Flames 5, Coyotes 2 post-game embers: Did what they were supposed to do

As the season goes on, a separation will typically occur amongst teams. Some pull away and appear to cement themselves a playoff spot early on; others do the exact opposite. The Coyotes fall in the latter category – and if the Flames still want to hold any playoff hopes at all, they absolutely had to win this game, no excuses.

Top guns jump out

Johnny Gaudreau had his seventh three-point game of the season (including a four-point game) to help him reclaim second in NHL scoring. Nikita Kucherov, with 80 points in 61 games, apparently can’t stop, won’t stop scoring; Gaudreau, with 73 in 62, needs to keep it up to stay in range.

Ignoring the rest of the NHL, however, and turning to Gaudreau vs. himself, he’s winning. His career high is 78 points, set in 79 games two seasons ago; he’s five points off from tying it, and will, in all likelihood, get there before his 70th game of the season. He has also now put up the third 20-goal season in his career (out of four seasons), rebounding from his 18-goal season in 2016-17. Gaudreau is on pace for 26 goals – not a career high – and 97 points, a number that would blow his previous best out of the water.

He wasn’t the only one to feast on a weaker team; Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Mark Giordano, and Dougie Hamilton also had multi-point games. Monahan is three points off from his third 60-point season (and one point back of his grand total from last year, in 21 fewer games played), while Hamilton has pulled himself up to fourth in team scoring alone, nine points in his past five games helping him a lot.

Best players in best spots

The powerplay is a whole new beast as of late, and it perfectly coincides with Hamilton and Matthew Tkachuk’s presences on the top unit.

Hamilton’s flurry of points these past five games includes five on the powerplay. He is feasting on the man advantage, something that could be interpreted as a cautionary tale of racking up points but, in this case, is more a relief than anything else: finally, someone capable is doing something. Hamilton is fourth on the team in powerplay points with 11. He is almost, but not quite, caught up to T.J. Brodie and Giordano in powerplay minutes, and now leads the Flames in shots on the man advantage (not to mention shots in general).

Gaudreau and Monahan are the obvious two when it comes to scoring, but Hamilton needs to be considered in the tier just below them (and only just below because he’s a defenceman and shouldn’t be scoring at their level). Someone who is joining that level? Tkachuk, elite tip-man with great instincts; though he didn’t score on the powerplay in this game, he still added to his totals with another goal, pulling himself up to 24 (four back of Monahan for the team lead) and 45 points (three back of his rookie season in 16 fewer games played). Tkachuk is third on the team with 16 powerplay points, and over 50 fewer minutes than Gaudreau and Monahan on the man advantage.

The point being: where would the Flames be if they had started showing this faith in Tkachuk and Hamilton earlier on? It’s not exactly a surprise that both can score, and neither did anything to suggest they should be getting fewer minutes.

Bennett vs. Ferland

Micheal Ferland, 20-goal scorer, is, apparently, hurt. His shooting percentage has dropped to 17.2%, still as high as Monahan’s, only with eight fewer goals and 47 fewer shots. So Bennett, who has not been having the season becoming of a fourth overall pick, got his turn up on the big line and, aside from high-sticking Gaudreau in the face off the opening faceoff, worked pretty well up there.

Bennett had a 65.22% 5v5 CF, behind only Monahan in this outing. He had the aforementioned two points: a game-tying goal, courtesy of an unreal feed from Gaudreau (not the first time this has happened), and initiated the breakout that led to Gaudreau’s goal. He’s hit 23 points, on pace for 30, which would at least beat last year’s outing.

Should Ferland’s injury keep him out, or at least force him into a reduced role, this could be (yet another) big chance for Bennett to fulfil the projections that had him so highly rated coming out of the OHL. (If he can do that, that helps solve some of the Flames’ right wing problems as well, left shot aside.) That’s a big ask, though, and for a player who has, multiple times over, shown flashes of great play only to not be able to keep it up.

It’ll be interesting, at least.

