Henrik Lundqvist was significantly better than Jon Gillies. One is a goaltending legend and the other just played his seventh NHL game, so no surprises there.
Would Mike Smith have won this? Ehhh
Lundqvist turned 36 years old yesterday. Mike Smith will turn 36 years old in 19 days. Unlike Lundqvist, Smith hasn’t strung a ton of really great seasons together, but he has been having an outstanding one himself this year. Unfortunately, he’s injured.
Hence, the Flames’ AHL tandem. And while not all of the blame can really be laid on Gillies, do the first and second goals go in on Smith? Probably not. (I still don’t think the overhead camera definitively showed the puck was completely over the line on the second goal, but whatever.) But the moment that really stood out to me, negatively, for Gillies wasn’t a goal – it was an unlucky post for the Rangers. One of several, but one in which Gillies left his side wide open and the puck hit the post and travelled along the goal line before bouncing off the other post and out – and Gillies didn’t even react, had no idea where it was or, apparently, what to do.
That’s not a condemnation on him; if the Flames had their way, he likely wouldn’t be in the NHL right now at all. It just stood as a stark contrast between Lundqvist, the veteran who faced 51 shots and only conceded one goal, and Gillies, the rookie who couldn’t seal off posts or freeze the puck, and at times looked to be in awe of where he was rather than simply rolling with it.
But here’s the thing: it’s difficult to win games 1-0. Asking your goalie to post you a shutout so you get a chance at a win is very rarely going to result in success. Like Ben Bishop thwarted them a few days ago, Lundqvist took centre stage, casting aside a ton of phenomenal chances by the Flames. Smith maybe gets it to overtime.
Gillies had to be better; so did everyone else.
RIP the second period
Once again, the Flames’ second period destroyed them. Five-on-five scoring chances for them in the first were 14-5 and in the third 10-5; in the second, they fell behind, the chances 10-5 for the Rangers. Two of them went in, including Ryan Spooner’s breakaway goal off of horrible defence.
It wasn’t four-unanswered-goals-against bad, but with a goalie like Lundqvist in the opposite net, it wasn’t far off from it, either. It turned the game into a solid team loss, one in which pretty much everybody was at fault. It’s just not good enough to flail about wildly for an entire period and then play relatively well after, when the lead has been established and the damage done (goal differential now sits at -10, by the by).
This team can’t hold a lead when they get one and can’t come back when they’re down.
Offence vs. defence
Four Flames defencemen combined for 18 shots. Four Flames forwards combined for 19 shots. The remaining two Flames defencemen averaged 1.5 shots each. The remaining eight Flames forwards averaged 1.375 shots each.
The forward group is, by and large, bunk. There are a couple of exceedingly talented players there. There are a handful of steady supporting cast guys. There’s one or two so-so guys who may or may not put in a big performance any given night. And then there are guys who it’s just like, what are you doing here? Did you get lost?
Three forwards (Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund) played over 20 minutes each. One guy (Matthew Tkachuk, 19:28) came close. Two more players (Sam Bennett, Michael Frolik) got over the 16-minute mark. The bottom half of the roster was pretty much interchangable in not really being there, with three players getting a little over 10 minutes each and three below that mark.
Is it good that Micheal Ferland and Kris Versteeg are pushing to make a return? Absolutely. Would they help the forward depth out? Probably. But if the Flames had any actual aspirations this year – and trading their first round pick and not even lottery protecting it says they did – then they should be able to survive the loss of two forwards. They can’t.
And I understand Tanner Glass scored a goal in the playoffs last year but to admit he’s one of your perceived best 12 forwards during a playoff push is basically admitting defeat. One of the gems with this iteration of the forward lineup was supposed to be that the Flames could dress 12 functional skaters. That has gone up in smoke.
The Penguins had Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and couldn’t start winning Cups again until they admitted they needed a bottom six that could actually function. They got one, they started winning. The Flames do not have a Crosby and a Malkin and are trying to get by on nonsense grit signings and that time has long gone by. They don’t need to get bigger, they never did. They need to get faster and smarter, and it’s not happening this year.