The Flames are not going to make the playoffs. Please try to contain your shock and surprise.
Yet another microcosm
Every moment is a microcosm of the season, I know. But this one was just too perfect. Dougie Hamilton gets a shot on the powerplay. It rings off the crossbar. (A 7.97 team shooting percentage: fourth worst in the NHL.) A stupid mistake later, and the puck is in the back of the Flames’ net. And despite easily outplaying the Ducks throughout the first they exited the period down.
It’s a totally different story if Hamilton’s shot that was extremely close to going in just… went in. And hasn’t that been the entire season?
The team with the 15th best shooting percentage – coincidentally, Anaheim – sits at 9.23%. If the Flames had that shooting percentage, they’d have an extra 32 goals. A +10 goal differential isn’t all worldly, but it’d be positive – and 32 goals probably translates to at least enough wins to still have them with a realistic shot at the playoffs. That’s how much they’ve been trying to create. And that’s how much it isn’t working.
Also, Smith was bad
It’s hard to win when you can’t score, true. It’s also pretty hard to win when your goalie can only stop eight of 11 shots.
Mike Smith gets a pass on the first goal – Mark Giordano and Hamilton both got lost on trying to retrieve the puck, and Andrew Cogliano was left wide open to do pretty much whatever he wanted – but the second squeaker goal was absolutely atrocious, and pretty much ended the game then and there. The third goal against – another one he should have had – was a formality.
Since shutting out the Oilers, Smith has stopped a grand total of 74 out of 90 shots: a .822 save percentage. That’s unacceptable under normal circumstances, let alone a series of must-wins to make the playoffs. Now, that is absolutely not happening, and Smith has played a big part in that.
Over the course of the season, Smith has either been incredible (he has 19 games with a save percentage of .939 or higher) or horrible (he also has 19 games with a save percentage .900 or lower). And that draws real concerns about next season, when he’ll be 36 years old and, in all likelihood, still relied upon, as the Flames don’t have anybody waiting in the stables to take over as a starter (we kind of saw that when Smith missed a month with injury). A cursory glance reveals Antti Raanta might be the only goalie with long term potential available on the open market.
So yeah, it’s maybe time to worry about goaltending. Again. Since whenever it was Miikka Kiprusoff retired. We’re entering year six of not really knowing who can consistently counted on to be the Flames’ starter. Jonas Hiller had a good year in 2014-15 and promptly cratered. Smith is presently tied for the second best season of his career – his save percentage has fallen so hard it’s no longer indisputably his second best year ever – and it’s really difficult to find a workaround for when these abhorrent stretches occur.
The most points the Flames can now reach this season is 94. The current second place wild card spot holds 87 points, with a game in hand. They done.
But also, the way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Flames didn’t win a single one of their remaining games this season. But hey, at least that’ll improve their /checks notes/ fourth round draft pick standing! Presently, three teams cannot mathematically pass them.