Flames 6, Canucks 1 post-game embers: Sometimes hockey is fun

Oh. So that’s where all the goals were hiding.

Not even close

The Canucks were never really in this one, and it wasn’t even their fault. The Flames came out exactly the same way as they did against the Predators – a game that either team could have had – but the Canucks are just a worse team suffering a lot of injuries (two of which Mark Giordano is inadvertently responsible for, so uh, sorry about that). Even when up 5-0, the Flames didn’t let off the gas for the third period, and it saw them carry through to an easy victory.

David Rittich didn’t have to be on his best game. He only saw 17 shots, some of which were his own undoing (that Nic Dowd chance after Rittich decided to shoot the puck was a bit much, but if there was ever a game for experimenting, it was this one). The Flames played fantastic for him, though, and every start he gets is just a little more much-needed experience, especially as it continues to look like Mike Smith may be getting a little worn out.

It was especially nice to see a flurry of goals work in the Flames’ favour. How many times has the team given up a goal and then broken down, putting the game completely out of reach due to a bad couple of minutes? At the end of the second period, the Flames were on the giving end of it, just completely overwhelming the Canucks into a quiet finish.

Shots were 38-17 for the Flames. Five-on-five corsi was 57.14%. This was a game the Flames absolutely had to have, and they followed through.

The dam broke

Who didn’t get a point last night? Uh, Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan, Michael Frolik, Jaromir Jagr, T.J. Brodie, Michael Stone, and Brett Kulak. Seven players. Everyone else was directly in on the offence. And it wasn’t for lack of trying, for some of these guys – Jagr was still trying to set up Troy Brouwer and Matt Stajan; Backlund and Monahan had four shots each.

And they were still hitting posts. It could have been much worse for Vancouver. The Flames went from a -10 goal differential to a much more respectable -5 in a single night.

The Flames really earned a night like that one. They have been playing well and creating chances for most of the month, and pucks just haven’t been going in for whatever reason. You don’t want to say “they were due” because good luck does not always follow bad luck, but they needed that reward for all their work. Hopefully there’s more of it to come. Effort is recognizable – like against the Predators – but it’s all the better when an actual positive result comes from it.

Sam Bennett, specifically

While most of the Flames got on the board, Sam Bennett really got on the board.

He had the second four-point night of his career. Not all goals, this time, but some of his assists were just as good as any goal, particularly his pass to Mark Jankowski for the game’s opening tally. Bennett had to fight for a couple of his points there, but his efforts paid off, big time.

Bennett – the 21-year-old who is a bust, if you recall – is now up to 15 points in 34 games, not at all a bad stat line before you remember he spent the first 15 games of the season pointless. Not to cherrypick, but for context, if you remove those first 15 games it’d be 15 points in 19 games, which is pretty dang good for a third liner. He’s now tied for seventh in team scoring, having passed Michael Frolik.

Bennett is on pace for 36 points over an 82-game season, which would tie his rookie year. He’s not going to put up four points every game, but having secondary scoring capable of such nights every now and then really helps. Bennett breaking out was always going to be a big part of the Flames’ supposed coming out party this season, and it looks like they may be there now.

Bennett also had four shots on net. And I’m neglecting Jankowski here, who had a three-point night – the second of his career – and five shots of his own. For all the hand-wringing about Bennett needing a partner like Johnny Gaudreau and Monahan, or Backlund and Frolik, Bennett may have found his – which leaves Matthew Tkachuk kind of oddly without a specific hip to be attached to. (He played roughly two 5v5 minutes with Gaudreau and Monahan and, tiny sample sizes beware, but had a 75% CF with them – maybe a bit more experimentation coming up with a Tkachuk and Micheal Ferland line swap?)

The powerplay got a goal

The Canucks took so many penalties in the third, it almost felt like they were begging the Flames to get a powerplay goal. “Look, this game is already over. We both know that. We’re almost done playing you guys for the year, too, so it doesn’t matter anymore. Please, have a powerplay practice session, on us.” And after giving up a powerplay goal of their own – of course, and sorry Rittich, a shutout may have to wait for another day – the Flames finally cashed in.

