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Flames 5, Devils 4 (SO) post-game embers: One goal at a time

After a pretty rough first period from the Flames, they were able to compose themselves and play a pretty good final two periods. The team continues to play well at five-on-five, and even won the special teams battle this time around – no powerplay goals on three chances, but their first period shorthanded goal helped them pull back from the panic button.

In the end, they came out with a third straight win, as just who this team is seems to be coming together.

Regression on all fronts

The Flames were due to regress in two areas: shooting and save percentage. Their PDO of 100.1 plants them about right where they should be, and about in the middle of the NHL, but that’s with the third worst shooting percentage in the league, and the third best save percentage.

Last night, we saw neither is probably sustainable.

Let’s start with the bad news first: even with some key saves, Mike Smith didn’t have his best game. Nico Hischier forced him into giving up brutal rebounds that led to two goals, his puck playing finally burned him on the third, and finally, that fourth goal just plain shouldn’t have gone in. Nobody is going to bring out the pitchforks for Smith – this was only his third sub-.900 SV% game of the season – but these lesser games are going to happen. Hopefully not often, but the .931 he’s now sporting will probably fall a bit further.

Then, the good news: the Flames are scoring again. Their four goals in regulation are the most they’ve had since Oct. 14, when they downed the Canucks 5-2. And it isn’t that they haven’t been getting chances – they absolutely have – it’s been that they simply wouldn’t go in, no matter what they did. Sometimes they challenged Keith Kinkaid, sometimes their chances weren’t that difficult for him, but fact of the matter is they’ll probably increase their scoring output. Right now they’re at 2.36 goals per game; only the Oilers are worse. (Yay?)

Those who had A Game

A couple of Flames really stood out positively in this one.

First off, Johnny Gaudreau was outstanding, even with a lower corsi rating. He was all over the ice, doing absolutely everything in his power to try to make things happen for his team, especially speeding up through the offensive zone. He did get two assists out of his effort. As it stands, he’s still one of the NHL’s top offensive players – tied for fourth in league-wide scoring, tied for second in assists, already with five multi-point games – and he really doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Then, there’s Michael Frolik. Of all the Flames with at least 30 shots on the season, only two have lower shooting percentages than he does: Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano. Frolik went nine games in between goals, and over the course of those nine games he had 21 shots. That doesn’t mean they were all good, but you’ve gotta think at some point, they go in. And finally, one did: the Flames’ second shorthanded goal of the year, with Frolik capitalizing off of an incredible effort by Mikael Backlund on the kill to create a chance that probably should have never been, were it not for his determination.

And finally, there’s Micheal Ferland, who’s looking increasingly like he belongs on the first line, the role he was pegged to play before the season even started. Ferland may be the greatest beneficiary of Jaromir Jagr’s injury, because it’s given him that chance to prove himself up there again. He’s at five points in six games since then, and maybe could have been a point-per-game if he’d just blasted it on his penalty shot (the first chance the Flames have had in almost exactly two years! The last one was a David Jones miss against the Penguins on Nov. 7, 2015) rather than try to get too fancy.

It also certainly helps that Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are such good players themselves, but with Ferland continuing to click with them, it’s looking much better. He’s starting to creep up the team scoring list.

Those who didn’t

On the flip side, a couple of Flames just couldn’t make anything work for them.

It wasn’t that they had bad games – Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski certainly had their chances to score, Bennett especially – but it’s just, like, what else do they have to do to score? Jankowski is much less of a concern because he isn’t getting big minutes and this was only just his seventh ever NHL game, but I have absolutely no explanation for Bennett’s struggles.

I mean. He gets a breakaway out of the penalty box, gets two good whacks at it, nothing. He’s helping create havoc around the net in tight and nothing, not even an assist for his efforts. This is not a player who should be scoreless in 14 games, and yet, he just… is. I don’t know.

Bennett is probably the most likely candidate to come off the powerplay when Jagr returns (or maybe Ferland instead, if there’s no desire to bump him down to the second unit), but maybe he’d benefit more from a player of that caliber on his line. Jankowski, too. As things currently stand… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Modified defence

One of the great things about the Flames’ blueline is just how deep it is. They upgraded their top four by acquiring Travis Hamonic, so when he had to sit due to injury their third pairing suffered for it, but their top four wasn’t totally screwed.

You forget what a bullet Michael Stone has, probably because he doesn’t get to show it off all that often, though he did lead the way with six shots last night (although, it isn’t always going to hit the net like that). Now, each of the Flames’ five regular defencemen have at least a goal on the season, though Brodie is still the points leader, with nine in 14 games (who saw that coming?).

