You would think four goals would be enough to win a game. In most cases, you would be right. Last night, you would be wrong.
Why are you doing this
The first goal against, T.J. Brodie was overwhelmed, Mikael Backlund couldn’t help, and Dougie Hamilton wasn’t on his man, making the incorrect assumption as to where the puck was going to go.
The second goal against, Travis Hamonic and Michael Frolik turned the puck over, keeping it in their end. That set up a shot from the corner which, on its own, wouldn’t have been an issue, were it not for the high rebound – but that corner shot never should have had the chance to happen to begin with.
The third goal against, Hamilton’s attempted clear went straight to Devin Shore, whose shot led to a rebound, which went in the net.
The fourth goal against, there was some outworking behind the Flames’ net, Brett Kulak missed getting his stick on the puck, and Backlund and Hamilton missed Gemel Smith.
The fifth goal against, Michael Stone’s attempted clear bounced right off the boards to Tyler Seguin just inside the blue line.
The sixth goal against was an empty netter so who cares.
So Mike Smith, after putting up a phenomenal effort the previous game behind a weak defence, gave up five goals this time – still behind a weak defence that seemed intent on letting the Stars have their way with the puck, for whatever reason. Not every turnover went in the back of the net, but way too many did, and they were all completely avoidable.
Just one player doesn’t make one of those mistakes, and the game is at least going to overtime. Two mistakes are rectified, and it’s a win. What an embarrassing night all around from the players the Flames most rely on to keep things out of the net.
On the bright side, the penalty kill!
Who saw that coming?
You know, I was so sure it would be a win after the Flames successfully killed off that 1:20 five-on-three. There was no way that, after an effort like that, they wouldn’t be able to close out the game, right? That was Troy Brouwer, Mark Giordano, and Stone laying everything on the line, and stopping a top five powerplay in the league from doing any damage when they had a clear lane to do just that.
Sure, the Stars tied the game and took the lead on even strength goals instead – but for a penalty kill that’s been suffering (though seems to have been turning a corner lately), that was a massive win.
The Flames went a perfect four-for-four on the kill, jumping up to a 74.0% success rate – and now 30th in the NHL. The Florida Panthers are now the proud owners of the league’s worst penalty kill, at 73.2%.
Seriously, baby steps. Backlund, Frolik, Brodie, and Hamonic did a fair bit of work on the kill, as well.
Top line dominance
Four goals, all from one line. It seems like a pretty fair bet who’s going to score for this team at the moment.
Johnny Gaudreau responded to being held pointless for the fourth time this season by scoring three. He now has 34 points in 22 games, which is tied with Nikita Kucherov for second in the NHL, just two points back of Steven Stamkos, same number of games all around. His victimization of Dan Hamhuis was incredible; his dish to Sean Monahan on his second goal was flawless. The Flames could really use someone else scoring – but when Gaudreau turns in nights like that, it’s pretty clear to see where they can kind of get by on just him. (Seven shots, too.)
Him and Monahan. Monahan now has six goals in his past four games, and 14 overall this season: the fourth most in the NHL. He’s one back of Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares. He’s three back of Kucherov. He’s not racking up points the way Gaudreau is, but he does have 25 in 22 games, which is tied for 13th in the NHL. His shooting percentage has creeped up to 21.5%, but most other top scorers – Ovechkin aside – are in the same range.
The Flames have their own deadly duo, it’s just that one of them is much deadlier than the other.
Micheal Ferland, meanwhile, clearly isn’t the same offensively threatening presence they are – few are – but he’s got an amazing shot and is great at putting his frame to use. Nice complement to them, and you have to wonder how much just having a steady linemate has helped.
Third line deserved better
Jaromir Jagr looked like a man possessed on some of his shifts. That he came away from this game without a goal – or a point, even – is a shame.
The Flames really do need more than just Gaudreau and Monahan to score for them, but the thing is, the third line has been giving it their all the past couple of games, and it’s just plain bad luck that the puck hasn’t been going in for them since the home stand.
Sam Bennett had a good game; Mark Jankowski had a good game. They deserved much, much better fates – and if they had just gotten that one bounce, this game probably would have looked a little different, at least as far as the standings are concerned.
The depth is there – hopefully it’ll start getting rewarded more consistently throughout the year.
Well, on to the next one
Though the Flames are still in a good spot standings-wise, the West remains as tight as ever. We know they can play better, they know they can play better; hopefully they show it to close out the road trip, but it’s the second of a back-to-back and it’s been a long one.
It’s hard to see the defence playing that poorly long term, at least.