Flames 3, Avalanche 2 (OT) post-game embers: Two points with a moral victory

It’s still early yet, but the Flames just might be a good hockey team.

Feel of the game

The Flames played like the first three minutes of the game never happened.

They had the worst possible start anyone could have asked for: already facing goalie problems and dressing their largely unproven backup for his first start of the season, David Rittich gave up a brutal rebound just 11 seconds into the game, and already had his team down. One bouncing puck a couple of minutes later combined with what appeared to be a complete lack of confidence, and the Flames looked ready to implode. Nobody wants to play to a two-goal deficit just 2:40 into a game.

Maybe Bill Peters calling a timeout was a factor in righting the ship; maybe the Flames would have collected themselves on their own without it. Either way, though, what followed the timeout was a game in which the Flames appeared to disregard the fact they were down by two goals, and go back at it as though it was a 0-0 game.

That is to say, they played as they normally would have. They generated a lot of chances. Most didn’t score. They played aggressively. Most of the time, it yielded nothing. But they broke through just enough to even the game – it would have been poetic if Elias Lindholm’s game-tying goal had come with 2:40 to go, but it came with 1:54 left – and that momentum, combined with one of the best players in the world at 3v3 hockey, got them the win.

The Flames disregarded their early deficit, played as they know they can, and saw success for it: kind of similar to the third period in St. Louis. Let this be a mood they can carry over the next 77 games.

The good news

They never quit. It’s kind of like we’re seeing the confidence of the 2014-15 team injected into a group that’s actually rather talented.

Sam Bennett scored a goal, and a very legit one at that, crashing the net and everything. It didn’t get called off. He’s had horrendous luck throughout his NHL career, and while we can’t say he’s finally turning the corner (been burned on that assumption a ton of times!), he’s getting yet another chance to prove he can be something more – and so far, at least, he’s doing something with it.

Is Lindholm a sniper now? He’s tied Sean Monahan for the team lead in goals with four. (Although caution: it’s early, so every percentage is out of whack, but his current 30.8 shooting percentage really is a lot. Then again, this is probably the best forward group he’s ever played with. Who’s to say!!) The early returns on Lindholm is that he is, indeed, the kind of player the Flames were missing from their scoring lines.

The Flames’ forward depth is nuts. We’ve grown accustomed, in this short time, to Lindholm as Johnny Gaudreau and Monahan’s winger; but wait, no, suddenly it’s Matthew Tkachuk. Bennett is back with Mikael Backlund, whom he’s had success with in the past, but now suddenly noted sniper James Neal is also there. Lindholm got “bumped down” the lineup, but he was still playing with two energetic players with a lot to prove. And then the fourth line was out there drawing penalties. It’s only been five games, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around the sheer potential of this forward group, and that’s with Michael Frolik being a healthy scratch for some reason.

TJ Brodie looked like the Brodie of old. He was extremely active and aggressive the entire night. Yeah, he got burned on the second goal, but you could tell he was doing everything in his power to make up for it. He might’ve been the most noticeable Flames defenceman for me, but in a good way: strong penalty killing presence, three shots on net, constantly moving, always looking to create, all over the ice. He has three assists to start the season, right behind Mark Giordano’s four points.

Maybe splitting up the rookies on defence helped, but Rasmus Andersson looked much more engaged on the defensive side of things. Great bounce back game for him. (I didn’t notice Juuso Valimaki as much, which is also probably a vote of confidence.)

Once Rittich got settled in, he looked solid. He had some luck on his side – the occasional post and whatnot – but he didn’t let the bad start get to him and, like in the third period in St. Louis, gave his team a chance to win. This time, they did.

Special teams were great. The penalty kill was aggressive and refused to concede much at all, and while the powerplay didn’t score, they were constantly pressuring, and occasionally it was just a matter of bad luck that the puck wouldn’t go in. Tons of movement, tons of chances, great to watch.

The bad news

Goaltending concerns do continue: Rittich looked particularly small on the second goal he gave up. Getting caught by surprise 11 seconds into your first start is one thing, and having your defence completely fail you two minutes later sucks, but he shrunk down and gave JT Compher an easy opening at the top of the net. Rittich did a great job getting over those early mistakes, but there are going to be other games in which those early mistakes prove more costly, and the Flames are still on very uncertain goaltending ground: for both this season and beyond.

