In the words of Jason Mendoza: “It’s okay. The pattern is green-green-green-red. Remember that when it starts up again.” Except here, the pattern is actually loser point-loser point-loser point-loser point. Which is actually red-red-red-red. Remember that when the season starts up again.
I could go through this game. I could microanalyze a small handful of stats and/or plays like I normally do after– it’s been 48 games of doing that? Already? Geez. Thanks for sticking with me, friends.
Anyway, I’m tired, for some reason. Following up a seven-game winning streak with a four-game losing streak is a stupid kind of whiplash. I took a cursory look at the box score – T.J. Brodie is still getting number one defenceman ice time and I have no idea why because he’s obviously the third best defenceman on the team; he and Mark Giordano led the Flames with five and six shots, respectively, which is interesting; Ryan Lomberg played 6:30 in his NHL debut and I’m sure his fight had something to do with that but then I see Curtis Lazar only played 9:05 and I still for the life of me can’t figure out what his purpose is because at least Lomberg made Zack Kassian ragequit; hahahaha the Flames had four powerplay opportunities against a historically terrible penalty kill and did absolutely nothing with them hahahahahaha great gag guys; that was not goaltender interference – aaaand yeah.
So let’s try something a little different.
Pro: The Flames picked up four points in four games.
Con: The points are the construct of an artificial parity system designed to make teams think they can compete for a playoff spot and while they mathematically do count, they’re more of a cheap illusion in the long run.
In theory, you could say that this is the same as the Flames winning two games and losing two games, except it’s not at all. For one thing, you don’t get any feelings of happiness that tend to follow a win. For another thing, their ROW count – the first tiebreaker – still sits at a mere 23. That’s what the Sharks are at, but they have a game in hand. The Kings are at 24, the Wild are at 24, the Blackhawks are five points back but even they’re also at 23. This alone could keep them from a playoff spot. Not winning enough in regulation or overtime.
Let’s say there are a maximum of two points that can be earned out of every game, like something that makes sense. In that case, the Pacific Division would fall as such:
- Golden Knights: 64 points
- Kings: 52 points
- Sharks: 52 points
- Flames: 50 points
- Ducks: 48 points
- Oilers: 44 points
- Canucks: 38 points
- Coyotes: 24 points
The Flames are in the upper half of the division, but not in a divisional playoff spot, but really, really close. This current stretch of “oh god how do we hold onto a lead” isn’t ideal, but they can afford to have it. Just barely, though.
Pro: The Flames scored more than one goal.
Con: Apparently they can’t hold a two-goal lead, either.
It took one minute for their lead to disintegrate. One. I was really hoping the mentally weak second half of January wouldn’t make an appearance in 2018 as it did in 2017, but hey, here we are all over again. The Flames can play a legitimate good game but it doesn’t seem to matter because the second something goes against them they crumble. And we have already been through this so. Many. Times. At what point does it stop? It’s as dependable as the Flames having a terrible powerplay.
This was the first time in this stretch the Flames have been trailing in a game, and at least they came back from that. But they didn’t really do anything else. Remember how going to overtime always felt like it would be an automatic win? Now it’s four straight losses. They’ve already doubled their loser point totals from last season. Nice.
Pro: Matthew Tkachuk is awesome.
Con: … Is anybody else?
Tkachuk was far and away the best Flame on the ice, and absolutely nobody else compares. (Although Mikael Backlund’s assist on his game-tying goal was sublime.) Tkachuk is only 20, and has already emerged as far and away one of the best Flames in every possible facet, and that’s a great sign for years to come.
But, uh, scoring depth? The third line hasn’t scored any points since the Tampa blowout. Sportsnet showed a graphic during the game about how Jack Eichel, Connor McDavid, and Johnny Gaudreau are all in on over 40% of their teams’ offence. The Sabres are one of the worst teams in the NHL. The Oilers aren’t much better. So the Flames are…?
In their defence, the Flames, Kings, Sharks, and Golden Knights all have roughly the same number of 30-point scorers. Having every single line contribute at a high level is probably just not going to happen. And pretty much no player is going to stand out positively for 82 individual games in a row.
But it sure would be nice if the offence and defence could stand out positively together. As it stands, the Flames are in the bottom half of their division in goals for. And that +2 goal differential is looking kind of weak.
We best be hoping Michael Frolik is able to pick up right where he left off when he comes back. And that Kris Versteeg actually is able to play again by March. And hell, that Jaromir Jagr is able to get to 100%, for real this time, and suits up again. If everything goes right, the Flames’ forward depth could end up working out okay after all – but it’s not exactly a good idea to rely on everything turning out for the best.
Pro: The Oilers are irrelevant at this stage, so them getting any points is irrelevant.
Con: What does that say when you lose to an irrelevant team?
First the Sabres, now this. I’m more concerned about the long-term prospects, though. The Flames are legitimately in contention for a playoff spot, but as said above, loser points are fake as hell, and make the team’s record look much better than it actually is. So assuming they make the playoffs… then what? Are we expecting this group to do any actual damage? What counts as a successful season? Remember that they have like, no draft picks, because they traded a bunch of them away to assemble this, so there really aren’t any silver linings here.
Is this what an all-in team should look like? When they’re on, they’re on. They look damn good. They’ve also won 25 of 49 games, which is really not great, unless I’m totally missing the mark on the level of expectations I’m supposed to be holding here.
Pro: We don’t have to think about these people again until Tuesday.