Giordano took Brodie’s spot on the top unit. It didn’t pay immediate dividends, but hey, he led all defencemen with 4:39 powerplay minutes. He had five shots on net. He looked much more threatening, more active, than Brodie ever did from the blue line. And Brodie playing alongside Dougie Hamilton on the second unit makes a lot more sense: teams don’t have to respect his shot, really, but they do have to respect Hamilton’s, so at least the second unit retains a threat back there.

There’s been a lot of flitting about with powerplay personnel as of late, but this time around, Glen Gulutzan seemed to stick to his guns, for the most part. Gaudreau and Monahan are obvious choices for the top unit, but Jankowski getting 4:47 of powerplay time is new. And Ferland getting shifted from the top unit to the second makes a lot of sense when it’s Tkachuk, who has greater offensive acumen, replacing him. (Again: related to five-on-five line swap? This’ll be something to keep an eye on.)

The only remaining question seems to be, who rounds out the second unit: Bennett, or Jagr? Last night, it was Bennett.

One down, six to go

And so ends the season series against the Canucks. The Flames won it handily, 3-1 (and probably outplayed the Canucks in the game they lost). They had a goal differential of +8. They’re now up to a 6-4 record against the Pacific, with a +8 goal differential against them, as well.

That still leaves 19 divisional games to be played, and six divisional series to be decided. They trail 0-2 to the Oilers with three games remaining; they’re up 1-0 over the Ducks with three games to go; they’re up 1-0 over the Kings with three games to go; they’re up 1-0 over the Coyotes with three games to go; they trail 0-1 to the Sharks with three games remaining; and they have yet to play the Golden Knights, four contests still to be played against them.

Top three in the division is still entirely within reach, but the Flames will absolutely need to beat up on the Pacific as much as they can to get there. They had a good showing against Vancouver, and they were supposed to. Next up: back-to-backs against San Jose and Anaheim in 10 days.

    • redricardo

      Playing like crap? I know you enjoy being divisive, I didn’t realize you also enjoyed saying things that aren’t real. No… wait… we all know that about you.

      • The GREAT WW

        One way or another this needs to be resolved before the trade deadline or we’ll have another Cammi situation on our hands.

        The end of February;
        Your on the clock BT….


        • Puckhead

          Flipping Backlund is a bit of a dilemma because we’re a tad thin on centremen. Janko and Bennett are clicking and they should stay together for the time being. Bennett also looks more comfortable on the wing.

          So who would you propose to fill the 2C spot if Backs is moved? I doubt we’d get a comparable or better center back in a trade.

        • BendingCorners

          There is nothing wrong with signing an extension in June. It all hinges on whether Backlund is willing to take less money to stay in Calgary. As a UFA he might get 6×6 or even 7×7 – he’s is easily worth more than two Brouwers and may be worth as much as Gio. Since neither party has seen fit to negotiate in public we have no way of knowing what MB’s asking price is. If it’s outside BT’s parameters he may simply be waiting to see how the team is faring in February before making a decision. For now let’s just enjoy the hockey instead of obsessing over next season.

          • MontanaMan

            He’s not worth $7 million per and you’re delusional if you think he could get $7 X 7. Not going to happen. He’s had one breakout year and is properly slotted in as a 3C.

          • Fat Tony

            4 years at 5.25 per seems reasonable for Backlund. A lot of his game doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Heavy on the pk and has a underrated 200 ft game

          • BendingCorners

            @MontanaMan, It doesn’t matter what I think he’s worth. All that matters is whether 1 GM out of 31 is willing to pay that much. With the cap going up and not many quality two-way centers on the market, it would not surprise me.

          • HOCKEY83

            Agree with BendingCorners. What anyone thinks he’s worth is considerably different than what a team is willing to pay. There certainly are teams out there that would overpay between 6 and 7 mil to acquire him. Not sure if he would want to take that gamble but probably if The Flames low ball him.

        • Lucky 13

          Agreed WW, not about Backlund playing poorly, but with regards to doing something with his contract before the deadline.

          We don’t need to wait much longer to get a sense of what Backlund’s looking for to get this deal done. It gives us a a better understanding of our player roster cap hit and future implications.

