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Kings 2, Flames 1 (OT) post-game embers: Deja vu, again

Oh wow. Another 2-1 loss in extra time. Another one-goal lead that they couldn’t build on, that they conceded, that they were so blessed to pick up a loser point from. How interesting. Tell me more.

Squandered

The Flames were easily the better team on the night. They handily controlled play throughout regulation. That they only came away from it with one goal is brutal, but it’s nothing new this season: their 7.04% 5v5 shooting percentage is the 11th worst in the NHL. This is a team that’s second in CF/60, that’s top 10 in shots for, scoring chances for, high-danger corsi events for – and yet, nearly bottom 10 in shooting percentage and goals.

It is so unbelievably frustrating. They are doing almost everything right at even strength and they are not getting what they should to show for it. They were dominant in the first period, dominant in the second, and for the most part, controlled the game in the third, and they scored all of one goal.

And I’m not sure there’s an easy fix for that. They are getting the chances, they just aren’t scoring on them. Their top two goal scorers have shooting percentages over 18, three other guys are over 10%, the average shooting percentage in the NHL this season is a little over 9%. Too many Flames are not reaching that, and who’s to say a trade would bring in someone who could singlehandedly regress their numbers?

Of course, actually attempting to do something – anything – in overtime might have helped. Playing for a win and not a desperate attempt to hold a one-goal lead might have helped.

In 2014-15, the Flames scored constantly, even though they probably didn’t deserve to. It’s the opposite this season. And this game was a great focus on that: because in a just world, that’s an easy regulation win for the Flames, as opposed to whatever the hell this turned into.

Special teams

Oh, then again, there’s always this.

Glen Gulutzan has frequently said that if you don’t win the special teams battle, you’re going to have a hard time winning the game. And well, a special teams win here would have won the game for the Flames in regulation. Five powerplay opportunities, no goals. Five penalty kills, one goal against. That got the game to overtime.

So we’re back to the ask we’ve had of the Flames since they returned from their league-mandated bye week, a thing which I am so increasingly over with each passing game: beg Mike Smith to get a shutout. That’s not fair to him, and he wasn’t at fault on Jake Muzzin’s powerplay goal. “Stop taking so many penalties” is another option, I guess – and it wasn’t a powerplay, but Mikael Backlund’s game misconduct is another stupid thing he’s done two games in a row now, and he’s a valuable player to have on the ice so this nonsense needs to stop immediately – but there’s another avenue: score a powerplay goal.

Just. One. Just score a powerplay goal. They had five tries. They had a double minor. They have one of the top point getters in the league. They have two of the top goal scorers. Why. Is. This. So. Hard. Part of this ties back into their stupidly low shooting percentage, but honestly, when the penalty kill starts off looking more threatening, just.

Just.

Score a damn goal.

Stop playing the puck

Troy Brouwer got some of the blame for the overtime loss against the Sabres. And it was fair, he kept losing the faceoffs. But Brouwer wasn’t the one who kept sending Brouwer out there to take them.

Nobody made Smith play the puck but Smith.

Before the overtime winner was surrendered, he had the chance to freeze the puck. He had a Kings player bearing down on him. He decided to play the puck. There was absolutely no reason for him to do that, the avenue was right there for him to just wait for the whistle, it was the smart play 99% of goalies would have made, and instead by attempting to play the puck he created a situation that led to constant Kings pressure in the offensive zone and then a goal.

Earlier in overtime, he gave the puck right to Anze Kopitar, for reasons.

In the first period of the game, he had a mishap with T.J. Brodie that could have been disastrous.

Smith is at fault for very little this season. He was named an all-star for a reason; he’s one of the best goalies in the NHL this year. He is absolutely everything the Flames wanted in a starting goaltender and he keeps proving game in, game out, exactly why they sought him and he continues to vindicate that decision night after night after night. The Saddledome has taken to playing the Tragically Hip after huge saves of his, like they used to play Rammstein’s Du Hast whenever Miikka Kiprusoff did something amazing. Goalies do not usually have their own theme music. It is very well earned.

But damn, dude, sometimes less is more.

Top line things

The Flames should have scored more than one goal last night, but the one they did score was a candidate for goal of the year.

First off, shoutout to Brett Kulak who got the puck into the offensive zone to begin with, but wasn’t going to pick up an assist for it or anything.

