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Stars 6, Flames 4 post-game embers: The goals came, the defence did not

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.

  • The GREAT WW

    Our D system is way too predictable.
    When was the last time we made a stretch pass to keep the opposition honest?

    All they do is pressure us in our own zone and wait for the turnover…

    WW

    • The GREAT WW

      Being this predictable is even worse in the playoffs, when the opposing team had plenty of time to study your system….

      I wonder how a GG coached team does in the playoffs…?!

      WW

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Wait a minute. Wasn’t the reliance on the stretch pass one of the key reasons the team’s possession numbers were so rotten under Heartly? When Gully was hired, Tre promoted him as a possession wizard.

    • Broken

      Continually using stretch passes as a system are what killed the Flames during ‘artley’s time here. Yeah, it worked for one lucky, fortunate, everything-went-their-way season, and they were killed the next. Just going over some of Gaudreau’s goals, he has been the recipient of some nice stretch passes that have led to goals (a real nice one vs Philadelphia, for example). My criticism about GG is his insistence on throwing out the 4th line and 3rd pairing in a tight game, like . . . all the time. What other coach in the league does that???

  • freethe flames

    4 goals from the first line; zero from everyone else. Poor decisions by the coach(player usage at key times) and poor decision making by key players. Until these things change this team will remain a marginal team. I’ve come to expect that is what we are. I don’t get to excited when we lose or when we win as all that does is cause me unneeded stress.

    • Stockton's Finest

      Free, did you catch the recap of the Heat loss last night? 2 of the 3 goals Gillies gave up were “short side past blocker hand” and “hit crossbar past goalie blocker.” Coincidently, both PP goals. I said it before and I will say it again, the book on Gillies is that you can beat him high glove. He needs to work on that before he even sniffs Calgary again.
      I hope Lack, and his expensive gear, gets the call tonight. Starting a road trip 0-3 will suck. We already dropped to 3rd in the Pacific. We need points in the next 4 games: tonight against Tucson, 2 in Bakersfield, and wrapping up in SJ.

    • Kevin R

      Yup. This summer most Flames fans thought we had a kick ass top 4 D & yes we all had our Flames tinted glasses on. But analysts that didn’t have Flames tinted glasses also felt our top 4D was in that top 5 in the league. Now they are playing like a bottom 5 in the league. Which begs the question, why is so many experienced D playing this bad. No way they all regressed all at once. You have to look at coaching. Heck, Smith gives us an extra element in the he plays the puck that should make this group even more formidable. But isn’t happening. Somethings wrong & I have to start looking at the coach. I realize that won’t happen & no way Tre makes any decision until the offseason if this team performs horribly. So “coach” needs to do something, he needs to get Brodie back to being a very good 2nd pairing D in the league. Maybe it’s time to put him back with Gio & try Hamilton & Hammy together & lose this RH/LH pairing fetish. Because whatever the hell he’s doing now…it aint working.

  • buts

    The whole D core watch’s the puck instead of playing with any type of physicality. Kulak, Hamonic and Gio will box a guy out but nobody is consistently physical. Defense is very simple really its about staying between your man and the net. In doing this you can tie up the stick, block shots, box the man out so the goalie can see the shots. I’ve never seen Brodie throw a hard body check. Not seen Hamilton either other than a cross check. Finally this coaching staff continues game after game to put out there 4th line in crucial situations late in the game and when a lead has to be protected. The opposing coach doesn’t even have to match as GG will just shoot himself in the foot. Insanity is repeating the same mistakes over and over. This team is going no-where with these idiots behind the bench. Inside Jagr must be laughing his ass off.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Hamilton has never played a physical style and that has earned him accolades and a multiyear contract that pays him north of $5M a year. What is the incentive for him to change? Brodie too is not a physical defenceman and never has been. Why do you expect him to change is game?

      In last night’s game, didn’t Gio toast a Texan and mere seconds later, Smitty was fishing the biscuit out of the cage?