I suppose this can be considered a flashback to the 2017-18 season: the Flames were getting a ton of chances and none of them were resulting in goals. If a team is good enough, then eventually they’ll start going in (see: Saturday night); we kept waiting for that to happen in 2017-18 and it never did. You gotta hope this year is different, and these guys start getting the results they deserve (they definitely earned a win Saturday), but I wouldn’t blame anyone for being a little freaked out that they aren’t scoring as often as it looks like they should be.

Numbers of note

63.95% – The Flames’ 5v5 corsi over the night. There are two other numbers to pay attention to, though: 74.07% and 83.33%, the Flames’ 5v5 corsi in the second and third periods, respectively. Yes, that’s how score effects work, but they were also legitimately dominating the Avalanche for large stretches of play. They earned the hell out of their comeback.

41 – The number of shots the Flames had on net. Gaudreau had eight of them. His last one was the best of them all. (Garnet Hathaway was the only Flames skater without a single shot on net.)

13:50 – The amount of ice time Michael Stone got in the great rookie defencemen shuffle of 2018, including 2:01 on the penalty kill. His partner, Valimaki, had 13:14, with just 23 seconds of special teams time. Andersson, paired with Noah Hanifin, had 14:36, including 1:09 of special teams time. I’m just fascinated by the direction the Flames are taking with Stone (especially since Frolik being healthy scratched may be a slight hint that no veteran is safe), since Travis Hamonic will still be out for a few weeks yet and, well, if the two rookies progressively end up overtaking him… The beginning signs of it are there.

20+ minutes – Until Hamonic returns, the Flames appear to be mostly comfortable with being a three-defenceman team: Giordano, Brodie, and Hanifin. Special teams plays a major part in that, but they were still the only defenders the Flames trusted for 16+ minutes at just 5v5. That’s something else I want to watch for: will Valimaki or Andersson be able to break into this group, especially if one of them ends up playing with Hanifin more regularly? (Also, Gaudreau was the only forward to play over 20 minutes.)

15:20 and 80.00% – Bennett’s ice time and 5v5 corsi. That’s the most ice time Bennett’s gotten so far this season, though he did average 14:24 through 2017-18. Peters seems to have taken a liking to Bennett these past couple of games, though, and Bennett’s been justifying it. Put someone in position to succeed and they just might. Maybe for real this time? And if not, well, the Flames have plenty of forward depth to give someone else those opportunities instead.

.923% – Rittich’s save percentage. His start was terrible. It’s also the best game he’s played since back-to-back efforts in March 2017 against Buffalo and Ottawa, two bottom-feeding teams. Curious to see when he gets the net again; there are six games before the Flames’ first back-to-back matchups of the season.

99 – The number of total goals Gaudreau has in his NHL career.

Final thought

Score be damned, I could get used to watching this team on a regular basis. At the end of 2017-18, it was like they had sucked all of the joy out of hockey. It’s back now.

And Rittich celebrating Gaudreau’s overtime goal before he even so much as got a shot off is just so damn wholesome.

  • Skylardog

    The lines as they appear to be coming together.

    Gaudreau, with Monahan and Lindholm, Tkachuk, Janko, or Neal,
    Tkachuk with Backlund, Ryan, Dube, Neal, Hathaway, Czar, Lindholm, Bennett, or Frolik
    Bennett or Dube with Backlund, Ryan, Neal, Janko, Hathaway, Czar, Lindholm, Bennett, or Frolik
    Dube, Bennett, or Hathaway, with Backlund, Ryan, Neal, Janko, Czar, Lindholm, or Frolik, and or Dube, Bennett, and Hathaway.

    In the popcorn seats, Peluso, and one of Gaudreau, Monahan, Lindholm, Tkachuk, Backlund, Czar, Ryan, Bennett, Neal, Janko, Bennett, Hathaway, Frolik.

    As a note, I agree with all of these, however believe that it is time to split up Monahan and Gaudreau.

