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Flames 3, Blackhawks 2 post-game embers: Two points is two points

The Flames have played better in games they’ve lost, but with how tight things are, the end results are incredibly important, and this was the best possible outcome.

Reviews, reviews, reviews

It was kind of exhausting how many times the officials had to review whether goals counted or not, but I think in the end they made the right calls, all in all. Mike Smith did pull Ryan Hartman down with him, kind of taking himself out of the play, but Hartman wasn’t exactly an innocent party, either, and there was no reasonable expectation Smith could make the save. Also, he kicked Smith in the groin, which, what?

Two reviews were needed to sort this one out: first, was it kicked in, a la Anthony Duclair the previous game? (No, not even close.) Second, was it goaltender interference? Glen Gulutzan has been doing well on challenges this year – Scouting the Refs has him at a 100% success rate through Jan. 9 (I can’t recall him issuing any challenges between then and now, so I believe he’s still perfect on challenges) – and with the way goaltender interference has been going this season, hey, might as well challenge, right? Who even knows anymore?

I feel like they could have sorted this out faster, but I’m not sure how; two separate reviews would have to be conducted, no matter what. Though it was, perhaps, better for the Flames that things took so long: that’s a good way to dishearten the other team.

Then, there was the issue of a high stick which, courtesy of Mickey O in the post-game comments section, we can clearly see wasn’t an issue:

Will Johnny Gaudreau be retroactively rewarded the goal, giving him another point and taking away Micheal Ferland’s assist? He probably should be. As it stands, with a two point game, he has 61 points in 53 games: already reaching his total from last season, in 19 fewer games. He’s also tied for fifth in league scoring. If, however, he does get the goal, then 62 points would tie him for third in the NHL with Evgeni Malkin and Jakub Voracek.

Either way, he’s still on pace to score over 90 points, which would smash his previous career high of 78. He has also tied – or passed, depending on what happens – Mark Scheifele for fourth place in 2011 draft class scoring.

Powerplay’s broke

But we knew that.

The Flames’ penalty kill carried them through the night. Taking five penalties is never a good thing; only giving up one powerplay goal is impressive. It does beg the question, though: just what is wrong with Sam Bennett? Two bad penalties, and he’s lucky they didn’t end up costing his team. (A bit of a double whammy, in that he’s not a bad penalty killer himself.) Bennett leads the Flames with 20 penalties taken – that’s tied for 20th league-wide – but has only drawn 16 penalties himself.

Actually, much more disconcerting: Backlund has taken 19 penalties and drawn just two. The thing is, though, that Bennett isn’t providing the stellar two-way play Backlund does, nor is he providing the same level of scoring; his on-ice benefits have stagnated, and he’s just hurting when he takes penalties. The next two most frequent penalty takers – Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano – are in the Backlund camp of being exceptional two-way guys.

But I digress: the Flames had four powerplay opportunities, most notably a 1:40 five-on-three, and did absolutely nothing with them. Even worse, they didn’t look remotely threatening during the five-on-three, just passed the puck around and maybe take a point shot. What was that? How does a professional hockey team manage to look so passive in that situation?

How is it that this team can have a top five, maybe top three, scorer, and do nothing with him in the ultimate situation designed for him to score? Hamilton lead the Flames defence in points and is top five league-wide in shots by a defenceman, where was he?

The Flames’ powerplay has a success rate of 16.9%, tied with the Coyotes for eighth worst in the NHL, and apparently there’s no desire to fix it.

Ice time divvy up

Speaking of Hamilton, that he only played 18:58 throughout the game is just staggering, especially considering the other members of the top four all got over 20 minutes each, and Giordano and T.J. Brodie over 25 minutes.

A lot of that was penalty kill time, which Hamilton isn’t trusted with (although maybe he should be? He’s on the top defence pairing and still has a strong two-way game, so…), but that doesn’t really excuse that he only played 2:11 on the powerplay (which, again, sucks, and he’s the team’s highest scoring defenceman and leads in shots so maybe he should get more powerplay time just saying).

But okay, let’s level the playing field here, and look only at even strength ice time. Hamilton played 15:57 – shy of Giordano’s 16:31, Travis Hamonic’s 18:49, and Brodie’s 19:55. That’s where we pause, because… what is Brodie doing with so much ice time?

I like Brodie, even though he’s certainly had his fair share of struggles this season. He is, overall, a good defenceman. But he is not a top pairing guy, so that he’s still averaging three more minutes per game than Hamilton is just unacceptable.

Giordano, Brodie, and Hamonic had 26 shifts each; Giordano averaged 1:01 on his, Brodie averaged 0:59, and Hamonic 0:52. Hamilton, meanwhile, played 23 shifts – the drop in special teams usage explains that – but averaged just 0:49 per shift. I’m not sure if Brodie’s shifts were explicitly longer due to being caught out there more often, or if Hamilton is just significantly more efficient with his time, but that doesn’t exactly explain a four minute difference in ice time.

