Predators 5, Flames 3 post-game embers: Should be better than that

Even with a lacklustre start, the Flames just couldn’t get the game to go their way. They were sloppy at both ends of the ice – but maybe it’s a credit to something they were able to keep it a close game.

Feel of the game

Quite simply, the Flames couldn’t get anything to work for them. They had an incredibly difficult time actually getting their offence going, and when they were able to score, all it really did was nullify a previous mistake that had led to a Predators goal. And even then, their goals didn’t mean much: the Predators would always retake the lead just a matter of minutes after.

The Flames were just never a threat. They had a couple of glorious chances that maybe could have gone in, but they were already flirting too much with relying on luck to keep them in it. The more chances you get, the more likely you are to score. Goalies are still going to stop most golden chances – even mediocre goalies at the NHL level will still stop a little under 90% of the shots they face – so it isn’t, “Oh, if only that Matthew Tkachuk or Sam Bennett chance had gone in,” it’s, “Why weren’t they creating more of those?”

They never had the lead. They could barely keep the game tied. The offence failed, and when it succeeded the defence failed, and the goaltending, though in a tough spot with all of the failures and breakdowns ahead of it, wasn’t anything to write home about. The Flames would have been lucky to win; it’s a fitting fate for them that they lost.

The good news

Check out Bennett. Scoring three points in seven games is extremely far from being world-beating, but it’s a solid little start he’s putting together, especially considering he isn’t being slated as a top six player. He’s clearly still got moves, and he’s working hard. If Bennett had been selected lower than fourth overall, then he’d probably be a lot more loved, too: a lot less “where did everything go wrong?” and a lot more “this kid’s a solid NHLer.”

Yes, James Neal took that pointless penalty that gave the Predators a double minor to work with (not to mention a powerplay goal), but he was also one of the guys trying to score most often, even though he did have a point-less night. He’s starting to come alive, and did lead the way (along with Mark Giordano) with four shots on net. He hasn’t been amazing, but he hasn’t been a detriment either. And stupid penalty aside, I liked watching him in this one.

It again speaks to the Flames’ forward depth that their best line of the night – Bennett, Derek Ryan, and Neal – was assembled mid-game when Ryan took over for Mark Jankowski. This is a team that can just change lines on a whim and it seems to be paying off. And also that their top two scorers – Johnny Gaudreau and Tkachuk (10 points each) – play on two different lines. Scoring three goals in a game is typically a good thing, too, even though it didn’t work out in this one.

Special teams were, overall, kind of a wash, but at least they didn’t hurt the Flames one way or another: scored one powerplay goal, gave one up, killed off an extra penalty compared to the Predators. Could’ve been better, but considering the way they were playing on the night, also could’ve been a whole lot worse.

They gave up the empty netter, but at least they still have a positive goal differential at +3. And there still is something to be said about keeping the game within a goal when they weren’t that great.

The bad news

Mike Smith gave up a goal to Zac Rinaldo. Zac. Rinaldo. No matter what else happens in this season, that’s going to be a contender for low point of the year.

Speaking of Smith, cause for concern is back. No, he wasn’t given a lot of help; guys were constantly being left open right in front of him for prime scoring chances and there’s only so much you can ask of a guy. But he wasn’t exactly ready on the first goal, and that fourth goal – again, one given up to Zac Rinaldo – was the ultimate backbreaker. He deserved more help in front of him, but at some point, man, his save percentage was .867%. Two games aside, it’s just not good enough.

The Flames had a grand total of one shot in the first period before Elias Lindholm scored with 1:17 to go. That’s not exactly an acceptable start to any game. Maybe if they’d been a bit more on the ball to start they could have come away with a win? Or at least a point? For all their attempts at fighting back, they never were able to overcome that extremely lacklustre start.

For the first time this season, the Flames did not wear their retros at home. They lost for the first time at home. You do the math.

Numbers of note

55.67% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF throughout the game. They were a 46.67% in the first period and constantly put themselves in a position to play catch-up. It didn’t work.

8 – The number of high-danger corsi events for the Flames had at 5v5 in the third period. They had 12 all game. Too little, too late.

5 – The number of goals Elias Lindholm has scored this year, and the most on the Flames. He’s a clear upgrade to the forward group, and while I wouldn’t bet on this to last, dang, he’s made it very obvious how big of a boost he is so far.

