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Flames 7, Blues 4 post-game embers: At long last, goals

It would appear as though the goals have finally arrived.

R E G R E S S I O N

I’m really sorry to keep using that word but it’s just really applicable here. Let me explain.

Heading into this game, the Flames were fifth in the NHL in 5v5 CF/60, but 21st in GF/60. They were also 16th in CA/60, but fourth in GA/60. (Now, they’re sixth, 17th, 16th, and third, so the offensive gap is closing while they appear to still be playing above their heads in the defensive department.)

In other words: the Flames have been really good at generating shot attempts, but for whatever reason, they just plain haven’t been translating into goals. Every indication was that they should be at some point, that the Flames were doing too good a job at bringing the puck to the opposition’s net for it to not start going in.

Well, they now have 13 goals in their past two games, so it looks like the tide is turning. They’ve jumped up to 2.88 goals per game – tied for 16th in the NHL, which is much better than the 29th, 30th spot they were hanging out around back when the homestand started.

That’s the benefit of corsi. It’s a predictive stat, used to roughly estimate what a team may be doing in the future based on past results. Without it, you would look at the Flames’ paltry goals earlier in the season and stress out that their lines weren’t doing anything. With it, you could tell that in all likelihood, the goals were going to come, even if the team didn’t do anything all that different. It’s not a guarantee – just because the stat says they should be scoring more doesn’t mean they will be – but it is an indicator that there was good reason to believe the puck would start going in the net. Lo and behold. (It also helps that they did do something, i.e., get a healthy Jaromir Jagr back and place him on a line with Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski. Both are important!)

On the other end of the ice, the Flames may be playing a bit above their level. They’re about middle of the pack when it comes to giving up shot attempts (though don’t let the ranking fool you; they’re five back of the top CA/60 team, and seven up on the worst one, so they’re closer to being better at this than not), but they’re one of the best teams at not giving up even strength goals.

They’ve started allowing more goals as of late, though. Don’t be surprised if that falls out from under them as the season goes on, regardless of Mike Smith’s health (though that, of course, may play a big factor as well, especially with the longest road trip of the season coming up and a very green Eddie Lack on the season potentially being the best option).

Briefly speaking on Eddie Lack, though, but the Flames really tightened up once he came in, limiting much of the Blues’ chances (at least for the second period. The third period was its own beast). If he plays more, that could see a change in style from the Flames, as well.

Everybody scoring

So anyway, about all that scoring.

Jankowski has now played three games with Bennett and Jagr. In that time, he has scored his first, second, and third NHL goals (and was very, very close to a natural hat trick in the first period). Bennett has finally gotten on the board, and even potted a puck himself (he probably could have had some points earlier in the season, too, but they just weren’t going in for him for whatever reason. Now they are. He was too good to go pointless for an entire year). And Jagr is, well, Jagr.

There are some flaws to Jagr’s game – by my eye he seems to be giving the puck away a bit, and his lack of footspeed is something of an issue – but when he’s on, which is more often than not, the presence he has is invaluable. He keeps the puck in the offensive zone, his huge frame allows him to protect the puck, he had perfect vision on that pass for Jankowski’s second of the night. And that’s without going into the off-ice intangibles – primarily his wisdom imparted to this team, and remember that a lot of forwards on the Flames are still pretty young – that could pay dividends for years to come.

So all in all, a net positive, is what I’m saying.

It’s just great that Jankowski only got called up because Jagr was injured, and now Jagr is directly responsible for two of his three goals.

Theirs was the line of the night, but it’s really great when all of the lines get in on the scoring. Sean Monahan was the only forward to not record a single point (there goes the six-game point streak. Demote this man), while the 3M line needed an empty netter to get on the board, but hey, the way that game was going, every insurance goal counted, big time.

Johnny Gaudreau, meanwhile? Seven-game point streak. Tied for third in NHL scoring. Showing no signs of slowing down. Kind of terrifying. Capable of just completely controlling the play on his own. I like him and so should you.

Special teams…

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before!

