Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ducks 3, Flames 2 post-game embers: Having a goalie sure seems neat

The Ducks’ starter has a save percentage of .933. Their backup, who the Flames faced Wednesday night, has a .936%! Two really good goalies. I wonder what that’s like.

Feel of the game

It’s easy to feel like you’re off to a good start when entering a game on a four-game winning streak; it’s a lot tougher to feel good about it when you quickly spot the opposition back-to-back goals. The Flames have done a good job of coming back in third periods as of late, but it isn’t necessarily the third period-specific comeback – it’s that they consistently generate chances throughout the game, and for whatever reason, they all seem to be going in during the third period.

The Flames really turned it on in the second period and never looked back, generating high-danger chance after chance after chance, only for the puck to just never go in (hit the post, miss a wide open net, just a little too discombobulated on what would have otherwise been a tap-in). The will was there, but they were just missing each other all night.

Going down by two in the first period is highly unideal. Drawing back within one at the end of that period is great, especially with a quick powerplay goal, an area the team has very noticeably been struggling in. Doing everything in your power to tie the game up is great, too.

So when Mark Jankowski scored shorthanded in the third, the game took on a new vibe: they did it, they tied it up, they can keep this going. And then, 27 seconds later, that was lost: the defence is shoddy, the goaltending even more so, and they couldn’t keep winning forever.

And yet, maybe they really did deserve better.

The good news

The powerplay only went one-for-three, and another goal would have at least helped them tie it up, but it sure seemed like a step in the right direction. Matthew Tkachuk needs to be a staple in front of the net; his tipping prowess cannot be praised enough. And though they didn’t score, the Flames had a ton of chances in the second powerplay, as well. The final one to close out the game was a letdown, but with the way things have been going the past couple of seasons, this is a moral victory.

Jankowski has been angling for a shorthanded goal for some time now, it feels like. He’s only fifth in forward shorthanded ice time, but leads the way with three shorthanded shots, including the one that turned into his first goal of the season. When he’s able to get the puck into the offensive zone on the kill, he just feels dangerous. Really glad to see him get rewarded for that work. Hope there’s some more of that to come.

Granted, I’ve been a fan of James Neal since before he became a Flame, and it would be much better if he had more points than he does at the moment, but I’m still enjoying his game and liked seeing him with increased ice time and more talented linemates. On the other hand, it feels like we’re constantly saying, “Oh, maybe this is the game in which he breaks out.” But at the least, you can tell something is there. The contract invites Troy Brouwer comparisons, but I don’t see that at all in actually watching them.

Just feels like we could use a reminder that the Flames have an all-rookie pairing in Rasmus Andersson and Juuso Valimaki and though they’re getting reduced ice time, because rookies, they don’t look out of place, and that’s nice.

The bad news

Mike Smith.

No, seriously. The defence had its poor moments, and you could argue that some of the shots that turned into goals (or turned into rebounds that turned into goals) never should have been allowed to happen. But. At some point. The goalie has to make the save. He can’t keep guessing poorly, he can’t keep flopping around, he can’t keep kicking out dangerous rebounds or letting squeakers in or having no idea where the puck is or singlehandedly deflating his entire team. Just as the Flames missed a lot of obvious chances, so did the Ducks: this could have been much worse, and maybe it should have been.

(This isn’t on-ice, but listening to Kelly Hrudey try so hard to justify Smith’s place on NHL ice is getting increasingly painful, too. Jakob Silfverberg’s shot wasn’t that amazing. Smith is just literally one of the worst goalies in the NHL now, if not the worst.)

Missing so many prime scoring chances is definitely really frustrating. NaturalStatTrick had the Flames at 23 scoring chances in the second and third periods, and 12 high danger corsi events. That offence was working it, they just couldn’t put it together.

Numbers of note

61.70% – The Flames’ 5v5 corsi throughout the night. They were legitimately trying.

19:27 – Neal’s ice time, his highest of the season yet.

3:04 – Jankowski’s time on the penalty kill, the second most out of all forwards, behind Elias Lindholm (3:32, plus with 2:16 of powerplay time he led the way with 23:59 in total ice time – more than Mark Giordano’s 23:51). Jankowski only played 9:16 total, though. A lot was asked of him when down a man and not much else, but he definitely did end up justifying that.

8:04 – Austin Czarnik returned to the lineup. He got 1:03 in powerplay time. So, not much really happened. Cool. (Better than Anthony Pelsuo playing 4:20?)

Final thought

Smith: .872%

Rittich: .927%

Someone who is good at goaltending please help the Flames budget this. Their save percentage is dying.

(Seriously, though, in 11 games this season Smith just barely has more games with a save percentage over .900 [three] than games in which he’s been pulled [two]. The Flames aren’t going to win every game, and that’s fine, but Smith has the power to singlehandedly stop them from reaching the playoffs. He isn’t getting better. The writing is on the wall.)

