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Flames 5, Blackhawks 3 post-game embers: Consistency

It isn’t that the Flames are winning. It isn’t that they’re making third period comebacks. It’s that everything about them over this past week – some goaltending aside – has been consistently good. They can’t let their foot off the gas for even a moment, but they’re looking like a legitimately good team right now.

Feel of the game

It took a matter of seconds for fireworks to explode in this one when, 14 seconds into Dillon Dube’s first shift of the game, Duncan Keith boarded him, effectively ending both their nights: precautionary for Dube, while Keith was handed a game misconduct. The Flames would play down a forward, while the Blackhawks lost their top minute-eating defenceman.

The Flames opened the scoring with a goal during the ensuing five-minute major, but that was it. The rest of the first period kind of just played out after that, with the Blackhawks capitalizing first on a lengthy five-on-three to tie the game, and then a perfectly screened distance shot in the dying seconds that saw Chicago take a 2-1 lead. Maybe the Flames deserved a better fate after one, but they didn’t take advantage of their opportunities.

Their play picked up some in the second, but the Blackhawks added to their lead midway through the game to make it 3-1 on a speedy play it’s both kind of tough to blame David Rittich for while also reasonably expecting he maybe should have been able to hold a bit stronger. As the game wore on, though, it felt increasingly like the Blackhawks shouldn’t have a two-goal lead.

In the dying minutes of the second period, that kicked into high gear. The Flames dominated puck control, generating a bunch of close calls before Matthew Tkachuk finally broke through. They kept up that level of play throughout the third, and that’s when a miniature repeat of their third period against the Avalanche happened: Elias Lindholm kept getting denied golden opportunities, but in quick succession Sean Monahan got his second of the game to tie it up and Michael Frolik took the lead back just over a minute later (albeit with a weird one, but hey, they deserved it). An empty netter ended things, but once the game was tied, you felt there was no way this wasn’t going in the Flames’ favour: their play was too overwhelming, and lately, they’ve been rewarded for it.

The good news

Top. Line. Magic. Monahan scored twice, with both goals assisted by a perfectly-passing Johnny Gaudreau, and Lindholm getting the secondaries. The chemistry those three have really shone throughout the night, but particularly when the Flames were pressing. They’re all over a point per game: Gaudreau with 19 points, Monahan with 18, Lindholm with 17. Wouldn’t it be something if that kept up? What a hit Lindholm has been.

Once again, the Flames refused to succumb to their deficit. Seeing the spirit they’re exhibiting so far this season is a complete turnaround from the way the previous year ended. That they have the talent to will their way to victory really drives it all home. You can’t win without talent. You can’t win without giving it your all. This team has both factors working in their favour. They’ll need both to keep going throughout the entire season, but this is some pretty great positive reenforcement.

There are a couple of players who are, at worst, starting to look like there’s no need to worry about them. Frolik had an unlucky season in 2017-18, and seven goals and no assists is bizarre, but he’s proving he can still be an effective player. TJ Brodie isn’t as good as Dougie Hamilton, but maybe the sky isn’t falling there after all. And James Neal is a crucial part of this team’s forward depth, and you can see it really starting to come to life. Throw in someone like Sam Bennett consistently giving it his all every night and while the warts on this team are apparent, they can still do damage.

Tkachuk + Rittich =

The bad news

What is up with people hurting Dube? Erik Gudbranson hit. Zach Bogosian hit. Now, Keith. Dube has drawn two major penalties simply by existing. I don’t think any of these hits are malicious at all, but it’s just so unfortunate how it always seems to be Dube who ends up on the wrong end of things. He hasn’t done anything to deserve it, either. Just brutal luck.

Special teams could have been better. It’s great the Flames scored a goal while avenging Dube during the Blackhawks’ major, but more would have been nice. They had a great chance to tie the game early in the third on the powerplay and just couldn’t (granted, Brent Seabrook’s save on Lindholm was nuts). It’s one thing to credit the Blackhawks’ penalty kill for performing well; it’s another thing entirely when we consistently see the Flames’ powerplay underperforming (or, in the second unit’s case, not performing at all). The Flames have literally the most goals in the NHL right now (tied with the Avalanche) but they can’t score on the man advantage; it just isn’t adding up. (Also, I’m still not entirely sure what it is Derek Ryan actually does?)

Just purely from an eye test perspective, Rittich looks a lot steadier in net than Smith. And it would be pretty hard to blame any goalie for the first two goals the Flames surrendered: that’s a tough kill, and that was a tough screen. That third goal against could have been a backbreaker though, and like with Smith, there’s something to be said for the defence failing to do their jobs, but the last line of defence failed, as well. Granted, the end of the game felt a lot less precarious than the end of the Avalanche game. Rittich’s numbers suffered because the Blackhawks seemingly weren’t interested in having any shots on net at all, and his overall numbers for this season are still good. I guess what I’m saying here is: there’s plenty of hope for Rittich yet, and this was a weird game for Flames goaltending considering how lethargic Chicago played most of the time, but you’d like to see just a little more.