It isn’t news that Brodie is being overused, but… damn. It’s also apparently just not stopping.

The rare empty net goal

It feels like it goes against the Flames more often than not, but scoring a goal in the final minutes of the game to take the lead is a pleasant surprise. It’s so much more fun to watch the other team have to scramble to tie it up, while all the Flames have to do is play smart and hopefully score an empty net goal to put things away.

Empty net goals usually lead to multi-goal wins. That didn’t happen this time – because these are still the Flames, and why make things easy when you can just shoot yourself in the foot? Take that, Mike Smith’s still pretty good save percentage – but it was their fifth empty netter of the season.

The Flames only have 12 multi-goal wins this season: 44% of their 27 total wins. Of the remaining 15 wins, nine came in overtime or the shootout; the Flames have won six games by one goal in regulation, including this one. (For contrast, they’ve lost five games in regulation by one goal.)

And they still have a goal differential of -1. It should have at least been evened up after this game. They’ve gotta get better; if they’re lucky, this negative goal differential hole won’t take them as long to dig out of as ones earlier this season have.

Playoff spot? Eh

Because there wasn’t much reason to check in during their six-game slide, let’s take a look now. The Flames have a .585 points percentage, good for fourth in the Pacific, albeit just .002 points back of the Kings, who are one point back with a game in hand. They’re 10th in the West.

So technically, the Flames aren’t in a playoff spot – and they’ll have to keep winning on this road trip to try to fix that.

  • Rocky Mountain Blues

    The power play is stunning. I can’t believe they still haven’t replaced Cameron. Watching the 5 on 3 – where does he put the player who is deadly from the slot? The corner of course. Putting Monahan in the corner is not playing to his strength. The way the top line was playing they should have just put it out there with Hamilton and Gio and tell them to keep doing what they were doing. I am sure the results would have been better. Hopefully we don’t have to wait for Cameron’s contract to run out before we can see changes!

  • JMK

    It’s strange wanting Edmonton to go a 3 game winning streak (well 4 carrying on from their current 1 game “streak”), as they go on a tour of California playing LA, Ana & SJ.

    • KKisTHEproblem

      And they have a 2nd 3 gamer in California later this month, same order as this one; Kings, Ducks, Sharks. Eeeeewwwww, I have to cheer for them 6 times now….

        • Avalain

          I’m ok with them back in the conversation, just not actually getting there. I’d be happy if they pick 15th or so. Plus, they can win those 6 games and still be 6/12 by the time those games finish.

      • JMK

        If Edmonton get back in at the expense of one of the California teams, then I’m okay with that. Hopefully in the space of those 6 games Calgary will be winning and still keeping some distance between themselves and Edmonton. More than any other year since I’ve been following the Flames has making the playoffs been more important.

    • Alberta Ice

      Back in 2014 the bottom feeder Oilers upset the Kings just before they came and got eliminated in Calgary. That Oilers upset was a huge win and helper for the Flames. How ironic that they now will help the Flames playoff effort by beating the California teams. Unfortunately for their fans and fortunately for Flames fans, they have been one of the most unpredictable teams of this year. They bring their A game, they can beat anyone. They bring their MIA game, they can lose to anyone. So as long as they help the Flames to the playoffs, GOG. GFG.

      • deantheraven

        GOG. That’s exactly the sound I make when I think of this double-edged favour we ask of the Oigl. Rehgg wins…
        Hopefully some other teams will do their part against the CA teams and the Flames help themselves with a good road trip.

  • Off the wall

    Ari, props for mentioning Mickey O. It was definitive on that replay, Gaudreau had the goal. Great shot by Stone.

    Speaking of defence, it still boggles my mind that Hamilton is getting shafted. Can’t we just give him more PP time already?
    With his reach, isn’t he worth a look on the PK?
    I’ve already complained that we use Hamilton as a number 4 defence (TOI) He deserves better. Brodie needs a little less time, Hamilton needs more. Simple really.

    Considering the long wait for the Flames to get to Chicago, I’m happy they played as well as they did.

    That was a bizarre non-goal by the Hawks. Hartman clearly kicked Smith in his tender zone, poor Smith’s voice probably sounded like Michael Jackson after that encounter. What was Hartman doing, pretending he was a punter in the SuperBowl game? Yikes!

    We now sit at 50.2% in the postseason picture. I like our chances. Plus I’ve already dyed my facial hair retro -colours. I look more like Ronald McDonald, but there’s no turning back now.

    Go Flames go!

