It definitely could have gone better, but it was really, really good to see the Flames close out the year with that extra point.
Prepared, and then not
While the Flames didn’t bother to show up during the first period in Anaheim at all, they absolutely dominated the Blackhawks last night. Just like they were fortunate to only be down one to the Ducks, they were unlucky to only get one goal on the Blackhawks – and just barely, at that. But they were rewarded for their efforts on the most bizarre penalty call I have ever seen (seriously – what were the refs doing, making everyone think it was a Blackhawks powerplay?), and that made a lot of difference heading into the second.
The second period, where they kept it up, scoring twice in 65 seconds – and then promptly falling off.
A 3-0 lead should have been enough. It’s not as though a handful of players were to blame for surrendering that lead; it was a team-wide breakdown. The Flames had 43 corsi events for to take a 3-0 lead just over a period into the game. The remaining 34 minutes and change of regulation? Just 20 events for. The Blackhawks fought like hell to get back in it and the Flames let them, even after quick back-to-back goals of their own should have warned them not to get complacent.
That can’t happen.
And sure, the game was maybe a bounce or two away from giving the Flames a multi-goal win – if Johnny Gaudreau scored on the breakaway, if Sam Bennett’s empty netter went in – but that wouldn’t have made the failed preventative defence okay, and this is exactly why (not to mention Richard Panik completely missing a wide open net). No, you can’t always ball out and go hard for a full 60, and a three-goal lead should be pretty good, but these guys still have work to do.
Playing his first career NHL game, an overaged sixth round pick stepped onto the ice and got a shot on his first shift. Andrew Mangiapane played just 7:26, though, with no special teams time. He officially had two shots on net and led the Flames in 5v5 corsi with 66.67%.
I don’t think you can suggest his numbers looked good because the Flames had a strong opening to the game and then just kind of quit trying to create offence, though. Mangiapane played 2:34 in the first period, 2:25 in the second, and 2:27 in the third. He was thrown out there a bit at a time, and he was absolutely fantastic with what little he did get. He even seemed to put an extra jump in Troy Brouwer and Matt Stajan’s steps, for that matter.
If he looked so good, why didn’t Mangiapane play more? It could have something to do with it literally being his first ever game in the big leagues. There are AHL graduates on this team – Brett Kulak, Mark Jankowski, maybe even Garnet Hathaway – but they’d all played in the NHL before. For Mangiapane, this was completely brand new.
Since Michael Frolik will be out until probably at least February, Mangiapane should be getting more and more experience. With that should come increased ice time (and, if we’re being honest with ourselves, time with Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk – if Jaromir Jagr can’t handle that much ice time, then Brouwer definitely is not the answer). If that doesn’t happen, then that’s probably worthy of agitation, but in the meantime, give the kid as smooth a debut as possible. That’s what happened last night. His most common opponent was Lance Bouma; Mangiapane was sheltered, and he had a great first game. No need to rush things.
The powerplay scored!
The last time the Flames scored more than two powerplay goals in one game was Nov. 20, against the Capitals. The game before that was Sean Monahan’s powerplay hat trick in Philadelphia. So it’s been well over a month since the Flames’ powerplay has not only looked respectable, but maybe even won them a game.
Special teams were theoretically perfect last night – two-for-two on the man advantage, two-for-two on the penalty kill (the Blackhawks scored six seconds after Garnet Hathaway’s boarding penalty expired) – and that went a long way. Coming out of the first period with a lead was huge. Building on it was so much bigger. How often throughout December would the Flames have been in the game, or maybe won outright, if they’d just scored a powerplay goal? Last night was the positive result of that.
Tkachuk is one of the Flames’ top offensive players, and he’s only 20 years old. He’ll probably fill that role for a while yet. He should be on the first powerplay unit. He’s now tied for third on the team with nine powerplay points, and is third with four powerplay goals.
The Flames’ powerplay is now clicking along at an 18.6% success rate, good for 19th in the NHL. There’s still work to do, but that’s markedly better than before.
Big guns came back to life
The Flames’ depth has been playing better as of late – Bennett, in particular, says hi – but while the team has been playing well overall, they just couldn’t get those wins. The top offensive players not scoring had a lot to do with that, and you could see it early on in their games: Monahan passing off prime shooting opportunities, for example. Dude’s made his bread and butter in the slot, and even if his linemate was wide open, to see Monahan not take the shot while standing uncovered in the slot just made you think something was off.
So boy, was it good to see him score again.
Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk, and Backlund are the Flames’ four leading scorers; they each got two points last night. Gaudreau is hilariously far ahead with 43, Monahan at 34, Tkachuk has 24 and Backlund 23. Micheal Ferland pulls up with 20, and T.J. Brodie – who did get a point last night – rests at 18, half of which have come on the powerplay.
Mark Giordano got two points last night, as well, giving him 16 on the season, and tying him with Bennett and Dougie Hamilton (Michael Frolik, rest his face, trails just behind at 15).
Pretty much everyone who scored last night really, really needs to keep doing that.
What a shot
A regulation win would have been so much better. Scoring an empty netter would have been much less dramatic.
But an absolute bullet from the captain is a pretty good way to ring in the new year. Hopefully it gives them what they need for 2018, because it’s still an uphill battle from here. Happy New Year.