Flames 3, Wild 2 post-game embers (OT): Make it four

The Flames are playing some very solid hockey, as they have been for most of the season. Now that they’re riding a four-game win streak and the points are starting to come in, things are definitely looking better. Just as a two-goal deficit can be erased – uh, again – so can feelings of negativity when Dougie Hamilton is scoring that one last goal.

Back-to-back Hamilton

Now that the Flames are down to just one Hamilton, he has scored two game winners. This has brought his goals total of the year up to six, on pace for 12, which is what he scored two years ago, and one shy of the 13 he had the season before. With three shots last night – including the final one of the game – Hamilton still leads the Flames with 124 shots on net; his shooting percentage is now up to 4.8%.

Hamilton played 14:10 5v5 minutes, the second most on the team, behind only Mark Giordano. He also got a shift in overtime, but only because T.J. Brodie was in the box, which is pretty wild if you think about it. Brodie is an excellent skater and a responsible player – also, he had a team-high five shots which I don’t think anybody would have expected – but for the most part, he’s not an offensive guy. Hamilton jumped on the ice and three seconds later, the puck was in the back of the net.

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I think it’s fair to wish for this to be the start of Hamilton getting more trust in key situations. His game-winner over the Ducks was basically an overtime goal. His game-winner over the Wild was actually an overtime goal. He’s caught up to Brodie in points with 18, only without the generous helpings of powerplay time. Good things keep happening when he’s out there. Maybe more good things would happen if he got the chance to be out there a little more.

Top line rules

The Flames’ first two goals were all the top line. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Micheal Ferland were all able to show off just what makes each of them so special: the passing, the vision, the hands. The Flames are on a four-game win streak; most of the top line is on a four-game point streak (Gaudreau and Monahan are; Ferland is on a three-gamer but picked up a point in the loss to Anaheim, which the other two failed to do). In that time, Gaudreau has picked up eight points, Monahan seven, and Ferland six.

Ferland, with 18 goals and eight assists, has slightly lopsided numbers – and an 18.9 shooting percentage, while we’re at it – but he does have three assists in his past three games. He’s on pace for 36 goals and 51 points. It seems unlikely he’ll get there, but this is without a doubt an incredible season and game in, game out, he’s proving he’s right where he deserves to be. The faith placed in him to start the season wasn’t unfounded.

Monahan scored his 20th goal of the season, the fifth straight time he’s done so. He’s ninth in goals league-wide. Like Ferland, he has more goals than assists (19); also, he’s got an 18.7 shooting percentage to match. He’s on pace for 39 goals and 76 points. It’s a little tough to see a 40-goal season come along, but an 80-point season could be possible here if his line continues at this pace.

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Gaudreau, meanwhile, had his fifth three-point game of the season (one of those games ended up being a four-pointer for him). The patience he exhibited on the overtime goal – after getting dunked on/uh, very much interfered with earlier in the shift – was exquisite. His 49 points in 42 games has him not just on pace for 96 points, but presently, ninth in league-wide scoring. Unlike his linemates, he doesn’t have a really high shooting percentage (10.7%), so he might just get there. He’s an offensive phenom, and though there may be another bad stretch sometime after this one, a 100-point season still remains a possibility.

Penalty kill saved it, powerplay almost killed it

On the one hand, it’s brutal there were no special teams goals in this game.

On the other hand, it’s a very good thing there weren’t any.

The Flames killed off all five penalties that they faced, and it kept them in the game. Travis Hamonic played the most out of all the penalty killers with 5:45, while Mikael Backlund (5:10) and Troy Brouwer (5:07) followed him up, Brouwer there because Michael Frolik is unavailable for the next little while. Even without Frolik, Backlund still looked like a potential threat to score at one point, though I do wonder if there’s a better penalty killing partner out there for him (Sam Bennett played 2:01 on the kill and he’s an intriguing option, both as a younger player and as someone who can score).

But the game wouldn’t have gone to overtime, and would have given the Flames a greater cushion, if they could have scored on just one of their powerplay attempts. Just one. Asking for just one powerplay goal shouldn’t be too much, and yet, here we are.

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That’s an 11.6% success rate. At least it’s not in the single digits? Still, the Flames keep giving up shorthanded chances (though you’ll be happy to know the five shorties they’ve allowed are tied for only seventh worst in the NHL), and their powerplay continues to actively hurt them game in, game out. The personnel has been switched up a bit, but this is all kinds of putrid. Remember how the Flames still aren’t in a playoff spot? This powerplay could be the thing that keeps them on the outside looking in. And unlike their even strength numbers – which have been excellent – there isn’t exactly anything underlying that suggests they should be better on the man advantage.