  • everton fc

    No one wants Smith. And we don’t have a backup to replace him, if Rittich is the #1.

    Rittich becomes #1. Smith is the backup. I can live with this…

  • RKD

    There’s no way the 1st goal should have beaten Smith. Even if you pin the 2nd goal on Backs look carefully at Smith. Once the 1st shot hit him he hesitated and looked down then realized the rebound was kicked out to a Ducks forwat and was too slow to get over. He seemed to lack that push off power. Regardless right now Smith has no clue where the puck is when it hits him and that’s very scary.

    • thumz

      I agree with Smith’s movement problems. I’m not sure why he is ending up on his belly so often. Basically anytime he has to make a long lateral move, he flops straight forward like a starfish. Goalies like Quick or Price almost never do that.
      I’d be WAY more keen to let him battle through a rough start if he was moving better.

      • Jobu

        It looks to Jobu as if he’s having problems pushing off. This is the primary need for a goaltender. If he can’t get into position quickly he’s a liability.

        Hope he can turn it around.

      • calgaryfan

        Yea the belly flop is weird, I don’t think any goalie coach would want a goalie doing that all the time. He is a big man and could cover more net being uprite. He does not seem to have the calmness about him that most goalies have. Too busy in the net doing mostly nothing.

  • aye

    As bad as Smith has been, and as badly as we need a bona fide #1, I’m sure BT has been looking, but there really aren’t options out there right now. Price, Boborovsky, Holtby, Fleury, and Murray aren’t doing all that great. And Columbus is not trading Bob right now since they have playoff aspirations themselves and Korpisalo hasn’t been good enough.
    Despite the bad season with the Islanders last year, I always felt Halak was underrated, and we could’ve had him for fairly cheap.
    But the one that really got away in my mind was Raanta. BT really should’ve tried harder to get him when he was available 2 years ago.
    Unfortunately, now our best hope is Rittich can actually take on bigger load. who knows, maybe Smith can thrive as a backup like Miller has done the last 2 seasons.

        • SGRietzey

          Raanta had 94 GP over 4 seasons under his belt, plus an average save percentage of 0.925 the three seasons prior to being traded. He was ready to be a starter. I want to see Rittich take over the net for a bit too, but it’s a bit early to anoint him the next Raanta.

    • SGRietzey

      Raanta being the one that got away is so accurate it hurts. I was really hoping they’d target him (and failing him, Grubauer). He would have still technically been a gamble of sorts, going from having played a max of 30 games in a year to ideally ~55, but it would have been at least been a smart bet to make. Worst case scenario, he doesn’t pan out, the prospects falter, and you’re no further ahead than you were (admittedly, that sucks – but his record indicated it’d be unlikely). Best case scenario, he’s the starter the team had been wanting since Kiprusoff, with a prospect who’s become either a steady backup or another starter waiting in the wings – meaning you have two valuable trade chips.

      The whole “plan” Treliving seemed to have in mind in going after Smith (a poor bet even then from my POV; going for an old, injury-prone goalie as a bandaid/stopgap measure) had too many variables that could go wrong – Smith getting injured, Smith’s play cratering, goalies not developing as planned, etc. Half a season of stellar play, before all three came to fruition.

      I expect a lot relied on Gillies’ development progressing to a point where he’d be a Raanta-level backup within Smith’s remaining two seasons. That in itself is a problem, given goalie development may not be linear, but even if it were – why not go with a potential long-term solution in Raanta instead of the stopgap?

  • SouthernFlame

    Put Rittich as #1 goalie for awhile while Smith collects his thoughts. Just like Elliot had to do a couple years back. Elliot came back and got us to the playoffs in the 2nd half of the season. And yes he blew it in the playoffs but I can see this being a good thing with Rittich coming in as #1 and letting Smith watch. Not at all concerned with Rittich. Fun game to watch last night but wish it was a loss to the Sharks and not those disgusting pathetic Ducks

  • The Doctor

    This loss was on Smith. Period. I’ve been good with Peters so far this year, but if he persists with this idiocy and madness of starting Smith, then he is an idiot. We are losing games we should win because of Smith.

    • Cfan in Van

      I can understand wanting to get your “Number 1” going by instilling your confidence in him. Since we’ve seen more Rittich starts this year than last, I’ve been willing to give BP a pass on returning to Smith. At this point though, it agree, and they need to start giving Rittich more starts than Smith. 60/40, since they still need to bring the old guy out to stretch his legs every now and then (not that I want him in net).

    • Jobu

      Jobu laughed when Hrudey mentioned Smiths hard work with Sigalet and then immediately proceeded to give up the juiciest of rebounds and get scored on.

      And then he apologized for jinxing the man. Trust me Kelly, that one wasn’t on you.