That out of the way, the chemistry Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Micheal Ferland have developed is undeniable. Ferland is now a 30-point scorer for the first time in his career – on pace for over 50 – and his numbers are a little silly: 19 goals, 11 assists. He’s already beaten his career high in goals (previously 15), but is only just creeping up on his career high in assists (14). But that little tap back through his legs…

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Their chemistry is pretty undeniable at this point. (Now, if only more of those chances would go in. Look! A running theme!) Ferland’s emergence not just as someone who can shoot the puck, but as someone who can keep up, period, has apparently lessened the Flames’ want for another high-end winger. (They should still want another one of those though, I don’t know how much Michael Frolik’s return fixes things.) Just, if they get someone else, he’s probably not going with Gaudreau and Monahan.

Also, Monahan had eight shots last night. When that line is alive it is really good. Now if only they could do a little more with that.

That one hurts

The Jets are in the Flames’ conference, but not their division. The Sabres are pretty irrelevant as far as the Flames are concerned.

The Kings are not. The Flames had the chance to go up two points on them with a game in hand. Instead, because they could not finish, they are tied, albeit still with a game in hand, so the Flames own the tie-breaker for now. (If they lose their next game, the Kings pull ahead, due to having one more regulation/overtime win.)

This wasn’t a jugular game – this wasn’t one where they could step on the enemy’s throat and finish them off – but that the standings are so close only serves to continuously hammer home how important it is to get regulation wins, especially against divisional opponents, and the Flames gave up one goal and then apparently just gave up all together.

It could be Flames vs. Kings for the final Pacific Division playoff spot. The Flames could have taken the season series last night. Now it’s 2-0-1, and it’s not good enough. It’s just not.

  • Zalapski

    I feel you on the Smith playing the puck thing, but I’ve accepted that he lives and dies by the sword. He is a huge asset for stifling enemy attacks and also prone to being overconfident and “dangerous” with the puck. It’s what makes him so intriguing and different than a lot of NHL starters. It’s also probably why he’s not given the credit he’s due sometimes, and playing for Phoenix.

    Kulak looked good again. He has been firing shots from the point lately.

    • HAL MacInnis

      I think Smith’s decisions in overtime speak to his frustration more than to his naturally aggressive style. He is the only reason we are holding on this season… he knows it and he’s getting little tired of this crap as much as we are, I’m sure.

      I bet Smith can throw his goalie stick farther than Glen threw his ringette stick. We may get to see that soon if this coaching circus continues.

      • rusty_shakleforde

        I agree re Smith. Its been a season long thing with him I think too, where he is so competitive and can clearly see thru all the B.S. Unfortunately as a goalie he can only do so much, so he’s trying to push those limits a bit. Perhaps a bit too much, but I like his drive. Him, Byng, and Gio seem to me to be the only leaders on this team. I remember GG saying recently that the general idea is for the players to take the gauntlet after a certain point in the season. I’m not blaming the players, but it’s just interesting to see perhaps a lack of leadership with this team, coaches, players, and managment included.

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    Lose a game in shootout, sit Mangiapane for the next game since he was one of the players on the ice for the tying goal. Otherwise no changes to lines. Lose a game in OT, no changes to lines. Lose another game in OT, what do we expect to happen? Sit Kulak, play Bart.

    • Zalapski

      I know someone trashed this comment, but the way GG’s mind works sometimes it wouldn’t surprise me to see a move like that. I thought Stajan and Lazar had some zip last night. Hrivik looked like a tweener from what I seen, not awful but kinda like a left handed F.Hamilton.

      • Frank the Nose 👃

        Stajan has been pretty good in the last few games .im not sure about this Hrvik though .this is not his first crack at NHL Rangers)and he looks like a AHL player at best . Only a few games I know but the only thing I notice is he’s always chasing the play .

        • McRib

          “I thought Stajan and Lazar had some zip last night.“

          I don’t disagree that they played alright, but the real problem is did they score? Nope. Do Stajan and Lazar ever score? Nope. This team (outside of Monahan, Ferland, Hamilton and a few other top players) is filled with mediocre shooters, therefore also having ZERO scoring depth on our fourth line is KILLING US. Like I said lower in my main post, Curtis Lazar and Matt Stajan together couldn’t hit water standing on an island.

