Flames 3, Devils 2 post-game embers: Keep rolling along

It’s a results-based business. And with the standings still so obscenely close – and it feels like they’re going to stay that way right until the end – results matter, a lot. But it would be nice to see a stronger performance overall.

Not in the third

The Flames entered the third period up 3-1. Having a multi-goal lead going into the final 20 minutes is cause for confidence, and truly, the way the Flames were playing through the first 40, it was earned.

What made things uncomfortable from there was that they only had three Corsi events total in the third. They were out-corsied 23-3, outshot 12-1, out-scoring chanced 13-2, and out-high danger corsi evented 5-0. Those last two stats weren’t even stated in a proper grammatical fashion but it’s just all… bad.

With that, they saw their lead reduced to just one goal, making for a much more tense finish than necessary. Pavel Zacha did great work on the powerplay, but honestly, it’s a miracle that was all the Devils got out of the third.

The Flames may have a good defence for their third period performance, as they were not only playing in the first of a back-to-back, but it’s a set of back-to-backs two hours earlier than they’re used to. Conserving energy is important. … But it doesn’t feel like it should be too much to ask for a little more trust in the team to maintain a multi-goal lead. The last time they won by more than one goal is still Jan. 14, at the end of their seven-game win streak. It’d be great to have a little more confidence in them throughout a game.

Thanks, Rittich

A big reason the Flames won: their backup goalie, David Rittich. While Eddie Lack is quoted as having said the Flames never really gave him a chance – and he does have a point there – Rittich has taken everything in stride. His play is unremarkable, but in a good way. He’s unflappable, he tracks well, he’s just always so calm, and coming out of the Czech Republic undrafted, a great story.

Rittich stopped 30 of 32 shots for a .938 save percentage: a tie for his fourth best performance to date. The Flames pick up at least a point in every game he’s started so far; he’s now 5-0-2 (relief appearances not counted). He has, very quickly, turned into someone the Flames can count on.

So, when does he get his next start? This was the first time he’s started the first of a back-to-back, and the Flames are in the midst of a six-game, 10-day road trip: a lot all at once, especially considering how much Smith has played already this season. Smith will get the game against the Rangers, but the next three games will see the Flames take on the Islanders, Bruins, and Predators; of the three, the Islanders are the only ones actually below the Flames in the standings. So… he should probably start against them. But maybe it could also be time to let him take on some tougher opponents? He got the Devils over the Rangers, after all.

Top scorers

Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau both had two-point nights: two goals for the former, a goal and an assist for the latter. Both are now on four-game point streaks, both with six points over that time.

Points-wise, Gaudreau now has 64 in 54 games (he got awarded the Flames’ second goal against the Blackhawks in their previous game! Finally), which is third in the NHL for scoring, and just four points back of the league lead. He’s on pace for 97 points total, 19 over his career high of 78. He has 267 career points over 286 games, 19 back of being a career point per game player. Of players from the 2011 draft class, only Gabriel Landeskog, Nikita Kucherov, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have scored more than he has.

Remember that Gaudreau is signed for another four seasons after this one at a $6.75 million cap hit.

Monahan, meanwhile, is tied for eighth in the NHL with 27 goals, on pace for 41, 10 above his career high. The past two seasons, Monahan scored 27 goals – first in 81 games, then in 82. It took him 53 games this season to hit that mark.

Gaudreau is just so far and away above his teammates offensively. Monahan is on a second tier. After them are Matthew Tkachuk, Micheal Ferland, and Mikael Backlund, with 36, 34, and 34 points, respectively. After those five are the top three defence – Dougie Hamilton with 28 points, T.J. Brodie with 26, and Mark Giordano with 25 – and then Sam Bennett (18) and Michael Frolik (17, but also was out for 12 games; pro-rated, he’d have 22). The Flames’ top players are outstanding, and deserve all the credit – because they’re keeping the team afloat, and they really could use a little more scoring depth.

Second game

Ryan Lomberg, the new apparent perennial health scratch, got in his second NHL game. He’s explicitly an energy guy, and fair enough, because he was extremely feisty to start the game. Not just that, though, but he even had a pretty decent scoring chance in the first, and was credited with two shots total. In his first game he had just one; he also played 6:30 in that game. This time around, he got 8:54 – still the least on the team – over 11 shifts.

How much does Lomberg bring to the table? Well, what we see is probably all we’re going to get, which isn’t so bad every once in a while, but shouldn’t become a regular occurrence. The Flames have certainly deployed worse, though. And besides – when things are going well, he can be really fun to watch.

