Flames 3, Islanders 2 post-game embers: Three unanswered

The Flames were going through a small slump of having third period leads, and then no longer playing. So if the solution is to fall behind, but with just enough time left over to score enough goals to win…

Tkachuk can do it all

I think this is the part we have to remember that this is only Matthew Tkachuk’s second season in the NHL. He turned 20 years old two months ago. The word “kid” gets thrown around a lot in professional sports but, even though he’s the youngest member of the Flames, he’s also one of the best.

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The Flames had four powerplays, and three of them were because of Tkachuk. He has drawn 38 penalties this season: the most across the entire NHL, tied with Tom Wilson. However, unlike Wilson, who has taken 37 penalties, Tkachuk has only taken 15. (He’s also been suspended twice, but it was for really stupid offences that appear to have been easy to remove from his game.)

Not only did he help the Flames with getting powerplay opportunities, but he had six shots, and also so happened to score two goals. (Kind of funny that the one goal he didn’t score was a result of one of the penalties he drew.) They were both skilled goals, at that: perfect deflections that left Jaroslav Halak – who had been having a really good game – completely helpless.

With that, this is Tkachuk’s first 20-goal season. He’s on pace for 30 goals and 58 points. He’s a keeper, but we already knew that.

Special teams win

Scoring a powerplay goal certainly helps. The Flames’ man advantage came through, giving them a much-needed boost as they finally got on the board. Even though the Islanders took a two-goal lead, it wasn’t necessarily deserved; Halak really had just done a great job of thwarting the Flames earlier.

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Though it didn’t come courtesy of the top unit, I do feel it should once again be pointed out how much better the man advantage actually looks with Dougie Hamilton on the top unit. He isn’t content to pass the puck around the perimeter; he actually shoots it and, in doing so, at least creates rebound opportunities. If the powerplay can just stop killing the Flames’ momentum and start looking threatening it’ll be a massive step in the right direction, and he’s doing just that.

Of note: Hamilton had five shots total, and played the second most on the powerplay, with 5:47. Only Johnny Gaudreau overshadowed him there: nine shots, 6:04. And his start to the tic-tac-goal got him his 66th point of the season, which puts him alone in second place in NHL scoring, three back of the top spot, and on pace for 97 points. Remember the really old days of “but Gaudreau is too small to make the NHL”? They were so cute.

Of course, this all could have easily gone wrong; the Flames were fortunate to kill off all five penalties that they faced. Mikael Backlund took two, which is getting increasingly painful; he has 62 penalty minutes this season, dwarfing his previous career high of 36 from the year before. Something is out of hand there. Meanwhile, the patented Sam Bennett offensive zone penalty struck again.

It is kind of wild that the Flames managed 42 shots even though they had to spend one-sixth of the game killing penalties, though. It’s the second game in a row the Flames have surrendered five powerplay opportunities, and the 14th time this season they’ve had to try to kill five-plus.

RIP x2

Poor Ryan Lomberg: energy guy who’s only going to maintain a hold on an NHL spot by going out there, being extremely tough and potentially punching above his weight class, only to have his night ended just two minutes in for it. The fourth line doesn’t get too many minutes to begin with, but they did get some extra twirls with Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and Garnet Hathaway. (One of these things isn’t quite like the others.)

With Lomberg apparently not too badly hurt, but Troy Brouwer still out for a while yet, it’s worth remembering that Marek Hrivik is the only extra healthy forward the Flames have, should they not call anybody up.

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The bigger injury concern is, of course, Mike Smith. Smith let in two goals that weren’t great, but he also had decent excuses (wasn’t expecting the turnover, screened). If only there had been some way to perhaps recognize that a guy who turns 36 years old next month and yet has still started the most games in the NHL despite what looks to be a capable backup right there could maybe get injured at some point.

That isn’t entirely fair; I’m not a medical professional and we don’t know just how bad Smith’s injury is. Again, as someone without any real knowledge of the situation, I even wonder if Michael Frolik missing the empty net ultimately resulted in Smith’s injury or if it was just bound to happen at the rate he’s been playing (if not this game, then the next one, or whatever you will). Remember, this isn’t even the first time he’s been injured this season; he’s been bumped and had trouble standing up multiple times, and left a game against the Blues after 20 minutes and missed the subsequent Red Wings game before returning.

But it does still beg the point that the Flames are well aware they can’t start Smith every game, and yet apparently the only time David Rittich can draw in is if it’s a back-to-back situation. At some point Rittich is going to have to get more starts. And there may be no time like the present.

