There’s nothing like a bunch of goals to wake you up for a weird start time. Unfortunately, it was goals against the Flames that got everything started – so it’s especially great that, this time around, they battled back for a win.
At long last
Nine games before this one, Sean Monahan had scored twice. Nine games before this one, he’s been flirting with a hat trick.
Today, he finally got it. And you could feel it coming. I had an, “Oh, hey…” moment when the Flames got their third straight powerplay, and realized Monahan had scored on the previous two. Sure enough, the next chance he got, it was his.
That shoots Monahan up to 11 goals on the season: the Flames’ leader, and tied for sixth league-wide. (I’m sure that will become outdated soon enough, because matinees are weird and make it difficult to get league-wide stats when most everyone else still has games to play today, but let’s just go with it for now.)
Monahan is currently third on the Flames with 55 shots on net. His shooting percentage is 20.0%, so a little high, and probably not going to last, but hey, he’s a career 15.1% shooter. He gets a lot of shots on net. He’s lethal. He probably won’t get the 47 goals he’s currently on pace for, but his second 30-goal season sure seems like it’s going to happen this year.
Heck, he’s snuck up to 20 points in 19 games. Let’s see how high he can go.
The powerplay came through, the penalty kill… kinda?
Speaking of Monahan scoring lots of goals, they all came on the powerplay. And for as much as the Flames battled back, they don’t come close without all of those powerplay opportunities.
They’re now up to a 20.6% success rate. Clearing that 20% mark is definitely helpful, and you have to hope this is a sign of things to come.
Monahan leads the way with five goals on the man advantage. Johnny Gaudreau is up there with 11 points, and T.J. Brodie, actually, is second in powerplay scoring with eight of his own.
I still wonder if more could be done with a different defenceman out there. Dougie Hamilton has the most shots of any blueliner on the man advantage; he’s behind regular first-uniters Monahan, Gaudreau, and Kris Versteeg in that regard.
As for the penalty kill, it’s still last in the NHL with a 70.6% success rate. Worth noting that the Flames only gave up one goal on the kill, though. And that taking a penalty in the final two minutes of the game sure seemed like a death sentence – and somehow, it wasn’t. (Also, say what you will about Matt Stajan, but keep in mind he also drew two of the penalties that led to two of Monahan’s goals. Absolutely unideal for him to take a pointless penalty at such a time, but he did some good in this game, too.) Progress! Hopefully.
The rest of the top line
Gaudreau had a three-point game again. Ho hum. He’s third in NHL scoring. You know, as one does. Whatever.
He’s already had a three-point game this season. And a four-point game. And he’s second on the team in goals. And he’s apparently unstoppable, because you know, nine-game point streak, a new career high.
Say what you will about the slashing crackdown, and that Gaudreau is much more comfortable and/or confident going up the middle now, but I’m very willing to be a lot of this is also due to just plain natural growth. Players don’t enter the league good and stay good; players enter the league good and they get better. This is his fourth season – why wouldn’t he be playing better than he was a year, or two, or three ago?
Meanwhile, Micheal Ferland’s goal-scoring streak was snapped at five games, but his points streak continues to live at six. He’s third on the Flames in goals with eight – fourth are Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, and Matthew Tkachuk, all with four each (how’s that for a well-oiled line?) – and a 17.4% shooting percentage. Again, a little high – but unlike Monahan, we don’t have a great read on if he’s an accurate shooter just yet.
He may not have Monahan or Gaudreau’s offensive prowess, but he certainly looks like a good fit.
Mike Smith was better than Brian Elliott
It’s really not a great day when you surrender four or more goals. And certainly, not all of that was on Mike Smith. Some rust was evident – those over-the-shoulder goals hurt – but that fourth goal was largely on the defence, as well.
The good news? The defensive breakdowns didn’t feature as prominently in this game as they did against Detroit (though certainly, Smith had his hand in that, as well – I don’t think anyone’s going to dispute that he’s better than Eddie Lack).
And in fairness to Elliott, he did only surrender one five-on-five goal, and that was a Gaudreau breakaway. Monahan’s second goal was pretty terrible on his part, though.
But all in all – neither team had a great goaltending performance. But the Flames’ new goalie got those extra saves he needed over the old one. And that was the difference. And maybe Smith will be better next time, now that he’s likely got his legs better back under him.
Matinees are seriously weird
Some players had rough games. I’m thinking of Mark Jankowski and Sam Bennett here, but then, they really turned it on in the third period. Brodie looks like he’s still struggling, though, and the defence has been shaky overall.
Hopefully you can write some of this off on the weird start time. I mean, I know they’ve been out east for a couple of days now, but the time jump could be difficult enough on the body without starting a game at 1 p.m. local time. Who does that?
In the meantime… they got a win. They came back from a multi-goal deficit. Tkachuk’s suspension didn’t end up hurting the team. It wasn’t perfect, but it definitely could have been much, much worse. You’ve got to be happy with that.