The penalty kill was a failure on the night, going zero-for-one. Remember when the Flames had a top-five penalty kill in the NHL? It’s 29th now.

But honestly, the powerplay might concern me even more. Yes, it scored, but while the Flames were kicking ass at five-on-five play, every time they got a powerplay things just seemed to die. And then it would expire. And then St. Louis would score. I know a good powerplay is going to hopefully score a little more than one out of five tries, but for the Flames’ play to completely collapse when they get one and give up a goal so soon after is… not ideal? Yeah let’s go with that.

It’s one thing to not score. It’s another thing to basically stop playing entirely. It’s not as bad as the Islanders’ seven shorthanded goals against, but it could at least stand to look threatening as their even strength play.

Defensive swap

So around the second period, Travis Hamonic and Michael Stone switched partners, bumping Hamonic down the lineup to play with Brett Kulak. Why was addressed; Hamonic’s quick return from injury kind of hampered things there a bit in giving him minutes.

Although the end result wasn’t that different; Hamonic ended up playing two fewer minutes than Stone, though they were probably easier minutes overall (his bit of penalty kill time in the first period aside). Hamonic finished with 17:16, Stone with 19:14, while the top three all registered over 20 minutes each and Brett Kulak clocked in at 11:25.

Hamonic didn’t have great numbers on the night, but (very small sample size beware) his CF% shot up when placed with Kulak, from 27.27% with T.J. Brodie to 41.67%, so probably a good move.

Also, it helps point to just how useful it is to have a player like Kulak filling in that sixth spot. He’s trustworthy on the ice. He’s going to be getting the fewest minutes anyway – at least for now, though I have a feeling he’ll be working his way into more minutes as the season progresses – but it’s really nice to know that the Flames have that reliable presence as their last defenceman who can pick up a struggling teammate and still give him a quality partner to play alongside.

Four lines scored. Three pairings defended. An optimal lineup has 18 effective skaters. That’s the Flames, now.

Positive goal differential

It took the Flames three games to have a positive goal differential this season. Then they got blown out by Ottawa five games in, lost it, and haven’t been able to recover – until last night.

They’re now a +1 on the season! Celebrate good times.

No matter how you slice it, good teams tend to score more goals than they give up. They tend to be playoff teams, at least. It’s kind of a larger, over-looming indicator of expected success.

So while the Flames have been winning more often than not as of late, a lot of them were one-goal wins. Their last multi-goal win came on Oct. 14, against the Vancouver Canucks – a month ago – until these last two games.

This ties right back in with the fact that they’re actually scoring goals now. And hopefully that’s something they’ll be able to keep building on for the season – because they’ll need it.

  • BitGeek

    Ari, normally I enjoy reading your work but this piece was a hot mess. I’ll chalk it up to a late night composing it and perhaps the lack of an editor to review it.

    • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

      Are you volunteering to be the late night editor?

      Ari I enjoyed the piece. I don’t come here for Pulitzer level writing. I come hear to get more technical insights into my hockey team. Keep going!

    • Ari Yanover

      Nah, you shouldn’t be getting trashed for this comment, I agree this is in hot mess territory, and your assessment is probably accurate (I’ve only ever been my own editor on blog posts). Comments like this do remind me to kick it into a better gear when I slip up.

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        Ari, never let the comment section know you listen to them like that. It’s a nice sentiment, but you give one guy an inch of rope and the rest take six feet. Next thing you know you got Carl criticizing your sentence structure every article.

        And while I gotchu, more comedy, dammit. Don’t go full baggedmilk, or anything, but you have wit you don’t use enough.

      • BitGeek

        You’re one of the few writers that I enjoy reading on here. To be fair I like your content, it was just hard to read this time due to composition and editing. I have full confidence I’ll enjoy the next piece even more.

        Just like I enjoy reading Ryan’s summaries, I dislike his opinion pieces because all too often he has a weak conclusion.

        I’m glad my comment didn’t bother you too much. cheers.