It’s really not ideal, but could be something of a blessing in disguise. Let Rittich prove he can handle a larger workload. Get your number one goalie some actual rest and recovery. Worst case scenario, Smith’s season is over; best case, he’s totally fine and the Flames can resume driving him into the ground next game. Hopefully it’s somewhere in the middle, and Rittich will prove he’s up to the task in the meantime. It’s got to happen eventually.

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  • Atomic Clown

    The problem with energy guys is that they are literally just that. Lomberg and Hathaway have absolutely no redeeming qualities beyond being aggressive and cheap. Neither could hit the side if a barn 10 feet out, and have zero hockey IQ. If we’re going to have a cheap, young and fast 4th like, I’d rather it be Lazar, Shinkaruk and Klimchuk. Not a fan of Lomberg, his boneheaded play to take on someone 50 pounds heavier and 6 inches taller did no favors to the team

    • 666

      I agree with part, but os Klimchuk capable of playing the 4th line in GG’s system? I have not seen enough of Klimchuk to have an educated opinion. Not sure of his hockey IQ. Hathaway has the IQ, his PKing is solid and he seems to make the smart play most of the time. I really like the idea of Lazar and Hathaway together on the 4th..i too am not a huge fan of Lomberg. If the Flames just need warm bodies..ok..but I thought this team was in on a playoff hunt..already enough dead weight with #18. Also, of topic, but about last nights game. I would really like Brodie to watch a game from the press box..my goodness is he bad in his own zone! Such a liability, yes he puts up points but he is also a direct cause of not only multiple scoring chances against a game but case in point, goals against last night..

    • Rockmorton65

      The night of the Ranger game, one of the announcers on Fan 960 shared a story about Lomberg and Brian McGrattan. Brian told him that, while he was playing in the AHL, “some little kid” (Lomberg) from the Heat was trying to pick a fight with him all night.

      Someone needs to sit Lomberg down and have a chat. There’s functional crazy and then there’s reckless crazy. Reckless crazy is not productive AND will get you killed.

      • cberg

        That got him to the game. Too bad more players didn’t commit to doing whatever was needed. Mcgratton can help him out with a few lessons in fighting/self-defense.

        • Mickey O

          Lomberg is going to stick. Gulutzan loves the energy and fight he brings. The medical staff sat him out yesterday as a precaution. He probably would have gotten into another fight if he would have kept playing.

          Another year at the steal of $710K. Not sure you can ask for anything more from a 4th line, ball of energy type. From goal-line to goal-line he’d be the fastest player on the team.

          • Trevy

            Lomberg’s career will be very short if he doesn’t channel it in and pick his spots. He definitely needs some consultation and who better to give advice than Big Ern. I watched Lomberg play in Penticton and the kid has speed and some skill as well which would make him a great 4th liner one day, but last night was a dumb move that could of ended his career. As for Stajan, I’m ok with him playing out the rest of this season and at the same time seeing Hrivik making the transition to take his spot. But please, please do not resign Stajan at any cost!

  • Justthateasy

    How many times have I muttered ‘idiot’ this year when Backlund gets a bonehead penalty? It appears now that it has been 31 times.
    I think Bennett is working on cleaning up. He needs to just think think think.
    I think Lomberg blew his mini hero status. Just play kid, just play.

  • cjc

    A few thoughts:

    1-It’s bigger than just overuse. Realistically, how many more starts would Rittich or any other backup have seen by now? Maybe 4 or 5? Would that make all the difference to an eventual injury to Smith? Doubtful. He’s had time to heal up recently – the bye week and then the all star break, though he wound up playing in the ASG.

    2-The fact is the team is not comfortably in playoff position. Smith was brought in to be the #1 and has been consistently good. Rittich has been great when called upon, but has a much shorter track record. In such a tight race most teams would use their #1 similarly.

    3. Smith was on fire for a while, so riding the hot hand made sense.

    4. If as some suggest Smith has been nursing an injury, it’s his job to say I can’t go.

    Easy to say we all saw this coming – I wasn’t a fan of the Smith trade on day one because I saw him as an injury risk. But there would have been no point in expending assets on that trade if Smith wasn’t going to be played like a #1. And of course I’m glad BT made this deal in hindsight.

  • 666

    Lomberg should keep his mitts on. Fighting a guy that far out of your weight class is not a bright thing to do. Not only did he put himself in danger (which is a personal choice) he put the team in a tough pickle, only having 11 forwards the rest of the game. It is not like the fight was overly warranted either, not like the monster had run Gaudreau from behind or Smith.