As for ice time distribution, it was probably somewhat predictable: the top four were all much more heavily leaned on, while Brett Kulak and Matt Bartkowski got the shaft, playing 11:33 and 11:53, respectively. And, I mean, you put the two together, and yeah, Kulak had a poor preseason or whatever, but it’s just all the more evident when they’re playing side by side who the better player is.

Though if Rasmus Andersson draws in next game, he probably isn’t going to get big minutes, either. It’d be just his second NHL game.

Oh a shootout

The Flames have gone to extra time four times so far this season, and they’ve been perfect each time: two overtime wins, two shootout wins. The unfortunate thing about shootout wins is they don’t count towards the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker, and that could be a factor in the playoff race – but better to pick up two points instead of just one.

Last season, the Flames scored five shootout goals. Four were by Kris Versteeg, and one by Monahan. This season, those two players have appeared in both of the Flames’ shootouts, plus a brand new face in Matthew Tkachuk. Versteeg has been stonewalled both times, but the younger guys have both nailed it, leading to wins.

Tkachuk gets powerplay time now, he’s had his first overtime shifts, he’s pretty much cemented himself as a shootout staple. It’s fun to see his role keep increasing.

  • EhPierre

    The fourth line looked good last night. What didn’t look good was GG’s insistence of continuing to put the fourth line in the last 2 mins of the game.

    • cjc

      The NHL.com play by play log records something different. Frolik lost a faceoff with 2:06 remaining in the third, Calgary iced the puck with 42 seconds remaining, and then it was the Monahan line on for the last shift. The 4th line may have got a few seconds in there, but if they did it didn’t hurt the team last night.

      • EhPierre

        I’m pretty sure I saw Brouwer on at around the 3 minute mark, give or take a min. It didn’t hurt the team directly, but indirectly, stapling the third line onto the bench for most of the period is just the wrong way of developing your younger players.

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        Guys, when do you Bennett supporters give up? How many pointless games and inconsistent seasons do we need to see? How many linemates? How many different situations do we put him in, only to see him fail?

        In my view, we’re going for a cup and there can be no passengers right now.

        The fact of the matter is Sam should be leading the bottom six and he’s pointless through quarter of the season.

        • MontanaMan

          Bennett isn’t a passenger. He contributes, works hard, can play the PK and PP and is getting a ton of chances. Don’t confuse losing his confidence around the net with being a passenger – the hands will come back and he will contribute on the scoresheet. I was in Edmonton for the Red Wings game on Sunday afternoon – you want to talk passengers! Four lines, three sets of D and a goalie all figure skated for three periods. The boobirds were out and I was waiting for a pylon orange jersey to get tossed.

          • BringtheFire 2.0

            “He contributes…”

            Stats tell a different story.

            “Work’s hard…”

            Yes he does.

            “…can play the PP and PK…”

            But he can’t score on the PP, which is important to the pp(or get an assist), and his PK contributions are negligible and easily replaced by someone else.

            “The hands will come back and he will contribute on the scoresheet.”

            Been hearing that for three year now.

          • BringtheFire 2.0

            So, you’re saying our number 4 pick in his draft +4 year hasn’t played enough hockey for us to see if he’s worth it?

            I disagree. I’ve seen enough.

          • The Fall

            Sam:
            – One of only 10 other NHL veterans with 0 points in at least 12 games played.
            – Top 10 in minor penalties taken
            – Minus 5.6 REL CF%
            – Minus 32.58 REL GF%

  • CalgaryCandle

    For the first time in the season Treviling’s reasoning in signing Michael Stone was clear. When one of the top four D are injured he can step in seamlessly and not miss a beat. In fact, he thrived on the big minutes. As his goal showed, he has a canon from the point. To my eyes, he looked every bit as effective as Harmonic and Brodie and him have chemistry from last season. Now I’d like to see Andersson get game action instead of watch like he did for about 13 games last year. Would GG trust two rookies instead of GG and Bart?

  • Puckhead

    If last nights game was any indication, it didn’t appear that the team was playing a well defined system, rather a run-and-gun style.

    Also, our top D are a pleasure to watch – great passers, highly mobile, and offensively talented. However, I wish the team would tighten up defensively. It seems a bit disjointed and adhoc out there at times. I find myself squirming in my seat more often than I would like.

    PS. The high glove side shoot out goals put a nice exclamation on the win.

  • Cheeky

    If there is evidence that Bartkowski isn’t an NHL player, it was on full display last night. Kulak looked good even having to drag around that anchor and he had less time than him – really! #playRas

  • buts

    1 shot on goal in the first 10 minutes….wow GG you really know how to motivate a team. Frolik and Jonny played great. Stajan and Brouwer are a step behind the play and its very noticeable…..I just hope the coach’s can notice. When Stone has a decent d partner, he’s a solid player, you Stone haters can shush after last nights game. I thought the coil would be in on Duchene…..maybe the coach will get fired….just too much talent for there position in the division, its great seeing them near the bottom.