      • Cfan in Van

        Nobody can tell you that, or provide any evidence that anyone whose been coached by Sigalet has improved after leaving the Flames and spending time with another goalie coach.
        This has been covered extensively here, but there’s almost no metrics that can be traced directly back the the goalie coach. A very interesting article came up about goalie coaching (with Sigalet and many other coaches), and even they admitted that it’s next to impossible to measure the true value/effectiveness of a goalie coach.
        Personally, I’d look at who the Flames have brought in for goalies, before going after the coach. Rittich is decent, he was decent at first, and he is now too. He had a hiccup last year, but so do all pro’s. What does that say about Sigalet? Who the F knows…

  • Stu Gotz

    Their appears to be a huge goaltending gap today in the NHL….the majority of teams will be hooped if their #1 goes down with an injury. So the competition is fierce. The Flames making a trade for an established goalie will be costly and giving up roster assets will hurt the team’s progress they have made with depth. Giving up high draft choices is not preferred as the cupboard in bare and needs to be stocked. Therefor we need to make the best of a bad situation…consider playing Smith selectively as a back-up. Given Rittich is not proven to take on the #1 (based on last year) play him selectively as your lead goalie. Given the development concerns with the minor goalies consider bringing up Gillies. At the end of the day the goaltending depth is concerning. Next years UFA market has some promise. As well potentially using a high draft in 2019 for a goalie not my preference but rather explore the European/Eastern market and find another Rittich……

  • Joeyhere

    What we are seeing in Smith is a problem
    Why we are seeing in Trelvings goaltending choices is a pattern (elliot, ramo, hillier, lack, ortio, Johnson) it’s that pattern that is even more concerning then Smith’s sub par play

  • snotss

    the solution is simple ….play rittich …play gillies i don’t care just not smith…send him to the minors to work on his game in a setting that wont cost the flames any points…..why not?????

  • Chucky

    This is a very worrisome situation. In a nutshell Smith is not performing and seems to have mobility problems. RIttich does not have the experience to inspire the confidence of going deep into the playoffs. Since the Pittsburgh disaster the team has outplayed the opponents and that creates hope but the goaltending situation does not justify the hope.
    The first thing that needs to be done is diagnose the problem with Smith and it is ridiculous to say he has never done the job. If the Flames had the preinjury Smith from last year they would have more wins this year. It is safe to conclude that the problem is physical as opposed to psychological. It is easy enough to design and run tests to determine the problem, vision, reflex speed, strength and flexibility are all measurable. If all of the tests indicate that there is no measurable problem then he is ready to play. (I expect that they are going to find that he has not fully recovered from last year’s injury)
    If Smith is ready to play then it is time to adopt a play until you lose starting rotation.
    If results on the Smith side don’t improve then there will need to be a trade because a team must have two reliable goaltenders, and the trade needs to be tempered by the development of Parsons and perhaps Gillies. In other words if it looks like Parsons is a starter of the future then no old guy under a 5 year contract.
    The final step is to part ways with Sigalet. There are all types of arguments but the simple summary is that there is no positive result that can be isolated and evaluated. If you employ someone for several years and you cannot point to specific outcomes where that employment benefited the company then it is time to try another solution. If goaltending coaches don’t do anything then a team probably doesn’t need one, but that would be giving up. The solution is to find guys with revolutionary approaches to the job and try them on 1 year contracts hoping to find something that works. Staying the course with an approach that is not working does not make any sense at all.

  • Albertabeef

    16 games in and zero points on the pp outside if the first unit. time to shake up the second unit. Go nuts and put Bennett on the center of the second unit. Maybe even take Tkachuky and put him on the left of Benny to spread out the offence. Neal would benefit greatly on the right and the rookies on the back end. Put TJ back with Gio on the first pp unit. Makes it harder to defend against two solid attack units instead of one. Until some other players on the team start scoring I don’t think we have the right forwards for 2×4 forward units. Geoff Ward should be able to see this by now and fix it. If Smith wasn’t taking a dump or a nap or whatever thus far this year we would be looking at this issue a whole lot more right now.

      • Albertabeef

        Well here is something to ponder, last season Brodie had about the same PP points as Gio or “Hamy the puck hog” with way less minutes.
        Hamilton 12 PP pts 218 PP minutes
        Brodie 11 PP pts 184 minutes
        Gio 10 PP pts 257 minutes

        Numbers don’t lie, that’s why I love them :).

        • Albertabeef

          Oh yuk. I was just flipping through stats and Flames have a 10.8% PP rate on the road. This is not good. Buffalo and Carolina have 14% on the road. Only third worst road PP % in the league. Only LA and the Sens are worse.

  • moore_tweets

    Here’s a thought….

    Send Smith down for a 10 game conditioning stint. Bring waiver exempt Gilles up. Rittich plays 7-8 games, Gilles plays 2-3.

    Worst case scenario, Smith gets claimed coming back. Oh well, 4.25mil off the books to seek another goalie at the TDL.

  • Stajanforadirtyboot

    Ok everyone, bird is the word for now, but I just got off the phone with an “insider” and it looks like the Flames are close on pulling off a significant trade within the next couple days. Stay tuned.