      • deantheraven

        Three points, because that’s what this game was.
        2/3 of the 4th line were top 2 in corsi, for you stats types. I’m usually leaning toward the ‘eye test’, and even ‘intangibles’. They were in the opposition zone more often than any other line, I saw that. If you believe in the inevitability of stats and regression, this 4th line will score eventually. If you believe what you saw with them constantly pressing and getting chances (If Lazar gets 8 chances a night, something will eventually go in), you know they’re doing their part.
        I like Hrivik(has he got a nickname?) in for Mange. His first few games, when he was running on adrenalin and the coaches were ‘letting him play’ he did well. But his effectiveness (without scoring) is fairly replaced by Hrivik’s skill& speed and improved with his size.
        I haven’t said it before here, so I’m glad Ari did. Smith can play the puck better than most. He should play it. But maybe not trying to make plays with it would be better. I can see why he does it though, and I don’t blame him. The team in front him him only musters 1 goal all night…
        Emotional posts abound. I love it. We posting fans have so much passion for this team. The discourse is is an irreplaceable part of the fabric pro sports, from my perspective.

  • redwhiteblack

    Dave Cameron has to go. The PP has been a big issue for to long and not just this year. With the skill we have we should be much better. They clearly need a different strategy on the PP.

    • Chucky

      It is staggering that the subject of the great chemistry on the Flames first line is a matter of public discussion and yet there is no attempt to use this to advantage on the power play. I guess Cameron does not think these guys can score as a group.

        • Cheeky

          @Skylardog – Not sure on that, I remember hearing Cameron talking about how special he thinks Brouwer is and how he likes to deploy him on the PP. Cameron probably discusses with GG but I’m thinking it’s Cameron full on. Either way both are terrible…

    • deantheraven

      Absolutely. Even when they’re good, they’re still only ‘good’. It would be great to have PP that other teams have to prepare for. As it now the only thinking they have to do is to make sure they only put 4 guys out for 2 minutes.

  • Skylardog

    Ferland has not been the winger with JG and Mony on the 1st PP since Steeg went down. He was leading the team in GF/60 on the PP when that injury happened. He is still 3rd, behind JG and Steeg, despite getting minutes on an ineffective 2nd PP unit.

    Steeg was not the PP catalyst. It is Ferland. He also lead the on ice GF/60 stats last season. This info is readily available to all, including the coaching staff.

    When Backs had to sit for 10 for throwing his stick, they go to Brouwer as the replacement, not Ferland (not sure why they think Backs is the best forward to play with JG and Mony to begin with). Brouwer is only the 7th best forward in on ice GF/60, and that is if you exclude Steeg because he was playing on the point. And Brouwer’s time is almost entirely with Mony and JG.

    Deployment issues are killing this team. PK, faceoffs, lines out after goals, lines out in the last 2 minutes, lines out to end periods, line matching…

    Just baffling.

    • Puckhead

      Agreed.

      I often wonder if they look at stats, go by the eye test, or are using tarot cards to run the team.

      I’m leaning towards tarot cards at this point.

      🤷‍♂️

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Have to agree. Brodie needed to go from the top PP unit, not Ferland. I would prefer to see Janko or Ferland on the left point, since he’s better at recovering from a blocked Gio point shot. Backlund was a good player on the second unit.

      If something isn’t working this frequently, then you need an overhaul. That couldn’t be any worse.

      • Skylardog

        Ferland doesn’t work on the PP point. That was proven in the first days after Steeg went down. His role is in the corners digging out the puck and getting traffic in front.

        But after trying Ferly on the point, instead of putting him back on the wing, they moved him to PP2.

        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          Maybe, but anything is better than the current setup. Tkachuk has taken over that role on the top unit, which I am fine with. Gio rarely gets the puck on net. Hammy is much better at it, so you could use a forward on the left point. Janko might be the best choice there, since he has a decent one-timer.

    • trox

      The frustrating thing is that it is all so obvious. What kind of coach deploys Hamilton like a 5th defense man? Who sees Brouwer as a power play caliber player? Who gives a team’s 4th line a regular shift late in tied or one goal games and gifts the other team an optimal match-up by having them start periods on the road? A peewee coach understands all of this. How can an NHL head coach do such a poor job of deploying his best players? It is exhausting to watch this team when so many of their issues are obvious and easy to fix.