  • Garry T

    Skylerdog- Wonderful stat production. Where the problem is, is not the offensive pairing of Monaghan and Gaudreau. The issue is that Johnny
    Is poor in terms of back checking and he seldom picks up his man in our zone. Thus the mismatch created results in goals against us. Peters needs to take Johnny aside quietly and show him what his responsibilities are. Then , if after hat, he does not address the back checking issue, I would press box him for 2 straight games. It was mentioned in one of the responses here that Johnny is a coke head. I hope that is no the case because he probably has two playing years left and he will be done. If he does have an issue, then he should go or a real friend on the team should go to management and get the matter dealt with. He sniffles a lot in interviews. He may be susceptible to colds. Regardless, fix Johnny’s 200 foot game and no one will be talking about the splits. Not being disrespectful Skylerdog. Have been watching this game for 67 years and after that amount of time you pick things up.

  • snotss

    how does tj have two huge gaffs resulting in two goals get away with out a real mention in this article…he looked like he did last year…..which was horrible

    • Willi P

      Brodie looks nothing like he did last year. Recovered from his “gaffs” and had a good game. He has been WAY better this season compared to the last two.

      • Cheeky

        I think he was referring to looking like last year on the 2 goals. It was like a switch, kind of like someone calling a time out ?, and he was back to this year’s Brodie…

    • _vntony

      No denying that the first two goals were on him, but he played better (as did the rest of the team), as the game went on. He was engaged, carried the puck in deep, and started the play that set up Johnny for the OT winner.
      He may not have played the ‘perfect’ game, but I think he has been playing better than last season Brodie.

      • TheBear64

        First goal, Brodie passes it to Monahan, Monahan coughs up the puck, then Riddich coughs up a big fat rebound right to Nathan McKinnon, but noooo, it’s all Brodie’s fault.

        • Korcan

          Why was McKinnon there for the rebound? Because he was Brodie’s man to cover and Brodie made a very weak attempt to keep him away from the net — he basically just skated around Brodie and all TJ did was try to push him a bit with his stick. That is not boxing out. The goalie is expected to make the first save. Rittich did that, and it was not an easy save either (on a broken play and his first shot(s) of the game). He needs to know his defense are doing every they can to keep the opposition at bay. Brodie did not do that on that play.

  • Skylardog

    This started above, but I was serious about splitting up JG and Mony. Here’s Why.

    Together this season, JG and Mony with Lindholm are at 4.12 GF/60, that’s a great number. The problem is they are also at 6.86 GA/60. In other words, that translates into 2.74 more goals against every 60 minutes of play. If you consider 15 minutes of 1st line 5v5 per game, that translates into almost 3 goals more against every 4 games than they score. Consider also that one of those GF was just 3 seconds after a PP and JG and Mony were not involved in the scoring play. On paper they are 3 goals for and 5 GA. In reality it is closer to 2 GF and 5 GA. When you consider that the Flames have 10 GA 5v5, half have been against the 1st line.

    Away from Lindholm, they are just 2.45 GF/60 but do improve to 2.45 GA/60, a total wash. Frankly, 2.45 GF/60 is not good enough to be considered 1st line quality in the NHL. They should be approaching 4.00 or above.

    We are getting to where the TOI is significant enough to be reliable, but admittedly, more data would and will give us a better picture.

    Removing Lindholm from the equation, and JG and Mony are at 3.52 GF/60 but 5.28 GA/60, a deficit of 1.76 GA/60 (4 GF and 6 GA). The Flames without JG or Mony are at 2.12 GF/60 and 1.70 GA/60. The rest of the team is playing better defense, but are not scoring nearly enough. That translates into 5 GF and 4 GA.

    So with all that in mind, these are the takeaways from that info.

    JG and Mony are currently producing 5v5 at a rate that is good enough with Lindholm, however, the line is a defensive liability.

    Without Lindholm, JG and Mony are not producing at a rate that is good enough for a 1st line.

    JG and Mony together, have been on the ice for 60% of the GA at 5v5 this season so far.

    The rest of the team is not scoring at 5v5 at a rate that is acceptable (breaks down to roughly one goal every 2 games from the other 3 lines. Needs to be at a bare minimum 1 GF/game.