17:01 – Michael Stone’s ice time on the night, more than his defence partner Juuso Valimaki (15:53) and not too far behind other rookie Rasmus Andersson (17:20). When things weren’t going as well, the Flames turned to a veteran. It’s a notice that for as much as Valimaki and Andersson often look like they belong in the NHL, the Flames might still like having that security blanket of “this guy has played over 400 NHL games”. (i.e. Just because some kids are shining, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to trade everyone else away.)

6:27 – Dillon Dube’s ice time. He came close to scoring his first NHL goal during the first period, but this is the lowest amount of ice he’s gotten in a game to date. Coming off of an injury probably has something to do with that, but as the sheen wears off from preseason, you’ve gotta wonder if he’s going to be able to step it up once again, or what else the Flames might have in mind. Is it better to play six minutes in the NHL or top line in the AHL? There’s no nine-game limit with him to worry about, so the Flames’ options are wide open.

4 – The number of sub-.900 save percentage games Smith has had so far this season. Out of six. Yikes. In his first six starts in 2017-18, he had two sub-.900 save percentage games.

Final thought

We know the Flames are capable of being a better team than what they showed. We also know they were a couple of bounces away from actually winning this one, or at least taking it to overtime. But if you’re relying on a couple of bounces, well, we know how last season ended.

I think we see a better effort next game.

  • Nieuwy Knows

    I hope Bennett gets rewarded more frequently for efforts like that. He was fun to watch. I know he wears 93 as homage to gilmour – perhaps he should change that to gilmour’s Flames 39. I’m a bit superstitious though.

  • freethe flames

    Let’s give Nashville some credit for their win last night; they did a good job of keeping us to the outside last night and clogging up both shooting and passing lanes. Sometimes you win games you should lose last night was not one of those nights.

    • Korcan

      I agree. Nashville played a very good game. Sometimes, it’s less your team playing badly and more the other team playing great — their first period was textbook defense, a great road game. That said, Calgary did shoot themselves in the foot on three of Nashvilles goals, and even their powerplay goal was a result of the Flames failing to clear the puck when they had the chance. Still, the three young d are looking very promising. By the time they are in their late 20s (like the current Pred dmen) they may prove to be the envy of the NHL.

  • wot96

    I’m monitoring all this from Jolly Old so haven’t seen anything but some youtube video and the Gif’s.

    Bennett – you are right. Kid is solid and maybe he won’t ever be a superstar but at $2m per he isn’t overpaid either. Like Janks, he couldn’t help where he was picked; like Janks, maybe he was picked too high; unlike Janks, no one else knew that at the time.

    Flames are either not prepared or not particularly desperate when they start these games. Peters is right, they are chasing the game. This is a pretty young and talented team and should be going out there looking to put the boots to the other side right off the hop.

    Tend to think that Skylardog is right. Johnny and Mony may be an offensive juggernaught but they are also sieve like in their defensive capability. Split them up or put someone that doesn’t think offence on the right wing just to play defence while Johnny and Mony think offensive thoughts. Hey, very bad for structure so I would rather just split them up.

    Too early, or way too late, to panic about Smith. As the young guys on defense get better/more consistent, you “have to” hope that will cut down on the scoring chances and Smith will look better as a result. Digits crossed.

    Agree with those that like mix-master Bill. In game adjustments are important and I think he has adjusted in a way to give the flames a chance when GG would not have. This team, under GG, would not have the record it has. Can I prove that? No – res ipsa loquitor – the thing speaks for itself.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      I like the line juggling. He keeps lines together as long as they work. He’s done a fabulous job at doing most of the suggestions we’ve given him on this site so far as well :P.

      I think with the JG Mony pairing, it’s a problem defensively, as folks have stated. To me, okay fine, have one top offensive guy who doesn’t really play defense–JG, let’s say. He’s small, and more than makes up for it in the O zone (tho would it hurt him to back check and stick lift more?). But a line can’t have two players like that.