        • Ari Yanover

          It’s all good. It makes sense, really – not every piece is going to be perfect, and when you’ve been doing stuff like this for years, you will slip into lulls every now and then. It helps to get those little reminders that hey, you slipped, try a little harder on the next one!

          Besides, when concrit is presented the way you did, it’s much easier to be receptive towards it.

  • Scary Gary

    The way the league calls penalty’s this year (you know actually calling a slash a slash) allows Johnny to be Johnny. Last year if he tried circling around the offensive zone he would get slashed multiple times then let the puck go and start shaking his hand while heading to the bench. The penalty calling hasn’t been perfect (obstruction last night, hand on Lazar’s stick) but it’s been way more fun to watch compared to last year.

  • Zalapski

    I was so impressed with Jankowski during puck battles and while carrying the puck through the neutral zone. He reminded me of a bigger and slight slower Backs. The kid looked great. Bennett had a nice night. In a few games I’ve seen him get behind pinching D-men if only a chip pass would get to him it might be a different season for him right now. Kulak is such a wonderful skater, he’s so fleet of foot and watching him carry the puck out of his zone and making smart passes is something we’ve missed the last few years with the 6th D.

    I’d also like to say that I think in the next 2-3 years that Matthew Tkachuk will score 70 points. The man has incredible on ice vision, he makes 4 big time plays a game. I’d say he’s more of a playmaker than a goal scorer.

  • MontanaMan

    I was at the game last night – fun game to watch but pond hockey at times. Couple of observations: 1). Hamonic struggled early which was evident. On a positive note, the coaching staff made the change, moving Hamonic down to the third pairing and Stone up to the second pair; 2) The defence in general are making poor first passes, even when not pressured. I saw numerous instances last night – the glaring example by Hamilton that led to a goal but many other turnovers that led to dangerous chances with Brodie committing several; 3) Jankowski is the real deal – great poise, wheels and soft hands; this will make the Backlund contract interesting as Jankowski may be projected into the 2C role by the end of year; 3) Jagr is a beast in the offensive zone; he controls the puck on the boards and in the corners and made several nice passes; his game in the neutral zone and defensive end is sketchy but we’ll take his offensive contributions. Fun game to be at.

    • FuNky ANGER

      God i hate posting on my phone … I’ll try this again. Jankowski scoring will pay huge dividends on players like Mangiapane when they eventually get called up. Imagine being Mangiapane right now and seeing your old linemate having a 3 point night in the NHL. He’s for sure gaining confidence that he could play and be successful in the NHL if his former linemate can do it.

  • moodyblue2

    Looks to me like we may have our own version of Draisitle on our hands with the emergence of Janks! How many points do you think Mark would have today with Leon’s minutes, pp time,and playing with Connor?

  • Scary Gary

    I’m excited by Jankowski’s play too but lets not get too high or too low on him and lets definitely not project him as a 2C next year (he’s only played 10 games). I think 3C with offensive zone starts is a fantastic role for him, hopefully we can get him killing penalty’s as well with that long stick/reach.

    • Zalapski

      I’d agree with that, I think Brodies defensive game has taken a huge step back. I also think he should carry the puck into the zone on PP sometimes but all he ever does is bump it back to Johnny or Versteeg.

      • everton fc

        Would they trade him? With Andersson… Kulak… In the wings…

        What would be the return? Will Jagr be here next season?? Will Lack??? Will Rittich or Gilliess????

        Lots to ponder…

    • Carl the tooth

      It may be because Hamonic got injured and had to switch with stone? Brodie was definitely great to start the year but yeah he’s definitely hasn’t been as noticeable in the offensive zone lately.

      • Carl the tooth

        Stone has some good skill at trying to hold the offensive zone at Blueline . He has a powerful shot ,it kinda seemed like Brodie was covering stone .maybe it was a coaching adjustment to try to use Stones slapper more .? Thoughts?

        • Off the wall

          We’re not trading Thomas James Brodie.
          Please remove the silly notion from this blog!

          Andersson might make Stone trade-able…both are Right shots.
          But that’s not foreseeable yet.