    Splitting them up would improve the scoring on all of the lines. It would also help reduce GA.

    Argue as you like, but right now the stats don’t lie. Yes, more data would help, and it will, but the trend is being set.

    • Chucky

      Interesting but IMO too soon to reach the conclusion, Guadreau, Monahan and Tkachuk looked pretty good, that might justify keeping them together. Give it a little more time before intrusive surgery.

      • Skylardog

        Everything else has been surgically altered. Any changes Peters makes are temporary at best. But JG and Mony should be sent a message that they need to be better, in particular on defense. If they understand that even them playing together is subject to change if they are not performing at both ends of the rink, the whole team will be better off.

        I wanted to see Tkachuk with them, but was a bit disappointed in that combination last night.

    • R4anders

      None of your stats take in Smiths atrocious play to this point, nore does it tackle the fact that early season scoring is always higher as teams get defensive strategies in check. If that line is taking goals against at a decent clip wouldn’t it make sense that Giordano and TJ also be part of the equation? It’s clear you appreciate the stats as do I but these seem to be cherry picked to prove your point.

      • Skylardog

        So Smith has only played badly when the top line is on the ice? The 1.70 GA/60 the rest of the team is posting is a terrific number, even with Smith being bad at times.

        The top line has been watching, in the wrong position, lacking body position, not back checking hard enough, or giving the puck away, on a regular basis so far, and the stats say that is accurate. They are creating 23.34 shots/60, while giving up 31.58. Without Lindholm, they are 36.76 shots for/60 and 24.51 shots against/60. With Lindholm the line is a nightmare. And the GF are inflated by a crazy unsustainable 17.65 shooting percentage.

        But yes, the goaltending has been bad when they are on the ice. Give up a lot less shots and one could argue on their behalf, but Scoring chances against and HD chances against are also crazy high. scoring chances against per 60 is at 37.07. When you consider that as a team 5v5, scoring chances against is just 24.80, it becomes real apparent that they are giving up great chances. The save percentage will be bad when the numbers are so bad defensively for the 1st line. We are talking about grade A chances against when the first line is on the ice.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I agree but I don’t have the stats to back it up. I don’t see them generate a lot 5v5 with all the OZ starts granted the play against top Defensive unit. They are magic when they are on the PP and 3v3. My preference would be to try Janko in that position with Tkachuk on the other wing since he is a better skater and far better defensively. If he was grittier then he could be offer another element that would help the line.

    • Jessemadnote

      So last year in over 900 minutes Johnny and Mony had 2.4 GA/60… did they forget how to play defense? Or are you using a tiny sample size to draw ridiculous conclusions?

    • Toofun

      Too early to worry about Frolik. Its a long season and we’ll need him before its over.

      Peters seems to be managing the team well. He’s rewarding good play while giving less ice time or sitting players who need to try a bit harder. He’s not throwing anyone under the bus in public or going out of his way to embarrass them or make them feel bad and at the same time he seems to know how to improve the confidence in a few of them like Brodie and Anderson. Its not an easy job and he seems to (as others have previously said) have his finger on the pulse of this team.

      Its going to be a long season but the team is fun to watch again. It will be interesting to see how Peters handles the goaltending. If he can get Smith going again, this team could get on a bit of a roll.

      • Burnward

        Two years ago with Frolik I’d agree.

        Guy has been all effort no results for two years now.

        Trade him while his reputation still has some weight because his play has been replacement level for a long time.

        Mangiapanne is a much better option today and moving forward.

      • The Doctor

        Yeah it’s too bad about Ho Sang because he’s got tons of talent. But you’re right, he screams out selfishness, egotism and immaturity, at l ast from a distance.

  • Luter 1

    I must have watched a different game than the writer, I saw Brody clearly cause the first two goals, finally got his butt in gear and did a little skating but didn’t accomplish anything really, while Rittich rebounded from being left out to dry to make some huge saves. Frolik benched a surprise, shouldn’t be he has been virtually invisible and if you want to keep Ryan, one of the vets needs to sit, not a young guy like Jankowski. Thank goodness Bennett is getting a chance to play, is one of the few hitters on our team and his aggressive play ignited the team. Jankowski needs to follow suit. Mistake made brining in two more small players in Ryan (overpaid) and Czarnik (yet to prove himself) while Jankowski, Mang, and Foo are available. Also Phat Raz not impressing me so far, Kulak was still very young too, improved every year and very defensively sound.

