Flames 2, Sabres 1 (OT) post-game embers: Johnny got his goal

No matter how it happens, any time you can come away with four points in two days, you had a good time. Only the Flames’ play was actually really rather good for most of it, as well.

Feel of the game

In the first game of the back-to-back, against the Leafs, the Flames dominated from the beginning. They controlled the pace of play and generated scoring chance after scoring chance. That was not at all the case to start the second of the back-to-back, as it was the Sabres who took control of the first period, and the Flames forcing David Rittich to keep them in the game.

He could only do that for so long as the Flames kept surrendering scoring opportunities to the Sabres, and towards the end of the first, a bad bounce finally broke in Buffalo’s favour, allowing them to get set up in their offensive zone with little opposition and giving Jack Eichel the chance to snap one past Rittich to take the lead.

But that was about it. From the second period onwards, the Flames found their legs. Right from the start of the second, as a matter of fact, as Johnny Gaudreau scored early only for the goal to never count due to a premature whistle (and a lengthy string of lipreading profanity from Gaudreau that I’m sure many could identify with). But the Flames kept at trying to score, and finally, they did: another Matthew Tkachuk tip created with help from Rasmus Andersson with just 56 seconds to go in the game.

Tkachuk giveth, and Tkachuk taketh away, however, by taking a penalty right as regulation ended. You just had to figure as long as the Flames could get it to three-on-three they’d be fine, though (with maybe too many flashbacks of Eichel scoring on the Flames on an overtime powerplay one season ago). Rittich held strong, Mark Giordano forced the turnover and hauled ass to catch up with Gaudreau, and everyone was left feeling vindicated as Gaudreau finally righted the wrong from hours before.

The good news

Rittich had another strong game (and he’s yet to have a weak one thus far, relief appearance in a disaster aside). He swallowed up point blank chances and kicked away rebounds to where his teammates were. He followed the puck and his body language just seems so consistently calm that you never have much to worry about. He is just absolutely crushing it in his present role. Impossible not to love.

Andersson! That’s two games now Bill Peters has thrown Andersson out there with the net empty and in desperate need of a goal, and two games now Andersson has come through. It’s wild he still only has one NHL point to his name, but without him, Tkachuk doesn’t tie up the game. He kept the puck in the offensive zone (though not the same move, my first thought was, “Oh, Ryan Ellis in the World Juniors”), so the Flames never had to waste time regrouping, and could just quickly shoot and score. It’s still so wild he was supposed to start his year in Stockton. Travis Hamonic didn’t just take a fist to the jaw for Dillon Dube; he took one for Andersson, too.

It would have been so easy for this team to rest on their laurels following their win over the Leafs, and they kind of did start that way. But they quickly corrected course over the last two periods and stuck with it, even as a goal was taken away from them. Right until the dying minute. These are the exact moments the Flames couldn’t get last year. Maybe some of that is creating one’s own luck, too: the way they were playing, it was bound to go in sooner or later. In the meantime, it was fun watching them try.

Giordano is 35 years old, which could have fooled all of us. The sheer contrast between watching him force a turnover and then skate up the ice so Gaudreau had someone to work with in the offensive zone, and Eichel half-heartedly waving his stick while one of (if not the) most dangerous three-on-three players in the world was right there, was wild. Giordano’s deal runs through his 38-year-old season. … He might still be really good then??

The bad news

Rittich was amazing to start the game, but he wouldn’t have had to have been if his teammates hadn’t bailed on him. Granted not every period will be perfect, and that’s what the goalie is there for – to cover his team’s tracks when they aren’t perfect – but it was a pretty disappointing start to the game.

Zero-for-five on the powerplay… come on. And some of those man advantages genuinely looked great and generated a lot of chances. And they aren’t going to score a powerplay goal every game; special teams will fail them plenty of times, as they fail every team in the NHL. But zero-for-five is just silly, especially when they were chasing most of the game.

Overpassing is, evidently, still part of the Flames’ offensive repertoire.

What is it with these early whistles screwing the Flames out of goals? First the net-side non-goal against the Leafs, then an overly quick whistle that bailed Carter Hutton out of a goal that was very much a goal, early whistle having zero impact on the puck’s direction at the time. Thank goodness the Flames were able to tie the game up eventually; losing 1-0 when you actually weren’t even shut out would have been brutal. A moral victory, sure, but the two points are even better. Can this please stop happening now?

Numbers of note

55.29% – The Flames’ 5v5 corsi on the night, all the positives coming in the second (56.41%) and third (62.5%) periods when they were chasing. Getting scored on woke them back up, and they never really let go of that until they tied the game.