      We loved Dion’s thundering body checks in his first couple of seasons even though they usually got him into trouble by taking him out of the play as well, but by his third season, we became highly critical of how Dion’s hits were hurting more than helping the club.

      Apart from Gio and Hamonic, there is no physicality in the Flames back 6. We have known that long before the season began. If it is a big problem now, why wasn’t it in August or September?

      I know. Let’s blame Tre for having too many of the same kind of defencemen. And while we are at it, let’s blame Tre for the idiot coaches.

      Gee, that takes a whole lot of grit and marts to blame Tre.

      • WillyWonka

        your right – i heard Brodie and Gio talking…
        Gio: you gonna try and get better bro?
        Brodie: Nah, why would I? i got a signed contract, and, you know, us player are just like blueMoonNigel says, we don’t try to do anything good unless someone is twisting our nuts with a paycheque threat

  • Puckhead

    Complain all you want about the coaching but accept the fact that it will not change this season. Although I am not thrilled about inconsistency and mind numbing coaching decisions, I am not giving up and also know that the growing pains may be a means to an end – like a painful right of passage. I’m content to let the season play itself out, see what happens in the playoffs, and make a decision at that time.

      • MontanaMan

        Your incessant whining is painful. At what point are you going to hold the players accountable for their actions on the ice? And don’t give me the “it’s the system BS”. The coach can’t control the decisions made by players on the ice, turnovers in the neutral zone or passes on the tape of the opposition. Those mistakes, and there have been many of them, are squarely on the players.

        • The Fall

          Coaching changes made mid season by underperform ‘playoff’ teams has been very successful in recent years.

          This team is teetering between dominant and mediocre. They can land on either side of that line. GG is getting absolutely nothing from 75% of the roster.

          • FlamesFanOtherCity

            And that’s a concern. I try to understand how a bunch of defensemen have trouble with individual play. The only guy that seems to be mistake free is the newest guy out there; Kulak. You see him make short passes, use the forwards to get out of a jam, and chip it out when all else fails. I have trouble believing that a group of veterans can’t execute the same way. Or is Kulak not following the system the same way as others?

            It seems to me that the only way we don’t have goals against scored even strength is when the defense is perfect. That doesn’t seem like a recipe for success. Is that a system thing, where every player has to be flawless to prevent a goal?

        • ThisBigMouthIsRight

          Well, After 100 games these players are Still Adjusting to This Coach! Unfortunately, I don’t think another 20-30 games under GG will help them figure it out either. IMO.

    • cberg

      Agree with your general assessment, except the being content part. When you see an obvious problem why hesitate to fix it ASAP? I realize GG is a “players coach” and not giving them too much grief, but unfortunately I don’t believe that is the best way to be successful.

  • The GREAT WW

    I’m just thankful that we don’t have an incompetent idiot like Chiarelli running our club:

    He WAY overpays his contracts:
    McDavid, Drisaddle, Lucic, Russell.

    He makes terrible trades:
    Hall, Eberle, Griffin Reinhardt etc.

    His drafting sucks: Nail2.0 Puljujarvi over Byng!!!!!!?

    I can’t wait to see his next move…!

    WW

    • The GREAT WW

      Did you hear the announcer say after last nights game that in the morning GG had a LONG video review session with the D…..?!

      WTF is he coaching these guys on?!

      WW

  • cjc

    I am going to suggest a nerdy explanation for the bad D lately – defensemen turn over the puck in the defensive zone quite often, and this often results in HDSCA. It just so happens that Brodie has gone through a patch where every turnover ends up in the net. Had a few been saved over the last several games, we probably wouldn’t be talking about it. Let’s take solace in the fact that Edmonton lost 3-1 to Buffalo instead.

    • cberg

      As much as the inconsistencies are frustrating, a 3-4 game win streak puts us atop the Pacific. The team is cruising at the moment, while BT gets the right players in place. GFG!

        • cjc

          How? People keep blaming Gulutzan, but I don’t see any concrete suggestions about what the team could do better. He has corrected most of the bad decisions from earlier in the season. He didn’t will the turnovers that resulted in goals. Like cberg points out though, we are right in the thick of it.