  • Cheeky

    Ari what game were you watching? Brodie was the sole cause of both goals. The rebound was not on Rittich, Brodie sh@t the bed on that one and the second Brodie wafts on the puck allowing player to go in all alone. Only thing Rittich could have done was gone for the puck perhaps but in no way are those on him. Sick of the Rittich bash, fake news…

    • TheBear64

      Sick of the Brodie bash/ fake news. Monahan coughed up the puck not Brodie. Why isn’t anyone bashing Monahan for a horrible gaffe? And after that, Riddich did give up a horrible rebound directly to Colorado’s best player. How is that Brodie’s fault? Then on the second goal,. the puck took a crazy bounce, unfortunate thing that could have happened to anyone.

      I underestand some of you feel the need to have a whipping boy to blame everything on, but place the blame where it’s due. Brodie was not to blame for either of those goals.

      • Cheeky

        Are you related to Brodie? Seriously, yes Monny coughed up the puck but Brodie also should have covered McKinnon, left him all alone. Puck took a crazy bounce, try Brodie bobbled the puck and watched it and player go past him…he reset himself and played great after but you can’t excuse him on either of those…

        • TheBear64

          I don’t even think Brodie’s anywhere near the Flames best defenseman, In fact I’d probably rank him in the bottom pair; but The flak that he’s taking here is completely unjustified. How was Brodie supposed to get from along the boards where he was playing the puck to the front of the net to cover McKinnon, when after Monahan coughed up the puck, it was in the net about 1.5 seconds afterwards? Where was Brodie’s partner? If Brodie was playing the puck, then it was his partner’s responsibility to cover the front of the net. And no player is to blame for an unfortunate bad bounce. The player didn ‘t cause the puck to bounce, and cannot predict when a puck will bounce like that. It’s nothing more than a bad break and it can happen to the best players in the game, and in fact it often does.

        • oilcanboyd

          Uhhh…McKinnon was runner-up for the Hart Trophy last season and likely will be in the running this year (if the Eastern Conference can stop Mathews)…if it was some schmuck 4th liner, that would be different!

          • Cheeky

            Oilcanboyd, so what you’re saying is a runner up in Hart trophy shouldn’t be covered, but a 4th line schmuck should? All the more reason to cover a guy like McKinnon…

          • TheBear64

            @Cheeky So why wasn’t Gio covering MacKinnon then? Brodie’s along the boards, passing the puck to Monahan… Go’s his partner and should have been covering the net. Brodie’s not Superman, and he can’t be in two places at once.

            Did you even watch the game? How you can blame Brodie for the mistakes of three of his teammates is beyond ridiculous.

          • oilcanboyd

            NO, Cheeky I did not say that…I don’t think Brodie could have done much to prevent MacKinnon from scoring then, whereas a 4th line schmuck would have no clue.

        • steeeezy

          True. I blame brodie on both goals. First one he wasn’t covering his man, left him wide open and the second one he could of easily just kicked the puck away from danger. Feet are a great tool. See Neal’s entry on the 2nd goal. Beauty.
          But brodie turned it around after that time out!

          • TheBear64

            Brodie’s playing the puck along the boards, passing it forward to Monahan. He’s nowhere near the front of the net… as a defensive pair, if your along the boards playing the puck, then it’s your partner’s responsibility to cover the front of the net. If anyone “wasn’t covering his man”, it was Gio, not Brodie.

          • steeeezy

            acutally, if you watch it brodie is snoozing right in front of the goalie and machkinnon picked up the rebound and scored. Brodie was nowhere near the boards.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      100%. Not bashing Brodie for the rest of the game, but the first 2 minutes were brutal. Watching the puck on the first one, and right behind him is a player in position to score on a rebound. On the second one he ignores the player coming in and try to swat the puck on a bounce. Didn’t try to trap it or take the player and let the puck drop. After that Rittich had one play; play the low part of the net. Lucky chip in over him.

