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Bruins 5, Flames 2 post-game embers: David Rittich’s first real loss unfair to him

A small, surrendered lead; a flaccid powerplay; another goalie’s good performance wasted. It feels like we’ve been watching this all year.

David Rittich deserved better

Every game David Rittich has started, he’s either won or lost in a shootout. That wasn’t a streak that was going to go on forever, but the Flames could have at least tried to help their new starting netminder out.

Rittich faced 39 shots, and couldn’t really be blamed for the four goals he let in. He maybe could have been more aware to start the game, but giveaways and breakaways sunk the Flames, and it’s not like Rittich let in any softies.

On the one hand, it was good to see Rittich his usual self, his temporary promotion to team’s number one not really affecting him in any way. On the other hand, it would have been even better to see the team actually try for him throughout the game, instead of just at the start. The third line bailed Rittich out for the early goal allowed, and Johnny Gaudreau even got them the lead soon after.

From there on out it was, apparently, all on Rittich to protect a one-goal lead for nearly 51 minutes, something every goalie is going to have problems with. The Flames went without a single corsi event for over 10 minutes in the second period.

Add insult to injury when Tim Schaller took him out, and thank goodness for the Flames Rittich was okay – not just for the scary prospect of throwing Jon Gillies behind that team, but for the fact that the Flames are getting very short on puck-stopping bodies. And for Rittich’s own sake, as well, who will get his first chance to start back-to-back games, and it’s a chance he’s earned.

Oh look another special teams loss

Five powerplays, nothing. We’re officially well past complaining about personnel: a man advantage that so heavily (re: over six minutes, each) features Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, Mark Giordano, and Dougie Hamilton should be scoring at least once on five tries. Gaudreau has a realistic shot at the Art Ross this season, Monahan is on pace for nearly 40 goals, Tkachuk continues to get better and better and better, the two defencemen are capable of 50+ points each, and all five of them lead the Flames in shots. These are five players who all know how to score, who are a cut above their teammates, some of them a cut above the rest of the NHL, and they couldn’t get anything done.

The Flames had seven shots total on their powerplays. The Bruins had four shots when killing penalties. Is that an acceptable ratio? When nine penalties are called in a game, your special teams have to be better than that. It’s not as though this is a secret.

And on Gaudreau being an Art Ross contender: his 67 points are second in the NHL. Forty-eight of them have come at even strength; 19 on the powerplay. About 72% of Gaudreau’s offence comes at even strength. For comparison, Nikita Kucherov, the only player who has scored more than Gaudreau this season, has scored 25 of his points on the powerplay; 65% of his offence has come at even strength.

Kinda makes you wonder just how many points Gaudreau would have if the Flames had a functioning man advantage.

It’s down to 16.6%, 27th in the NHL.

Losses happen

Grievances about special teams and lack of effort aside, the Boston Bruins are second in the NHL, one point back from first. They have a +52 goal differential (helps that they just took the Flames back into the negatives: -3 now). They’ve benefited some from the loser point, but they’ve also been consistently performing all season.

The Flames haven’t. And maybe they should be on that same level, but they aren’t. On occasion, they have been able to take on the top teams: they stepped into Tampa Bay and won handily; they went toe-to-toe with Vegas until a player returning from injury made an uncharacteristic error. This group has shown they’re capable of meeting elite teams head on and giving them fits.

It’s just not consistent, and that’s why the Flames find themselves scrabbling to stay in the top half of the NHL and with a playoff spot. They’re good enough to compete, but not to contend. The trade deadline is a week and a half away and they do need a roster upgrade at forward, and they might just get it, and maybe that will propel them forward.

But a half-decent powerplay solves a lot of problems, too, and there isn’t really a player out there they can add to magically fix this. Fix the powerplay, probably fix the position in the standings. And that’s what makes this so frustrating, not that the Flames can’t play as consistently well as the top teams, but that their main flaw is so obvious and nothing meaningful is being done. And it’s not like nobody could see this coming, Mike Fail wrote about it when Dave Cameron was first hired.