5 – The number of players who made up the Flames’ offence against the Sabres: Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, Gaudreau, and Giordano. Also the five players who are far and away the top offensive contributors, with Gaudreau, Monahan, and Tkachuk over a point-per-game, Lindholm a point-per-game, and Giordano just two points back of being the same. The sixth highest scorer: Mikael Backlund, six points. Man I can’t wait for Sam Bennett and James Neal to stop being cursed.

25:00 – Giordano led the way in ice time (including 6:57 on the powerplay, in which they refused to score) – though on the second of a back-to-back, all of the defencemen were relatively close together. Noah Hanifin (20:20) was the only other guy to exceed 20 minutes. Third was Hamonic (18:47), then fourth Andersson (17:29!!). Brodie came in a close fifth at 17:18, and Juuso Valimaki rounded it out with 15:43. What a fun defensive group this is.

6:27 – Gaudreau, Monahan, and Lindholm’s ice time on the powerplay. Then it was Tkachuk (5:34 and hell yeah net-front tips) and Neal (4:26). Rounding out the forwards on the man advantage were some guys with about three and a half minutes each: Backlund (3:33 and understandable, he’s generally good for half a point-per-game through the season, if not more), Bennett (3:33 and understandable, even if he isn’t scoring he is getting a lot of good chances), and Derek Ryan (3:27 and ??? He had 38 points last year but I’m getting the feeling early on we aren’t going to see that this season). Forwards without powerplay time: Dube (young, potential), Michael Frolik (has had a couple of big showings this year, although also empty netters), Mark Jankowski (relatively young, potential), and Garnet Hathaway (understandable, do not do this). Though it is kind of odd Austin Czarnik will be scratched for five games and yet, when he’s in, he averages 2:09 on the powerplay: more than Backlund and Ryan.

15.1% – The Flames’ powerplay percentage so far this season. That’s 23rd in the NHL.

.939% – Rittich’s save percentage through four starts and six games this season. He’s doing alright.

Final thought

Against the Leafs:


Against the Sabres:

I love them.

  • The GREAT WW

    Backlund; 1 goal in 13 games….

    He has been terrible since he signed his fat contract last year.

    I hope he dresses up in a Brouwer jersey tonight…..


    • withachance

      Kopitar has 4 pts. Koivu also has 6pts. Kadri has 7 pts. J Staal has 7pts.

      Baklund has 6pts.

      Those are some decent shutdown C in the league. What is your point? Backlund seems to be in some decent company here… By your logic, Backlund is better than Kopitar.

        • withachance

          Joe Thornton finished a season with 7 goals in 16-17.
          Nicklas Backstrom currently has 2 goals right now.

          They both play on the PP……………

          These seem like good comparables to Backlund based on the stats you’re providing. Are you saying Backlund is as good/slightly worse than Thornton in 16-17 or Backstrom this year? I say again, what is your point????

          • withachance

            I think we can all agree Backlund isnt on the elite levels of Kopitar, Toews, Thornton or Backstrom. I’m not expecting Backlund to get 30 goals or 60 pts a season. 45+ pts, positive corsi against other teams’ top players would be great from Backlund, and yes I would pay 5M+ for that.

            My point was that when people cherry pick stats based on small sample sizes, on whatever timing that fits their own biases to slam a player, it can easily be replicated to reflect the terrible logic.

          • Skylardog

            But he is being used to try and score – That’s the point here.

            Can I remind everyone that his lone goal was inadvertently kicked in by the opposing defenseman.

          • JoelOttosJock

            While I agree with WW that Backlund should not be on the PP, I am not concerned with his offensive numbers. Backlund contributes with great defense and is a great shut down guy. He, like the mentioned Kopitar, and also Toews are the kind of players to sacrifice points and offensive chances to play a sound defensive game. If janko is going to continue to play center in the top 9, I would rather see him line up there, or even Bennett.

