I mean, sometimes you just run into a talented goalie having a great night and, no matter how many pucks you throw at him or how many high quality chances you generate on the powerplay, it’s just not going to go your way. It happens.
Ben Bishop was feeling it
So the Flames got shut out for the fifth time this season.
Two of those games (3-0 loss to Edmonton, 6-0 loss to Ottawa) were stinkers. One (1-0 overtime loss to Columbus) was a close call. And then there was a 2-0 loss to Nashville, in which the Flames had five powerplay opportunities and still failed miserably, but that was before the time of “hey, what if the best offensive defenceman on this team played a regular powerplay shift?”
This go around, there’s just nobody to really point fingers at. The Flames had six powerplay opportunities, including a two-minute five-on-three, and just couldn’t convert. According to Natural Sat Trick, in all situations, the Flames out-scoring-chanced the Stars 43-23. They had more high danger corsi events, 17-7. Dougie Hamilton played 9:07 on the powerplay, Johnny Gaudreau 8:24, Sean Monahan 8:07, Mark Giordano 8:06, Matthew Tkachuk 7:41. They had a combined 24 shots between them, making up for 63% of the Flames’ 38 shots on the night. When the Stars’ penalty kill didn’t come through, Bishop did. It happens.
Bishop picked up his fifth shutout of the season, one back of his career high. He’s tied for fourth in the league in shutouts. He was better than Jon Gillies, and that was the difference.
First liner Chris Stewart
The last time the Flames picked up a guy off waivers right at the trade deadline, he scored the winning goal eight rounds deep into the shootout. It was awesome, if unconventional, but if you’re that deep into the shootout then might as well get wild with it.
Chris Stewart did not have a David Schlemko debut. Instead, he was picked up off waivers and instantly plonked down on the first line, a guy with 13 points on the season joining guys with 73 and 58. He displaced someone who had 23 which, okay, not great, but still, more than 13.
It was kind of an odd choice, and Stewart’s 34.48% 5v5 CF – worst on the team – hints that it did not, perhaps, work. (Very small sample sizes, but Monahan shot up from a 31.82% 5v5 CF with Stewart to a 78.57% without; Gaudreau, from 23.81% to 82.35%.) He was also shuffled off to play a bit with Mikael Backlund and Tkachuk, while Sam Bennett eventually rejoined Gaudreau and Monahan.
Not really sure what Bennett did to get booted from the line to start – he had two points against the Coyotes and helped create high danger chances against the Avalanche – but alright. Considering the way Bishop was playing, not to mention how much of the game was spent on special teams, it’s highly debatable whether the Flames would have scored with Bennett on the top line all game or not.
But it does beg the question, where to put Stewart. He had poor possession stats coming into this game, and an overall not-bad effort by the Flames didn’t do anything to smooth that over. The top six should probably not be an option again – it has been eight years since his 64-point season, five since he put up 36, the ship has probably sailed – and the way the game ended, with Bennett back up, you have to wonder if that’s how the next one starts.
And maybe Michael Frolik shouldn’t be misplaced again.
It’s not that picking up Stewart was the worst idea ever – he was free, the team has very few right shots, why not – but more even strength ice time than everybody not named Gaudreau and Monahan is not great for somebody who has averaged 10:43 minutes a game this year. The Wild waived him for a reason. Wishful thinking isn’t going to propel him to 60 points again.
This and that
I get it was a game filled with special teams, but Curtis Lazar played 4:47 total. Cool.
Two players who also racked up a number of shots without powerplay time: Frolik and Matt Stajan, with three apiece.
Hamilton is the first Flame to break the 200-shot mark this season. His six-shot effort last night got him up to 201. Only 20 players in the NHL have taken more than 200 shots so far this season, and just four defencemen. Hamilton is 4:30 powerplay minutes away from overtaking T.J. Brodie in man advantage ice time.
Tkachuk had an 82.35% 5v5 CF, which is extraordinarily good. His most common opponent was 56-point-scorer Alexander Radulov. He had a splendid night, and that’s without counting the penalty he drew, bringing him up to 41 total, which still leads the league (still tied with Tom Wilson, somehow).
The Stars have a +22 goal differential. The Flames are at -5. In hindsight, this result should have been obvious.