Well, you can’t say the Flames aren’t interesting.
Apparently expletives and throwing sticks works
The Flames didn’t have the best game ever against the Kings, but it was still a pretty good one, including a dominant period that set them for a win. It probably shouldn’t have been a one-goal win – it should have been more than that – but hey, it was a well-earned two points without giving a division rival any of their own.
The Flames, evidently, responded to that by coasting in their next practice, prompting the typically mild-mannered Glen Gulutzan to dramatically chew them out. And that, evidently, worked, as the Flames came out and absolutely dominated the Ducks in the first period, and kept things even in the second.
Then, in the third, it all fell apart. Maybe emotional altercations work better in practice than during a game – though between Jacob Trouba, Ryan Johansen, and now Josh Manson, watching Sam Bennett fight is honestly incredibly entertaining – but the powerplay just about did them in. The Flames were in perfect position to not just step on the Ducks’ necks, but decapitate them. Instead, the powerplay did what the Flames powerplay does best – suck – and gave up a shorthanded goal, swiftly turning the tide and taking what looked like a certain win and putting it in massive doubt. And then the game was tied. And it was, honestly, just stupid.
These things tend to sort themselves out in the end – the Flames deserved a regulation win, and they got one – but shooting oneself in the foot provided a lot of unnecessary drama. Maybe one day they’ll get to the point where this isn’t necessary? How’s Tuesday sound?
The officiating was super not great, but
Before Matthew Tkachuk took a stick to the face, the Ducks were handily getting the majority of the calls, and they seemed to be on weaker infractions, whereas the Ducks would do something worse to the Flames and get away with it. (Johnny Gaudreau’s slash on Kevin Bieksa, uh, wasn’t the only slash on that play?)
When you consider just how badly the Flames were dunking on the Ducks – a 76.67% 5v5 CF in the first period, 60.87% in the second – it makes no sense that the Ducks were the ones drawing the calls. Typically, penalties are taken when the team that’s behind is floundering their way into committing an infraction. Not always, but it does stand to reason that the team controlling the play is the team that’s going to draw the calls, and it was the complete opposite for some reason.
And then there was the mess when Derek Grant ran Mike Smith behind his net. Grant doesn’t do that, there are no fights. Grant did that, there were two fights, and not a single powerplay to be found for it. You want the team to stick up for their teammate, and Bennett and Garnet Hathaway get absolutely no condemnations here, but… how the hell does that work out? What a mess.
All that said, the Flames still have nobody to blame but themselves for letting the Ducks back into the game. The officiating could have been much better (it usually can be), but the Flames won that game on their own merit – and if things had gone a little differently, they probably would have lost it on their own merit, as well. Credit to their penalty kill, though, for making sure things didn’t get that bad.
Dougie Hamilton is pretty great
Dougie Hamilton is an extremely good player, and good things tend to happen when extremely good players are out on the ice, particularly in the last minute of the game.
For his 27th shift of the game, and eighth of the period, Hamilton jumped on the ice with just under a minute to go. Forty-one seconds later, the puck was in the back of the net, and Hamilton had his fifth goal of the season. He scored it with his team-leading 121st shot (Gaudreau is right behind him with 120), upping his shooting percentage to 4.1%.
Hamilton’s career shooting percentage is 5.6%. With the amount he’s putting the puck on net, he should have more goals (kind of like the Flames as a whole). In the past two seasons, he has not gone a single game without at least a shot on net. In nearly 80% of his games in that time, he has had multiple shots on net. He had four last night.
All of that is to say that Hamilton is exactly the defenceman you want out there when you’re fighting for a goal, because it is pretty dang likely he is going to put the puck on net. He played 23:48 last night, second in team ice time. This season, he’s averaged 21:14 in ice time, third on the Flames, behind Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie. Nobody’s going to argue with Giordano taking top spot, but Brodie has averaged three more minutes a game than Hamilton has. Some of that has probably been due to a faulty powerplay configuration, but three full minutes?
Hamilton should be playing more. His 5v5 GF is 54.10% – the top defenceman in the category and nearly a full four points ahead of the next best guy, Giordano. The Flames score more when Hamilton is on the ice. Ergo, Hamilton should be on the ice. The end.
From top to bottom
When the worst corsi a player on a team has in a game is 50%, you know it was a great night. Brodie and Andrew Mangiapane were the recipients of that statistic, which wasn’t even bad. That’s just a top tier game up and down the lineup, with everybody contributing.
But it was a little more top than it was bottom. The Flames’ three goals came courtesy their top line and top defence pairing. They got all of the points as well, plus the next two best forwards on the team in Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund.
Speaking on just the top line, though: Ferland continues to build on his career year, with back-to-back two-point games. He has 24 points this season. His career high is 25 from the year before. He’s got half a season left to beat that. Monahan and Gaudreau each have five points in their past three games; Monahan is on pace for 74 this season (career high 63), while Gaudreau is on pace for 92 (career high 78).
Good things happen when the top line looks like a top line. Like goals, which tend to lead to wins.
The Flames came off of the Christmas break with back-to-back losses: one a coin flip, the other wholly deserved. They responded to it with six points in a three-game home stand, without conceding a single point to any divisional rivals.
The season ebbs and flows, but the Flames have had good underlying numbers. If the puck keeps going in the net now, not to mention the Flames consistently play like they deserve the win, things should turn out alright in the end. There is an upswing, here, but the thing is they can’t sit on it: we’ve seen what happens when they do.
Half a season to go. Fourth in Pacific Division points percentage. Ninth in the Western Conference. A -4 goal differential – but they’re still in this.