Stars 4, Flames 3 (OT) post-game embers: Better next time, maybe

The Flames have blown out their fair share of teams over the past week and a half. Against Vegas and Arizona, they didn’t need all of those goals, though they were nice to get. Against Winnipeg, they did. And against another Central Division team, well, they could’ve used them – but it took a little too long to get going.

Feel of the game

The tone was set early for the Flames when the Stars scored not even a minute in, capitalizing on what looked to be something of a discombobulated five-man unit. Things didn’t really get better after that: they let the Stars dictate the play at even strength, they couldn’t get their powerplay going (and didn’t do much to draw those penalties, either), and were lucky to exit the period tied with an absolutely brutal squeaker getting them on the board.

Slowly but surely, though, they looked like they started to figure things out. Not to the extent that they were actually scoring goals, but to the point that they looked like they were active participants in the game. Considering the way they started, being down by one wasn’t the worst for going into the third.

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The brief flurry of goals was nice, but the Stars were playing to win, too. Though the Flames were much stronger to close out the game, they weren’t playing an opponent they could walk all over; they were facing a team pretty similar to their level. The game going to overtime was probably the right outcome, but for a team that’s so strong at three-on-three, they had an incredibly disappointing result, and never really gave themselves a chance: almost like their first period came back full circle on them.

The good news

Oliver Kylington played in his second meaningful NHL game. He’s clearly being eased in, but he looked like he belonged. Sometimes it’s easy to tell when a young player is in over his head, but that absolutely hasn’t been Kylington thus far: his pinches were appropriate, he had the small handful of solid defensive moments, he occasionally had the chance to try to get something going, and he just looked like there’s a real chance for him to belong. Rasmus Andersson had a similar game himself, albeit a little stronger because, well, he’s been at this longer. But the point is: the prospective defencemen are all looking really good so far. It’s still early yet for all of them, but the Flames may have been handling their development perfectly. There’s a lot to like there.

The fourth line had a pretty strong game themselves. It was the depth that was most interesting to watch: though Garnet Hathaway’s goal probably never should have gone in, the effort preceding it made it a possibility to begin with. For their limited ice time, players like Mark Jankowski and Dillon Dube also looked like they were trying to get their team back in it. It didn’t quite work out, but that’s a far better use of an energy line than a couple of guys who can barely skate.

The Calgary Stampeders are still Grey Cup champions. It’s been a few years since we’ve gotten to see them all pile out on the ice at the start like that. It’s awesome.

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The bad news

There’s kind of an adjustment when it comes to watching certain goals against. Mike Smith had a stretch so atrocious (that hopefully he’s coming out of now) that there has to be that conscious shift from “the goalie singlehandedly cost them the game” to “maybe the goalie could have been a little better, maybe he could have used a little more help, sometimes pucks just go in, it wasn’t the best but it wasn’t the worst either”. David Rittich got a gross .857 save percentage out of this one, but he had plenty of strong moments as well. So basically: he had a very human game. There’s a chance he might not be one of the best goalies in the NHL, as his previous stats had been indicating. Time to cast off the extremes.

Although the overtime ending was brutal. I am not a goalie warning, but: I didn’t like seeing Rittich come out of his net to play the puck; not with Jamie Benn bearing down on it with Mark Giordano and Sean Monahan right there as well. That didn’t directly lead to the game winner, but it did kick off a set of seconds in which Rittich never really got totally set again, including Benn clipping him. And let’s be honest: even if Rittich was completely set, that’s Seguin alone in the slot, there’s a very good chance that puck was going in no matter what. Maybe it’s being used to watching Smith play the puck, but my heart sank when Rittich came out to play it. Maybe a little premature, but not by much.

Should we be getting worried about the Flames’ tendencies to take seemingly entire periods off? I get it, it’s a long season and no team will ever be able to give it its all 246 periods a year, but it’s one thing to lay off when up by five goals. This was not one of those times.

Numbers of note

61.36% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF throughout the night. You can thank the second and third periods for that, and it kind of is a gauge of what this team can do when it’s properly trying – their hearts just didn’t seem totally in it this one.

20.4% – The Flames’ overall powerplay percentage this season, currently 14th in the NHL. Their first powerplay went great though they didn’t score; their fifth one went even better because, well, they scored. But everything in between – especially powerplays two and three – was lacking.