Ice time oddity

Forward ice time seems to be making sense for the most part as of late. On defence, though? Travis Hamonic played 26:06 (24:46 at even strength); Hamilton played 20:48. Part of Hamilton’s reduced ice time is that he isn’t used on the penalty kill – which continues to be odd, considering how he’s trusted to be on the top pairing and is one of the Flames’ better possession players – as Brodie played 23:03 at even strength, and Giordano, 20:57.

The third pairing, meanwhile, was more in the 12 minute range: 13:11 for Michael Stone (11:55 at even strength), 12:48 for Brett Kulak. The second pairing got the bulk of the minutes and was pitted out against the Devils’ top line; it’ll be interesting to see how the defence shakes out in the second game of the back-to-back.

  • ?

    Before we cue the critics of GG I can’t believe it took me so long to figure out that Walter is jilted ex flames coach Hartely and the rest of you haters are either bald or have something against red heads. Is GG perfect? Nope. But be a fan for once and not a critic and be fricken happy where the flames are in the standings!

    • Puckhead

      I am bald so you opened the door for me to state my opinion. The way the team often performs makes me think of when you’re driving on a highway and pass a high end sports car going well below the speed limit. There’s a lot of untapped horsepower under that hood. It’s up to the driver to decide if they want unleash more horsepower or not. The team is in GG’s control and what you see in the rear view mirror is what you get.

      • ?

        Im not the president of the GG fan club but when this team is playing good they are fun to watch, which has been more often than not this year. I dont know how much of it is a result of GG himself, only the flame players know, but I was bored out of my mind watching Sutter hockey. Im willing to give GG the benefit of the doubt for a bit here and hope he grows with the young team he has got. One thing GG said which I found interesting was, and I paraphrase ‘at this time of year one shouldnt be overly coaching, but the players should be playing and running with the fundamentals taught at the beginning of the year.’

      • Danomitee

        You can’t judge a coach when the team’s on a hot streak, and the same is said for when the team’s run cold. I’m certainly guilty of this too. You have to take a look at the entire picture, from this year and last year, and see that this team can just be so inconsistent it’s infuriating. Them not looking prepared certain nights or in certain periods over the course of nearly 2 seasons is what falls on GG and his staff. He’s safe for the year, and unfortunately so is Dave Cameron but we will need to win at least a round for them to both have jobs next year (DC I hope gets fired even if we win the cup).

    • Joeymullen'sghost

      I am neither Bob Hartley nor bald but I will accept your criticism of FN members that we can be too cynical and could try to be more constructive. In turn I would ask you to judge our coach not just in where we happen to be in the standings today, but on his ability to lead, motivate, deal with player assignments, line matching and most of all if what you see now makes you believe he is getting the MOST out of this team. The optimist in me says we will make the playoffs, the pessimist part says we won’t make it past round one (but I hope that part is wrong)

      • ?

        Hell no he is not getting the most out of this team… That said when he does this team looks unbeatable. How much is him? His players? He is still a young coach. I see potential but man he sure does piss me off sometimes. But thats why Im a fan. The ups and the downs and as Ive said far more ups this year which is exciting! But to throw out a coach who has a winning record?! Insane. Its funny cause so many people here know exactly what is going on in the dressing room. Your speculation invalidates your post then and there… Results speak for themselves and right now we are 2nd! in the Pacific!

        • Puckhead

          We are not throwing him out and he will see out the season. If things click during the playoffs (which, as a fan, I sure hope they do) then GG will be back to run out the final year of his contract.

          The inconsistency is what kills me. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching a bizarro world unfold before my eyes.

  • Rock

    It is a bad game to adovocate more ice time for Dougie Hamilton. It was a great give away to hall then just stand there and watch Hall shoot away. Defensively he is terrible You suggest he should kill pentalies that would be another coaching miss cue

    • Jessemadnote

      He had a gaff for sure, he also read a play beautifully and created a goal minutes before. What you get woth Hamilton is similar to Subban, obvious glaring errors but a player that gives you a significant advantage over the season.

  • Flint

    I think with Lomberg it’s that Gulutzan is trying to figure out who makes up his “5th line” when everyone is healthy. Specifically thinking about a those last games and the playoffs which, if we make it will be a grind.