      Mony is a big dude. He doesn’t have to dol out hits left and right, but body position and strength! Bennett is playing a way way better 200 ft game, and if you look closely, he’s playing defense oft times as a centre would down the middle of the ice and through the high and low slot. Who was it that was suggesting Benny for 1C? Its early, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

      • freethe flames

        I watch the games closely and there are times both Johnny and Monny are hot garbage in their own zone but not always like some people suggest. One of the problems is that Johnny does not get deep enough on the DZone coverage but he is not the only forward who cheats there(first goal against last night I would suggest it was Tkachuk who was not deep enough). It’s time for BP to put the hammer down on D coverage. There are lots of guys who don’t do a good job.

      • Korcan

        I heard mention on the radio that part of the problem on d is the Flames simply have not had enough practice time, due to China and the way the early season schedule has worked out, that coupled with new coaching staff and systems and 10 new players on the roster (5 forwards, 3 defense, 2 extras). The defensive systems will take some time to impliment before they become 2nd nature. Monahan, however, does need to be stronger in the d-zone — the centerman is always the key to a line’s effectiveness in their own end. Mony needs to make this more of a priority in his game, and i am sure Peters is having that very conversation with him. Now let’s see how he responds.

      • Rudy27

        I pegged Benny as a potential 1C a couple of years back (before they moved him to wing). Thought he had the potential to be a Toews type center. He may have been there by now if they kept him on one of the top two lines, rather than pairing him up with rookies and boat anchors.

        Can you imagine the chaos him an Byng would create together. Teams would dread that line. Maybe even throw Neal in there.

      • HOCKEY83

        Gaudreau Monny and Lindholm is the most exciting line the Flames have had in years. Breaking that up would be a dumb move. Considering the 2 young D are the worst +/- of all the D on the team it’s obvious they need more time. Been saying it from the very start but keep getting bashed for defending Stone. I would choose Valimaki over Andersson.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      The funny thing is, it is not the rookies on the back end rhat are making these mistakes. Even the mistakes the the forwards are making, like Monny missing a clear attempt and putting it right on a Predators stick in the slot. I am thrilled that Bennett is finding his game, he deserves some good fortune for all his hard work.

  • Greg

    Smith is definitely the Achilles heel on this season. I wouldn’t even say he’s had 2 good games, the last one looked more like he got bounces than played solid. They’ve gotta start going to Rittich at least every third game, and if he doesn’t become a viable answer by December they have to start exploring the trade market before the deadline.

    Problem there is I don’t see a ton of options on the market either. If someone like Price or Brobovsky shakes loose this season, they wouldn’t fit in our cap structure anyway. I could see Schneider being available but that cap hit and downward trend scare me. None of the “next gen” young guys have pushed their teams to a must-move situation yet. If Ottawa’s season goes south as expected, Anderson might be the best (only?) option.

    Boy add another expansion team and the goalie market sure becomes really diluted… fingers crossed Rittich keeps the strong start going and takes a 1A role this season.

    • Chucky

      Which goal do you think Smith should have stopped?
      The first where Johanson gets the puck unchecked 15 feet from the net?
      The second where Smith gets the puck unchecked about 10 feet from the net?
      The third where a deflection gives Fiala an open net?
      Maybe the fourth where Rinaldo puts a shot inside the top corner from 20 feet on a shot that scores 10 out of 10 on any goaltender?

      • Korcan

        I agree. You can’t really blame Smith on any, but it would have been awesome if he could have got his blocker on rinaldo’s shot. Not saying he should have, but it would have been awesome if he could have. Basically, d-zone coverage must improve. Once it does, look out!

  • First Name Unidentified

    Ari, I like your new format of numbers of note.

    Turnovers, turnovers. Brodie, I love you but stop with the turnovers.
    I’m the biggest Smith fan but Smitty you were weak.
    I want a Sammy with my eggs Benny please. Billy P please give Benny more ice time
    Chucky cheese is a pleasure to watch
    Let’s put together a string of W’s

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    The only problem and it’s on going one for as long as I remember, they come out flat. Then they chase the game whole night. If they come back then we call them “comeback kids”. Otherwise that’s how we end up. I can’t see why they come out flat. Young kids , new team mates things should be up and up and I am baffled.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    It’s a small sample size ,however, Smith has not looked good this season other than the shutout win in Nashville. Janko and Hathaway have brought very little to the bottom 6. James Neal has barely been noticeable.

