Don’t confuse emotions. Or lack thereof.
(That picture has nothing to do with anything but what am I supposed to do, let it slip by and not save it for future use??)
You don’t want to say mentally weak, but…
I am absolutely loathe to call anyone mentally weak. Fact of the matter is, I don’t know them. It takes a lot of interaction to determine how someone is going to react to something, nevermind the mental strength they may or may not possess.
But the Flames, as a collective group, look mentally weak.
Let’s do a quick rundown: the Flames dominated this game. They absolutely dominated it. They were the better team in every single avenue but goals, and eventually, they were rewarded for it with a lead.
That they surrendered a minute later.
But nevermind that, nevermind that the Flames have, in 27 games so far this season, left the first period with a lead all of three times. Three. The Sabres, Panthers, Flyers, and Oilers have done it six times. Those are teams at the bottom of the league standings, and even they’ve managed to have better first periods than a team that’s supposed to be contending this year.
But nevermind all that. They entered the second period tied. They continued to play well. The game was still there for the taking–
Seventy-one seconds, and the game was over. Mike Smith lets a squeaker through, and suddenly nobody knows what to do anymore; defensive breakdowns of a hilarious nature follow, and who really cares if Michael Frolik’s penalty should have been called? You take the cards you’re dealt and apparently the Flames’ move is to just fold no matter what their hand.
Brian Elliott was better
When the Flames last played the Flyers, Smith was just that much better than Brian Elliott. This time, it wasn’t even close.
Elliott had a great night. The Flames chucked 45 pucks at him and he had all but two of them. Compare that to the Flyers’ 21 shots – 21! – and the five goals they scored, and it was a complete nightmare. Elliott deserved the win, full stop; the Flames could have made it a miserable night for the Flyers and Elliott made sure they didn’t get that chance. Smith did not provide his team the same luxury. December is two games in and he’s given up 10 goals already.
Smith is tied with Frederik Andersen for most games played in the NHL. He’s seen the second most shots by a fair margin. Here’s one small difference between Smith and Andersen, though: Smith is 35. Andersen is 28.
I think we all knew the .931 save percentage Smith posted in October wasn’t going to last. The .918 in November wasn’t too bad, though. But honestly, how long was anyone expecting this to last? Eddie Lack got demoted in part because he needed playing time; maybe actually playing him earlier in the season would have helped? Henrik Lundqvist is the only other goalie near Smith’s age who has faced a similar workload (by which I mean one less game, almost 100 fewer shots).
You can’t blame the entire night on Smith but at some point he’s gotta start mixing a save in there again.
At least Sam Bennett looked good
If there’s any one player who’s stood out as a disappointment this season, it’s been Sam Bennett. So it’s nice to see this little turnaround. he’s now riding a four-game point streak: two goals, four assists in that time. Nine points in 27 games is still a pretty ugly look, but considering how he went the first 15 games of the season pointless – even with plenty of chances – it’s a marked improvement.
There’s your silver lining these past few outings. While things have been going exceptionally poorly, Bennett has been playing probably his best stretch of the season, and he actually has something to show for it now.
It’s not much to be happy about, but it’s a start. You hope this isn’t just a good stretch, though, but a total turning of the corner. The Flames had a rough outing in the playoffs last season, and Bennett was one of the few bright spots – maybe everyone can build on it, this time?
Teams with positive goal differentials tend to be postseason teams. Teams with negative ones tend not to be. It’s not foolproof, but it’s generally good for a quick look.
The Flames have had a positive goal differential at times this season, but it tends to immediately be stripped away by a blowout loss. So here’s what I’m wondering now: has it just been poor timing, these losses, or is it just a quick correction for the level the Flames should truly be reflected at?
Despite some very good efforts earlier in the season, do they actually deserve to be a negative goal differential team? Is this the truer reflection of their overall talent level of the season? It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity, especially now, but it’s sure looking like it. The Flames have seven multi-goal wins so far this season. They have 10 multi-goal losses.
The potential of a lost year
This is where the apathy really settles in.
The Flames have to make the playoffs this season. They absolutely have to. Because they don’t have a single pick until the third round (well, a second round pick if they miss), and just six picks overall, half of which come in the sixth round or later.
There is no silver lining to this season. It’s either have a good postseason performance or absolutely nothing, because there is nothing to look forward to beyond the season’s final game. The Flames spent pretty much every currency they had to build this team for this season: a season which was supposed to herald them as having finally entered their contention window.
And then they do whatever this game was.
It’s not the worst position to be in right now, but it’s getting there. And the Flames are fast reaching the point where they will have to go on a massive winning streak – not just for the points, but to restore any kind of faith that the entire year won’t have been a pointless exercise that won’t advance the club in any way, shape, or form.