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.
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.
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.
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…
Because this goal deserves more than a few viewings …
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 25, 2018
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.