  • MDG1600

    The Goalies job is to step up when the team in front of him makes a mistake. So far Smith isn’t doing it often enough to make the Flames a solid playoff team. Not saying he can’t or won’t but what we have seen so far likely isn’t good enough. When you look at how closely matched the teams are in the pacific a lot is going to depend on goaltending. When I look at the other teams in our division and conference it seems just about everyone has better goaltending.

      • TheBear64

        You can’t expect a goalie to stop every breakaway or wide open shot, but you should expect him to stop some of them. With Smith, you get the feeling that every time the opposition gets an open opportunity, it’s almost guaranteed to be in the net. That’s not good.

  • snotss

    goal tending……….. goal tending……………. and goal tending..i’ve said i would wait till the end of october to see if the goal tending would be as solid as the rest of the squad…it does not look good so far???? we’ll see..

  • Off the wall

    Seven games in and we’re noticing a theme with our team.
    High Danger Scoring Chances against us.

    We are averaging about 10 per game. Last night it was 15. That’s equivalent to one every 4 minutes against us. I’m no mathematical genius, but that’s very disappointing.

    We can blame our goaltending, however it’s not going to get any better until we get our HDSC down to 5 or less per game.
    We’re double that. Double!

    Our top line is still getting crushed defensively. Under -water two straight games. Skylar is right- that line needs to change.

    To be perfectly honest, I’m not surprised were barely over.500
    Peters’ has made some good adjustments during the game, now it’s time to see a new look for our top line.
    We should be capable of having 3 lines generating offence.
    Time to rethink Gaudreau and Monahan..

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Monny is an enigma. He looked slow and passive last year but then we found out it was from a plethora of nagging injuries. He looks like he is struggling again other than his shot. I think Monny has had some good games away from Johnny. I never notice Monny trying to use his slap shot and we know his wrist shot is deadly.

      I am not sure who I would try on the top line as center, maybe you go back to Bennett…but why screw with his confidence and put that type of pressure. We have never seen Johnny with a fast center. I think it is time to fish or cut bait with Janko and Dube. Janko has done nothing to indicate he deserves top line minutes but he is still the best replacement.

      He is defensively responsible as indicated by his shutdown ability on the PK. I don’t believe he has been on for a goal while killing the PK. He is less accomplished with a similar demeanor as Monny but a better skater. I think he is a better option than Ryan. Maybe we could try Dube but that is a huge jump.

      • Korcan

        The other problem is what to do with Monahan if you take him off the top line. He is a finisher, pure and simple, and does not drive play. It works out with Johnny because the latter drives the line. He’s not going to replace Backs, and I’m not sure how he would fit with Benny and Neal. Bennett might be able to drive that line, but i don’t think that is his forte either and it is definitely not Neal’s. I think Ryan or Jankowski, if he can ever get his game going, are better suited for the 3C role, which leaves 4C, which is never going to happen and would be a complete waste of Mony’s greatest attribute — his lethal shot. It’s a conundrum, and my guess is Peters keeps him where he is and just keeps working with him on his defensive game.

      • LannyMac

        I think Jankowski should sit all season until he realizes that being a pro isn’t about reporting in mid September and showing for practice and games on time and the rest comes naturally. I was a huge Jankowski fan last year but it’s obvious he hasn’t put in the time or has the right attitude to succeed.

        • Puck Head

          My guess is that if BP gave Janko a sniff on the top line that the difference would be night and day. It could be a subtle way to energize his play. No harm in trying it for a period just to see how he responds.

          • HOCKEY83

            His play (Janks) should be energized just by the simple fact that he gets to p lay in the NHL. Otherwise throw him in the press box…don’t reward him with the top line. Bring someone else up for a try who would like to prove he belongs no matter what line he’s on.

      • TheBear64

        I think the top line has been very good so far, in fact it’s been by far the most positive factor for the Flames this season. Every line in the NHL will have off-nights, but that’s no reason to start advocating breaking up one of the best lines in the league. They will be fine, and breaking them up will just disrupt the chemistry on this team. With Tkachuk, Backlund and Bennet all also playing very well, they’ve got plenty of secondary scoring, too. Plenty of teams would be happy to have the offensive abilities that the Flames possess. Offense is not the problem. Team defense and goaltending are.

