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Flames 4, Panthers 2 post-game embers: Keep it going

Once again, the Flames did everything they needed to in order to pull off a win. They’ve been doing that all 2018.

Held on strong

Back-to-backs generally have an element of trickiness to them. Five-game win streak or no – i.e., concerns about how long they can keep this going, when they’ll have the inevitable let down game – a second game in two days can pose problems. While the Lightning are a better team than the Panthers, it was entirely possible the Panthers would take this one.

And while the Lightning were probably better overall against the Flames, towards the end, the Panthers put up more of a fight. For the second time in two days, the Flames entered the third period up 3-1. Against the Lightning, Mark Jankowski scored a gorgeous goal that certainly must have played a part in demoralizing them, if Matthew Tkachuk’s goal a few minutes later didn’t finish the job.

The Panthers, however, didn’t let the Flames increase their lead, and even got the game back within one. They had seven minutes to try to tie it up, and though the Flames have faced their fair share of one-goal games lately, they didn’t let them.

Giving up a spare point to a Florida team really means nothing. But Tkachuk’s effort to get that empty netter in and put this one to bed – that was something incredibly special. He isn’t just a talented pest; he’s strong as hell with a determination to match. It’s wild to think that this is only his second season. It feels like he’s been in the NHL so much longer.

Between Smith and Rittich, they got this

Mike Smith had a tough task standing before him in the Lightning. David Rittich had to have just as good of a game against the Panthers, and he did.

It certainly feels like the Flames have a reliable backup now (maybe one so reliable that he can get more starts than the second of back-to-backs? February is the jam packed month so we’ll see then). He was credited with 41 saves on 43 shots and never once looked overwhelmed or lost. That’s par for the course for him, as we’re all becoming increasingly familiar: he’s just so composed, no matter how many shots he has to face. Five starts, four wins, one shootout loss.

A .953 save percentage is his best in the NHL yet. He’s credited with a .932 overall, and that’s including a wonky showing in the midst of a blowout relief effort; .932 is actually a worse save percentage than each of his past four games.

Rittich is just getting things done.

Top six came to score

Micheal Ferland sadly saw his point streak snapped, but Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan were able to extend theirs to six games each, while Dougie Hamilton brought his up to four with a smooth assist. (He played 22:46, second most out of all defencemen, behind just Mark Giordano. Sure feels like he’s getting more ice time as of late.)

Mikael Backlund played a big part in the night’s offence as well, in on three of the four goals. But it really may have been Tkachuk who had the most impressive offensive night: not just for scoring but for, as mentioned above, his astounding effort on making that empty netter happen. There’s earning it and then there’s earning it.

So you’ve got Gaudreau now up to 52 points, tied for the second most league-wide. Monahan has 42 points – 21 goals and 21 assists – and is tied for eighth across the NHL in goals. Tkachuk reclaimed third in Flames scoring with 29 points, while Backlund has tied Ferland for fourth with 28. Giordano is up to 21 points on the season, while Hamilton sits at 20. There are the Flames’ top seven scorers, five of whom are under the age of 25. Neat.

Also worth noting: Gaudreau has 256 points in 276 games (.93 points per game). That’s the fifth most points out of everyone in the 2011 draft class. Ahead of him in scoring are Gabriel Landeskog (189 more games played, .67 points per game), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (164 more games played, .67 points per game), Nikita Kucherov (53 more games played, .89 points per game), and Mark Scheifele (68 more games played, .77 points per game). Scheifele just has nine more points than Gaudreau, so he’ll probably move into the top four pretty soon. It’s all really rather phenomenal.

Another powerplay goal!

So the Flames gave up a powerplay goal. It was bound to happen again eventually. They’re down to a 79.9% penalty kill, a drop of all of .1% as they still killed off three penalties in the game, 19th overall in the NHL.

Back-to-back powerplay goals, though? Now that’s something special here; the last time that happened was right before and after the Christmas break (though in fairness, they did score two in one game against the Blackhawks, which was just as baffling). One powerplay goal in three tries is perfectly respectable, and actually turned out to be key in winning the game: a rarity this season. The powerplay is at 18.0%, 20th in the NHL.

For as much as the special teams may be getting better results, they’re still at about the bottom third in the league. If those really get going throughout the second half of the season and the Flames’ stellar 5v5 play maintains itself, well, very good things could be on the horizon – but they’ve got to get there first.