      • McRib

        Keeping Dougie Hamilton off PP1 for most of this season would have been the dumbest thing I have ever seen a coach do, but we have also had the gift of the Brouwerplay this year. Dougie Hamilton the last five years is one of the 4 or 5 most productive PP defenders in the entire NHL and he isn’t the first defender over the boards for us every PP?!?!? Its pure lunacy.

      • deantheraven

        The top line needs a rest every now and then and L2 &L3 didn’t look very dangerous when they were out there. I don’t know what the final totals were but I’m ok with a little more balance in ice time. I also believe it motivates JH when he sits and watches for a spell, or gets double shifted with the 4th line.
        But the BrouwerPlay isn’t working, and it seems like it doesn’t matter who els is out there on either unit.
        Dougie should be leading or tied with Gio for TOI. THAT is ridiculous.
        A peewee coach would role 4 lines, or should at least, because every kid deserves a chance to play. Unfortunately for GG, the first line had a few good looks all night, but not every shift, and maybe L2 & L3 could have sparked something, but no.

  • redwhiteblack

    Gulutzan has a good team to work with but he does things that limit the potential of the group. There are a good coaches out there but GG clearly is not one of them. This will be a recurring issue until he inevitable is replaced. At least start with replacing Cameron. The PP is a mess.

    • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

      Seriously I’ve been on the fence with GG for most of the season (not so with Cameron .. he has to go). His post game after the Buffalo game did it for me. Not accepting responsibility for that loss felt like a desperate man, and now playing not to lose in 3rd periods just adds to that. I get the feeling GG might be relieved to move on from coaching in a Canadian market.

    • KAMEKAT

      We are in a playoff spot. We have one of the best teams we’ve had in over a decade. We have points in 10 straight. And you want to fire our coach? Thank god you are not on our management.

  • McRib

    “7.04% 5v5 shooting percentage is the 11th worst in the NHL”

    The problem is this teams bottom of the roster is filled with players who can’t shoot the puck all that well. Players on this team with three goals or less include 3 (Brodie, Brouwer), 2 (Hathaway, Stone), 1 (Hamonic, Stajan), 0 (Kulak, Lazar). That’s 44% of our starting players who continuously go more than 10-12+ games without scoring, every time. The craziest thing is Andrew Mangiapane has 16 goals for Stockton (those 8 players have 11 goals combined) and he hasn’t seen anything outside of fourth line minutes with the big club, playing with two players who couldn’t hit water on an island in Stajan and Lazar. Having one or two of Brouwer, Stajan, Lazar, Stone, Hamonic, Hathaway is fine on it’s own, but when you have that many of them, it becomes a major problem.

    I’ve followed analytics now for a few years and I truly believe shooting percentages this low should regress back up to the mean (as historically it almost always happens), but if any team is going to defy this from happening it’s this team. Even players who I like, like Backlund, Brodie, Bennett aren’t that great of shooters, which again is fine if you can offset it with other players who can shoot the puck, but when the bottom of your roster is loaded with guys who just flat out can’t score, it becomes a major problem. I’m finished pretending like this is a major coincidence of epic proportions, because this script has happened far too often this year.

    • rusty_shakleforde

      Thanks for these details, it really kind of gives evidence to their offensive struggles.

      What baffles me is the sheer unwillingness to scratch players. It seems like a pretty standard coaching strategy to motivate players, no?

  • Alberta Ice

    3 points in 3 games with 3 goals scored. The bright side: Smith got us 3 loser points. The dark side: You usually lose games when score one goal. Play Mangiapane please and add him to the 2nd line for Brouwer. We need some scoring boys. I only saw one great flurry of passing and it got us a goal. That’s what has been missing the last 3 games. Not good that we scored the first goal in every game and then the offense disappears. That 4 minute power play was deflating. Hey. last time we played the Oilers, we gave them 4 easy breakaways. Anyone know what to expect tonight? I don’t.

    • Dougiefred

      Mangiapane gets mauled when he plays in the NHL needs 10 lbs of muscle this offseason and before you say he is, he is not another Gaudreau. As much as everyone dislikes Brower at least he does’t get pushed around.

    • rusty_shakleforde

      Honestly, yes. Byng has been tearing it up lately in points, mostly because he’s been on the PP playing with some good quality players. I think Backlund is good for him, but Brower is like, LITERALLY a boat anchor. Sick of not getting secondary scoring? Maybe have a complete second line. Put Mange there, or Bennett. Better to have two solid lines than one good line and three mishaps.

