The bye week isn’t an excuse for the loss. Not really, at least. The Jets were coming off a bye, as well, and actually had six days in between games. But the Flames did lose on a coin flip, so it wasn’t exactly soul crushing. It just… was.
The good news is the point streak is still intact. The Flames have points in their past eight games, and have picked up 16 points over their past 10.
That’s Smith’s point
The Flames owe their single point to Mike Smith, who stood on his head but for one tipped goal and most of the shootout. (Though his stop on Patrik Laine was, in a word, awesome.)
His stops were both dramatic and timely. The Jets had a number of dominating shifts, courtesy in part due to the Flames’ inability to properly clear the zone, and Smith didn’t give them much to work with. He registered a .971 save percentage, the third game in a row his save percentage has been over .970.
In fact, Smith hasn’t had a sub-.900 game since the Dec. 14 3-2 loss to the Sharks. So far through January – admittedly a shorter month on the schedule due to the bye and, later, all-star weekend – he has a .946 save percentage. Smith is up to a .925 save percentage on the season, tied for third league-wide among goalies who have played at least 20 games. His even strength save percentage is .931, fifth amongst all goalies with the same criteria.
Smith had a bit of a slump at the start of December, but seems to have completely rebounded since then. Hopefully it keeps up, because when the top scorers are having off-games and the depth just can’t bury it, his value becomes more evident than ever. They were one lengthy review from winning in regulation.
So that’s goalie interference, eh?
In a game filled with questionable calls – I kinda wonder if Mark Jankowski got the tap to do the shootout in part because he was denied a penalty shot – the one that hurt the most was the one that took a goal away in what ended up being a one-goal game.
I’m a fan of the idea of putting a time limit on reviews. To overturn the call on the ice, it has to be definitive, right? If a review takes several minutes then how can one claim it was definitive? Taking the time to get the call right is important, but after a certain point, you’re just splitting hairs.
It was an extremely close call. I get that. But it was also a very subjective one. The officials on the ice saw Troy Brouwer’s goal as a good one when it happened; now it isn’t, because Matthew Tkachuk was fighting for position outside of the crease, brushed a Jet into his own goaltender, and then at least a second or so ticked by before the puck was in the net. Connor Hellebuyck had time to lunge over to try to stop the puck; he wasn’t totally helpless.
And that extremely close call ended up being a game changer.
The Flames shouldn’t have put themselves in position for that to be the case. It’s difficult to win games with just one goal, and they had plenty of opportunities to score again. They couldn’t, and that’s on them. But it does sting just that little bit extra, that they could have had it and just… didn’t. Just because.
In the meantime, poor Brouwer. He hasn’t had a multi-point game since Feb. 24, 2017. He should have had a multi-point period. Some of the scorn he faces is fair, but he didn’t deserve to have that goal taken away.
You know what would have helped, though? Scoring once. Just once. On one of their four powerplay opportunities.
The streak, if you can call it that, of back-to-back powerplay goals is over, and the Flames can once again point to an inability to score on the man advantage as one reason why they didn’t come away with two points. I’m not sure which is more comical: that they only scored once Sean Monahan took a penalty and the game was four-on-four, or that their most dangerous chances looked like they came on the penalty kill.
Apparently, Kris Versteeg was crucial to having a powerplay that resembled something successful. He won’t be an option again for a while yet. The only other right shot they have available who might actually be able to do some damage offensively is Dougie Hamilton (he had eight shots yesterday. EIGHT), which makes me wonder if another right shot could be a trade deadline target. (Even if not for this year’s powerplay, they’ll probably need one for the future, regardless.)
According to Natural Stat Trick, at even strength, Mikael Backlund was on the ice for one shot against, Tkachuk for two, and Brouwer for three. Keep in mind, the Jets had 33 even strength shots for, and that entire line played over 14 even strength minutes, mostly facing off against Blake Wheeler, Laine, and Kyle Connor: three of the Jets’ top five scorers.
That’s phenomenal. That line came to play.
Someone else who came to play? T.J. Brodie, apparently, who played over three more even strength minutes than Mark Giordano, Hamilton, and Travis Hamonic, for some reason. (Hamonic took a penalty which cut into his ice time; neither Giordano nor Hamilton did). Brodie is pretty clearly the third defenceman on this team, yet he continues to get top pairing minutes, and it’s odd, to say the least; particularly when Giordano had a roughly 16% even strength corsi improvement on him, and Hamilton, 19%.
The good news: recently, Glen Gulutzan had elected to play only Brodie and Giordano in overtime. They still got the bulk of the minutes, but Hamilton – who only scored an overtime winner against Minnesota because Brodie was in the box – actually got some ice time, as well. Just 1:07 compared to the other two’s 1:54 and 1:59, but baby steps, I guess?
The Flames could have beaten the Sharks on Dec. 28, but lost in a shootout. They could have beaten the Jets yesterday, but lost in a shootout.
For as good as Smith has been in games – and on breakaways, even – that hasn’t translated to the shootout. However, the Flames are at the point where they need him to be perfect.
Versteeg didn’t score on either of his two shootout chances this season, but he was four-for-five in 2016-17. Monahan was the only other Flames to get a shootout goal that season. He’s two-for-six this season; Tkachuk leads the way, three-for-four.
Those would, ideally, be the Flames’ three shooters, but one is obviously unavailable. Since then, the Flames have been testing other guys to pretty much no success; the only other Flame with a shootout goal this season is Johnny Gaudreau. Micheal Ferland, Jankowski, Backlund, and Sam Bennett have all failed. Gaudreau, a career four-for-16, might be the Flames’ best bet, though that’s not fair to Ferland or Jankowski, who have only gotten to try once.
The good news? No shootouts in the playoffs. The bad news? Gotta make the playoffs first. The good news? The Flames are third in Pacific Division points percentage. If the playoffs started today, they’d be in. The bad news? The division is so tight and there’s no telling where things are going to go, and that extra point really would have helped.