+3

Another multi-goal win for the Flames, and their goal differential improves a tad. It’s still the smallest positive goal differential amongst Western Conference teams, but we truly are in baby steps mode here.

Switch the conversation over to points percentage, and things are slowly getting better. They’re at .591, fourth in the Pacific, which is .009 back of the Sharks. They’re still eighth in the West as well, .002 back of the Stars.

They’ve ridden a six-game win streak to get there. Now, the question is how they’ll respond before what could be a trap game: a matinee taking place right before everyone gets five days off. If the Flames are thinking vacation, then their next opponent, the Hurricanes, may be as well, as Sunday will be their final game before their own bye week.

But how great would it be to go on vacation riding a seven-game win streak? And then watch from afar as other teams catch up in games played – and see just how much that affects the standings.

  • Mongauchuk

    Would like to see # 88 move up to the 2nd line and get his first goal tomorrow. Would help spark the whole team to play their last game before the break with a little more jump.

  • Atomic Clown

    I’m sorry, but I still feel like we’re doing injustice to Tkachuk by not talking more about his empty better assist. Four Florida players. He fought off four Florida players, willed the puck from just behind his own blue line to deep in the o-zone, is getting roughed up nonstop, down on one knee, STILL has the awareness and foresight to realize Backlund is up with him, makes a perfect pass, and because the entire Panthers team is busy trying to take down a 19 year old kid, Backs has the easiest goal of his career. Un-f***ing-real

    • freethe flames

      4? Did you actually see it? My recollection is it was 1 all the way down the ice and then he drew people to him and that left Backlund wide open. I give tkachuk all the credit in world for his effort on the goal but let’s not turn this into super hero status like we did when England held two Canuck player’s off and we made into that he fought two guys at the same time and that became his legend.

        • freethe flames

          I just went back and watched the replay again. He beats the first guy to the puck so i would say he does not battle anyone there, then he battles Ekblad all the way down the wing and as he is falling and making the pass another Panther player gets into the play. Regardless it was a he77 of an effort and he should get all the credit it world for it.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Yeah but the guy Chucky kept at bay as he scooted down the ice was none other than former first overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad. Ekblad is easily the equivalent of 4 good men. Ekblad’s 6’4″ and full of muscle yet he couldn’t stop let alone slow Chucky down.

        I’ve said it on this forum before but it’s worth repeating. Even when Chucky is not contributing offensively, he is still doing something every night to help the team win. Can’t say the same thing about Gaudreau or Monahan. Even if that empty netter last night had not gone in, Chucky still cleared the defensive zone, killed how many precious ticks off the clock and possibly could have tied the puck up in the Florida zone to get a face-off in enemy territory. Chucky will be the highest paid Flame once his entry level deal expires. Book it.

        • Mickey O

          To use Treliving’s words, “nobody gets paid more than our captain.” That’s a very smart move by Treliving because it sets an internal salary cap. Gaudreau ending up getting 6.75M, the same as Giordano. Treliving has shown no proclivity to cave on his stance.

          He’s got a lot of young, core guys wanting big raises in the next year, and the year after that. It is going to be an interesting puzzle if and how he can fit everyone in under the cap. Byng’s next contract vs. Treliving is going to be a battle.

          • BlueMoonNigel

            Or Tre trades Cappy.

            Johnny’s bargaining position at the time of his new contract wasn’t rock solid as the club still held the high ground.

            Does Tre try and do Chucky’s contract this offseason in the hope that he can cut a better deal or does he wait until after year three and take his chances?

            Clearly, if the clubs young talent continues blossoming in the next few years, Tre will be signing off on some big contracts. Can’t keep everybody happy. That is why the likes of Backs may not be around after this season. Keeping Gio, too, will become a debatable point in the near future as his skills decline while his contract doesn’t.

            The only thing that will be missing when Tre and Chucky lock horns to hammer out a new contract is the octagon. Remember, Chucky will enter contract negotiations with that gem of wisdom Daddy passed on to him: “All owners are lying bastards.”

        • Willi P

          “Book it”, most stupid saying ever. Nothing points to him getting even close to Gio/Johnny money. Fantastic player, deserves to be paid but this is not Edmonton where you get massive contract on what “could” happen in the future (which in all cases didn’t). BT will negotiate a fair deal and that’s it. MT will accept or not. If he does not, he won’t play.

