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Flames 7, Canucks 4 post-game embers: Third period heroics

The same problems that plagued the Flames through the 2017-18 season – and the 2018-19 season opener – appeared to be hurting them again in their home opener. Bad special teams, an inability to score despite a ton of shots; the usual. But come the third period, the switch completely flipped, and once the Flames had tied the game, there was no looking back.

One hallmark of 2017-18 that didn’t show up: falling into despair whenever a goal against was scored. Instead, it was a hallmark of 2014-15 that came into focus: just keep trying to score and eventually, you will. The Flames, now with a much more talented forward group, did exactly that.

Feel of the game

This one was a roller coaster of emotions, right from start to finish. There really isn’t any better way to endear yourself to your new home crowd than by scoring just seconds into the game, as Elias Lindholm did; however, for all their further effort, the Flames just could not score again. One horrible, seemingly neverending shift trapped in their own zone later, and the Canucks had tied the game via 19-year-old Elias Pettersson; mere minutes after that, they had taken the lead – with a shorthanded goal, no less, the powerplay immediately coming to doom Calgary.

Early on, it was yet another case of everything going wrong for the Flames, everything going right for the opposing team. This is a group, dating back to the previous season, that in theory would deserve a better fate, but has just been unable to grasp it. Two Canucks powerplay goals were just the mockery on top of it all: every other team can do this, but you can’t. Sure, the Flames had a powerplay goal of their own in between – after having one taken away on a coach’s challenge, at that – but what’s one when you get as many chances as this team has already had?

When Sean Monahan scored on the powerplay about halfway through the third period, though, something started to shift. It felt like, okay, maybe at least get this to overtime – until the Flames got another man advantage, and not even a minute into it, Lindholm had his second of the night, and eventual game winner. Follow that up with a nerve-wracking several minutes, featuring a particularly stellar Mike Smith save and some overall shakiness, before the empty netters put it away with a convincing win.

It’s been a long time since the Flames have played in a meaningful game and come out of it the victors. It’s a good feeling.

The good news

It only took 12 seconds for the Flames to score, and it was Lindholm’s first goal as a Flame, to boot. Not to mention the game-winner he scored, making him one of just 30 players to have multiple goals early in this season. (Monahan’s in that group, as well.) Lindholm is looking like an extremely welcome addition so far.

Seriously, three powerplay goals. THREE. All scored by the top line trifecta, and all assisted by Matthew Tkachuk.

Yes, it’s still hilariously early, but Tkachuk is one of the league’s leaders in total points with five – shoutout to his four-assist night. One of them was the 100th point of his career; through 146 career games, he has 102 points. He’s the third member of his draft class to reach the milestone.

Three Flames had three-point nights: Johnny Gaudreau, Lindholm, and Giordano. Gaudreau is also a league leader, tied for sixth in overall scoring with four points. Giordano’s three has him tied for fourth among defencemen. Scoring seven goals does wonders for stats-padding.

Monahan and TJ Brodie also had multi-point nights, with two each.

Austin Czarnik scored his first goal as a Flame, and while empty netters aren’t particularly dramatic, it did help put the game away. He’s also looking like a fit on a line with Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund. No offence to Michael Frolik intended, but it feels like that line has an extra jump to it with Czarnik there now. Here’s to hoping that keeps going.

One year ago, Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski were third liners, and Frolik was on the second line. Today, they’re fourth liners. That speaks wonders to the complete overhaul the Flames’ forward group has experienced. It’s so much better now.

That moment in the second period, when Dillon Dube and Juuso Valimaki nearly combined to score for what would’ve been their first NHL points? That was magical, and a nice glimpse of the future.

The Flames are back to an even goal differential. Teams with positive goal differentials tend to make the playoffs. Let’s hope they get back in the green next time and stay there.

The bad news

The Flames got a ton of odd-man rushes and didn’t score on a single one of them, too busy either taking their time or overpassing or shooting directly at the goalie. Chances are exciting. Goals are much more so. At some point, they have to do something with them, because those breaks aren’t going to come so easily, and they can’t be running into a hot goalie every time.

Even with three powerplay goals, special teams remain a major concern. A little bobble on the powerplay led to a shorthanded chance against and a goal. That can’t happen. Giving up two powerplay goals in one game isn’t great, either. The Flames are now three-for-13 on the powerplay this season; the Canucks are two-for-seven. It’s still early, so you have to hope that’ll balance out, but this group really needs to get their special teams under control sooner rather than later. Otherwise, it’ll just keep drawing comparisons to 2017-18, and maybe even bring the same results.

