Flames 4, Capitals 1 post-game embers: They did that hockey

That’s what’s up.

Good job, good effort

Have we considered that the Flames might actually be a legitimately good team, here?

I know it’s been brought up time and time again. On paper, this looks like a roster that should be able to get a lot done. They have 14 forwards capable of playing a regular shift, including whoever gets healthy scratched on the night. They have six quality defencemen. The goaltending should be better than last year. But for all of that, it’s still been a somewhat bumpy start to the season.

And yet, when everything comes together, as it did last night, they’re a good team, full stop. They gave up the early goal, but otherwise, outclassed the Capitals for most of the game. Pressure was laid on. Timely saves were made. Four goals is a fair bit – look at that, the Flames are still one of the top CF/60 teams in the league, and their shooting percentage has been slowly improving – but there could have been more.

Consider how well the third line was playing last night. Consider how they didn’t score. While Johnny Gaudreau continues to go on a tear, this team is showing other players who can put the puck in the net – whether they do, or don’t. Should Gaudreau’s offence suddenly dry up (and he will probably not keep scoring at this pace forever… although he’s only gone three games this season without a point), yes, it will be missed, but that’s when someone else might score, too.

This team has the talent to do it. It’s not going to be perfect every night. But when they’re on, they’ll compete with the best of them – and give themselves a fair shot at winning along the way.

Won the special teams

The Flames capitalized on two of their five powerplay opportunities. It would have been three of five, if Mark Giordano had shot the puck like a second or two earlier. They’ve now scored at least one powerplay goal in the past four games, and have scored seven total in that time, including Sean Monahan’s hat trick from Saturday.

They now have a powerplay success rate of 21.9% – 10th in the NHL. It’s been rolling as of late. The puck movement on Mikael Backlund’s goal alone – courtesy of the five-man unit consisting of him, Jaromir Jagr, Matthew Tkachuk, Mark Giordano, and Dougie Hamilton – was outstanding. They were consistently dangerous.

And there’s probably still more they can do. I maintain that Hamilton should be on the top unit over T.J. Brodie; Michael Frolik or Sam Bennett could even stand to sub on every now and then. The Flames have a lot of personnel with which to make all this work. They’re going through a good patch right now, though, and hopefully it’ll be a sign of more things to come.

Even better was that the penalty kill was perfect on the night, stopping all three of Washington’s powerplay opportunities. The Caps’ powerplay is now about middle of the road, clicking in at 20%, but we all know just how dangerous their top players can be. That it was completely shut down – Mike Smith doing a lot of it, a surprising amount of offensive zone time for the penalty killers also contributing – was a massively needed boost.

It’s still the worst penalty kill in the NHL – a success rate of 71.8% – but baby steps.

Things won’t always be this good. But again, when they are, you can really start to see what this team is capable of.

Top two guys are unreal

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Gaudreau is pretty good at hockey.

Let’s run everything down: six-game goal streak (seven in that time, six at even strength). Ten-game point streak (19 in that time, 12 at even strength). Five-game multi-point streak (12 points in five games). Third in the NHL in scoring, two points back of Nikita Kucherov and four points back of Steven Stamkos (the only three players with 30+ points so far this season). He keeps inching towards being a career point-per-game player (235 in 252).

Oh, and he’s a two-way player now! Have you seen him backcheck? His stick lift on what would have been a very good scoring chance for Alex Ovechkin just outside of the blue paint has garnered quite the bit of praise. At this point in time, I’m not sure what there could possibly be to criticize him for. He is legitimately one of the best players in the world at the moment, and on pace for 127 points this season (likely won’t happen).

Gaudreau scored 61 points in 70 games last season. That was considered a down year for him. He’s already over halfway towards that points total in a fraction of as many games. Good stuff.

Not to discount Monahan here, either. He isn’t as offensively dynamic – almost no one is – but his 12 goals currently has him tied for the fifth most in the NHL. Six shots last night, too! His shooting percentage is still a little high but when he’s putting that many pucks on net it’s the furthest thing from a concern.

That he’s also over a point-per-game is a pleasant surprise, as well: 22 in 20. They aren’t a Kucherov-Stamkos duo, but they’re pretty much the next best thing.

Micheal Ferland went pointless in this one, but to give him a shoutout, his forechecking is tenacious and unreal. He doesn’t have the offensive talent his linemates do – he’s good, but not elite – but he definitely makes up for that in pretty much every other way imaginable.

There will always be concerns

The Flames are not a perfect team. No team is a perfect team.

For one thing, the fourth line was the only one that really seemed to suffer last night (and even then they had a scoring chance or two). It’s not ideal, but it’s also pretty unlikely every single player on the team is going to outplay the opposition. And when your fourth line is the problem – the guys clocking maybe 10 even strength minutes a night – you’re in a very good position.