… Other than the part where they have the ninth best point-getter and the ninth best goal-scorer.

Season-long, the Flames have a 17.1% powerplay (22nd), and Kris Versteeg isn’t coming back any time soon. Their penalty kill has climbed up from league-worst to 79.6% (T-22nd), though.

Mike Smith had a good game

The Flames had a very strong first two periods, controlling the flow of the game. Even with that, though, they still needed their last line of defence to stand tall for a number of huge saves, and Mike Smith did just that.

When the Wild took it to the Flames in the third, they were in a position to afford to give up two goals because Smith had kept them in it before. Though he was beat in the same spot twice, that third period could have been much worse without Smith in net. And that’s without mentioning Smith’s performance in overtime, particularly on one breakaway stop moments before the game ended.

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Smith had to face 35 pucks to Alex Stalock’s 29. He had something of a shaky December, but his .943 save percentage last night was excellent; he hasn’t fallen below .900 since Dec. 14 against the Sharks.

His durability should still be at least somewhat in question – he remains one of the NHL’s most active goaltenders – but the Flames do have three games to go before five days off, so he’ll likely still get another two starts in. After that, the Flames play four times before the All-Star break, so that’s likely another three starts; after that, it’s 14 games in 26 days before the trade deadline. Just something to keep an eye on.

One goal

The Flames have played in eight straight one-goal games. Their last multi-goal differential came on Dec. 17, when they beat the Canucks 6-1. Since then, they’ve won five of these one-goal games, while dropping three of them. Three of these one-goal games have gone to overtime, with two wins, both over non-divisional opponents (and the one loss to a divisional opponent).

The Flames still have a -3 goal differential. That has been oh so very slowly rectifying itself with all of these one-goal wins, but it’s gotta be better. They don’t let Chicago and Minnesota back into their games, and the Flames are above them by one point – and in a wildcard spot.

They’re up there. The signs are positive. But another step forward is needed.

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  • everton fc

    The “big shakeup” this team needs is a new PP coach. Unless it could somehow improve, using the right players.

    The keys to our getting to the playoffs;

    1. Improve the PP
    2. Win at home

    We accomplish these and we are in a good position to do some damage, IF we make the playoffs. Our goaltending is solid. Our top 3 lines are solid (though we need more consistent offence from the #2/3 lines). Our injection of youth is working. Our defence is stable (though we need more offence from the backend – only Dougie, and occasionally Gio, score). “On paper”, we look good. If our coaching staff can get these boys to play sound, consistent, upbeat hockey out of the gate, every game… If we can be ahead after 20 minutes consistently… If we can win in the face-off circle… Put pucks on the net…

    I like our chances.

    Let Jagr go. Bring up Klimchuk. Let the fun begin!

  • WillyWonka

    this team doesnt need an external shakeup, they need an internal one…. when they play right, they are a force, when they back off 5% (like the 3rd period) they are beatable. this team needs to hold themselves accountable
    the PP is a whole other story…. but at least we are seeing GG finally giving the rght people a shot (Bennett, Tkachuk, Hamilton, Ferland)
    fix the game to game commitment level and PP, and this team can make a real push, and we already see signs of both of these areas being a lot better

  • WillyWonka

    on a different note – when do we stop and publicy recognize the factthat Ferland has become an absolute beast – 22nd overall in the leauge for goals scored ahead of Conner McDavid who is 43rd overall? this kid has really taken it to a different level and is showing some real power-forward skills night in and night out.

    • Puckhead

      Although this line wasn’t on the ice together for very long on a PP, I was excited to see Bennett – Janko – Ferland. That is an intriguing line combination.

    • Mickey O

      I’ve been gladly drinking the Ferland kool-aid for a long time. The guy just gets it, even though GG has done his level best to stifle him. Last year he was completely misused. He was supposed to be the 1RW this season, then got shunted down the line up – again – when Jagr was signed. His first 8 team games (he missed one game) he only had one goal. Since he’s been put back where he belongs on the first line he’s been great.

      It would have been nice to have signed him to a 4 year deal, but Treliving doesn’t like to play that game. Now it is going to cost a lot of money to sign him before he hits UFA after next season. He deserves what he’ll eventually get, every penny of it. It also cracks me up that Ferland has one less point than Lucic who has played three more games, and is signed to that horrible contract. Ferland is better than Lucic in every category you could imagine.