Solid outing

Jon Gillies could not have asked for a worse possible start, giving up a soft goal just 57 seconds into the game. Garbage time second goal against aside, though, he ultimately fared well against a bottom feeding team, doing just enough to secure a win while the skaters in front of him showed up and scored often enough to take the pressure off of him.

In Gillies’ first NHL start – a meaningless game against the Kings in 2016-17 – he stopped 27 of 28 shots for a win. This time, in his second, he stopped 35 of 37.

The Flames have a back-to-back right after the trade deadline, so depending on how desperate they are to have Mike Smith back (and, well, how healthy he actually is), a game against either the Stars or the Avalanche could be on the horizon next week. Gillies has yet to start a meaningful game against a quality opponent; both are fighting for playoff spots.

This and that

Troy Brouwer was the only Flames forward to not have a shot on net. Yes, that includes Ferland and his 6:10 of ice time; Brouwer played 15:27, albeit 4:53 of that was on the penalty kill. Giordano and Travis Hamonic didn’t get any pucks on net, either.

Definitely eyebrow-raising that Zac Rinaldo, who absolutely has a reputation, is still allowed to play in the NHL, though not surprising in the slightest. What actually was surprising is that Matt Stajan responded with five shots on net.

Mark Jankowski is the third Flame to score a shorthanded goal this season; Mikael Frolik has two, and Giordano one. Jankowski is tied with Brouwer and Stajan for fifth on the Flames with three shorthanded shots. Brouwer has played just over twice as many shorthanded minutes (57 vs. 116); Stajan, 24 more minutes. Mikael Backlund, Girodano, Frolik, and Brodie have more shorthanded shots.

With a multi-goal win, the Flames are back to only a -7 goal differential. Hooray! Points are points and the standings don’t care where they come from, but this was kind of the bare minimum for them.

  • WillyWonka

    wonder if Rinaldo gets a call from player safety for that hit. and what was with all the weird hooking calls if anyone’s stick got near another player? the NHL has really soiled their own house with the inconsistent officiating. nobody cares WHERE they draw the penalty line, just for the love of the game, draw that line the same each time.

    • Justthateasy

      Also the NHL should let the linesman make the call at the blue line and let it stand. It’s just plain stupid to hold up the game after a goal is scored. That super close call at the blue line is a non-critical part of the play. These super close calls will even out over the season just like the wasted five minute review.
      Who ever dreamt this up is myopic.
      If they want to work on something they can work on goalie interference.

  • CalgaryBornandRaised

    Why, in the sweet name of Krzysztof Oliwa, was Brouwer on the poweplay for as long as he was?

    I know people give GG and Cameron a lot of grief, and some is warranted, but this feels like they had him on there to fulfill a right shot quota, and kept other more talented players off of it…..for what, consistency?

    Flames had this kind of powerplay for the last 2-3 months, we’d be in a playoff spot and most likely be fighitng for home ice advantage

    • oddclod

      Either the technocracy is influencing the coaching forcing them to play Brouwer (which we all decried) to spark a floundering asset, or the coaching is woefulky incompetent. Either way it rests squarely on management that they didn’t stack the powerplay earlier. Incompetent and disgraceful. I’m betting it’s on management. Maybe it’s why Glen lacks passion cause he’s bored out of his mind Being the operative. His work in Dallas does not suggest he is restrained, unless in Dallas he was merely an operative as well. Hard to say. Speculation abound. Happy to see Benny skate with the big line. He’s got the pedigree, they ruined him as a Centre so you might as well give him some reprieve. Go Bennett!

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        At the end of the day GG is making coaching decisions that a layman suggested 3 months ago. I have said this all along that GG has the right players in the organization but his inability to read a situation and provide proper player use age could lead to his demise. He should have made changes a long time ago. If you look at the burst of scoring from Matty you will see that very few of points are a direct result of his linemates.

    • McRib

      GG is waaaaayyyyy too obsessed with playing players on their corresponding shooting sides. Historically data tells us that “in general” it’s best to play players on the correct side, but that’s not accurate for every single situation, as we know now on an individual basis Brodie has always been better on his offside.