Travis Hamonic is a major loss to this team’s defence. Giordano looks great as ever. Brodie is looking good alongside him. Noah Hanifin is fun to watch, and Valimaki is looking like he’s getting there, as well. But I’m honestly not sure if Michael Stone is a replacement-level player or what, and the fear of Dalton Prout did absolutely nothing to dissuade the Canucks but make it easier for them to score. Prout only played 2:59 in the final frame – the period in which the Flames had to claw their way back into the game and hold the lead. Rasmus Andersson can’t be any worse, and with Hamonic out, the Flames need to upgrade their defence. Valimaki’s getting a chance and maybe showing something. Time to do the same for Andersson. The worst thing that could happen is the Flames end up with a bad group – which they already may have.

Smith is off to a horrible start to the season, giving up four goals for the second game in a row. In a game in which the Flames limited shots, he still let the other team in it. Some of that is on the skaters in front of him – endlessly long shift in the first period, allowing a lengthy five-on-three – but he had a .800 save percentage. There needs to be more saves.

Numbers of note

58.02% – The Flames’ 5v5 corsi on the night. In all situations – with all of those powerplays and penalty kills – they were 61.86%. That’s so much better. Czarnik led the way with his linemates; only five Flames (the third line, Hanifin, and Frolik) were under 50%, and they were the guys who saw the most of Pettersson.

3 for 6 – The Flames’ powerplay that came through and won them the game. They aren’t going to score three powerplay goals every time, or hit a 50% success rate every time, but as long as they’re able to do something with the man advantage, they’ll probably be alright.

6+ minutes – Monahan (6:21), Giordano (6:21), and Gaudreau’s (6:15) ice time on the powerplay. Tkachuk (5:54) came close to cracking that mark as well, while Lindholm (5:16) rounded things out. Say hello to your first unit powerplay.

– The number of shots Backlund had, leading the way. Three Flames also had five shots of their own: Gaudreau, Lindholm, and James Neal.

20+ minutes – The amount of total ice time Giordano (27:05), Lindholm (21:38), Monahan (21:22), Brodie (21:01), Gaudreau (20:59), and Hanifin (20:50) got. Pay attention to the defence in particular: they’re a three-man unit right now.

7 minutes – Roughly the amount of ice time the fourth line (Bennett, Jankowski, Frolik) got. A decent chunk of that comes from the penalty kill; Backlund was the only forward to play more than all of them there, while Lindholm played more than Bennett as well.

13:06 and 12:51 – Valimaki and Dube’s ice times, respectively. That’s up from 10:19 (Valimaki) and 9:07 (Dube), and includes penalty kill time for the both of them. They’re certainly getting their chances to make their cases to stay. So far, so good.

.810% – Smith’s save percentage through two games so far this season. He has to be better.

Final thought

When the forward group comes alive, it’s an absolute treat to watch. The defence and goaltending are worrying so far, though (and even the forwards play into that – remember the entire unit getting trapped in their own zone before the Canucks’ first goal).

They won’t be able to score their way out of every game, so hopefully Hamonic comes back soon, Valimaki and Andersson prove to be superior options to the alternatives, and Smith finds the magic he lost before his injury back in February – because it’s still looking like a precarious season.

  • MontanaMan

    Interesting to read the comments about “play Bennett more; play Jankowski more”, which are fair statements. What’s great for this year’s Flames is that there’s COMPETITION for minutes. There are no free passes this year – players must earn their ice time. I hope Bennett and Jankowski are pissed regarding their usage and step their game up for more ice time. This is the formula for a successful franchise. A vote for Peters.

  • SeanCharles

    I love the picture in the thread title.

    Our 4 young core forwards all smiling awaiting the captains embrace.

    In my opinion Ryan and Frolik should become staples on the 4th line and Bennett and Jankowski should get more looks on the third line with Neal.

    I like Ryan’s face-off prowess but am not sold on him playing higher in the lineup than the 2 youngsters.

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm
    Tkachuk-Backlund-Czarnik
    Bennett-Jankowski-Neal
    Dube-Ryan-Frolik

    Gio-Brodie
    Hanifin-Andersson
    Valimaki-Stone

    • Korcan

      IMO the only thing putting Neal with Jankowski and Bennett will accomplish is get Neal PO’d, because he will feel like he’s just been demoted to the 4th line. On the other hand, Frolik will be happy — he just got rewarded for his hard work.

      The thing is, it doesn’t matter what the lineup looks like on paper, once the puck drops the coach is going to play the players who are bringing it, or are simply too talented not to (i.e. Neal). Thus far, Jankowski and Bennett have not fit in either category.

      Case in point: in game one, Janks, Benny, and Dube had roughly the same amount of ice time (all sub 10min); in game two Dube’s icetime increases. Why? Because every shift he gets he ‘brings it’ and makes himself noticeable and valued, thus the coach finds ways to increase his icetime. Bennett and Jankowski, on the other hand, have simply not ‘brought it’ in their limited icetime (they’ve been pretty much invisible), so why should Peters reward them with more?