  • Zalapski

    Brodie will be part of the Hoffman deal. The contract is worth less, he has some term and will help fill in when Karlsson leaves/gets traded, he’s probably the best player we can offer off the roster, he’s from Ontario and being close to home may help him out with all the personal stuff. I really like TJ but glen has done nothing but put him I️ positions to succeed and he’s still been rather blah. I️ don’t think he’s bad, just prone to awful gaffs. Like that clearing attempt last night.

    • Off the wall

      I get your frustration with Brodie.
      I don’t think we should trade him.

      He has the puck on his stick a lot. I’d be interested to see how much time he actually carries the puck. Is there a stat for that?

      I think we make the same judgment on Gaudreau, it’s highly noticeable when he makes a mistake, cuz he’s always got the puck. I really believe that’s why we see the same in Brodie.

      Better coaching = better results.
      Let’s not give up on our players yet.

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        Let Brodie deal with 18 minutes a night for awhile. It’s appropriate. The more minutes he plays, especially the PP, the more mistakes he makes. One of the PP opportunities, he did his spin move at the blueline under pressure. He got away with it. That was the exact move that has resulted in breakaways in the past.

        Simple fix is to take him off the PP. He doesn’t belong on the top unit. Maybe just play him with Hamonic on the 2nd unit, or not at all.

    • BendingCorners

      Not at the TDL but possibly this summer. Still unlikely; BT would have to believe that Kylington or Valimaki were ready to step in and there is no sign of that.

    • Puckhead

      If Brodie goes a good RW or first round pick better be coming back. However I still can’t see Brodie being traded and Ras filling his spot in a playoff run. I’ve said it before but the Flames organization is ultra conservative and cautious when it comes to developing prospects.

      • Jessemadnote

        There’s no one I’d really trust to fill his spot. I agree that he should be reduced in his ice time a bit but anyone who thinks Kulak can just step in and jump from 12 minutes a night to 25 is dreaming.

  • BendingCorners

    Maybe Dougie gets less ice time than Brodie because he comes off when he is supposed to but Brodie gets stuck in his own zone or has to stay on after an icing call?

  • Cfan in Van

    “So technically, the Flames aren’t in a playoff spot – and they’ll have to keep winning on this road trip to try to fix that”
    Unless I’m mistaken, they are actually 3rd in the division, based on points. They are “technically” in a playoff spot.

  • buts

    Smith was outstanding again …..he’s starting to look a bit tired to me. 2 booth reviews go our way, the hawks hit how many posts….our pp sucks. I love the flames but I think we aren’t as good as last years team ….its our goalie that’s carrying us. This was a lucky win where everything went our way and against the hawks. If we squeak into the playoffs and I mean squeak, we would never eliminate a team because there is no 3 on 3 in playoff hockey as we play for a tie and if we get a break we will win. We are going no where with this coaching staff.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Well, I disagree with the first part of your post. I think we are a better team than last year. But you are right that Smith carries us from time to time, but no good team in the league doesn’t need their goalie to carry it.

      As for your coaching staff comment, time will determine its accuracy.

  • Hockeyfan

    With the emergence of Byng as a top flight player, backs, IMO, is now expendable in a trade along with Brodie in order to secure a decent 1st rounder and a scoring competitive right wing.

    • Cfan in Van

      We don’t have anyone to step into Backlund’s role, and Tkachuk has nothing to do with that issue. Trade Backs, and you better be getting another center back… Going in circles.
      You could say the same thing about Brodie, at least until training camp and a full re-evaluation of Ras and Valimaki.

    • cjc

      Who is your 2C then? Jankowski? Still very unproven. Dube? Has played one pro game. Getting rid of Backlund would be foolish, good centers don’t grow on trees.

    • Hockeyfan

      I can hear the crying already in 2 years if backs is signed to 6.5 mil over 6 years and he starts declining even more next year.The Flames will regret it if they resign backs to anything over 4 for4.let other teams reward past play with anchor contracts going forward, Flames owe backs nothing after this year.

      • Off the wall

        Flames don’t owe Backlund anything? Nonsense.

        Decline in a year. Hardly. He’s still our top defensive centre. What makes you believe he’s declining?

        I don’t think we can assume anything about Backlund’s contract. Leave this up to Treliving. I doubt Backlund gets that type of $ and term.

        Better left to GM and his agent don’t you think?

        • Hockeyfan

          OTW, wow ur astute eh? Do u know what IMO means? His decline is imminent and it will be sooner rather than later. what do think the Flames owe a swedish millionaire who they developed and made a millionaire. Get off your high stool. Flame sowe him nothing and we could get a great return if we trade him now.