  • freethe flames

    While I am happy that we got the two wins and that we generally played better in our own zone both games there are still serious issues with this team and BP player usage is almost as baffling as GG was the last two seasons. Ward was brought in as a PP guru and while at times the First unit looks good and sometimes even good PP units don’t score I don’t understandwhy the 2nd power play unit has to try and do the same things as the first unit; I personally would deploy a more tradition 3 forwards and 2 defencemen on the second unit with D being encouraged to shoot the puck. Like many here I question why Ryan in on the 2nd unit much like I questioned why Brouwer was on the PP last year. I would love to hear BP and Wards explanation for it; I wish one of the media people who cover the Flames would ask the tough questions. BP trusts Andersson on the empty net situation why would he not trust him on the 2nd PP unit. I would begin with him and Hannifin on that unit and tell them to shoot the puck and the forwards to get to the net. Then I would have Bennett getting to the net looking for rebounds and Neal screening the goalie looking for deflections or rebounds as well. I struggle to figure out who the third forward should be; I don’t hate Backs on the unit but I wonder about having either Dube or Janko on the unit. Dube seems to be getting lots of looks and seems to get to a lot of loose pucks but can’t seem to bury a puck; maybe this would help him get a bounce. I like Janko but am honest enough to say he has not really earned a shot at this spot this year but like Dube this might be a way for him to get it going. He did not score 17 goals last year just by dumb luck; the kid has some skills and can shoot the puck. His size is also something else that could be used on the PP. I doubt this unit could be any less effective than the current 2nd PP unit.

    • oilcanboyd

      Yeah, I couldn’t watch the game but checked out a boxscore during the third period. Score was 1-0 and the Flames were 0-5 on the PP. Thank goodness they pulled out a win. Hope they get this turned around or we will soon lament, like last year “a goal here and there on the PP would have given us more wins…..”

    • Rudy27

      I agree that the second unit should have two D. It gives the PK a different look to address (kind of like sending in your running QB for the occasional play when the opposing team has been practicing for a pocket QB). If the Flames used this approach they wouldn’t have to put Ryan out there in a role similar to Johnny. Good puck handlers would still be important, and Backs, Anderson and Brodie or Hannifn can meet that need along with at least one good shot from the point.

  • Baalzamon

    and Derek Ryan (3:27 and ??? He had 38 points last year but I’m getting the feeling early on we aren’t going to see that this season)

    I think I can answer that question for you: Bill Peters.

    No one should be surprised Peters is over-utilizing Ryan. Hurricanes fans spent the entire summer telling us he would.

    • Skylardog

      Played with Skinner for half the season, then got time and points with Aho, who just set a record for 12 games to start a season with an assist in every one.

  • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

    So goaltending helps does it? 😉

    Let’s make the assumption that Rittich has turned a corner and is part of the solution and not the problem.

    The question now is … what’s the rest of the solution? I’m not ready to call Rittich a starter. A 1B yes, possibly a 1A.

    Smith is done after this year.
    I’m already done with Gillies. Not sure what happened but he’s going to have to stand on his head the rest of the way to change my mind.
    Parsons. I don’t want to even think about Tyler right now. If his injury is the return of mental health struggles then let’s get him away from hockey and settled before anything else.
    MacDonald and Schneider aren’t it.

    So looks like a trade or an FA has to happen. Both of these are problematic. I don’t think we have the cap for tier 1 FA’s and we don’t have enough depth anywhere to trade for a 1A.

    Feels like there isn’t any other way out other than Rittich to turn out to be a 1A and then find a miracle for a 1B.

  • Day1-Cfan

    Great finish to end October!
    Still lots of unanswered questions about this team. Right from the start I was worried about goaltending ,PP and the PK and I still am worried about all three.
    Our is PP is horrid, with the talent we have there is no excuse for it to be so horrible.
    Rittich is doing an admirable job so far, keep it up.
    Heres hoping that the team keeps on figuring it out and November is a little bit better than October!

    • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

      Interesting article in The Athletic about new power play trends.

      1. The most successful teams run a 4F1D. The Flames do this.
      2. The most successful PP’s have the LOWEST % of shots from their D man. The D man is there to create space. The Flames D shoots way more than league average.
      3. No data on this one but the article suggests that the most successful teams are the most fluid, kinda like an NBA attack … just get open baby. Lots of comments here about Gaudreau being glued to the left half wall.

        • Rudy27

          CBC lost all credibility about a dozen or so years ago at a Conservative pre-election press gathering. CBC had a bunch of loaded and biased questions for Harper, and screwed up by leaving the list behind on their chair…it was written on Liberal Party letterhead! Favoring one party when you are funded (over $1B/year) by all tax paying citizens is the kind of corruption you expect from 3rd world countries.

        • Flames fan since 83

          thanks Montana,
          I’m glad you pointed this out. Jamie is a stand up person that has worked and volunteered himself for many years here in Calgary. I trust his word over the author of the article.

    • Korcan

      That is a disappointing surprise, especially when the club puts so much emphasis on it’s players being involved in charities. Lead by example, Calgary Flames.