There’s a quote in there, that Cameron would have the Flames shooting the puck more on the powerplay; according to Natural Stat Trick, the Flames are 18th in the NHL with 55.42 shots per 60 on the powerplay. Interestingly, though, they’re fourth league-wide in both scoring chances per 60 (64.15) and high danger corsi events for per 60 (27.33). But a 10.96 shooting percentage – tied for seventh worst – isn’t a good enough explanation for this.

  • Cfan in Van

    Even a PP goal wouldn’t have kept them in it last night.
    They were completely owned throughout the second and third. Sure, a threatening PP does shift momentum a bit, and that has it’s own effect… But they needed to battle tooth and nail at 5on5 to have a chance, and that didn’t happen either. I missed the first 12 minutes of the game, but what I saw of the first, they looked a bit better. Boston really woke up in the 1st intermission.

  • BendingCorners

    When the Flames played Minnesota, Hitchcock was quoted as saying “When they play their game they win”. Last night Boston played the same game the Flames claim to want to play. Maybe it’s because Boston has some older players who have won before so they know what a grind it is. But that’s what coaching is all about – pushing them to play the right way for 60 minutes. I don’t see it happening with the Flames. Inconsistency is their trademark now. It will take a huge push to overcome that and I’m not sure this coaching staff is up to the task.

    • Burnward

      That first was on Hamonic. He was out of position of the rush. Slow to the front. Whole line was sleeping though. No support anywhere.

      Ridiculous to be that out to lunch off the hop against a good team.

      • 666

        The initial giveaway was Brodie causing Hamonic to be caught out of position. I think it would be great to maybe find a better partner for Hamonic and keep Brodie as more of a PP and 3v3 guy? Less 5v5 minutes?

        • Mickey O

          I watched that first goal a few times. MontanaMan (in the game day article) was correct – Frolik should have come back up the boards, instead a Bruin jumped in front of him. But that could have been avoided, imo. I’m not sure Brodie even knew that Frolik, or anyone else, was there. He didn’t look up and just rimmed the puck up the boards.

          A better play would have been to reverse the puck to Hamonic. I don’t know how much communication there was between the two defence partners on that one, but things obviously didn’t work out well on the play. To spot the Bruins a goal less than a minute into the game, may not be the best game plan.

    • Sensei

      Yeah, Brodie looked good on tat one – fired the puck right at a Bruin! Getting kind of tired of saying it but it’s time to get rid of Brodie. Makes too many bad decisions, can’t check his hat and looks like a chihuahua humping a leg trying to move the big guys out of the way.

    • buts

      Did you see Frolik throw the puck to no one back into his own end prior to Tj’s giveaway on goal 2….just like against vegas. Whats with frolic or is it the system.

  • Off the wall

    I think Ari nailed our whole season with one sentence.
    “They’re good enough to compete but not to contend “

    If we keep using Cameron are we really going to be in contention? He wrecked Ottawa, now he’s killing us.

    His dismissal is the first order of business. Shake up this team, heck ‘wake up this team’.

    We have 25 games left, our special teams better get on track or we won’t even be in the ‘compete’ conversation.

  • redwhiteblack

    From Mike Fails article almost 2 years ago “This is a cautionary tale. If you’re trusting Dave Cameron with your power play, you better hope to god he’s learned from his past results and can rectify things.” Appears god has not shown up for Cameron’s (or the fan’s) sake. Bad hire even before he showed up here. He should have never been hired. “Un” hire this guy already. And stop putting the 4th line out down 2 with 6 minutes left. That’s is just plain dumb. I believe better special teams and overall better coaching would have gone a long way to gaining at least a point last night.

  • Burnward

    Extreme position: Trade Brodie and Backlund. This season is not going to result in contending. Shift to two years down the road.

    Brodie for the younger center and some winger pieces.
    Backlund for a first-plus.

    I want no part of 5-million plus Backlund going forward. Tkachuk is going to need money. Janko is going to need money. And Backs has been sleepwalking through a contract year. Not going to get better.

    Kulak-Hamonic with Andersson filling on the PP is what we need.

    • Burnward

      ORRRR
      Ottawa needs D now.
      Brodie, Stone, Kylington, Dube for Karlsson. Brodie on an affordable deal for a couple years. Can sell a rebound. Stone to play with the brother. Couple sexy little prospects to swing it.