      Also, perhaps time to move Hathaway.

  • Justthateasy

    Why does the coach insist on riding Smith until he’s broken?
    Finally he’s playing Riddick which is long long overdue.
    2 days between games is not enough rest for an older goalie who has to be on his toes for 60 minutes. Give him a damn rest. Get it?

  • Dougiefred

    Mangiapane gets mauled when he plays in the NHL needs 10 lbs of muscle this offseason and before you say he is, he is not another Gaudreau. As much as everyone dislikes Brower at least he does’t get pushed around.

  • T&A4Flames

    Just as I predicted, no killer instinct to take down a team falling down the standings, not playing well, on a back-to-back and playing their back up goalie. Big game, little effort… story of the Flames 2017-18 season. 😡

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    Fantastically written article, Ari. We have both pride in and frustration with our team and you expressed both perfectly.

    And with Smith, he should have; “sometimes less is more” up in the locker room instead of his nameplate.

    Shout out to Staj. Good game, bro. For the rest of the team, it’s time to figure out who you are or you’ll miss the playoffs. Nut up.

  • The Doctor

    One thing that (I believe) didn’t get mentioned in either post-game article is the Kings’ proficiency at shot suppression and shot blocking. Near the end of the third period, they flashed a graphic that LA had already blocked 27 shots. That means that by the end of the game, we had put over 60 shots at their net. But here’s the thing: when you face a team like that that’s doing that, you have to adapt, adjust and be smarter. From what I saw, we didn’t do that. LA wanted us to be stupid and stymied, and we mostly obliged. A bunch of times, the LA player would be gearing up for an obvious shot or pass block, and the Flames player put the puck right at the LA player. Plus LA is very good at blocking the juicy shooting lanes, and that’s part of the reason a lot of our shot attempts missed and a lot of our shots weren’t dangerous. Given all that, just having one goal to show for all that is not a huge surprise. One more thing: our puck management on OT was lousy. That may be the worst OT period I’ve seen us play this year. Some unforgivable turnovers, when possession is the key to 3 on 3 OT.

  • fumanchu1968

    Ari Yanover should have stuck to catering at the Calgary Stampede. I’m guessing he spent pretty much zero time playing hockey at any respectable level as his negativity is just about as useless to fans as a screaming at his pie crusts when they don’t rise the way he wants them to. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, too many haters. This team has been trending in the right direction all year. We’re 17 for 20 points in our last 10 games. We’re full of talent, one of the best leaders in the game, Johnny 4th overall in league scoring, Monahan the best of class in his draft year & one of the league’s best snipers, tons of legit young talent, toughness, a killer defence core, 3rd in the Pacific division and one of the best goalies in the league. WTF do you really have so much to complain about?

  • Off the wall

    I think we’re all frustrated from the last 3 games. We hit a post,
    (Monahan) Johnny redirects a shot that goes cross bar. There’s a good reason to be frustrated.
    Bury one of those and the outcome would be different. But herein lies the problem.
    Our secondary scoring has dried up. Shooting percentage is low.

    Our 4th line can hold there own, but can’t score a goal to save their lives. What do you do?

    Change it up. I’m no genius, but if I’m GG I would shorten the bench when it’s warranted. We need offence. Why the heck isn’t Ferland on the 1st unit? He’s the best option and why the heck don’t we go to Hamilton- Gio on our back end on the 1st unit?
    We need to fix the PP immediately or we’re going nowhere near playoffs.

    But again, GG doesn’t even know how to use a timeout. How many times could he have used it, but fails to?

    As far as Smith goes, he’s the only reason we are lucky enough to be vying for the playoffs. He made a gaffe, who cares, he also made about 10 excellent passes to our defence that resulted in clean breakouts from our zone.
    The guy is my f’ ing hero. He thwarted more dump-ins then Tim Hortons has doughnuts. The man is a freakin machine.
    I love him. I will never say a bad thing about him. Ever.

    GG is welcome to take a leave of absence. I’ll help him pack his bags. He needs some rest away from this team. Cameron can join him. Maybe they can do the Grouse Grind together in BC.
    I’m frustrated, I’m mad, I’m not sorry..

  • BendingCorners

    Might be time to reorganize the second and third lines a little to try and spark something.
    And yes make the first line the core of PP1 and tell all of them that movement and penetration are good things on a PP then turn them loose.