    As I said in the other post, I’d like us to try and get another depth C/Winger to beef up a bit because an injury or two and we look really thin. I suggested Derek Ryan (CAR) or Tommy Wingels (CHI) both UFA’s, right shots, play C/RW. Let’s call either of them Depth Foward Upgrade (DFU)

    I’d like to enter the stretch drive/playoffs something like this:
    Versteeg-Jank/DFU-Brouwer (only because there’s no way it won’t be)

    I just don’t think that 3rd line is good enough as Bennett-Jank-Hathaway. I’d even look at bumping Jankowski down to the 4th lone for the playoffs if a rental DFU comes in and clicks… or put the DFU on the #3RW and see if that works.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Lomberg is good enough to play on the 4th line, as is Hrivik. Each brings different things to the table.
      No issue with subbing either guy in. Where I have the issue is with the 3rd line. Brouwer may be an all-round good guy, and he plays hard when he wants to, but if the 3rd line is supposed to provide secondary scoring, then he is not the right fit. The entire line is letting me down, but it must be frustrating to play with a guy that is slow to get moving. Passes don’t connect, the defense have to jump in, and there is zero finish. Hathaway hasn’t managed to perform much better than a 4th liner recently.

      At the very least, CGY should be looking for a guy that can play on the 3rd line RW. You can re-arrange the lines all you want, but we are missing a top 9 RW.

      • Flint

        That’s exactly what I’m advocating, bring in a guy like Wingels or Derek Ryan to play on the 3rd line. They have the advantage of also being able to play Centre if injuries occur. They are right shots. They are good skaters. They are UFA’s

        • Cfan in Van

          Any stabs at what you think the Flames would need to pay for those guys? It’s all good to have the urge to go shopping, but if you don’t have the bank to support it, there’s no sense in dreaming.
          They could certainly use some help to round out the lineup, but I personally hope they don’t mortgage any more assets for this year’s push.

          • BlueMoonNigel

            Get him on credit. Tre’s Canadian. The Flames are a Canadian team. We Canadians as consumers and merchants are hopelessly and helplessly addicted to credit. Not having the bread now should never stop you from making that major purchase today. Mortgage the future. Why not? Will Tre really care that the Flames don’t have a 2nd round pick in 2021 if he has been fired by then? Win now, baby, and hump the future. That is the same for NHL GMs and Canadian consumers.

          • Flint

            When Tommy Wingels was last traded – last year – he was traded for Zack Stortini (AHL goon), Buddy Robinson (AHL who?) and a 7th round pick. I’m sure the current ask wouldn’t be much higher since his production has gone down a bit.

            Ryan has never been traded, he keeps getting signed to 1yr deals in Carolina. I think he’d be tougher to acquire, but as a 31yr old UFA with 3 NHL seasons, I doubt by much.

            I totally agree on not mortgaging the future, that’s why I looked for guys who could be acquired very cheap. We’re not talking about Nash here. These guys could likely be had for an AHL’r (like Stortini) and you might even be able to recoup a higher pick with a lower one, if it’s a bit better than a Stortini

  • Baalzamon

    Lack never got a chance, but his play also never warranted one. Literally none of his performances as a Flame encouraged anything that even closely resembled confidence.

    • Joeymullen'sghost

      Lack is said to be a really nice guy, so I hope he can work through this. but this is pro sports. Truth is we had two prospects playing better then him. True Flames didnt give him a lot of chances while here, but trading for him in the first place was a chance no one else was willing to give him. especially after the previous years he had. You earn your chances in the NHL, if the prospect below you is the better player you can’t expect the team to keep favouring the weaker player at the expense of the standings, your teammates, and the rookie who deserves his shot.

      • The Doctor

        I saw all I needed to see of Lack in Vancouver. I was not pleased when we signed him and I was happy when we let him go. He is capable of playing well at times but on balance he is not consistent enough to be anything more than a journeyman goalie in the NHL.

  • Flaymin Frank

    So… We got a lead and we didn’t blow it despite a 12 – 1 shot differential in the 3rd period. Novel idea. Let’s keep that going.

    Brouwer is out week to week. I can hear the cries of joy despite being below the 28th parallel!!!

  • Off the wall

    Fun Friday Facts:

    1. We are at 56.6% of making postseason. Currently, 9th percentage wise in the Conference, but the gap between 7-9th place is only 6%

    2. Tkachuk has the highest shootout % in the entire league at 80%. Wow

    3. Gaudreau sits 3rd in points in the league one point ahead of McDavid, last years Art Ross winner. Among the top 10 players, Gaudreau has the highest plus/ minus at + 18 .
    Even strength Gaudreau dominates game winning points at 15. Even strength points Gaudreau is tops at 3.24/60
    Johnny is the catalyst 5 on 5, there’s no denying it.

    4. I don’t know why but I miss WW.

    Have a great Friday!