          Also, I think we let Treliving off the hook a bit. He is responsible for Hamonic (hasn’t been great), Brouwer (still an anchor), Stone (meh), Lazar (oof), Lack (yikes!) and slow decisions to promote Janko and Rittich. That’s not to say he hasn’t made some good moves, but the reputation exceeds the results right now.

          Dallas is basically tied with Calgary, but nobody is saying

      • Derian Hatcher

        I don’t watch the flames enough to comment on GG specifically but watching a pathetic oilers team, it is not the coach that makes the brainless decisions that some if the players make on the ice It is not the coach who is deciding to not shoot from the slot in favour of stick-handling the puck into the net. And it is not the coach who is giving less effort on the ice than the opposition most games. Unless they are all sabotaging their play to get him canned. I’m not saying the coach is blameless but I’m not sure that Tippet would turn things around for either team (flames are doing fine though) Maybe he would – Mike Johnson made a huge difference for the pens…

        • The Fall

          2017: Jack Capuano was fired with the Isles sitting at 17-17-8
          2015: Mike Johnston was fired with the Pens sitting at 15-10-3
          2014: Randy Carlyle was fired with the Leafs sitting at 21-16-3
          2012: Terry Murray was fired with the Kings sitting at 13-12-6
          2008: Michel Therrien was fired with the Pens sitting at 27-25-5

          “Since 2011, 7 of the 21 teams that made an midyear coaching change, went on to the playoffs. Of those 7 teams, 4 of them won playoff series and 2 of them went on to win the Stanley Cup.”

          • The Fall

            @BC – I don’t know. But I would guess half of them were never in it and changed coaches in order to tank and prepare for the following season. My point being: an ‘under performing’ team in a playoff spot can successfully change coaches mid season. GG is getting nothing from all but the top 5 forwards and the starter. The team is better than that.

  • BendingCorners

    Defence seems jittery lately. Hope they calm down and look before they pass. Too many nights I’ve watched them cough up the puck – all of them, not just the D – sometimes from not looking and sometimes because the other four took off instead of providing support. Basic stuff. Coachable. Maybe nobody in the room to yell at them, coach or player doesn’t matter but sometimes it’s best for a player to do the yelling. They might be missing that.

  • Trevy

    Sadly, it’s painfully obvious GG is in a bit over his head. He’s a good coach but not a great coach and for a team like the Flames where we have the potential to be an upper echelon team, GG isn’t the man to take them to that next level. We seem to be consistent in our play this season. 1-2 good games followed by 1-2 bad games and then the same scripted response, “we have to learn from this and move on”. Unfortunately they don’t. Treliving will not let go of GG this season unless the wheels completely fall off by the all star break, but instead will try and make a trade to shake things up first as all GM’s do to get their team out of a funk. In the meantime, GG’s leash is getting shorter and hopefully Tippett is patiently waiting and doesn’t get snapped up by the Oilers first

  • Eggs Bennett

    Anyone concerned that Smith under Tippett will return to a .915 tender? Also, if this guy is so good, how come he never made anything happen with a good young roster in ARI?

  • Thunder1

    WW and the Delusionals… between now and the Christmas break, the Flames play 14 games, nine at home and five on the road. Six of these games are against the Habs, ‘Nucks, Oil and Yotes. Johnny and Monny are a top three pair in the league. They’re gonna’ feast for the holidays. Your coaching change campaign is ludicrous.

    • Off the wall

      “WW and the Delusionals’..we’re flattered you came up with a new song title for the band.

      You are welcome to join anytime, we accept all delusional fans.

      Or you can wait it out and enjoy your turkey during the holiday season. It makes it harder to swallow the longer you cook the turkey… just saying

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        @OTW

        There are two churches one can attend here on FN. The first is the Church of WW, which calls for the firing of coaches and the trading of key players after we’ve beaten the best teams in the west and made the playoffs the previous season with a first year coach and half a team. While we’re above .500 and on pace with the defending Cup Champs.

