the Flames play a completely clean game and don’t take a single penalty, maybe they win 1-0.

How many 1-0 games do you think a team is going to have over a single season? Only scoring once isn’t anywhere near good enough.

Here’s the thing: the Flames were getting chances. Brodie’s shot doesn’t go wide, it’s a different game. Backlund scores on his shorthanded effort, it’s a different game. But not every scoring chance is going to result in a goal, so the best bet is to generate as many scoring chances as possible, and eventually, they will probably start going in.

One way to not do that is to get odd man rush after odd man rush and not shoot the puck at all. How many times in the first period did the Flames have an odd man rush, only to make one pass too many and immediately turn the puck over and back down the ice? Gaudreau’s goal was scored on an odd man rush; he had the audacity to actually shoot the puck and what do you know, it went in.

The Flames were trying to play cute all night and all they succeeded in doing was limiting their own chances to actually get on the board. Yes, they’ve had chances. Yes, they’ve by and large been the superior even strength team. But it means very, very little if they don’t even try to get a shot on net.

Their penalty kill hurt them; not scoring any more goals hurt them more.

Optimal lineup or

Brett Kulak is a better player than Matt Bartkowski. He just is.

Now that that’s out of the way, Gulutzan leaned heavily on the 3M line all night. They were the top forwards in ice time, with Sean Monahan’s line following right behind. That’s cool, Backlund was being matched against Tyler Seguin and those are the forwards most likely to score, anyway. (Versteeg aside, the rest of them kind of haven’t? At all?)

Brouwer played 14:16. Stajan played 13:23. Versteeg played 10:51. Tanner Glass played 10:39.

Sam Bennett played 9:06. Mark Jankowski played 7:53.

What.

You can’t really talk about how you need more out of the bottom end of the lineup when Tanner “69 points in 518 games” Glass gets a regular shift. Dude had the chance to go on a breakaway and he lunged forward, falling, to poke the puck up the ice. I get that Bennett’s start to the season is disappointing but you always play the disappointing player over the guy who straight up can’t provide anything offence-wise because the disappointing player at least has the potential to do something about it.

And I get that Jankowski is new, and Stajan has the unfortunate cap hit, but you have to give the recall with five goals in six AHL games this year a chance to do something. Playing established veterans over kids with potential doesn’t mean a thing when you already know those veterans aren’t going to contribute on the scoresheet.

It’s just neutering the team for no reason.

Jankowski watch, part 3

So, even though Gulutzan was previously very insistent that Jankowski is an NHLer, he was basically never seen last night because he was only allowed to play four shifts a period. He had the first bad corsi night of his season – 37.50% – but it’s not as though he got much of a chance to actually do anything.

Who gets sent down when Jaromir Jagr comes back? Jankowski, apparently. Why would they keep him up? Some home debut.

Andrew Mangiapane leads the AHL in scoring! So if he gets recalled maybe he’ll have the privilege of playing less than a guy whose career high AHL point totals he’s about to pass. (Glass had 15 points in 57 games for Hartford in 2016-17. Mangiapane has 14 points in eight games for Stockton right now.)

The Flames lost in a predictable way with well-established mistakes coming home to roost once again, but they also decided to shoot themselves in the feet on the way there for some reason.

  • OYYC

    “I’m not protecting guys anymore, we gotta get going here. Guy’s gotta step up.”

    That was what Gulutzan stated before the Stars game. I took that as a veiled threat to youngsters like Lazar and Bennett as GG benched Lazar for over a period in the Blues game. Then he makes the Glass – Stajan – Brouwer line the de facto 3rd line for the Stars game! Short or mid-term, Gulutzan simply does not have what it takes to get the most out of his young players. I actually think he resents the younger players in some way, as if they are not smart enough to learn his beloved system.