      • McRib

        I want to think though that they were trying to inflate Brouwers stock for a trade, only logical excuse, but to essentially ruin our season over it was sooooo stupid (and the even dumber not playing Hamilton, one of the top offensive defenders in the league).

        Treliving and GG both have such blind spots for players they form relationships with. The minute I heard one major reason Brouwer sign here is because his wife was friends with Trelivings wife…. I knew that was baaaddd.

  • ThisBigMouthIsRight

    If Only we could look this good and get these kind of results against top teams instead of the worst team in the league, That would be great! One game at a time I guess? Lets try and keep rolling Guys! and Please don’t put Brouwer in place of an injured Ferland(Get well soon Ferly)…

  • Off the wall

    Several things of note:
    1. Ferland, I love how he addressed the cheap shot by Rinaldo on Stajan. It’s unfortunate Ferland was hurt, but what a great team player

    2. Never knock out Gaudreau’s teeth – his teeth are important to him- he was crazed afterwards

    3. Bennett looked like he was having fun last night playing with Gaudreau— me thinks he likes playing with Johnny ( don’t high stick Johnny Benny, it pisses him off) – more of first line for Bennett

    4. Tkachuk ( Byng) I just love him.

    5. Jankowski, what a display of strength on that short handed goal- imagine a line of Tkachuk- Jankowski- Ferland ( lethal and tough)

    6. I’m starting to appreciate Lazars play – give him an opportunity with Backlund and Frolik

    7. We need to start playing great hockey at home or we’re going to be out of playoff contention

    Even with last nights win we are 2 points out of the Pacific 3rd spot. We desperately need a winning streak if we hope to make postseason. Currently at 39.6% or 11th place percentage wise.

    We need to be consistent. Much more consistent.

    • IUsedToHaveAName

      Johnny has 31 teeth left. If Bennett knocks out one of Johnny’s teeth every single remaining game then the Flames will end the season with 111 points, home ice advantage, and up 3-0 in the WC finals.

  • Trevy

    Putting Bennett on the top line was something everyone has been campaigning for, but GG is just figuring out now. This poor kids confidence just soared and rightfully so. This is the spot where he thrives, where he’s used to and where he’s meant to be. Unfortunately it took an injury from Ferly to try this experiment, otherwise GG’s stubbornness would continue and along with our slow, turbulent ascend up the standings. There’s just over 20 games left and not only are teams now passing us, but GG should be leaving no stone unturned to keep this team from pulling a titanic. This should now be the top 6 and it’s now up to Tre and GG to generate a formidable bottom 6 before it’s too late

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      He; “thrives”? Dude, it was one game on the top line after four years of; “meh” hockey from the guy. Sam has been with everyone and hasn’t thrived. The jury’s still out, I guess.

      • Trevy

        I’m talking about his days with Kingston. He was the top dog and is used to being the go to guy. He had a decent first year with the Flames, but then was dropped to the bottom six. All I’m saying is he needed a consistent opportunity in the top six to really show case himself with proper line mates, not just a game here or there

        • The Doctor

          Exactly. People forget that Backlund looked like a possible draft bust in his first 3 seasons or so, and a big part of it was him having plugs for linemates. When he finally got higher line minutes and good linemates, he soared.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          I think it is safe to say that Bennett’s lack of production is one of the primary reasons why we are where we are in the standings. Player like Bennett and Mangi need to play in the top 6. I am not sure that Frolik was ever a top 6 player. I think Ferland is a better fit with Janko on the third line but we need more skill on the other wing. My gut says Brodie is going to be our trad chip this weekend. Looking at the deal for Grabner, we had the assets to pull the switch on that deal which makes me think GG has bigger plans. I think we will end up with Hoffman. Because he is not a rental, has a canon of a one timer for the PP. We don’t have a game breaking goal scorer. If he costs more than a Brodie and a B prospect then it is not worth it…let’s say Brodie and Gillies.

  • aye

    The “high-stick” that hit Johnny in the chops would probably only hit Chara in the belly.
    Bennett had an awesome game, so manny high danger chances. I’m still a believer in him.