    • McRib

      Stone was effective in the offensive zone last night I’ll agree, but he was very lucky to not have a couple of bad plays turn into brutal turnovers. Defensively he was still a gong show, as I was at the game. I love Stone scoring though because once Fat Ras makes him expendable in the coming months, we can trade him for some more forward depth!!

      • The GREAT WW

        Because Oilers suck….!!!

        Ever since Nurse punched Drysaddle the Oilers have been disjointed.
        Time to trade Nurse for pennies on the dollar (Drysaddle’s contract is unreadable…)

        WW

  • Jobu

    Jobu understands the want to see Phat Ras play. Jobu like him very much. But as with all players he needs to show the coaches he’s ready in practice first. If Ras work like a mofo Ras will play very soon.

  • smatic10

    Bennett has far too much speed, tenacity, skill and overall talent to be THIS unproductive. Can’t remember the last time a player has been as unlucky as him. The sad thing is, you just know that he’s going to explode offensively as soon as he’s traded to another team. I hope someway somehow he can find a way to make it click here. Benny-Janko-Jags is our best hope as it currently stands because Jags can implement a strong possession aspect to the line. If not, a guy like Mangiapane might be the answer because no one else in our current line-up is the answer.

  • GodsGotSandals

    I didn’t watch the game last night but poor Bennett is unbelievably snake but by the sounds of it. He must be double clutching on every chance at the net he gets. Overthinking things. GG should tell that whole line to shoot from everywhere and crash the net something will bounce in eventually.

  • JoelOttosJock

    Looks like the start of the 10 game bad stretch for Smith began last night..Flames got lucky the Devils played Kinkaif..and man is it me or did Mark Giordano look bad?

    • Alberta Ice

      Hey, we won. Compare that to the Oilers last two games. The team that played in Edmonton on Friday disappeared to ‘nothing to show for it la la land’ on Sunday. Deeper head scratching going on up North than down in the South of Alberta for sure.

      • JoelOttosJock

        That is true, but i do not care nor compare the flames to the oilers or any other team. I base my judgements solely on the flames. I am liming the slow changes over the last little bit, looks like they are listening less and less to Burke. So happy that management has not given up on Bennett like the mistake they did with Baertschi.

  • Alberta Ice

    Bennett is working hard. Snake bitten on goal shooting and that monkey again is on his back. However, he works hard every game and that give me hope he will get it together. (Reminds me a bit of Swen when he was here. No patience during his struggle time by Burke and Hartley. I’m convinced we gave up on him way too soon. Now look at how well he is playing for the Canucks. His 3 B line for the Canucks is now a dangerous line with Boeser thrown in. Should be a good game Tuesday.)

    • OYYC

      If Gulutzan was coaching the Canucks, the Sedins would still be getting 18+ minutes a game. The Baertschi – Horvat – Boeser line would be called the 3rd line in name only, while getting less ice time than the 4th line.

      Good on Travis Green for giving Vancouver a shot to win every game, without playing favourites.

  • The Doctor

    There were some good things out there last night, and obviously we pulled it together after a horrid first 10 minutes. But wow did we ever make a lot of puck management errors. One thing we were constantly screwing up was exits from our defensive zone when the Devils were backchecking. It’s like our guys were pretending there was no backcheck. We made some brutal, stupid turnovers on those plays. To his credit, Matt T noted in his post-game interview that there are some things that need to be cleaned up. No kidding.

  • Flaymin Frank

    Off topic observation – does GG know that the poppy is supposed to be worn on the left side? Was there nobody in his orbit to offer a correction to him? Sheesh, that looked bad on T.V. He should know better, he grew up on the Canadian prairies. Okay, I’m done.

  • HOCKEY83

    Went to the game last night. Definitely got the full meal deal with the 2 penalty shots and the OT and Shoot out. Smith had a great game and a bad game. The first period was another highlight reel period but those last 2 goals were definitely his fault. That Bennet Janks Lazar line is so snake bit. but they do create some exciting chances.

  • Zesty14

    Liked the intensity with the 3rd line but man “looking to buy a goal for them.” Im a big fan of JG but does anyone else think his forecheck is laughable at best? Id love to see a highlight reel of him putting out both his arms as he skates past the man with the puck. Other then that we better win tomorrow so my bro-in-law doesn’t rub salt in the (We’re ahead of you) wound.