      • TheBear64

        It’s easy for you armchair defensemen to say “he should have done this or should have done that” after watching a slo-mo replay, but the fact of the matter is, the game moves at a lightning pace and players have fractions of a second to make a decision. Brodie had already committed to playing the puck before it began to bounce. Usually playing the puck is a smart option, it clears the puck quickly out of your D zone and can allow a rush the other way. But then the puck started bouncing. There was no way for Brodie to know it was going to bounce, and no time after it started bouncing for him to react, because he had already committed to playing it. It doesn’t look good on the ice, but there was nothing Brodie could do about it at that point. Simply nothing more than a bad break, I thought so at the moment it happened, and I still think so, having seen all the slo-mo replays.

  • Skylardog

    Dube is great. But getting just 11:38 a game may not be ideal for him. Not sure how much the foot is a factor in his limited ice time right now (only 10:51 last night). Would like to see him up around 15 minimum if he is in the lineup, or perhaps playing 20 in Stockton might be better for his development.

    • Avalain

      You might be right, but personally I’m ok with him as long as he’s getting over 10 minutes a game. We don’t have a lot of minutes to go around right now.

      • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

        I kinda agree with both of you. I’m on the fence with whether Dube should go down after 9 games. I am a fan of letting him see a couple of games from the press box, not as a wake up call but as a learning experience. When JG went through that his game went up a notch.

        • Avalain

          I don’t mind Dube going back down, but why 9 games? His ELC can’t slide this year so sending him down after 9 games is no different than sending him down after 10 or 20 games.

        • oilcanboyd

          Well guys, Flames started the season with one game at home and four on the road. Let us see how Dube and others fair when the Flames have the last change…

        • Searsy

          The 9 game ELC slide rule does not apply to Dube. There is literally no benefit to sending him down after 9 games vs 10 or more. Valimaki is the only player currently on the team that the 9 game rule applies to.

    • Skylardog

      I don’t want Dube in the AHL. But I do want him gaining confidence and developing. 9 games is irrelevant. His stint in the AHL would be short, and once the injury bug hits, he is going to be a regular and much needed asset.

  • BendingCorners

    Enjoying reading the comments over breakfast. Sunny and mild in Vancouver today.
    Sky is right – mixing up the lines does imply that Johnny and Monny will spend time apart this year and it -might- be a good thing. Monahan was backchecking effectively though last night so any split should be temporary.
    Rittich should start against Boston; we need to see how good he is and Smith is off to a bad start.

  • MontanaMan

    Frolik hasn’t played his last game for the Flames, but I don’t think his future is bright. I’ve never been a fan of his outside of the PK but I think others can take his role and wouldn’t be surprised if the Flames moved him for draft picks.

    • cberg

      The last thing the Flames need at the moment are draft picks. Keeping a stable of solid NHLers works great for injuries and rotating in and out players that need a kick in the backside. Next summer you never know, especially if 3-4 guys continue to make a push from Stockton.

    • freethe flames

      With another full year on a $4m+ contract I doubt he gets moved as a rental player. For teams to go deep into the playoffs(an I know it is to early for that discussion) teams need depth and that is one reason I don’t see either he or Stone being traded for 3rd round draft picks.

    • The Beej

      @ Montana man

      I could see the Flames doing that in the summer but they didnt build up all this depth just to trade it away.

      They do need picks though and this would be a logical move down the road. Maybe as soon as the trade deadline as that is a time you can pry value. Depending on injuries and the performance of guys like mangiapane.

      I wonder if the Jets miss him

    • Stu Gotz

      I agree with your statement but teams are no longer giving up draft picks let alone for slower older players with bad contracts. I’m afraid Flames are stuck with that contract and playing him selectively may be the only option.

  • freethe flames

    The next guy who should watch a game or two from the press box is Dube. He was IMO completely invisible last night except for his one turn over on the PP and one shift in the second.

  • freethe flames

    What were the face off stats for last night? That goes a long way towards possession numbers; does it not? If you start by winning the face off it is more likely you have good possession numbers.