    • MontanaMan

      Just for some objectivity, Jamie Macoun provided the following regarding the story:

      Jamie Macoun
      @Jeremiah Johnson This article is incorrect. Not surprising it is from the CBC. ” Send me everything I want or you get a bad review” I am not part of the Flames Foundation but I do know something about how charities work. If you spend money from a Registered Charity in Alberta and spend it on non registered charitable items such as repairing arenas for instance ( like the foundation did on two or three arenas last year ) it is an expense on the ledger not a charitable donation. So while many projects done by the Flames Foundation are very beneficial to Albertans they are not under the Tax Code considered a charitable donation. This is typical Clickbait journalism. The National Enquirer would have done more research

    • KKisTHEproblem

      Yes, thank you for sharing. I agree, that is pathetic. When they talk about the flames philanthropy in the future, especially in regards to arena discussions, I will be keeping this in mind for sure.

  • oddclod

    Tried, but can’t get past the first 8th of an article of Ari. First period assessment is out to lunch. Why bother? There’s already two post game articles. smh

  • everton fc

    If we can get goals from Neal, Bennett, Ryan, Backlund, Jankowski, and Hathaway… And improve our PP (why is Ryan on the PP?)… With the current goaltending, we could become dominant.

    We are close…

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      Definitely. Backlund will continue to produce every third or so game. Hath should chip in every now and then. Benny and Neal have GOT to start scoring soon…It’s pretty nuts they haven’t yet.

      For me, the big question marks are Jankowski, Ryan, and Czarnik. What will these players turn out to be? I loved what Janks did last year for the most part, but I’m not sure what’s going on this year with him.

      To a lesser extent, I’m also curious, as are all flames fans, how Benny will end the season.

  • Cfan in Van

    I disagree with Ari’s take that the 1st period was a slow start by the Flames. They made a couple avoidable turnovers to in the first 7 or 8 minutes, and initial shots were 3-1 Sabers. But by the end of the period, things were dead even in shots and scoring chances.

    From there, the Flames were more and more dominant, until they finally got rewarded at the end of the third.

    • Avalain

      Not only were the shots dead even, the Flames were ahead for most of the period. It was only a flurry of shots on the power play near the end of the period that brought the Sabres even.

    • MWflames

      Completely agree. The 1st was definitely the worst period of the night, but the flames had some good looks and good zone time. As you mentioned there were some sloppy turnovers at the beginning, but i wouldn’t say the flames were the worse of the two teams in the first, more even if you ask me.

      There seems to be a sentiment around the flames lately that you’re either the dominant team all period, or they need to improve. There are good players on every other team in the league and good players will make things happen regardless of what you do sometimes.

  • withachance

    My take aways:

    1) No one can say this team doesn’t care. The passion shown by the players in the past two trips shows how much they want it. They might not always get the results but its clear how much the players want to win here and as a group.

    2) Bennett and Neal probably have the worst luck in the entire league right now. Puck bobbles, fanning on shots, and SO MANY POSTS. When, and not if, they break out, the scoring balance on this team will be fine. Ryan has looked pedestrian though, maybe time to scratch and see how Janko and Czar do for the lineup when together.

    3) The “fans” on here turn on the team SO FAST. Emotions and opinions of a 15 year old girl, freaking out at every turn. Saw so many comments about trading Neal and Gio. If you can’t even watch the whole game with the team down without overreacting maybe shouldnt watch hockey. It’s an 82 game season, some bad periods or bad games should never lead to blind knee jerks.

    • Cfan in Van

      3) You’re never going to avoid those opinions. Personally, I don’t do a lot of posting when we’re in the middle of a slump, because I find that the engagement is much less constructive, and much more negative. But I’m also realizing that people are passionate about this stuff, and these forums are one of the only ways to vent, so it’s going to happen. Just pick and choose the times to engage, and know there will certainly be some armchair GMs saying asinine things after poor performances. Nature of the beast.

      • withachance

        Yes good point. I steered well clear after the 9-1 blowout. Just frustrating to always see fearmongering and “trade everyone, coaching sucks, change everything” comments when things arent going the Flames way. Rant done.

    • Rudy27

      I agree that the fans on here turn on the team SO FAST, and like the Stock Market they are slow to return upward (especially with regard to jumping on our slag/flavour of the day, like Brodie or Ryan or Bennett or…..). But on the bright side, it just shows that the Flames have great fans that want them so badly to be successful, even dominant!