    The Flames’ core players are not old. There is still plenty of room for improvement. The pipeline is deep in all positions – from now to 3 years out. For all his other faults, which have been well documented, GG’s absolute reluctance to give his prospects a fair shake just shows that he isn’t the man for the job. Most coaches would be licking their chops to have a new player like Jankowski on their roster. Most teams would look at a 21 year Mangiapane, who is still ripping up the AHL with a new centreman, and wonder when they should make room for him.

    It shouldn’t matter how great this guy’s system is, or whether the player’s are buying into it again. When you’d prefer to play vets like Glass or Bartkowski over the youngsters, then Gulutzan simply is not the coach to give your team a shot at success in the near or long term.

      • OYYC

        Vegas is an interesting study. You’ve got a whole roster of players playing with a chip on their shoulder because their old team didn’t want them. I loved Gallant as a player, he was a stocky, skilled dude who was a great fit with Yzerman. He was respected on the ice, and as a coach he seems respected as well. He’s sure getting the most out of that bunch of cast-offs down in Vegas.

        I suppose that’s another thing with Gulutzan. Do the player’s actually respect the guy? It is tough to say, but if GG tried to read the riot act to his players, I think some of them would have a hard time not bursting out laughing. Maybe he needs to get a neck tattoo or something.

        • Trevy

          Haha…so true and I agree. There’s something to be said about old players like Gallant. I too watched him play and he brought it on every shift of every game. This is a man that pulls no punches and demands hard work from his players. Now whether this band of merry men can continue this type of play for the whole year remains to be seen, but unlikely at this pace. Nonetheless, the point is as you said, he’s respected as a coach

  • Stockton's Finest

    Maybe they bring Huska up from Stockton to coach this team. He can bring up a few players with him. At least Huska uses all 4 lines and is not afraid to changeup lines to get the team going.

      • everton fc

        To be fair, we don’t know if there were other circumstances that put Carroll in the doghouse. But if Gazdic is truly the coaches choice over Carroll, then yes, that seems a poor choice, indeed.

        • Stockton's Finest

          Carroll has played the last two games. But that has been since the Janko call up.

          Something happened with Carroll between the pre-season game and the start of the season that no one is talking about. When asked, Huska gave the political “he is staying ready for when called upon” answer and moved on quickly to the next question. So until it comes out, I will reserve judgement on Huska for this one. I still question him on his goalie choices (if Gillies is back in goal again tonight, making it back-to-back games on consecutive weekends), but at least the team is winning and playing well together. He continues to change the bottom D pair to find a solid pairing (think Healey and AOM works well). Stockton, like the Flames, need more production from the bottom 6, but they have some points from guys like Cramarossa, Poirier, and Shinkaruk.

          There is no way that Huska is a NHL coach, but right now one could (could) argue he is better that the Gelled Hair Ken doll.

          • Cheeky

            Thats good to hear. Interesting if the story ever comes out. How has he looked in the 2 games (Carroll was always an interesting prospect considering his size and points he put up in junior). Rittich should start…

  • everton fc

    Random thoughts (sorry if it’s a double post)

    If we didn’t have Smith, Gulutzan may have been fired, as we’d not be 5-6.

    Bennett should with Gaudreau. Somehow. Maybe Gaudreau-Monahan-Bennett? What do we have to lose? Then go with Ferland-Jankowski-Jagr. Ferland’s quicker than he looks. It’s be a big line, perhaps tough to control.

    Mangiapane and Hathaway should be in Calgary. Mangiapane may need a little more time in the “A”, but the way Hathaway plays – we need that type of player up here. Brouwer, Stajan, Freddie and Glass will not put goals and assists on the scoresheet. Mangiapane/Versteeg-Lazar-Hathaway might.

    The Brouwer signing may be one of the worst in recent NHL memory. Brutal. Stone’s term may also become a millstone.

    Why Kulak isn’t played over Bartkowski, is another mind-bending head-scratcher…

    If we don’t get scoring from our 3rd and 4th lines soon, we’ll be a .500 team at best.