          • Cfan in Van

            IMO, you don’t have any idea of how a team should be structured.
            If you think trading Backs this year is a great idea, have some foresight and provide us with who you’re slotting into 2nd line center for the rest of the season (and next, for that matter).
            He’s also been with the team for 9 years, and carried a lot of our weaker forwards for a large part of that career. His contracts have always provided good value to the team. Those things needs to at least be considered, when tallying any kind of loyalty that a team might have to player.

          • Justthateasy

            Backlund is honest, he works hard, he’s our best faceoff man on a team that is notoriously poor on faceoffs. I see a few great moves and a few boners taking penalties. So if he’s a superstar than he’s worth 6 mil. If not, how much then?

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I don’t think it is s question of Backlund declining, the question is how much. Players like Brouwer and Lucic look like bad signings because they have not been able to adjust to the speed of the game. Backlund is a late bloomer plain and simple.

        He is an excellent skater, and his shot is one of the hardest on the team according to the skills contest a few years ago. This was not always the case. In my opinion Backlund is our best Center, he does everything better than Monny except finish. I believe that would change if he was used primarily in an offensive role like Monny.

        Gio is on the wrong side of 30 and he is playing his best hockey… Ditto for Smith. What impresses me the most about Backlund is he can be whatever you want him to be…. Defensive specialist, creative playmaker, and finisher. He will even play with some edge likely due to the extra curricular activity of Tkachuk.

        I feel that because of player usage that Calgary is not as good of team as the sum of its parts.

        • Chucky

          IMO Backlund is the best hockey player on the team and continues to improve. He does not seem to have lost any speed and be able to take on the best the other teams have to offer. That being said it would not surprise me to see him decline in the next three or four years.

  • Zalapski

    If anything, the big fish to swing around and see what they could get at the deadline is Bennett. His value is down, but the draft pedigree is there. I know he’s 21 and has a chane to develop into a special player. I wouldn’t trade him just yet but I’d like to see what could come back. I know that’s a sell low scenario but there’s potential for a nice package. I could see something revolving around Bennett and/or Brodie. If Lazar get’s a 2nd, what could Bennett get? Late first? Another prospect in the same boat as him? I’d hate to see them trade the guy, I’d like to see him play with some real nice players or without Brouwer stinking up his wing.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Stan Bowman doesn’t look like the genius he was once touted as being and Quennville looks like a very old man who is badly out of place behind the Hawks’ bench.

      • The Doctor

        I don’t think Chicago looks that bad. They played hard against us in Calgary and that was a close game. They basically outplayed us last night, they certainly decisively outshot us. I like some of their newer guys especially Schmaltz. They might miss the playoffs but a number of good teams are going to miss the playoffs in the West this year.

  • redwhiteblack

    Bennett is not helping this team. I had higher hopes for him, being such a high draft pick but being in a rut is his norm. Might be good to move him and get something before his draft pedigree vanishes similar to the way Lazars has. And fire Cameron already. He has a lot of talent to work with but is handicapping them. Enough.

  • Alberta Ice

    Talk about a Twilight Zone X-Files style game. That goal by Gaudreau or Stone or Monahan or the Boogie Man, (er, political correction- Boogie People), looked awfully high sticked. But, hey, karma. It was much like that allowed playoff goal that Anaheim got against the Flames last year. Wow, anymore you never know for sure what the final call will be until it’s made. Finally it went our way. Has the ghost of the Wideman, (er, Widepeople) Effect finally been eradicated from this team? Hope so. GFG.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Go back to last week and how many points the Flames got in their games against the Rusty Knights and Lightning despite being the better club in both games. Last night, the Flames were clearly the second best team on the ice, but they came away with the 2 points. I’m convinced that these undeserving losses and undeserving wins balance out over the regular season, but, unfortunately, not in playoffs. As long as the team plays well most nights, they will come away with points.

      But beware of the infamous Jersey bounce on Thursday night.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I think that was one of our weaker road games and attribute that to the hellish travel the endured. If Loubo and Wills were saying it was the latest the have ever got in then that is all I need to hear.

        The third line was really bad, it is a combination of Brouwer being on the line, Sam taking bad penalties and Janko still feeling scolded and not reacting well. The line was better with Hath but the 4th line has been better with Hath as well.

  • Justthateasy

    Interesting point from last night on your comment about Jankowski’s stick length, McRib. There is absolutely no need for the long stick especially for him because he already has the long reach.
    He needs to adjust for the NHL’s quicker tighter pace.

    • Cfan in Van

      Do it regardless of whether Lack is playing. Smith needs a rest. Rittich is pretty decent himself. I don’t know the last time I had so much confidence in a Flames backup…

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        Why does GG leave himself open to unnecessary criticism. By over playing Smith he will either Burn him out prior to playoffs or risk injury. He never tries to empower his non core players to be core players. If Rittich had to play because of an injury to Smith it would be too late to try and pump him up. Do it now so he feels like his is a core piece of the team.