    • Sobueno

      Was thinking the same for 3, but rather than fans turning I think it’s more of a smaller vocal group that shows up after losses and screams for heads to roll, whereas the majority of posters are fairly reasonable. Don’t expect everyone to have rose coloured glasses, and love the analysis done by many pointing out areas for improvement. It definitely gets sent over the top after a bad loss though – I similarly avoided the post 9-1 loss threads.

  • redwhiteblack

    We again are challenged with a sub par PP and no secondary scoring. The wins come easier if those 2 things happen more consistently. Let’s hope this year it finally does. Come on already Neal, Bennett, Ryan, Backlund, Jankowski, Hathaway, Czar and come on Mangi (keep it up it the AHL). I have a feeling Dube will figure it out. He is around it a lot.

    • Cfan in Van

      I’m really hoping that with more time and practice (Peter’s alluded to badly needing more practice at the moment), that Ward will be able to re-shape the system they’ve been attempting. It certainly needs to be tweaked, because we have yet to see much in the way of inspiring results after bringing in a PP specialist. You’d think that with the swap of Cameron for Ward alone, there would be at least some immediate improvement, and then gradual improvement from there.

    • cberg

      The PP was actually good-very good for most of their opportunities. The first was excellent with a multitude of great chances and terrific puck movement. They have at least a half dozen identifiable plays they work on at different times, depending on what the opposition gives them. Sometimes you do not score.

  • Theo4HoF

    I don’t like how every big hit gets penalized in today’s NHL. The hit Dube took was as clean as they come IMO. Hitting is slowly but surely gonna be non existent. It almost already is.

  • Sven

    Didn’t expect the early love from the US media

    Yesterdays Sports Illustrated power rankings has the Flames at number 6

    6. Calgary Flames

    —“You don’t expect a loss to Montreal from the Flames, but they followed it up with a bad no-show against Pittsburgh and a shootout loss against Washington. Luckily the response was a win over the Matthews-less Leafs. With 14 points in 12 games Johnny Gaudreau has been great—but Matthew Tkachuk is right behind him with 13 points.”—

    and its kinda nice to already have wins over :

    Number 1 (Nashville)
    Number 3 (Toronto)
    Number 5 ( Colorado)

  • Korcan

    “Man I can’t wait for Sam Bennett and James Neal to stop being cursed.” And Dillon Dube.

    Our young defense are looking great considering their ages. I really think Andersson needs to be given time on the PP — his threat from the point is what is currently missing and could turn the pp around much like inserting Hamilton did last season.

    Valimaki continues to impress. His skill, poise, and good instincts, especially in the defensive zone, are very impressive for a 20yr old. It is easy to project him as Calgary’s future #1 and successor to Gio on the back end.

  • Thunder1

    Tied for tops in our division with four players in the top 30 in points in the league… yet some dogs and their masters leave poop all over this blog about splitting Johnny/Monny, that bum Neal, trade the old, washed up Gio, etc, etc. It’s satisfying to see Calgary is out of crow to eat this morning.

    • Skylardog

      The 1 dimensional play we are seeing right now has worked, but long term, they are headed for trouble. 5v5 goal scoring is drying up and getting worse every night. We had no 5v5 goals last night, and only 1 in Toronto. It is declining and coming from just one line. It is a recipe for disaster. If the Flames aren’t worried about it, I would be very surprised.

      6 goals this season have come at 5on6 or 6on5, and we have had success and points come our way as a result. But the game is played at 5v5 and on special teams. Neither are special. Balance is getting further and further away, and that was supposed to be our strength with all the changes made up front.

      Peters is excellent at evaluating players in game, but he needs to find a lineup that can put pucks in the net consistently at 5v5. You can always shorten your bench if needed, but what do they need to do to win these games before someone has to pull a goalie. They are just 19th in 5v5 scoring/60.

      I like the wins. I like the defensive improvement, I like the heart. But we need to win games in the first 2 periods, not find a way to save them or find a point in the last minute.

    • Off the wall

      Ruff ruff. Lol.
      I’ve got to say Thunder, both Johnny and Monahan have done a great job cleaning up in the defensive zone the last few games. I’m proud of them!

      If they can keep this up, I promise I won’t suggest separating them.
      Monahan has the most takeaways on the team now.
      Thought you’d love to hear that.

  • Pizzaman

    Arii – this is a really great line !!
    “Travis Hamonic didn’t just take a fist to the jaw for Dillon Dube; he took one for Andersson, too.”
    Phat Ras is just getting more Phat! Yesss… he should get PP time given he QB’d it in Stockton.