    • KKisTHEproblem

      Ferland, with 18 goals, is actually tied for 15th with some pretty big names: Neal, Stone, Kane, MacKinnon, Kessel, Toffoli. That is amazing and he makes $1.75MM. Yes, he will cost a lot more in 2 years

      • The Doctor

        A lot of people have this negative bias towards Ferland, or at least consistently undervalue him. Personally I think it’s two things: #1, he looks like a big bruiser and a lot of people just don’t think “scorer” or “soft hands” when they see that, and #2 he was not a high draft pick or highly-touted prospect. Of course if he were a Leaf, TSN et al. would be full of stories about how awesomely he is . . .

  • Puckhead

    It’s great to see Janko getting more responsibilities. If you watch him, his positional play is outstanding. I’m already looking forward to next year. He will have a full season under his belt, will have the summer to think about his game and train, and will have confidence that he belongs in the NHL. The guy is a student of the game and I fully expect him to ratchet his game another level.

    ? good job Feaster

    • Carl the tooth

      looks like Giordano has found his form , Jankowski is gonna be beast ,Coyle was trying to knock him down with Jankowski protecting the puck infront of smith,Coyle couldn’t even budge him at all .

    • Azim

      Great to see this level of defensive proficiency in his game so early in his career. Not that we want Backs gone anytime soon, but he could be the heir to his throne one day. Following a long lineage of excellent defensive centre’s in Calgary; Otto, Yelle, and Backlund.

      When does Janko see meaningful PK time? Not likely until next season I assume.

  • Mickey O

    To fix the PP, how about making it really simple? Go back to the 2 defencemen configuration on the man advantage. It worked for decades in this league before the 1-3-1 format became popular. Then keep the 1st PP unit even simpler:

    Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland
    Giordano – Hamilton

    Bennett – Backlund – Tkachuk
    Brodie – Stone

    All of those guys have played together for the most part. Keep the whole first line, and d-men, together. The 2nd PP forward line really should be the regular 2nd line anyway. Stone has always had a bomb from the point, and played on the PP in Arizona.

    • Sven

      I agree-

      5 on 5 Calgary is an above average team
      5 on 4 they struggle
      They should ignore the fact that they are skating against a side down one man when they are on the power play and play as if the numbers on the ice were even

      it couldn’t look any worse than their “power play” currently looks

    • Atomic Clown

      The 1-3-1 only works when you have pure snipers ready to unload, and excellent puck movement to create space. Calgary is no Washington or Tampa. However, they do have more offensive minded dmen than any other team. Gio and Stone should be on the same unit, and just blast it. Give them forwards that play a very simple by the net cycle to tire out the penalty killers, then send it back to constantly bombard the net. Preferably PP unit two with Bennett, Tkachuk and Jankowski, tenacious forecheckers that win board battles. On PP unit number one, make Monahan skate around the right faceoff circle, and Dougie on the left. Gaudreau, Ferland and we desperately need a right handed shot to allow for quicker passes (preferably Versteeg, but I’d rather have Hathaway over Brouwer right now). Let Monahan and Dougie snipe for the corners, they’re the two best shots on the team

    • MontanaMan

      I like your line combos but would replace Backlund with Jankowski who has much more of an offensive upside and better scoring touch. The Brodie/Stone combo should work with Brodie handling the puck well but with no shot and Stone with a bomb from the point.

    • The Beej

      Yes. And then approach the powerplay like it is not a powerplay at all. Just cycle and crash the net like 5on5.

      They get too silly and fancy sometimes on the powerplay. They should try this:

      Get puck to net
      Get players to net
      Get puck in net

    • Cfan in Van

      Actually, I think they just need to maintain their style of play when ahead, as opposed to going into a completely passive shell once they’re up.

      This team is effective with a heavy forecheck, but if they get a two goal lead, they shut down and let the other team attack. It’s an acceptable practice with a couple minutes left in the game, but they do it even if there’s a whole period to go.

      • The Doctor

        The other 2 things that killed us in the third period last night were losing a whole bunch of faceoffs in our own zone and screwing up a whole bunch of exit attempts from our own zone.

  • buts

    Ari, Smith had an excellent game not a good game. This guy makes key saves at the key moments and last night when Minny had 2 late powerplays a bad goal or any goal would have sunk us and left the team with a blown 2 goal lead and lost confidence. If we had last years goalies we wouldn’t be close to the points we have this year….Smith is no doubt our mvp this year. It was great to see TJ shoot the puck finally and even tho our PP could have secured ANOTHER game the personnel being used is a hell of a lot better then the beginning of the season. 3 on 3 we out skill everyone in the league, unfortunately overtime in the playoffs is 5 on 5.