          How about we stop trading players please, we just formed some pretty decent lines lately?
          Give it time…

  • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

    Fancy stats thoughts (obviously on a small sample):

    Wonder if GG stumbled onto more effective pairings?

    Kulak / Hamonic we’re above water CF% with pretty neutral zone starts and Brodie and Stone were pretty even CF% while getting buried.

    Let’s temper the Janko excitement a bit. Even though they won on the scoresheet the line got hammered on shot attempts with sheltered starts (only Jagr was close to even) and it was the same thing against DET. They seem to need some work on the D end.

    • Carl the tooth

      Yes but so far it was also the first time I’ve seen them get hemmed in there own zone and against st loius at that . The Sky is the Limit for this Kid I said he had secondline centre potential after seeing him more at Camp . Now I think his potential could be actuality a no 1 NHL centre.he needs more speed and needs to get into the passing lanes in neutral zone a bit better. He will be a Force to be reckoned with .imagine him playing mean ?lol Then Dube ? Flames could potentially have the Deepest Centre Core in the league. Oh and now Ruzika putting himself in the radar .

  • KeepitReal

    Why I’ll Never Be a NHL Coach: Reason 278 – I’d nerf bat the daylights out of Hamilton after that gift giveaway on the 3rd goal. And then the Dept. of Player Safety would be all over me.

    But on a more serious note: dJanko is starting to look more and more unchained. He was stepping awfully close to the hat trick edge with some good looks throughout the game. The Bennett Dam finally broke open. Glad that Frolik got the empty netter as he’s been kinda quiet recently. My usual whipping boi Brouwer set up Versteeg for a beauty one timer.

    Power Play – simplify simplify simplify.

  • Zalapski

    Versteeg on the 4th line with Lazar and Brouwer is putting the use practice of “not icing plugs” to the test. Imagine if we had a more effective right winger than Brouwer(he’s looked oddly decent as a 4th liner though). No Stajan, No Glass. The team is so much better. Letting Lazar play has been positive, playing with Versteeg for an extended period of time has been good for both Brouwer and him. I honestly think Stajan should sit the rest of the season, collect his check and tip his hat to the Flames, he seems like he could be a good coach.

        • Flaymin Frank

          He’s not actually leading but he’s doing pretty darn good. I’ve always like Hath’s style of play. He likes to get involved physically which would be a huge asset in the playoffs. Nice to see him get his scoring touch going in Stockton. I just don’t think that he got with the right line mates to get the chemistry needed in his previous outings with the big club.

          • Carl the tooth

            Oh ok I thought I read that he was a couple days ago .must have dropped in ranking . I’m a fan of Hathaway I thought he should have made the team with Jankowski out of camp . Last season he always seemed to impact games and you could see he had decent offensive potential. The guy was usauly always bleeding from his face it seemed ,either in a fight or getting hammered infront of the net his gritty and there’s no quit.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Versteeg is a strange player at times. He’ what you would like a 4th liner to be. But he coasts a bit too much for the role. At times he looks bored. At times he skates back like he is looking at scenery. He’s predictable on the PP, and really sometimes is a waste of a shot. Then he takes a one-timer on the fly and it finds the only hole in Allen’s net.

      I don’t mind him playing 4th line minutes, as his salary is in line with it. I mind him thinking he should be higher in the depth chart and seems to only give 100% on some shifts.

      Lazar continues to be snake-bit. He should have at least 5 goals based on the touches he’s had around the net. He adds energy to the line, so I wouldn’t put Stajan back in. He will score soon enough.

      • Off the wall

        That’s one funny description of Versteeg. It made me laugh.

        The funny thing is that Versteeg has plenty of personality and I could actually imagine him being one of the few players on this team to have enough vision to enjoy the game (scenery) while knowing when to pick his spots.

        He did set the tone early in the game with a solid body check in the neutral zone. He’s very smart, still great with the puck and yes his shot is wasted on the PP, however I’m sure that’s what the coaches want him to do.
        Fire the puck, look for rebounds.