    Eddie Lack is not the right backup for this team. I’d have more confidence in Rittich. And if Smith goes down, we’re doomed.

    How did Gulutzan get the results out of a lesser group last January they April – and w/shaky goaltending? What’s so different these days??

    If they punt Gulutzan, I think an established coach like Ruff, maybe Tippett… Claude Julien… Daryl Sutter, anyone?… Or maybe a more-than-ready pick lie Todd Nelson (add Sheldon Keefe and D.J. Smith to the mix)… Look at what Travis Green’s doing in Vancouver. Could a guy like Nelson, Keefe or Smith do the same, here? Or do we need a proven coach, like the aforementioned quad above? We missed out on guys like Jon Cooper, Gallant… Hynes in NJ… There are some good coaches around who won’t let players simply “float”, who can teach confidence… Heck, this team never seemed to quit, under Hartley. That said, I think coaches who have played in the NHL, who have down their time, took their stitches… Like Gallant… Green… One could argue they garner more respect. But that argument doesn’t work in Tampa, or New Jersey.

    • OYYC

      From Derek Wills:

      Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland
      Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik
      Bennett-Jankowski-Jagr
      Versteeg-Lazar-Brouwer

      With the player’s on the roster, this looks to be the best shot for success.

    • seamax

      That would be an ideal scenario, but Flames apparently have nobody on waivers today so if Jagr is to come back tomorrow, absent putting somebody else on IR Jankowski will have to go down. A cowardly move in my mind, but there you have it.

  • Rudy27

    Ari states “How many times in the first period did the Flames have an odd man rush, only to make one pass too many and immediately turn the puck over and back down the ice?” Not just one pass to many, but usually a pass to an area that has a low percentage of scoring (e.g. Pass from the slot to a player way too deep and near the boards!). Must have about three of those last night.

  • Fan the Flames

    GG so hung up on puck possession he has built a Vancouver Canucks clone and it is aweful . Time to throw that out along with Bartkowski and Glass.
    Time to step up the forechecking and the hitting which will lead to turnovers and some better scoring chances . Trying to change Sam is killing his game give him Ferlie on one wing and Lazar on the other and tell them to hit anything that moves and maybe it will open up some scoring chances.

  • BendingCorners

    On the game-winning goal Dallas ran a very good PP. Three guys on the wall two floaters away. When the puck made it to one of the floaters it spread the PK box and then one net-front guy led his covering D away from the crowded side. When the puck went back to Radulov he made a slick move – I think everybody in the building thought he would pass – and angled his blade and buried it.
    The PK on this was pretty effective until that point, pressuring the PP and almost getting the puck twice. Maybe Backlund could have abandoned the high slot coverage and moved over to Radulov, or maybe Gio could have abandoned his man sooner or maybe Smith could have played shot the whole way and played closer to the post, but once the PP gets the PK moving around, a goal becomes likely.
    The problem last night was not that goal, it was the rest of the night; not enough shots, not effective on the PP. I’m not sure why GG put the old slow guys out so often last night, maybe he thought they could get it done (but why?) or maybe he thought the young guys were being lazy, or maybe the young guys were all hurting and none of us knew it. But on the surface it looks more than a little strange to play guys you expect not to score, when you need a goal.
    GG looked a bit lost in the post-game video. It sounds like he is just going to keep saying the same things over and over to the players. Suspect player usage, nothing new to say, time for him to go.
    Until then, let’s remember that last year Gio and a few others got everybody on board during that train ride, and they played well (most nights) after that. Maybe Gio needs to try that again.

  • class1div1

    D Sutter in the room. OK guys .the game plan is simple.Dallas played last night so we are going to wear them down.Dump pucks in and hammer there D. When we wear them out ,we play our skill game.

    As much as disliked Daryll’s overall tough hockey,it would be welcoming right now.

  • Skuehler

    Bang on. I too think stats should be tracked on each ref and some sort of accountability. They present the largest influence on the outcome of games – I would argue more than most fancy stats.