A little more troubling is that Brodie and Travis Hamonic still seem to have their struggles. Not every player is going to be good; your second pairing now causing concern multiple games in a row would be better than the opposite, though. They were at fault on the only goal to get past Smith – one he didn’t really have much of a chance on thanks to that – and still have to work their way back up towards inspiring confidence.

Will this last, though? Just like you hope the good times will, you hope the bad times won’t. No guarantees. But while the Flames can live with a faulty pairing when everyone else is clicking, at other times, it might cost them. And when they’re the ones leading the way in even strength ice time – well. You want more from them.

We’re 20 games into the season, though. At this point, I think the only thing there really is to do is hope improvement comes. Because we’ve seen both players be better earlier in the year.

Getting there

It seems as though every time the Flames get a positive goal differential, they get blown out like right after to shoot them back into the negatives. Thanks for the erroneous five minute major slashing call in Detroit, NHL. Without that they’d be +1 instead of -1 right now.

This was their sixth multi-goal win of the season. They’ll need to improve on that.

And finally, at the quartermark, the Flames are a top three team in their division, both in terms of raw points and points percentage. There isn’t anything in their numbers to suggest they’re a mirage or that they should fall off. They’re probably about where they should be – and still with the potential to be better.

Yeah, the Flames will keep losing games this season. They’re also winning more than they’re losing. It’s all good. They’re a good team.

  • Grayone

    A terrific all-around game save perhaps the 4th line which was dominated badly virtually every time they were on the ice. To be fair I thought Tom Wilson’s line for the Caps was their best … Wilson is just an irritating presence every time .. is it just against us?

    Talk about timely saves … yah Smith again #1 Star despite the top line etc. IMO: keep Freddie Hamilton on the ice. I saw no weakness in his play … heck bring Lazar in to replace Brouwer? I am beginning to wonder if GG does a little experiment by switching Kulak-Stone for Brodie-Hamonic? Heck, send down Bartkowski to Stockton and bring up Wotherspoon for a while … without that I doubt Bart sees much ice for the foreseeable future.

    Finally go Stamps on Sunday! A wildly entertaining game last Sunday! New lexicon for coaching blunder = a Masstake!

    • Danomitee

      Honestly, we need to break up that Brodie-Hamonic pair for a bit. Not AS bad last night by any stretch but still, have Stone and Brodie as 3&4 and Hamonic and Kulak as your 5&6 for a couple games. I think it’ll help Stone and Hamonic as he still looks injured. Brodie needs to hit the restart. Huge win last night, but this could be a problem in a little bit.

  • Day1-Cfan

    Been through the first 1/4 of the season now. Lots of ups and downs so far. Still a long road ahead, but looking better than this time last year.
    See some possible problems though–
    #1- Goaltending, what is going to happen when Mike Smith needs a break or gets injured for more than a game or a couple of periods? He can’t possibly play the rest of our games, can he? Mr.Lack does not seem to be the answer with no substantial playing time and what he has shown when called upon is not promising.
    #2- Brodie, what is up there? He is having a hard time finding his game right now, where is his head at during the game?
    #3- 4th line, sure would be nice to get some scoring out of it, so it would seem that they deserve to be on the ice for the last minutes of the game.
    Liking how the rest of the lines and players seem to be gelling/rounding into form! JG,SM wow!
    Still 3/4 season to go and hoping that the team can continue to keep getting better. If they can continue playing the way they are they may save GG’s job for him.

    • Avalain

      So, for Brodie I worry that his head is thinking about his wife dealing with MS. I wouldn’t blame him if he was, but it does worry me.

      I’m confused as to why the 4th line keeps getting on the ice with 2 minutes left. I can kinda see putting them out there in a tied game as a shut down line, hoping to get to overtime.

  • Derzie

    Really complete game. A joy to watch. Is Brodie still on his off side? We all know he’s better than he is playing and I wonder if that is the cause. Also, I though Hamonic looked good (except for the 1st goal). Was playing with some edge.

  • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

    Ajusting D pairings seem to be the thing that might yield the next step up. I don’t get what’s going on with Hamonic and Brodie, but I think it is time for a break. Brodie is better than that … Hamonic we just don’t know yet. What if we gave Kulak/Hamonic and Brodie/Stone a whirl? Brodie/Stone last year was when Brodie found his game. I would do this, and keep an eye which pair is producing better results and give that pair a few more minutes than the other. For now, I would leave Brodie/Stone as the second pair to see what happens and to let Hamonic and Kulak find some chemistry.

    • Danomitee

      Agree 100%. The Brodie/Hamonic duo isn’t working right now, but I’m pretty confident splitting them could work wonders as Kulak and Stone are better then any 5/6 we had going over the past decade or so. GG doesn’t do anything until his back is completely against a wall tho

  • Flint

    On only the most absolutely well-lubed defensive machines do you worry about Hamonic following the attacking player around the back of the net on that goal. It’s really tough on that play to get the guys to stop hard at the post. That’s a 40/60 play. The actual problem was Brodie not reading the play (or them no communicating) and him standing around with his thumb up his preverbial dark place.