        I don’t think he’s a floater, I believe he knows at this stage where his strength lies and uses it to the best of his abilities.

        He always brings it come playoff time, that’s where you’ll see him shine.

        Our expectations are always high, but I’m pretty happy with Versteeg’s game.

        Same with Lazar, he’s doing the right things, he’ll eventually figure it out.

  • Carl the tooth

    Member when Carl said Monahan will put up over 70 points this year and will be a point per game player ? Where’s all them Brian’s who said he wasn’t a Number 1 centre? We need to talk lol jk

  • everton fc

    Bennett-Jankowski-Jagr are about to light up the scoreboard. Then we have three solid lines that can score. Last night was an indication of the potential.

    On defence… We have to stop giving up so many shots. Simple as that.

    • Intercourse the Penguins

      Flames gave up fewer shots and chances in the 2nd period when Lack came in and traded chances with a very good team in the third. As Ari pointed they may change their style of play with Eddie (or Rittich?) back there and give up fewer SA by having to retreat further into the D-zone to regroup. Not saying Smitty’s injury is a good thing but having a more traditional transition game for a while might allow us to throw 2 different looks on the ice and have a true 2 goalie system (a la Risebrough’s Roloson/ Fernandez in Minny). All depending on Eddie (or?) being dependable. Any word on Smith’s injury or a call-up?

    • deantheraven

      Shots were low, danger was high. They seem a little too passive at times, content to let the other team work it around and hoping for a missed pass. Luckily this ain’t my team to coach.

  • Mr.Goodfellow

    Wish I could be watching these last few games, Sportsnet loves to blackout games here in Toronto even if I have SNW. My boy Jankowski is lighting it up just as I knew he would, but here I am missing all the action. Book Urrrrns.

  • Squishin

    Let me clarify my earlier comments on corsi, as I seem to have stirred things up. I am perfectly fine with using corsi as a predictive stat for larger trends (team regression etc.), and I think it’s useful for evaluating the team’s and players’ longer-term trends.
    Where I have issue with corsi is when people say “Player X had a 40%CF, so they had a bad game”. Yes, that is sometimes true, but the CF cannot be the sole indicator for success. A great example is Jankowski with 34.5%CF last night. I loved his game. I also didn’t really feel like Frolik was especially good, and yet we see him among the team leaders with 61.3%. The problem is that one game is too small of a sample size to accurately gauge a player’s value on the ice. Put the average numbers for each player up for the whole season, and I feel that it would be a better indicator of how well everyone is playing.

    • deantheraven

      Nice take. I agree about stats being predictive but I also have to say that stats measuring ‘chances’ are still somewhat subjectively tallied. Who does the keeping track of chances for and against, anyway? has anybody ever asked that?

      • Squishin

        That’s the thing, I can’t see any fully accurate way to do that that will be agreed upon unanimously. I know the Flames have their own way of counting chances for/against, but there is a whole grey area there. I honestly think it’s just as good or better to use your eyes and see who is carrying the balance of the play, where the momentum is, who is controlling the pace, etc.

  • Flames8

    Assuming the Flames do get into the playoffs. Which they should with the roster they can ice when healthy. 3 effective lines is what wins series. But more importantly its centre depth. 3 capable centres is being pushed more than ever. Is Mony, Backlund, and Janko keep this up it’ll be a fun year and more years to come

  • To the Flames fans that booed their own goalie after 1 goal against:

    Are you insane? Goalies are 50% psychology and you idiots are going to try to rattle the backup after he comes in cold to relieve an injured starter? Go cheer for another team–we don’t need ya.

    • Carl the tooth

      Also Lavk finished the game with a lot better of a save % than smith . I wonder if it wasn’t a heard of sour soiler fans in the stands tryi g to sabotage Flames season …….since there season is over already lolol sorry not sorry

    • MontanaMan

      If he keeps up his pace of scoring, there’s not a chance. After watching him last night, even if you project him to reach 12 or 15 goals (which is attainable) he stays.