      • Flaymin Frank

        I’m not prepared to say he can leap tall buildings or stop runaway trains yet. But that determination, patience, and ability to shield the puck from a top tier dman was simply awesome and not usually seen with players this young. I’m sure Brady’s stock is rising simply based on the family name right now.

    • Mickey O

      On a side note…when Mike Smith, Mr. Competitive personified, calls 19 year old Matthew Tkachuk the heart and soul of the team then you’ve got a special player. Watching the post game celebrations when the players celebrate with the goalie, you can see the connection between Smith and Tkachuk. Those two really appreciate each other. Byng is all heart and compete, which showed on his goal and his great assist on the empty netter.

    • oilcanboyd

      Byng also had a heads up play as he kept the puck away from a Panther, passed the puck off and went to the front of the net to get a pass back for his goal. Number six in the draft playing like a Number 1!

  • freethe flames

    The Flames cannot take Carolina for granted; the last time they played a game before a break they absolutely stank(Montreal before Christmas). It’s interesting to watch the Flames at this juncture; has GG changed the system a bit or is it that the personal has changed enough that the system works better? Things have turned around since a number of things have changed: Janko’s recall and Bennett being moved to LW, Rittich recalled to replace Lack(never thought much of this move anyways), Hathaway for Glass, Jagr being sat down and Mangiapane recalled. All of these things have changed the dynamics of this team; more speed up front(I have seen more solid fore checking in the last 2 weeks than the rest of the entire season combined) , secondary scoring, and an improved PK all of which can be attributed to more speed upfront and all of this without going outside the organization. Makes one wonder why we did not start the season with these guys? I have been one of the people most critical of GG but if between these adjustments and his tirade this team has turned it around I give him credit. It still won’t stop me of being critical of some of his in game player management but I think that is why we come to this site.

  • Mickey O

    Watching the post game interview with Gulutzan, it was impressive what he said about players being vocal on the bench. He mentioned the usual suspects like Mony, Gio, Staj…then paused and added Ferly and Hamonic. That’s a big step for the last two guys.

    It says that they think they belong now in the leadership conversation. Both Ferland and Hamonic have been playing very well recently. Have been impressed with Hamonic in the past 3 games especially, jumping up into the play at opportune times.

  • Blando

    There is no doubt that in the influx of young players, Janko, Mangiapane, Hathaway, Kulak has pushed the older players and that is what was/ is needed to find success in this league. Teams can get to comfortable if there is no push from below.

  • Hockeyfan

    Doesn’t mean anything, but every time I get disgruntled with Sean’s and JG’s play and vent about it, they go on these torrid periods of dominant play. Love these 3 lately, i mean the Ferkman, the Ferklinator, The Ferkster. How good and much better can this young man get? Also love having confidence in both tenders, Give Dave the typhoons, he deserves it as Smith deserves a nice break. GFG!!!!

  • Alberta Ice

    Considering this was a back to back set, you wouldn’t expect the team to be at its best. But Rittich was ‘Smith’sonian and they did what they had to do as a team to win a grinder. If the team that played against Tampa Bay shows up, Carolina is in for a long afternoon. GFG.

  • Off the wall

    With this win against Florida we have increased our chances of postseason to 57.1%

    I may be a little hasty in doing this, but I’m going to grow a beard!

  • Boring Flames Fan

    I have lucky red socks.
    I wore my lucky socks yesterday. We won.
    The day before I wore my lucky red socks. We won.

    I think I will wear my lucky red socks on Sunday.

    They are starting to smell funny, but I will wear them again.

    • Cfan in Van

      If day-olds are working for you, imagine what minty fresh socks would do? Socks are cheap, you could get 38 new pairs and we’d probably see the goal diff up to +30 by seasons end.

  • Avalain

    I couldn’t watch this one, so I had to see the highlights on YouTube. Oh man are the American announcers unabashed homers. They don’t even try to look unbiased.

  • freethe flames

    Heat lose 7-2 in Parsons AHL debut; I just watched the highlights but maybe SF can enlighten us from his perspective. Goal 1: no chance, Goal 2: I thought he should have had that one, Goal 3: no chance, Goal 4: thought he should have had that one, Goal 5: he gave up a big rebound that led to the goal, Goal 6: 2 on 1 no real chance and Goal 7: no real chance. The only reason for keeping him in was b/c they play again tonight. The Heat did have some chances to score but did not convert. I wonder if Mangiapane and Hrivik will get the week off or be sent back to the Heat?