  • Thunder1

    I think after a four-game winning streak and pulling themselves up to tied third in their division, especially with how entertaining the games have been lately, if you are on here still moaning and whining and complaining, then there is nothing that will satisfy you. You will complain regardless. For me, all I got is good job, boys. Keep it up. Go flames go!

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    I’m just happy that the coaching staff didn’t break up the top line at the first sign of trouble. Working through slumps as a line brings players closer together and increases confidence.

    I’m liking how this season’s story is unfolding. Now if the PP would click, we’d be lethal.

  • Alberta Ice

    I saw the last 10 minutes of the 3rd and the OT. Great power play kills; but the passing out of the defensive zone got dicey. Just take or get that puck over the blue line and cut the sloppy passes to the wrong team. This team can win the next 3 too, but the errors in passing have to be reduced in the final period. These comebacks should not be allowed by the opposing teams. The winning differential needs to improve. Hey, at least we are now winning the one goal games and quite dramatically at that, so I am encouraged by the improvement in the overall play of this team.

  • The Beej

    I feel like the one thing the writers and posters on this site are missing when evaluating the coaching is our goals against and chances against.

    Take a look since the beginning of december and you will see we are averaging about 2ga/game. I know the scoring and wins havent been there but the system is finally starting to click (goalies get credit too).

    Be patient the results will and goals will come. PK has been a lot better since dec1. If we can fix the powerplay (Cameron maybe should be on the hot seat) and get some steady contribution from our fourth line this team will really be rolling.

  • Flaymin Frank

    Random Thoughts:
    Hathman gets slew footed and gets a minor for high sticking? Garbage.

    Loved Smith’s game but why do I still get nervous when he comes out to play the puck?

    TJ finally got the memo; shoot puck, reload, repeat if necessary.

    PP had a thread of awesomeness to it last nite, but just needs to be tweaked ever so slightly.

    Gio still has serious wheels and can close gaps very quickly.

    Brent Seabrook benched. Wow. How did the team respond? That took some stones JQ.

  • Brownblazer

    IMO the team needs to take two more steps (other than the obvious pp improvement – which I did see an improvement in last night i.e. zone entries and personnel changes (see no Brouwer)).

    1. Learn how to finish a game with a strong third period (not sit on the lead).

    2. Like everton fc mentioned – be better at home. The team looks like they have more “jump” on the road than at home for whatever reason. To be a contender they need to “own” their house.

    • KKisTHEproblem

      Agree with both but they did win 3 in a row at home against 3 good teams: Chicago, Anaheim and the Kings. I’m hoping its the start of home dominance. Combined with their excellent road record, they will be in good shape

  • Justthateasy

    Looks like this team is forming that elusive identity that we have been waiting for. it is a cerebral identity which is quite evident during overtime when the smarts really come out to play. Add that to team toughness and you’ve got balance. Not to mention a nice blend of experience and youth.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    The one thing that I have noticed about the recent influx of Stockton Heat call ups is how they hit certain plateaus as the work to round out their game in the NHL. For instance both Janko and Hathaway have been focusing on not making mistakes at the expense of creating more offense.

    I am not sure about Hathaway but Janko appears to have much more offense to give but he clearly has been told to play a strong 2 way game. No doubt Bennett has had the same talk from the coaches.

    Clearly making it to the NHL level is not a sprint so this approach will benefit the players in the long run, but the shackles do stifle a players creativity. Players like Janko and Mangi lose some of their creativity when they fall into the system. They lose some edge playing safe. The become conditioned to play the the puck back instead of attacking.

    I have noticed Janko’s and Rittiich’s games grow. Janko rarely makes mistakes but of equal importance he is composed in his own zone under pressure…. Even more so than most veterans. Rittich is universally liked by his teammates and you can see they want to play well in front of him.

    It is rare to have 2 goalies wired the same way but they are both ultra competitive. The flip side is, both Kulak and Hathaway don’t seem to be progressing like the were. The sample size on Mangi is too small but it would not hurt trying him on the powerplay.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    i must admit, Brodie has looked a lot better lately. I have been in the camp to trade him becsuse of his mistakes and refusal to shoot. If he even learned to do a slap pass I could live with that because at least the puck would be going towards the net unlike now.