Numbers of note

61.9% – The Flames’ 5v5 corsi throughout the night. They had an iffy showing in the first, but a strong second propelled them to a 63.89% in that frame, and a 75% third period drove them home. So it wasn’t quite like the Avalanche game – they didn’t outright dominate the first period – but their numbers have been consistently strong enough throughout the season that this doesn’t seem like it’s a fluke.

52 – The number of goals the Flames have scored this season. They’ve done it in 15 games; the Avalanche have the same number in 14; no other team in the NHL has hit 50 yet. Brad Treliving overhauled the forwards in the offseason. It’s, uh, working. And they’re back up to a positive goal differential after the Pittsburgh debacle, too: +2.

4-20 – The Blackhawks had four shots in the third period, including the final five minutes in which they were trailing and had a powerplay. The Flames had 20. It was the biggest disparity of the night between one team that outshot another 41-15. Only one of these teams was interested in playing 60 minutes, it would seem.

6 – The number of shots Mark Giordano had in this one. Unfortunately, after a four-point outing – and four-game point streak – he didn’t add to his offensive totals this game. (Still a point-per-game player, though!) Also, right behind him with five shots each: Mikael Backlund, Monahan, Frolik.

5:28 – Garnet Hathaway’s ice time. Dube’s departure might have impacted that, but at the same time, there’s a perfectly good Austin Czarnik sitting in the press box who maybe deserves another spin in the lineup literally any time now.

Final thought

The Flames aren’t always going to win on the back of a third period comeback, but they’re also playing well enough to score earlier in games. If they keep this level of play up, there’s no need to worry about the sustainability of their resilience or whatever 2014-15 narrative we want to play out this year: but they have to keep doing this same thing every single night, or it’s not going to happen.

  • BendingCorners

    I noticed Jankowski last night. Not many shifts but when he was out there he was involved. He needs to finish his checks though and also stop hurrying his passes. If he looks around and takes an extra step with the puck then he can make better decisions on where to pass it.

    • freethe flames

      The Janko affair is driving me nuts. BP does not trust him and therefore he does not get a chance to build the trust. A catch 22. What irritates me is that Ryan can do nothing but seems to do nothing wrong in BP eyes. I am still waiting to see anything from Ryan on the PP; the second unit is terrible and if for no other reason should be broken up. Until recently Neal has also been poor and has looked disengaged but there he is playing and getting chances. I am not saying Janko is the answer for everything but BP has misused him and is killing his confidence and if this team really wants to challenge guys like Janko need to start to produce but it’s hard to produce when you never get a chance. Catch 22.

  • The Doctor

    Not mentioned in the article is the fact that there was a point earlier in the game when Chicago was giving us fits with their forechecking. But then I don’t know if it was them being tired or just trying to lazily sit on a lead, but they just stopped and got worse and worse. By the third they were increasingly just sitting back and more or less playing rope-a-dope.

    There’s a bit of a theme developing here, where our opponents get a lead, try to play Rope-a-dope, and fail. And I think one big reason that’s been failing is Peters’ willingness to shorten his bench in third periods.

  • Skylardog

    Rumblings have started coming from the third line, not just a disillusioned 4th line.

    Guys that can kill penalties very well are watching Lind go out on the PK after significant PP time. PP2 has been atrocious with Backs and Ryan getting time there, and on the PK.

    Hath is yet to be scored on killing a penalty, yet can’t see the ice in that situation on a regular basis. He was one of the Flames best killers last season, but has just 5:52 in that role this year. Janko is better than any other Flame used on a regular basis (12:58 and a 4.63 GA/60) except for Ryan (19:16 minutes and a 3.11 GA/60), but is still left out most nights in favour of guys already logging big minutes, Backs at 26:33 and 11.33 GA/60, and Lind at 24:46 and a 9.69. I get it if the Flames are kicking butt on the PK but frankly we stink.

    A good example last night comes on the 3-5 PK, with Gio in the box. Rather than go with 2 forwards and 1 strong D, a tactic used earlier in the season to kill off at least one 3-5, the Flames go with Lind and 2 D’s, including Vali. I like Vali, but he is struggling defensively. This is not the place to use him. Just not good asset management. (I would have gone Lind-Ryan with Hamonic or Hanifin here, 2 centres to hopefully win a draw). I think Backs was tired from being out on the previous shift. Going with Janko here is an option as well. He is a lanky body that can get in the lanes.