      It’s not about how much icetime you get, it’s about what you do with that icetime. When Bennett and Jankowski start making the most of their opportunity, they too will find their opportunities increase. Moving them higher up in the lineup is not the solution — all that is going to do is weaken those other lines.

      • TheBear64

        Neal needs to be on the second line. Czarnik is a third line guy, h will never score as much as Neal on tgat second line. There is a reason why the Bruins gave up on him. He put up great nunbers in the AHL, but simply couldn’t translate that to the same success at the NHL level. The Flames management are expecting too much from the guy, and the scoring touch they are expecting will not materialize.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    On a different note, I noticed that Phillips was a healthy scratch in favour of Lazar. I hope this doesn’t become a thing. Phillips likely is a different maker in OT. I watched the highlights and Stockton has a 3-1 with Kjillington leading the rush with Lazar losing it in his skates and Ontario goes down and scores on a 2 on 0 rebound. We saw a lot of that in the NHL.

    I would like to get SF and others who watched the game feedback. It looked like Gillies was not tracking the puck and let in a few long shots….is that accurate? I think Parsons becomes the 1A by mid season.

      • SeanCharles

        If Neal can find chemistry with Backs and Tkachuk sure I wouldn’t be against that.

        The problem is right now Tkachuk and Czarnik have some good chemistry going so I like the look of that line at the moment.

        The 3rd line doesn’t have the same chemistry as the top 2. If we could get a 3rd unit going with Neal as the primary trigger man we will be very difficult to match up against each and every night.

    • TheBear64

      I posted that. As a Bruins fan, I’ve seen lots of the guy, The Bruins gave him lots of looks and plenty of playing time to show what he can do. He never showed anything near the kind of production he put up in the AHL, and eventually other prospects in the Bruins system overtook him, which was why the Bruins let him go. He’s a third line guy at best, and should not be on the second line or the PP.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    What a gyp last night’s game was. I was led to believe that Dube’s honour and Hamonic’s face were going to be honoured last night courtesy of Prout, but he did nothing, so their resident thug violated our highly-prized rookie and put out of commission Hamonic and no retribution was sought by the Flames. Once more it proves the Flames are still as mashmellowy soft as they were last season.

    Don’t give me the line that the win was the sweetest revenge of all because they were playing the Canucks, who despite having some very attractive young talent, will finish the season as one of the five worst clubs in the league, so beating them is expected for any club with playoff aspirations.

    I am sure the other clubs noted how the Flames can be run over without consequences and will use this to their advantage.

    Consider last season when Reaves demolished Brodie with impunity. This year, Gudbranson blasts Hamonic and still the club does nothing to protect its own. What’s the difference? Could this be a sign that the character deficiency that plagued the club last season is still an issue?

    How come Peluso wasn’t playing last night and in particular playing “Knick Knack Paddy Whack” on Gudranson’s ugly bewhiskered mug?

    Not a fan of Peters before he was hired and he still hasn’t done anything to make me a fan.

    • buts

      BNM your a troll. Since when does retribution get you anything. A win IS the biggest retribution. Last thing winning a fight gets you is nothing. Toughness is graded by more than fists.

    • Burnward

      Meh. Fighting sucks.

      Gudbranson wasn’t going to be a dick because he respected the Prout.

      That’s all it’s about. Give the idiotic tendencies on the other side a little persuasion to not.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Wrong! Gudbranson’s hit on Dube was an attempt to injure the rookie. No way did he have to hit Dube like that to accomplish the goal of separating Dube from the puck. Could even be argued he hit Dube late.

        I’d agree with you somewhat if the Flames had been playing an eastern rival whom they’ll play only once more, but the Canucks are a division rival, so if the bully steals your lunch once and gets away with it, you know he will do it again. If you can abide by the bully getting fat on your lunch while you go hungry, you’re a better man than me, Gunga-Din.

        • KootenayFlamesFan

          Now we know you’re trolling. He hit him early if anything. Dube hadn’t even touched the puck yet.

          I don’t think Gudbranson is a generally dirty player. It wasn’t a great hit but did little damage in the long run. It was just an unfortunate situation with Hamonic getting his face busted.

          Winning is the best retribution but it would sure be nice to see a few more hits.

  • SeethingRed

    Not trying to come off like a dick but…Ari did you watch the game? Did you notice where all the goals were scored? I know Smiths numbers weren’t great but did you honestly think he had a chance on any of those goals because I didn’t

  • JusAFlamer

    Really dislike the “.810% – Smith’s save percentage through two games so far this season. He has to be better.”
    did writer even watch the game? 2 PP goals (one a 5v3) against, 1 SH breakaway . Made the do-or-die save at critical moment in game. What more you want from goalie?

    Was he outstanding? aside from the 1 save not really but cannot fault him on the GA.
    Was he a contributing factor in getting the W? for sure

    Please start looking at more than pure stats. Neither side really played much defence in this game.