A point is a point, right? Ignore the razor thin margin it’s looking like it will take to make the playoffs, and the -6 goal differential. A point is a point.
The Flames had a number of things they had to correct.
A horrible first period, during which they were outshot 13-4? They did just that, building up to an outshot 10-8 second, and outshooting the Bruins 12-7 in the third, not to mention 5-2 in overtime. Their first period was unquestionably horrible, but they only conceded one goal, and managed to come back from it, scoring a goal of their own and refusing to give up any more. Their play improved, to the point where they probably should have had the overtime win.
David Rittich rebounded from a bad game against the Panthers. He went from stopping just 11 of 15 shots to stopping 30 of 32, including a couple of breakaways (though it wasn’t surprising to see him pissed after letting the third one in). Rittich is the only reason they even had a chance during, and after, the first period. He got them the point.
Special teams, too, had a bounce back. Against the Panthers, their kill went two-for-four and their powerplay two-for-seven, the powerplay keeping them in it but their penalty kill sinking them. Against the Bruins, their kill was a perfect two-for-two, and their powerplay, one-for-three. They have now scored five powerplay goals in their past three games, a 38% success rate, and have been seven-for-23 (30%) in their past six games, a time when Dougie Hamilton moved to the first unit. Funny, that.
Matthew Tkachuk might just have a future in this league
And then their was the powerplay goal scorer: Matthew Tkachuk. He’s up to 22 goals and 21 assists – 43 points – in 58 games. He’s on pace for 30 goals and 59 points this season. He’s a 20-year-old sophomore who takes more defensive zone and tougher competition assignments than not.
Just as Johnny Gaudreau has separated himself from the rest of the Flames in scoring, and Sean Monahan has separated himself from everyone but Gaudreau, Tkachuk has followed in suit, that third tier of separation, nine points higher than a trio of players with 34 points each (Micheal Ferland, Mikael Backlund, Hamilton). He doesn’t have the raw offensive talent Gaudreau does (50 assists for the first time in his career), and he isn’t putting the puck in the net like Monahan is (five goals back for second on the team), but he’s just about there with them.
There are a handful of excellent forwards on this team. You can probably start making the argument that Tkachuk is the best of the bunch. His next contract is going to be real interesting, because if he keeps this up, it’s going to be difficult seeing him fit under the internal Mark Giordano cap.
Morgan Klimchuk played 7:25 in his NHL debut, not really making much of an impression one way or the other – which isn’t bad at all for a debut. Kudos to his 58.33% 5v5 CF, at least, even with 71.43% offensive zone starts – everyone has to start somewhere, and hopefully, he’ll get another crack at it.
Hamilton has really been coming into his own lately, something about maybe being used properly by his coaches. His 22:49 in ice time should raise some eyebrows, though, mostly because Brodie led the way with 26:26, including a healthy heaping of both special teams and, uh, 1:34 in overtime. Giordano played 1:11 in overtime. Hamilton played 51 seconds.
The Flames’ insistence on using Brodie as a number one defenceman despite it being very clear that he is not a number one defenceman (and there are two extremely good defencemen right above him on the depth chart) has been going on all season, and it has always been baffling. Number one powerplay unit despite being averse to shooting? Go-to guy in overtime…? There’s a bizarre infatuation here, especially considering he’s said he prefers to play on his right side and yet, under this coaching staff, is playing more than ever, all on his left. Very, very little of this makes sense.
My impression is that Brodie gets sent out more than Hamilton because he’s seen as more defensively responsible (probably in part because Hamilton puts up a lot of points and someone who scores a lot can’t be good defensively, right? Please ignore that Tkachuk over there). Not quite sure how that argument can be made as of late, and certainly not with the way overtime ended.
There are worse ways to mismanage players, sure… but here’s an example with consistently little to no payoff. It’s been 60 games.