  • Lazarus

    This all could have went wrong had Eberle not hit that crossbar end of first. 2-0 down both off Brodie..probably a loss. And TJs head would be on a platter this morning..he should feel quite lucky

  • Puckhead

    Going from memory here but I believe Lomberg is 1-inch shorter and 20 pounds lighter than Domi was (mind you Domi fought some big, tough, beasts). If Lomberg wants to fight, let him fight. The only way he’ll get better at it is to practice.

  • canadian1967

    I think we really need to stop this 3M stuff.

    If Matthew stays on that line it should now be called either a) 4M (because Matty is worth 2 M’s) or Chucky and the 2M’s (like an old school band name, because clearly Matthew is the leader of that band)

  • Skylardog

    Is it just me or does it appear to everyone else as well that BYNG! doesn’t even appear to need line mates to make things happen out there.

    He is a one man wrecking ball.

    • Mickey O

      Could have easily happened. The Oilers only had to screw up twice for it not to happen. That’s a standing order of Pepto Bismol by the crate load in 30 exec’s offices and dressing rooms.

  • Atomic Clown

    The ad situation is getting beyond ridiculous now. It used to be once a week. Now every single time I open up a nation network website, I get redirected to an ad. Someone tell baggedidiot to get off his beet eating unfunny a** and fix this

    • Justthateasy

      I don’t know but the ads appear only at the end of the conversations on my phone. Try looking at the Islanders chatter and you’ll see an ad between each conversation.

      • Avalain

        I mean in one sense I agree because he has so much heart and drive. But I also disagree because Tkachuk isn’t the guy I want to be responsible for talking to the refs.

    • Mickey O

      Keith remembers his boy, as a habit, rising early to study the NHL Network’s highlight package.

      “Bravo to him for doing that … most kids just want to get up, be miserable, eat their breakfast, and go to school,” said Keith, adding that not much has changed. “He watches hockey 24-7. He knows every player in the league. He wants to figure out every player in the league. He wants to know their tendencies. He’s a student of the game. That’s what I love about him.”

      Great article by Scott Cruickshank at The Athletic. Byng is also the first one to the rink every day. He loves everything about the game, and strives to get better all the time. Figure 15+ years in the league and he already has planted many seeds to drive opposition players absolutely crackers. He’s a true professional who takes his craft seriously.

  • Off the wall

    It’s time to stick Smith in a hyperbaric chamber and cover him in Kevlar when he comes out.

    All joking aside, it was a great tribute for Hamonic last night.
    NYI were all class, as they featured Hamonic before puck drop. They fans gave him an ovation while it was playing on the Jumbotron. Hamonic was deeply touched.

    Two things. I really enjoyed watching the one shift of Bennett- Jankowski-Tkachuk.
    More of this please.

    I don’t think Lomberg should get the ire of FN for trying to spark the team. Yes, he was way over classed in his divisional opponent, however it took sheer bravery to drop the gloves with Conan , I mean Johnston.
    You could call it stupid on his part, but he made a statement he wants to play, even if it’s not the ideal way to make the statement. He has fire, something I wish was evident in all our players.

    Great comeback by the Flames.
    Thank you Byng for your ever so beautiful hands —and big butt that draws penalties.

  • Alberta Ice

    I want to thank again Columbus, Edmonton, and Vancouver again for passing up on Chucky in the 2016 draft. This guy is a winner and is willing to pay the price for it in the scrum zones. Great puck handler and great hockey sense for such a young player. Glad to see him on the power play in front of the net too. Those were two amazing goal deflections he had to put the Islanders away. Awesome.

    • Mickey O

      That one should stick! Good call.
      His reaction after drawing his second penalty was classic. For about a second, a big cheese eating grin on his face: “Yeah, I caused that.”

  • Alberta Ice

    Congratulations to Johnny Hockey for getting 2nd star in the NHL this past week and for being 2nd in the Hart race. Quietly doing his thing with amazing creativity in passing to others. The best part is it looks like he is having a lot of fun out there. And it’s very fun to watch him.

  • Off the wall

    Today’s update on postseason:

    I’m just including the teams from 4th -10th overall, as top 3 is well into the 90 percentile.

    4. DAL 78.4
    5. LA. 75.1
    6. SJS 74.9
    7.STL 74.1
    8. MIN 63.1
    9. CAL 55.5
    10.COL 49.2

    I believe the reason LA is so high % wise, even though we’re ahead of them in the standings, is their +26 goal differential —ours is zero— and LA’s record against upcoming opponents. I’m more concerned about LA than I am SJS.

    We have work to do, but trending in the right direction.