      Do it!

      Gio-Karlsson
      Hamonic-Hamilton
      Kulak-Andersson

          • Mickey O

            Watching the NYR press conference saying they are potentially going to blow things up was telling. A reporter asked about Alain Vigneault and the response was hardly glowing, but more like “we’ll see.” He just signed an extension so you would have expected an unmitigated show of support to be heaped on him if he was going to stick around.

            The Blackhawks may move on from Quenneville, you don’t really know what direction they are going to go.

            Obviously either coach would be an improvement over what the Flames have now at the helm. Thanks, Captain Obvious.

          • Cheeky

            If JQ or AV become available, we better be jumping on them (as many other teams will no doubt do). These 2 are the type to actually take us to the next level and beyond…

      • Chucky

        Can’t be done both Hamonic and Hamilton are right hand shots. We know that it impossible to have a defenseman play on anything but his handedness side under GG.

    • redwhiteblack

      Backlund is very good and I would love to keep him. But he has looked very average lately (in a contract year) and may start to trend down with a high contract (Brouwer). I wish we could provide a shorter term contract to manage that high risk better. 3 years from now I don’t want to be saying “wow that’s a lot to be paying Backs for 3rd maybe even 4th line duty”. But if we trade him who replaces him? A younger version lower $ and great upside. Hard to find. As much as it will probably cost over time I think we have to re-sign him. It is interesting he has not re-signed as of yet.

    • BendingCorners

      Burnward: I don’t know whether to cheer or trash your post. Backlund does look less stellar than last year and it probably is age-related, but he is still very good, just not mythically good. Resetting to compete two years from now is a very risky proposition; Gio will be old, Ferland will be reaching the back side of the age curve, Frolik will have slid down that same curve. Backlund and Brodie are the team’s two best trade chips so maybe in the summer (after signing Backlund) the deals you propose will make sense. For this season, I think trading the fringe players and lesser prospects to get a RW RHS is the best move. We have a bunch of those and some of them have enough potential that other teams might be interested. The saddest thing is that if Brouwer had not been signed for 4.5MM (or had defied the age curve and delivered) then getting a good RHS RW would not be an issue and the team would be that much further ahead. Hopefully BT does not repeat that mistake, ever.

      • Burnward

        If you don’t know whether to trash or cheers, that’s a sweet spot.

        Backs is good. He’s closer to Paul Byron than Patrice Bergevin though.

        Let Arizona or Florida give him his Corsi cash.

  • Flint

    I’ve come to relize that Glen Gulutzan doesn’t coach for success, he coaches to preserve his job. And that is mirrored by his ‘coach for the tie/OT’ mentality.

    What needed to be done in this Backlund contract year was try out a few different looks with/without Backlund, not only in case of injury, but incase Backlund doesn’t remain with the team. Gulutzan will keep the 3M line together until 2050 if he can (which I get it, they are a solid line and consistent) but I see Tkachuk as a 1B/2 winger going forward and Backlund as a 2/3 C going forward… so, yeah, they’re not on the same path.

    Our third line isn’t going. I feel like GG is just staying, staying, staying no matter what. Well, what happens if Backlund isn’t part of the future?

    • everton fc

      While I get the sentiment above, I don’t agree. GG is here to win. He’s just not proven he can win at the NHL level. Ultimately, he’s not an NHL coach who will hoist The Cup. And we need a coach here who can hoist The Cup. Nothing less.

  • buts

    Show me a team that doesn’t go after a player that slew foots your goalie and I’ll show you a team going no where……disgraceful. I’m embarrassed to say I’m a flames fan after that. Then theres our corsi system that again Frolik passes back to Brodie (similar against vegas) who gives it away and watch’s the bruins score doing nothing. Warrener calls brodie the “sweeper” and it fits.

  • Jobu

    Jobu had a different impression. They were playing MUCH more physical, which I thought was really effective. It was just the usual bonehead lapses and mistakes that cost us.

  • Jobu

    A stat came up which pretty much sums up this club for Jobu. 3rd period goal differential – FLAMES (-12) : BRUINS (+20something). And this INCLUDES empty netters. You don’t win games if you don’t close out teams in the third period… PERIOD!!… (period.)