  • Joeyhere

    If only anyone had foreseen that putting our highest scoring defenceman and our best front of the net player on the pp but seriously who has that kind of radical and creative hockey mind (oh that’s right everyone on FN, every hockey writer and my 8 yr old ) I know it’s easy to harp on GG for a number of things but how can his stubborn almost zealous commitment to pre conceived ideas (corsi, right handedness, trust a veteran over a rookie every time ) be explained??? This is a coach who read books on coaching but can’t read players, read the opposition coach or think outside his self created box. I’m truly confused as to why he is so stubborn

  • oddclod

    Proper rational deployment has me wanting to watch games again but the banality forced me to poke my eyeballs out. Maybe they’ll heal up in time for the stretch drive. Go Flames Go

  • Fan the Flames

    Calgary needs to play at home like Vegas . The VGKs are very aggressive and down right nasty to play against while Calgary plays way too nice with the exception of Chucky,Gio and Hathaway . Johnny is also pretty intense and has been delivering every night.The rest need to get much more aggressive if they want to make the playoffs.

  • Bob Hartley

    Some comments Yesterday on FN:
    -“what has happened to Ferland?”
    -“Ferland has been invisible for the last few weeks”
    -“Bennett is a bust”
    -“were Bennett and Ferland even dressed?”

    Today on FN:
    -“Ferland is the future”
    -“Ferland can do it all, score, fight, hit”
    -“I was always a big supporter of Sam, knew he’d be a player”
    -“Sam is going to be a beast”

  • redhot1

    These pop ups ads are becoming obscene. 90 percent of the time you click on an article you are immediately redirected away to a pop up ad, half th time you just have to close the window entirely.

    Seriously, they are actually terrible, and it’s probably turning people away from the content. Please fix this ASAP.

  • The Fall

    “You have to stop requesting (players),”
    “Let’s look internally. We’ve got people internally that aren’t getting it done. That’s the bottom line. There’s not enough you can do, by looking outside, if you’re not …
    “There’s no saviours out there. I’d like to see if we can get things done internally here. I just listed a checklist of things we have to improve on quickly. That’s the biggest request.”
    “You would like to see a little more desperation based upon where we are in the standings,”
    “Our team game, right now, is lacking,”
    “You look at the production throughout the lineup — lacking. We have one or two guys that are scoring regularly. Spotty special teams. And inconsistent goaltending.
    “You take messages from your team, and they’re giving us a fairly clear message the last few days,”“But certainly when you see performances like we’ve seen. That gives you a little time for pause.”

    Tre is not happy.

    • Trevy

      As he should be. He invested a lot this season thinking we were capable of not only making the playoffs, but doing some damage. His moves indicated he’s all in. Being in the position that we’re in then, must be a shock. Based on reading this ( thanks Fall), I don’t see how he could keep any, if not all, of the coaching staff next season

      • Cfan in Van

        Thanks for this quote, Fall. Yeah, they’re all gone next season. Tre had better find some appropriate replacements, or his good work will be worthless.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I know a lot of people on FN want to see Domi in a Flames jersey but I am not seeing it. He is a shell of the player he was when he was drafted. They have tried him with Keller where he should have excelled…I barely noticed him last night.

  • Chucky

    It is pretty obvious that the changes to the first power play unit are working and it does make sense to move the best puck tipping player to the front of net position (Troy he goes other places too, so if you ever get back there take a lesson). Now they need to look at the second unit and not so much as who is on the unit but who is left over.
    A lot of better teams follow a penalty kill with their top line. The current Flames set up takes the 2 line one, 1 line 2 and the top defense pairing on the first unit, then they take Bennet, Backlund and Ferland with Brodie and Stone. This leaves the fourth line with Hamonic and Kulak to face a well rested first line from the other team. If the Flames have failed to score (even the best failover 75% of the time) they have suffered a momentum loss, then they lose more momentum first shift after the PP.
    The shift after a PP needs to be a better response and I am sure that a brilliant coaching mind like Gulutzan has seen the problem and will have a solution tomorrow.