    My one beef with Peters, and he has won me over for the most part so far, is his inability to find and define roles for certain players on the roster, while at the same giving roles to some players that have no business being in that role. The 4th line has no role, thus no icetime. Are they an energy line? No, not with Ryan and Janko on it. Can they score? No. Are they a shut down line? No, not with an inability to face tough minutes and start in their own zone, again I believe Ryan is a big problem here (like it or not, Stajan could assume a role in our own zone). When you add in a lack of properly handed out icetime on the PP and PK for the bottom 6, the will be issues that begin to creep up. It has the potential to derail a great season if left unchecked. It is the kind of thing that can turn to poison in a locker room.

    Neal has no role on this team. We are paying him $5.75 mill for the next 5 seasons. How is that even remotely possible? (the lack of a role, Ok the 5 years too). You can argue he hasn’t earned top 6 minutes, but one has to wonder how he started in the bottom 6 to begin with. He has produced when out with JG in limited action. What would we be seeing if he started the season there. Mony-JG-Neal scored in the first game when the blender came out and separated a very ineffective top line with Lind on it. A Lind-JG-Neal line were monumental in the Colorado comeback.

    I know I drive all of you nuts with some of my stuff, but I honestly believe this is a top 4 roster we are seeing (they are 3rd but have played the most games with 12 teams that could catch or pass us given the games in hand they have on us, including Arizona of all teams). They are capable of so much more than having to come back in the third and save a point or a game. It should never get to that point with this roster. It has on so many nights.

    The Pitt game and the Chicago game had similarities. The difference is that the Penguins are experts at sitting back and counter punching, they popped in 9. Chicago lacks the horses these days to do that. A 5 minute PP that was 6:37 long, just one goal on the PP, and the Hawks best Dman and TOI leader out in the first minutes of the game, and we had to come back in the third to win. That game should have been over by the 10 minute mark of the first.

    A team is more than the sum of its parts. This team is at best just equal to the parts. Some parts are broken (Janko, Neal, PP, PK, Smith). JG is no better with Lind and Mony than he could be with Lind and Neal, or Neal and Mony. Neal is struggling, but with JG, Neal gets 30. Lind and Mony get a point per game on this roster no matter who they play with. Tkachuk has just 2 goals at 5v5, really? How many times have his linemates set him up? Not many. How many times has he set up his linemates? More than we can count. It feels like he could outscore JG if he was on the right line.

    JG-Lind-Neal
    Tkachuk-Mony-Bennett
    Dube-Backs-Fro
    Hath-Lazar-Czar (Lazar is an energy guy, and will hit, and will be responsible defensively, and can kill penalties) Someone has to come up eventually to give us the 14th forward. At least that line could have an energy role.

    PP1
    Tkachuk-Mony-Lind-JG-Gio

    PP2
    Neal-Benny-Czar-Andersson-Hanifin

    PK Forwards
    Backs-Fro-Hath-Lazar-Dube + Benny if needed.

    There is no way this lineup should do any worse than lead the Pacific, and challenge for a Cup final against Nashville in the West Final.

  • Garry T

    4 Life . The shots were in favour of Calgary at 41 to 5. I think those numbers are off a bit. Both teams had about 10 more shots on goal for the night.
    The shot differential was primarily to the forecheck and the hard work exemplified by the Flames in taking the puck off Chicago all night long.

    Balzammon ….Rittich faced a 6 on 4 for two goals against and the other was a goal scorer’s goal with traffic in front of him. The team is working hard. Playing much better and most importantly winning. Goals result from
    Mistakes, hard work and man advantages. I did not see a mistake by Rittich tonight. He played well and seems to see and read the puck better than Smith. GFG

    • Luter 1

      The screen by Ryan on Rittich, was classic, even stuck his hand out like he was the goalie! No way for your tender to stop that when your teammate got his butt in your face. Someone should tell Ryan to plant his butt in the opponents goalies face and make himself useful at 3 mill

  • Rock

    Ari is still missing Hamilton for myself the best offseason move was to dispatch of Hamilton and to get the return like BT got back is unbelievable. Gio can play his game now without baby sitting Defensive lacking Hamilton.

  • freethe flames

    They have won their last 4; so we should be happy. Yet this team has yet to get it all together. When you look at the forward ranks we still have not seen guys like Neal, Bennett, Janko, Czar live up to the expectations we should have for them (Or at least what BT had for them; they did not sign Neal to the massive deal they did for him to be a bottom 6 forward most nights, they did not fly to see Czar to see him sit in the press box, they did not sign Janko a 2 year bridge deal to have 0 goals and frequently be parked on the bench, and I include Bennett not because I am upset with how he is playing but that he has been unlucky to not have better results). if one or two of these guys could start contributing like they did last year or were expected too when they were signed this team could make some significant progress.