        The second is the church of Supra Steve, which advocates putting ones hands up on the Rollercoaster ride and enjoying things like Johnny and Mony hitting their prime and the excitement of having a future we haven’t had since ’89. Of watching a team-which is never a static thing-grow and change and struggle through a long, emotional season.

        I attended the Church of WW for a time. Now I attend the Church of Supra Steve.

        • Off the wall

          BTF, not to sound ignorant but you cheer for the Oilers as well as the Flames.

          That’s irreverent and sacrilegious I’m my book.
          At least find an allegiance and stick with it.

          To quote a church / biblical saying, “either be hot or cold, but never lukewarm for I will vomit you out”

          I don’t attend church, so I’m paraphrasing..however you’re welcome to attend whatever Church you like, but please no preaching to me.

          I’m sure Supra Steve would love to have you in his congregation, but maybe you should ask him before you join?

          And I’m pretty sure WW didn’t open his arms for you to join his throng. You invited yourself.

          But that’s ok, I’m not picking on you. I just hope you find your happy place and stay there for a while..

          • BringtheFire 2.0

            “That’s irreverent and sacrilegious I’m my book. At least find an allegiance and stick with it.”

            Having your own rules is smart. Applying your own rules to everyone else is stupid.

            Also, unlike you and the rest, I’m not cheering for losses. But with “fans” like us, they’ll happen soon enough.

            You’ll get your wish. And as a Flames fan who’s a better Flames fan than me, apparently.

          • Off the wall

            I know what I said 15 minutes ago. Why do you need to copy and paste everything?

            I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, but I’m not apologetic for making my point.

            Please don’t lump US together, you know I’ve never advocated anything beyond firing GG. Or secretly hoping for Flames failure. Really?

            Let’s be grown-ups. Or at least let’s pretend we are.

          • BringtheFire 2.0

            “Or secretly hoping for Flames failure.”

            A couple of days ago you said; “Don’t worry, this team will hit an iceberg soon.”

            I can see why you don’t like the cut and paste. A coaching change only happens if we lose.

        • Off the wall

          Context BTF, context.
          Go back and read it, it was yesterday’s blog.

          Iceberg is a metaphor, I’ll leave you to decipher the rest. I didn’t think it was that difficult.

          If you follow the thoughts you should end up drawing the conclusion…it’s merely referring to GG’s end of tenure.

          Good luck!

  • Broken

    Flames Nation (Ari) wrote a sobering account of Travis Hamonic here:

    https://flamesnation.ca/2017/06/23/should-the-flames-be-trying-to-get-travis-hamonic/

    The warning signs were there that he might suck, and so far, he ‘s not been very good and he and Brodie have been one of the worst defensive pairings in the league; but that was all a bunch of “analytical stuff” that doesn’t hold water to the ol’ eye-test, I guess.

    Also in Ari’s article she brought up Jason Demers, and when you consider what Arizona gave up for him vs what the Flames gave up for Hamonic, it looks (Coyote) ugly to me. Of course, we don’t know if Demers was even available at the time, but if he was, it sounds like the Flames could have given up a bottom six plug like, maybe, a Brouwer for him plus retained some salary?

    I guess I never quite figured out why so many people thought we’d have such an awesome defense this season. I didn’t want to see Stone back in the mix, I’d rather the Flames gave Rasmus Andersson or Wotherspoon a shot. That way, if the defense stunk, we could at least be optimistic that a couple of young guys (including Kulak) would at least improve. At this stage, can anyone here say that Michael Stone and Travis Hamonic aren’t exactly what they will always be?

    • BendingCorners

      Stone is moveable when one of the prospects is ready, even if some salary has to be retained. Hamonic is probably less moveable but it’s early yet and he could work out. I think he and Brodie both need to be paired with somebody who is strong defensively. Gio with Hamonic, Brodie with Hamilton (in spite of last night’s debacle) would make the top pair weaker but might strengthen the D overall. Could be what BT had in mind when he traded for him; I doubt any manager in the league regards Hamonic as a defensive stud.