    • calgaryfan

      bang on, the play in their own zone is bad, defense is just hard work and will. Too many lazy players in the defensive zone. Some high profile players are going to have to change their thinking if the Flames are to become a better team.

    • Derzie

      Tell me about goal differential by lines. Cherry picking shots and chances is a fool’s game. That will reveal the trouble. The pseudo-intellectual excel jockeys frown on plus/minus but it matters. A lot. Not game by game, but over several games. If you give up more than you get, that’s bad. Simple math.

  • KootenayFlamesFan

    Although smith wasn’t great last night I don’t think he was the reason we lost. If it wasn’t for Saros we’d have won. Period. Despite the bad parts of the game we deserved a better result. And I have to respectfully disagree with you Ari, Ronaldo or not that was a hell of a shot. That one would have beat most goalies.

  • The Beej

    I think one thing the author missed here when going on about how the Flames didnt have the greatest game was how well Nashville played and how their elite defense kept our shots and chances down for the first half of the game.

    Nashville is a great team and their defense is top of the class.

    We actually did ok hanging in there. Can we improve? No doubt but I dont think our team did as bad in this one as the author describes.

    A couple more saves from Smith would have been nice.

  • Jobu

    Joni didn’t see it as pessimisticaly as this article did. It was a close game. It took a while to get going but they were never out of it. Their play in their own zone wasn’t the best and had a lot of bad turnovers as a result. Smith couldn’t steal this one away with the amount of odd man rushes and players left alone with the puck.

    But Nashville wasn’t playing that much better either. Could have been anyone’s game really.

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Should be better than that

    Yes, certainly as any team has room for improvement. However is it so difficult to consider that Nashvill – a team that played deep into the playoffs two years in a row, has only one loss to their season thus far, has Rinne as a goaltender, and is still in the prime of their talent – may just be one of the best teams in the league?

    Why not consider it a different way? While yes the Flames have room for improvement, the fact that they were able to keep matching the Predators for most of the game is nothing to scoff at. There were faults, certainly, but Nashville played an impeccable game and the Flames were definitely playing well against them. Take a look at the game-scores in your fancy metric: only two players were barely in the negative.

    I enjoy your writing, and always have, I just ask for some clear perspective on this game.

    • The Doctor

      Nashville certainly looked very good last night. I was impressed particularly by their play in their own end, they’re very aggressive there and they made it very difficult for our guys to set up, get comfortable and generate quality chances. I think they’re the best defensive team I’ve seen in the NHL this year.

  • Rudy27

    A lot of talk on this post regarding splitting up Johnny and Mony, and it’s mostly around their defensive play. The coaching staff should be able to fix that. The trick is not to diminish their offensive play too much in do that.

    I heard on Fan960 the other day that over the past few years, Johnny and Mony have been the top producing pair in the league. I’d be leery of breaking that combo up.

    • TheBear64

      You don’t hear any talk in Boston about breaking up Bergeron and Marchand. The combination of Johnny and Mony are almost in the same class as that duo. Are the Bruins guys better defensively? Sure, but they’re also a lot more experienced and have a Stanley Cup win ton their credit. A little patience and good coaching is all that’s required for the Flames guys, and I can easily see them being just as good a combo as the Bruins have.

      • wot96

        Because Bergeron is one of the best two way centers in the world right now.
        Mony…isn’t. Many and Johnny are bleeding scoring chances and they are being converted. If your first line is a net negative it isn’t a first line.

        • TheBear64

          Bergeron didn’t become that sort of player overnight, it took a few years for him to develop into that. While I don’t think Mony will ever become that good defensively, he can develop into a lot better two way player given time and good coaching, and I think he is already better offensively than Bergeron. Marchand took even longer to develop, and Johnny was already miles ahead of him right from the get-go. Johnny still has a lot to learn, but he has the potential to be a better player in the future than Brad Marchand is right now. Together Johhny and Mony will get better and better with time and experience, but they’ve already got the same sort of special connection between them that Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have, and that’s a rare and special commodity in the NHL.