  • 左翼二

    Rittich seems to be… tentative in first periods. But maybe I’m just projecting.

    I’d like to see the same drive and tenacity this team has later in games, in the 1st period. Might help prevent always having to come from behind.

  • Chucky

    It feels good to be on a winning streak and yet there is a nagging concern about depth. It is obvious that Peters thinks he has 8 or 9 forwards worth icetime and has not been able to find a role for a few of the guys who are dressing every night. It is disconcerting to look out on the ice with faceoff in the defensive zone, a one goal lead, the goalie out and have a Linholm, Monahan and Gaudreau on the ice but Jankowski and Hathaway who are defensively better have not been on the ice in the third period and Frolik has been sitting for 5 minutes.
    What happens if one or two of the top 8 time on ice leaders get injured, are the sitters likely to be in game shape or do they need to bring in someone from Stockton?
    Watching Ryan it is a mystery how he has scored 29 goals in his career goals in his career. He seems to have no offensive instincts, no shot and does not go hard to the net (not surprising at his size). Does anybody see why there is an expectation of him scoring or even setting up a goal?
    I think Skylardog has hit the nail on the head with his comment about Peters’ “inability to find and define roles for certain players on the roster, while at the same giving roles to some players that have no business being in that role”. This is a significant concern at this point in the season, I had hoped that these issues would be resolved by this point.

    • flames2015

      From the one goal he scored this year, he actually does have an okay shot. He does not drive play though, I believe he scored most of his 15 goals last year playing with Aho.

  • Garry T

    Sykardog. Jump in the car and go down to practice tomorrow. You will find Treliving or some of the brass sitting in the stands. Walk up, introduce yourself and say would it be alright if I posed 2 or 3 questions. They can’t say no. I would confront them regarding the 4th line as well as the popcorn squad. I would tell them to send the 8D and One of the popcorn forwards down. Bring up Rychel and either of Foo or Klimchuk so that we will use the 4th.line. Then I would get. In their face and confront them about FKN up Jankowski anD fixing the PP and the PK by using the players you want to see out there. Sometimes these guys cannot see the tree for the leaves. They will let Peters know that you and I are upset, C’mon Dawg, get down there and wear your cowboy boots and you Flames Jersey. I am 300 K away or I would come down and support you. Go Dawg Go!

  • For the next game, I would like to see this lineup:
    Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
    Tkachuk – Backlund – Neal
    Bennett – Ryan – Frolik
    Dube – Jankowski – Czarnik

    Hathaway is playing 5 minutes a night and hasnt been doing a whole lot, and yes I know he really has not gotten the ice time to do so, but Czarnik is a much better player who can replace Ryan on the second PP unit and give that unit some more skill.

    I really liked what I saw from the Bennett – Ryan – Frolik line in the third period against Chicago. Frolik gives those two a defensive presence while being able to drive possession. Bennett has been playing well, give him some more speed, I feel they could do some damage.

    I feel like now is the time to give Neal some consistent top 6 minutes. Give him some good line mates in Chucky and Backs and I think we will begin to see a lot more from Neal. The top line has been way too good to break up, and for as well as the 3M line has been playing lately, we could use a more prolific goal scorer on that weird (weird saying that given Frolik has 7 goals).

    The 4th line could provide a lot of speed and some scoring prowess. Czarnik has shown well when he has played, and I only think it is a matter of time before Dube begins to scoring some goals. I know a lot of people have been complaining about Jankowski’s lack of usage and ice time. But, at least in my opinion, he hasnt really done anything to earn it, outside of that one game in New York. As fans we have to realize that BP is a big fan of Derek Ryan and nothing is going to change that. But I think Ryan, while he hasnt done anything great, but also hasnt done anything bad, has outplayed Jankowski so far, but it would be nice to see Janko get some more ice, build his confidence, he has got skill but plays way to soft, but that is something that can be fixed

    Leave the defence as is, they have been playing well. And look at TJ Brodie since the 9-1 game. He has looked to be back in form from a few years back. Points aren’t there, but he is just playing really solid while sitting at a +7.

    Hanifin will look really good sometimes, then lost the next. But the good outweighs the bad in my opinion. Hamonic and Hanifin have meshed well, better then Brodie and Hamonic ever did, and they have solidified the second pair.

    Valimaki and Andersson have both been good too. They have both seemed to get more and more confident every game, and it is also a good thing that BP is able to break that pairing up if he needs to, because either one of them can play we whoever and succeed. I have really liked what I have seen from both of them.

    And in net, go with Rittich. He has been calm and steady, and while he gave up 3 goals on 15 shots, I dont think he could have done anything about them. But we do need a true #1, and that is up the Treliving to find one. It will be tough in season because no one is just trading a number 1 goalie. But I have to think Treliving could have something up his sleeve.