104

Flames 4, Kings 3 post-game embers: Another!

Sometimes, the Calgary Flames are really, really bad. Sometimes, the Calgary Flames are really, really good! And apparently sometimes you’ll get the best and the worst of them all within a single night with no apparent rhyme or reason. I suppose that probably goes for most teams, really, but when the margins are getting awfully close, the bad gets that much more pronounced – while the good needs to keep on coming.

Still a little too close for comfort

It took the Flames a little bit to get going, but when they did, wow. Sure, the Kings took it to them in the first several minutes, and even got a lucky goal out of it, but once the Flames took off, there was just no catching them. The sheer level of onslaught was intense throughout the second period. In a worse timeline, it would have been a same old, same old for the Flames – effort there, talent there, but puck just not going in the net – but this time, they got it to go in four times, and probably still could have had more.

Seriously, that second period. At 5v5, they out-corsied the Kings 29-9. High danger corsi events for were 9-0. And of course, the big one: outscoring the Kings 4-0 in that frame, rebounding from a last minute goal the period just before.

It was outstanding to watch, with pretty much everyone getting in on the action (and it certainly helped that they didn’t roll over and die for the third; while they didn’t keep it up at that level, they did enough). I think this is the team everyone has been expecting all along. When all of the pieces come together – even when this injured – this can be a really, really good team. And if they can keep this level of performance up, then plenty more good will follow over the second half of the season.

But still: it’s a little too close for comfort. The Flames were easily the better team throughout most of the game, but they only won by one goal. I want to trust them; I’m not going to until they’re at least at a positive goal differential again. They’re at -5. They had all of two multi-goal wins in December, and both were against the Canucks. There’s still lots more to be done.

Top line looks like a top line

The line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Micheal Ferland went into hibernation for a bit, it seems. But now, with two-point nights across the board, it looks like they might just be waking up.

There were posts and crossbars, but there were also goals scored because of intense follow through. Ferland has a new career high in goals with 16. Monahan is one goal away from his fifth straight season as a 20-goal scorer (this is his fifth year in the NHL). Gaudreau is on pace to score over 90 points this season, and he’s still top 10 in league scoring.

They really could have had more, were it not for spurts of excellent defence from the Kings or pucks being fired just wide.

Injuries have forced a fair bit of line shuffling, but this one hasn’t come close to being touched. The third line has been that way, as well – playing as well as they have was a real boon throughout December – but, all respect to them, they don’t have the talent the first line does. The last time the first line was playing this well, though, the third line hadn’t quite found its footing. This has the potential to be a whole new world, and with such dominating numbers across the board, you sure hope the Flames will be more like this in the second half than not.

Troy Brouwer?

Michael Frolik was born to play with Mikael Backlund, or vice versa, while Matthew Tkachuk just seamlessly slid in alongside them. With Frolik, one of the Flames’ better right wingers, out, there hasn’t been an obvious replacement.

Even ignoring handedness – Tkachuk’s ability to play either wing takes care of that – there’s no solution readily apparent. Neither Ferland nor Garnet Hathaway are going to be disrupted from their lines. Jaromir Jagr is great, except he’s a little slow and a lot injured as of late. Kris Versteeg is also injured. Andrew Mangiapane is extremely new to this, and chucking him out against Anze Kopitar might be a little premature at this point. Curtis Lazar is… maybe? But he also only has four assists all season.

Hence: Troy Brouwer, he of the not-great contract and whose initial expectations probably won’t be met. But he’s a veteran right winger and so, at this time, probably the best solution. Besides, it looked like Mangiapane gave him a fair bit of jump in the previous game, and oh look he drove the net and scored a goal.

Brouwer has been very much maligned, but if he had, say a Freddie Hamilton contract, I doubt that would be the case. While most of his teammates have still been better away from him than with him, it’s not universal at this point like it was the season before. And maybe, if he can keep playing the way he has the past two games, it’ll be alright.

I still don’t like it as a long-term solution, but there isn’t another readily apparent option. And if the first and third lines keep doing what they’re doing, getting help from Backlund and Tkachuk may be the best place for Brouwer in the meantime. Credit where credit is due: he had a good game, and he made a positive difference.

Andrew Mangiapane watch 2.0

Mangiapane played 7:26 in his first NHL game. This time around, he got in 9:05 – still the least on the Flames, but an increase, nonetheless. Though he was held pointless, shotless (he, Lazar, and Travis Hamonic were the only Flames without any shots on net), and didn’t stand out as positively as he did in his first game, he did just fine with that he had to work with.

Mangiapane was once again sheltered, as his most common on-ice opponents were Alec Martinez and Jussi Jokinen. It’s probably still too early to promote him, but hopefully that does come at some point in his call-up, whether it be due to a big enough goal cushion that the Flames can afford the risk, or because he’ll have simply earned it at some point.

Two games in, though, and the results are so far, so good.

This and that

Mark Giordano led the way with seven shots on net, and getting over five minutes in powerplay time probably helped with that, but shout out to Brett Kulak, who had four shots over just 11:28 played. He’s also still yet to score a goal in the NHL. Somebody help him out there already, it’s been 60 games and he deserves one.

Speaking of scoring, Jankowski has all of seven goals in his NHL career. One came off his pants somewhere. Now he’s bunting goals in, apparently. Two of his seven career goals have been less than conventional.

Having a lot of hits generally means you don’t have the puck, but we know Tkachuk and his linemates had the puck an awful lot. He had three shots himself, not to mention a great assist to tie the game. He also threw six hits out there. I think he’s embraced his role as the guy who is going to go absolutely ham on the Kings every chance he gets, all thanks to a chance elbow several months ago.

Dougie Hamilton’s jersey now just says “Hamilton” on it, not “D. Hamilton”. Aw.

So the Flames almost swept the Canucks this season, are down two to the Sharks and Oilers, but perfect against the Kings. Huh. They still haven’t played the Golden Knights yet, but that’ll come at the end of the month. They’re also just behind the Ducks in points percentage, in case you weren’t aware the next game was going to be yet another big one.