    • Stockton's Finest

      As I typed last night, I did something that I never have done before: I left the game with 7 minutes left and down 6-1. This team right now is in dire need of a leader. No one is stepping up.
      As for Parsons, the first goal came after an icing where the Heat were left on the ice for about 2 minutes. Puck went through traffic and was tipped. No fault of goalie. 2nd goal was a laser shot. He should have had it though. Beat him glove side high. I could have scored the 3rd goal (and i do not skate) as it was a very nice backhanded pass to a wide open player as Parsons played the passer and forgot about the other side if the net. 4th through 6th goals were on the other end so didn’t see them very clear. I left before Klimchuk’s PP goal but heard it as I walked out. Never saw the last one.
      Ever since Mangiapane and Hrivik left this team is heartless. I am shocked that we took 3 of 4 points fron San Antonio last weekend. Wednesday’s game was drab with the only 2 showing up were Lomberg and Poirier. The team looks lost, confused, and disjointed. They have fallen back into over-passing and trying to make the perfect play. They need to simplify their game. Dump pick in, gain control, shoot puck at net. Clear the zone when puck is in your zone.
      Even the defense is not playing well, and they are the backbone to this team.
      If they come out tonight with the same energy and muster they have in the past few game, the Heat will fall out of the playoff picture. My crystal ball tells me a bag skate is in the near future for this team.

      • Carl the tooth

        No Brodie turned around and engaged him grabbing on to him at the same time the. Mginn dropped his gloves and cowardly starting punching at Brodie when Brodie still had his gloves on and Brodie out muscled and out balanced him showing great strength .

        • BringtheFire 2.0

          No, Brodie didn’t want to fight and seeing it was weird because it’s not his role and he doesn’t need to do that.

          It was more of a mugging than a fight.

  • Stockton's Finest

    So tonight is another round of Coach’s Caulk Talk where season ticket holders can ask questions. Mrs. Finest wants to ask if Huska has any input on players being recalled from KC. My question is about AOM and Tanner Glass not only being a regular scratch but no where to be seen (the Heat usually have scratched players sign autographs between 2nd and 3rd period). If you had 1 question to ask Huska about the Heat, what would you ask? I will be glad to substitute our questions, or feed some of our friends some questions, and provide answers during my weekend wrap up tomorrow or Monday.

    • HAL MacInnis

      I’d ask Huska if he is simplifying/changing his system to reassess his current talent and make necessary changes… or is he staying the course and making minor adjustments along the way?

      It can’t be easy having all your top talent recruited by the Flames, but answers to questions like that help us fans understand, and even sympathize, with Stockton’s situation.

      If that’s a touchy question though, you can always ask Huska how far he can toss a hockey stick… and if that should be a coaches skill competition in the future. 😉

  • Lucky 13

    I haven’t commented in a while, but I really like this version of the Flames. Even more than last seasons 10 game winning streak team.
    Goaltending, defence and forwards have really stepped up their play. Chemistry is starting to show the last few weeks.

    With Mangiapane, Hathaway and Rittich we have witnessed what youth has meant to our team. I’m really proud of our young players, they have seamlessly been a success in making the transition with our club.

    You can tell our team looks so competitive and confident now.
    There’s a good mix of youth and veterans. Could we possibly be the Cinderella team this season?

    Although I think we (should) could be, I still believe we must be double digits in goal differential to make that bold statement.

    I’m feeling hopeful for this group though. I’m really excited to see how we measure up against the VGK. We play them twice in 3 weeks.

    Our season is far from sealed, but I like our chances.

    • Alberta Ice

      Such a great addition to this team. Good things to come! And give him credit for showing the self-discipline for not doing goonish things in retaliations. That’s what is impressing me the most. I think he got the message. He’s too valuable to be sitting in the box or missing games. Great work on that assist to Backs!

  • Justthateasy

    I have to give Brody a lot of credit for standing up to that goon.
    I like Hathaway’s style too. He usually holds off but he will throw ’em when he has to.

    • GER

      Hamonic have been jumping up on the play for the last few games, showing more confidence, good for him! Lazar also shows good forchecking and had a scoring chance last game. I liked our new forth line.