Our long national nightmare is over. The Flames resumed beating bottom of the barrel teams – and still have another three of those to go.
Mike Smith did not have his best showing against the Islanders. He wasn’t solely to blame for the loss, but he wasn’t an innocent victimized party, either.
Getting a shutout win in a 1-0 game, though – that’s some heroics, and Smith earned every bit of the win. He stopped 28 shots, including some breakaways, and was crucial on all three penalty kills. The Flames didn’t exactly have a good first period, and it was Smith who kept them in the game through it, to the point they were eventually able to take over.
According to Natural Stat Trick, though, the numbers were close: the Flames had 33 scoring chances; the Oilers, 26. The game reflected the score.
This was Smith’s third shutout of the season. The first two were against Anaheim, a 2-0 win, and Arizona, a 3-0 win. He’s the only Flames goalie to have a shutout this season. His season save percentage now sits at .922, the second best season of his career to date, with another 11 games to go (including one back-to-back, so presumably he may play another 10, which would bring his total to 59). He’s tied for eighth league-wide in save percentage amongst goalies with at least 30 games played; a .927 even strength save percentage has him tied for seventh in that category.
Very hard fought win for Smith. The Flames’ next six games are all against divisional opponents; just two of their remaining 11 games are against non-Pacific teams. He’ll need to have a few more of those.
Johnny Gaudreau scored the only goal of the game, upping himself to a five-game point streak. It is presently his fourth longest point streak of the season, after a 10-gamer, eight games, and seven games. The Flames are 3-1-1 in this edition.
Probably seems obvious to say, but: in the 21 games this season Gaudreau has not scored, the Flames have lost 16 of them. In the 50 games this season in which he has scored, the Flames have lost 20 times. Absolutely wild that a team’s top scorer getting on the board tends to help them win, isn’t it?
Gaudreau’s goal was his 80th point of the season: the first time in his career he has hit that number. His previous career high was 78 points in 79 games; he’s at 71 games now. He’s on pace for 92 points of the season, and unless he really starts going ham to close out the year (who knows: it is a playoff chase and he has won at every single level except the NHL, so he’s probably got it in him) and some other guys fall off, though, an Art Ross probably isn’t happening. Gaudreau is seventh in league-wide scoring, 11 points back of first.
The Flames’ next top scorer is Sean Monahan, with 62 points. Monahan is a great player in his own right – helped create Gaudreau’s goal, after all – but he’s still nearly 20 points back of his linemate.
Smith has been very valuable to the Flames this season. Gaudreau is right up there with him.
Something else fun to note: Gaudreau is the fourth highest scoring player of the 2011 draft class. His 283 career points have him sitting just 17 back of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. One has played 445 games; the other, 302. One went first overall; the other, 104th.
Now let’s enjoy this work of art.
If a team has one of the, at absolute worst, top two players in the world, then let’s be honest: focus is going to go towards said player. His teammates may be a talented bunch as well, but also if they’re prime for a lottery pick uhh maybe not.
Connor McDavid played 24:41, the second most of any skater (Mark Giordano had him beat, 26:23). Mikael Backlund was stapled to his ass: of the 20:34 he played, 19:01 was sharing the same ice as McDavid.
McDavid still performed well throughout the game. He was second on the Oilers with an all situations CF of 62.50%. He got numerous high quality scoring chances, dummying talented players across the board – skating is probably T.J. Brodie’s best asset and he fell victim a couple of times, through absolutely no fault of his own – and Smith was there to stop him when he broke through, as a proper last line of defence should.
But the Flames maybe don’t make it through the game without having Backlund so consistently ready to play him. He did get burned – McDavid’s CF against Backlund was 63.64% – but it’s debatable whether anyone else would have fared better. Perhaps even more importantly than that, though, is Backlund allowed Monahan and Gaudreau to stay away from McDavid; they shared barely a minute of ice time with him, if even that, leaving them free to have 60%+ 5v5 CF nights of their own.
And, you know, score.
Giordano, Backlund, and Troy Brouwer played the most time on the penalty kill, something that proved crucial throughout the game as the Oilers failed to get shots off – especially on the very last kill of the game, the make-or-break moment. Ice time runners up were Travis Hamonic (who had a great game in his own right), Michael Stone, Brodie, Michael Frolik, and Matt Stajan.
Stajan is four games away from getting a silver stick. From scoring this team’s one playoff series winning goal of the decade to laying his body on the line for one last block to ensure a win, he’s earned the hell out of it. Leading the Flames with a 78.95% 5v5 CF sure helped, as well. The Flames have their bottom six woes – particularly when someone like Matthew Tkachuk is out – but Stajan, in his limited minutes, had a great showing.
Can’t do anything about the cap hit. Can appreciate the player.
This and that
Only three skaters failed to get a shot off: Andrej Sekera, Chris Stewart, and Sam Bennett. McDavid and Dougie Hamilton led the way with five shots apiece, while Jesse Puljujarvi and Curtis Lazar tied for four.
Backlund, Frolik, and Bennett played the most out of the Flames’ forwards last night. Again: stapled to McDavid, but completely freed up the top line to do their own thing.
The Flames’ next game is against the Sharks. That’s massive, because they are directly competing with them for a playoff spot. The Flames have the chance to take four points from them, two from the Kings, and two from the Ducks. If they do that, things get extremely interesting.