    Either way, they allowed 1 goal against Washington. Hamonic gambled, Brodie pooped the bed. I think you let that one go without too much fussing.

  • Off the wall

    Is it my imagination or has Gaudreau become faster this season? His legs are pumping steadily out there. Nice to see him having the success we knew he was capable of.

    I really like Kulak’s game. He doesn’t make flashy plays, he gets the puck out of the zone quickly and effectively. That Washington game, he put on a clinic on puck retrieval and made many smart quick passes to the forwards. I can’t say enough good things about him.

    Brodie needs to simply his game a bit . (See Kulak)
    We all know Brodie can be really good. Remember his game against Winnipeg?
    2 goals, 2 assists. He was shooting the puck and making smart decisions. Can we please have the real Brodie stand up?!

    Remember when Columbus was a horrible team and it was a great opportunity to earn two points?

    They have done a great job at rebuilding their squad.Please bring the same effort against them as you did against Washington and we’ll be golden.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Yes, it seems T.J. has forgotten how to play hockey for the moment. And it’s not his linemates, he’s making some poor individual decisions. But with his pedigree, I have no doubt this will NOT last. We need to give him a little leeway, here.

      “…he gets the puck out of the zone quickly and effectively…”

      I agree. It’s his passing. It’s so awesome for a defenceman who has played so little in the league. Particularly in the first period last night, it was really good.

    • HOCKEY83

      Gaudreau is not playing scared because of the hand slashes finally being called. The slightest reach around is being called and I love it. He’s back to not being afraid to free wheel like he loves to do. It really is fun to watch.
      Columbus will be a tough test but the flames seem to get up for the tough games.

  • Alberta Ice

    Remember when the Oilers were in first place in the NHL and Flames were last? Yep, the first game of the year back in October. Flames lost 3-0 to McDavid’s hat trick. Great psychological win for the Flames. At that point we all knew McDavid would score over 200 points; Oilers would waltz to the Stanley Cup and be proclaimed Canada’s Team. Talk about putting the expectations into orbit up North. What happens? The Flames gear up for the challenge and the Oilers disappear. Then we have that Detroit fiasco and the most ridiculous crime of the year known as ‘the spear’ (which I would rightly call ‘the tap’). What happens? Flames use it to ascend to new heights. Love the way this team has dealt with those two ugly games and turned it around. Then add experience (Smith and Jagr) with youth (Johnny, Mony, Ferly, Tkachuk) at exceedingly reasonable contractual agreements (unlike Northland) plus all the team building that’s happening and… Yep, good things ahead for this team. Go Flames. And Go Stamps.

    • Alberta Ice

      So should we bring him up to do a game against Colorado when the Flames have their next back to back? Oh, yeah. Presently 5th in depth as goalie, yet considered to be perhaps our brightest future goalie. Thanks for this update. Last I heard he was battling an injury. Sounds like he is full strength and turning heads again. He’s going to be something special in the future, and I will love it when he plays in the same game with his OHL Memorial Cup winning buddy Chucky Cheese at the NHL level.

      • HOCKEY83

        I’m sure Tkachuk is waiting for that too but I doubt we see Parsons at all except maybe at the end of the season in a nothing game over the next 2 seasons.

  • Avalain

    I have to mention that I watched the San Jose vs Anaheim game and the overtime was awful! If that’s an example of how other teams play OT it’s no wonder the Flames are so strong in OT.

  • Scary Gary

    Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it but we’re 7-3-0 in our last 10, as good as any other team in the league over the same period except Tampa and Winnipeg (both 7-2-1). We have a league worst PK, our second pairing has underperformed (lately) and the secondary scoring is starting to come (very slowly); even with all this we’re 6th in the west. Imagine where we’ll be when we’re firing on all cylinders for a sustained period of time!

    • McRib

      We are 7-3-0 in our last 10 and should be 8-2-0. The only reason we lost to Vancouver was a goalie standing on his head, we dominated that game from start to finish.

    • Grayone

      100% SG! That will be a game to remember … I gotta weird feeling that Benny-Janko -Jagr will tickle the twine against a very good Columbus team … surely the Blue jackets will focus on putting a stop to our #1 line?

  • McRib

    Most positive thing I took away from this game is GG giving Jankowski some PK time, as a reward late in the game. I think that’s a good sign for his confidence.

  • deantheraven

    Michael Stone deserves some praise. He was consistently good and taking away chances.
    The 4th line looked better than their numbers. They held their own and had some looks. Sure would’ve been nice to see Freddie get that one!
    The 1 (one) goal against was totally on Brodie & Hamonic. It’s mind boggling to see their ice time over the other 4.