        • TheBear64

          Any player can be compared to any other player. Comparing them doesn’t mean you think they are the same. In fact, I said as much, if you bothered to read what I actualkly said instead of what you want to see. They are not the same player. I said that Monahan will never be as good defensively as Bergeron, but is already better offensively. He also a lot younger and more inexperienced than Bergeron. I also said that Bergeron took a few years to become the player that he is. Experience makes you a better player, duh! I also talked about Gaudreau, and the differences he has with Marchand. Marchand is the smaller guy for the Bruins, but is more the scorer while Bergeron is the playmaker, while those roles are reversed with the Johnny/Mony line. All four players are different, they have differing strengths and weaknesses, but as a combination of two players, for each pairing the sum of the parts and the results they get for their teams are similar.

          Also, one thing that is quite similar between Monahan and Bergeron… both have a great propensity to continue playing great hockey and contributing to their team’s success while playing hurt, and both keep quiet about it, and go about their business as if every thing is fine. Not a lot of players have that kind of heart.

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      Putting Chucky on the line with them would add a lot of defensive responsibility. It would also have the risk of pulling Johnny into scrums caused by Chucky. Overall there might be something to that.


  • JoelOttosJock

    Flames need a goalie..bad. Smith has played 6 out of 7 games and been bad in 5 out of 6. I’ve said this since the Flames traded for him, he is inconsistent, and is a perennial loser. Him and Stone were more Arizona garbage brought in by Treliving. Make a splash for Sergei Varlamov, or somebody. If Smith is tired and looks bad now, what is going to happen at game 40 or 60? I feel less confident with Smith in net than I did with Johnson or Elliot, and they were bad.

  • BendingCorners

    Not sure about any of.this but …
    Smith hasn’t been horrible he just hasn’t made many miracle saves. Nearly every Cup-winning team I can think of had an elite goaltender not just a reliable one.
    Monahan is playing better in his own zone than he was last year. He spends a lot of time on the ice with Brodie, who I think has been incredibly weak in his own zone, chasing players and ignoring positional assignments. Maybe that gets fixed, maybe it doesn’t, but Brodie’s play is an issue.
    If Johnny and Monny are split up then I think Frolik on LW with Monahan and Lindholm might work, and Johnny with Backlund and Tkachuk. Leave Bennett and Neal together and rotate the other four starters into their line.

  • The Doctor

    I started watching last night at the beginning of the second period, and for the first few minutes I thought Nashville was clearly the better team, and it had to do with intensity, effort etc. It’s like their whole team had taken some PED that the Flames hadn’t taken. After that, I thought it was more back and forth and we picked up a notch, as indicated by the shot clock. But my takeaway from last night’s game — aside from the fact that Nashville is really good — is that when the Flames are fully switched on, they can go toe to toe with and beat anybody. I think the real challenge for BP is to get these guys to bring their A game consistently.

    • LannyMac

      Well said Doc I don’t watch other teams so I can’t comment on how consistent they are or how high there give an S meter is. I spent most of the first period glad that Nashville’s S meter was only a little higher than the Flames because theirs was stuck on 0 at best. They spent the whole first an good portions of the 2&3 periods stick checking and floating through most of all three zones especially in their own. I don’t think fans are disappointed if the team looses if it looks like there trying. When they float ,stick ck ,don’t skate on the back ck ,etc. etc. etc. it makes me wonder why in the he?? I bother wasting my time. There are thousands of people in Calgary alone that would give there left you know what to have their job it pisses the public off. More because they know that you me and even their coaches can do nothing about it.

  • WildfireOne

    Smitty will be fine as long as the defense in front of him is fine. It hasn’t been.

    Chris Osgood won with Detroit…and he was pretty poor. However, he had arguably the finest defenseman in history outside of Orr playing half a game in front of him.

    You can win with mediocre goaltending, but you better have defense that does not expose it. That’s a TEAM commitment — and a systems issue. You can tell by the sheer number of high danger situations and how those develop. Right now, what I can’t tell is whether it’s an inadequate system design or poor execution of the system. It takes a while to instinctively know where you’re supposed to be in a given scheme. Even Gio’s positioning has seemed off so far, so I can’t imagine that players with less hockey intelligence have adapted. Good news is that the drive and philosophy/values (less penalties, high pressure forecheck, etc) seem to be present, but systems — especially defense — take the most time. Peters hints at that when he said after the Bruins game that there’s a lot of work to do.