          I believe we should sign him, he’s been our best defensive forward for almost 5 years now.
          Why wait? It’s not going to get any cheaper the longer we wait.
          Backlund is a core member of the team, regardless of public opinion regarding his metrics.

          Sign him Treliving, or you may be the next victim of being too patient.

        • TGIF

          The Flames are not in a cap crunch right now. He will make about 5.25-5.75/ year.
          What would be the purpose of trading him? This team needs a player like Backlund. Walter keep making predictions or comments about Backlund. One day you’ll be right. Just like the broken clock that is right twice a day.

  • Flaymin Frank

    Cap’n Gio looked like the alpha dog last nite. Again. Maybe TJ can look and learn what it takes to be a qb on the PP, and maybe he can return to that role. Lets not forget that the Canucks beat the Sharks two nites prior so they still have some fight in them. Diesel looked very good between the pipes, I hope he gets some more games than his current pace. Wednesday’s game against the Blues will be interesting to say the least. Will the Flames maintain this momentum or will it fade away.

  • Skylardog

    Finally saw some sensible decisions last night, most notably, on the PP. It will take a few games to gel. It scored, but still only went 1-5, and that against a team that had quit about 20 minutes earlier.

    But at least they finally are starting to put the right guys out, and that is a massive step in the right direction. What took so long?

    As a note, Ferly pots the PP goal. No surprise here that he got it, or that he was on the ice (and not playing on the point) when we finally scored one.

  • Calgarycandle

    For three games in a row, the Flames played better hockey in front of Rittich then Smith. 17 against is probably one of their lowest of the year. Yes, Vancouver is depleted, but still only 17 shots. I have assumed they are protecting their rookie goalie, but yesterday I wondered if Smith’s style as a 3rd D leads to them getting into a more offensive mind set and opening up more. Rittich plays a conservative, typical style not wondering from his crease (and aside from the near gift to Dowd not attempting to clear the puck himself). Could the D still not be used to Smith’s style and that lead to more shots against. Any thoughts??

  • Jessemadnote

    I’m very intrigued by the Tkachuk – Ferland swap.

    First of all, I think the 3M line becoming the 3 Mike line would be a natural transition for us as fans, second I don’t think it would be that big of a down grade. Ferland has shown some defensive ability and a willingness to take whatever role he’s given.

    But what I’m really intrigued by is Tkachuk with those plush offensive zone starts, digging for Mony and Johnny like he did for Marner and Dvorak. I think it has the possiblity to pay huge dividends.

  • buts

    Even tho it was a bad nucks team the flames played very well. So GG puts MT with jonny and monny and they look good…..surprise. GG only put TB on the pp for a few seconds and the PP looked better. Man its so frustrating but hopefully GG will get the roster a lines right. Maybe Rittich should start Wednesday and give Smith a rest. Boy the canucks looked bad.

  • Lucky 13

    Last season, we were basically a .500 team until mid February. That’s when we went on that 10 game winning streak.

    I don’t think we have that luxury of doing that this season. SJ, Dallas, Chicago, Minnesota and Anaheim are all going to give us fits for not only Wildcard races but to even make postseason.

    We can’t wait until then to step it up. Our team (Treliving trades) will hinge on making postseason.

    You gotta believe Treliving is putting pressure on GG to make it happen. And rightly so.

    As WW says “ the clocks ticking”
    Time waits for no one!

  • redwhiteblack

    They played well against the Preds but had no puck luck. They played well against the Sharks and had a bad break. If they keep playing like this it feels like they could go on a nice run.

    Happy Bennett is playing so well. He has the potential to keep that going as a career norm. That would be awesome. A legit line that could graduate to be the new 2nd line.

  • The Doctor

    Was at the game last night and loved it. One thing I haven’t liked about our power play though is this down low / in close thing that we keep trying (and not succeeding at). We put the puck down low behind the red line and try to jam it in or feed it in front really close in and bang at it. But a lot of the time there really isn’t an open man or a play in front, and we just turn it over. The other problem is that we’re telegraphing what we’re doing so the other team’s coverage is solid. And the other problem is we’re putting the puck in so close that the goalie can easily cover and smother with proper positioning.