2 minutes – Or roughly that, at least. The Flames’ top powerplay unit got about two more minutes in ice time than the second unit did. That should maybe be expected, but the first unit also looks leaps and bounds better than the second unit, and has outscored them to a comical extent (15-3).

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24 – Giordano had a two-point night, which sees him at 24 points total on the year. He’s now tied for fourth in team scoring with Elias Lindholm, and he’s fifth in league-wide defencemen scoring. He’s 35.

6, 5 – Speaking of Lindholm, he was a shooting machine, and it showed with six shots on net. This is actually a good thing, though he didn’t score: Lindholm has been riding a high shooting percentage all season (he’s at 16.9% now), so seeing him still get these high-shot games in is encouraging that he isn’t going to coast any time soon, at least not on that front. Former fellow Hurricane Noah Hanifin had five of his own; that’s one of his best shooting efforts, and just a game after scoring his first goals as a Flame.

11:32 – Kylington’s ice time, less than the 13:49 he got to play in a blowout. Andersson got 14:26; all of the other defencemen had over 20 minutes. It sure looks like he’s being brought along properly, though.

Final thought

Is this a good gauge of where the Flames stand against the rest of the West? The Pacific Division is, well, bad. Just because the Flames are a top team in it – still the top team after Wednesday’s final results – doesn’t mean they’re on par with other divisional leaders. The Stars have a record very similar to the Flames’, but the Central is much tougher to play in, so they’re in a wild card spot.

If anything, maybe this game can serve as a reminder that while the Flames are a good team, and they’re a decent bet to make the playoffs approaching a third of the way through the season, they shouldn’t take their divisional status as an indication they can take anything for granted. They’ll likely end up disappointed if they do.

  • The Sultan

    Can’t believe the Ducks are climbing out of the basement. Gibson is putting that team on his back and dragging them up the standings. Just go away already Anaheim.

    • Alberta Ice

      I thought the Ducks would have a disastrous road trip. Such has not been the case. I guess their 2-1 crazy comeback win in OT against Edmonton a few games ago hurdled them into a winning mentality just like a Flames win against Edmonton hurdled the Flames into a winning mentality (except it seemed to be absent last night).

  • Luter 1

    Lots of puck watching in our own end, especially Johnny and Mony, come on guys take a look around and pick up an opponent, it was like Timbits hockey.
    It was one of those games because of a lack of physicality that the the Flames decided to do it the easy way, not going to the dirty spots, little traffic in front of the net, etc. Seen this happen dozens of times over the past year at home.

  • BrennyBaller

    I’ve been at the last 5 games, including in Vegas and Arizona. I have to say the last 2 Neal has been more noticeable and getting good chances again, he had a stretch he was just invisible. I see a lot of whining about Ryan and Czarnik, but they are both getting him chances. I think Czarnik has set him up in the slot 3-4 times, and Neal has whiffed or shot right into the chest. Ryan seems to be looking for Neal almost too much, sometimes forcing the issue and making a bad play to try to get it to Neal. While I don’t think these 2 are the answer to get Neal his long-term spark, I disagree with the notion of “he’s playing with Ryan and Czarnik of course he’s not scoring”

    • MDG1600

      Neal has looked tired from day 1 which is what I’d expect from a guy that went to the final 2 years in a row (or is it 3?). He needs a phantom injury and a month off. It’s not like we are going to miss his on ice contributions.

      • Captain Ron

        Well how many sleeps do you think he needs? Poor guy he must be worn out making all those trips to the bank.
        I don’t see players like OVI and Wilson and Carlson and Backstrom on the Caps having these struggles you are suggesting and they won the cup last year.
        Neal isn’t nearly the player I thought he was. So unless he has a hidden injury that is keeping him from being an impact player then I want a refund.
        Neal needs a kick in the arse right now more than he needs time off to rest. This is pro sports not day care. There may be some other instances when I might agree with you but this is not one of them.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      As much as I have slagged Billy Peters for sticking Neal with unsuitable linemates–and I maintain it is true–Neal’s positioning in the offensive zone was poor during most of last night’s tilt. I don’t know if he was trying to be defensively responsible while in the Stars’ zone or if he was living in the past thinking he could still dart into a primo scoring spot at the drop of a hat and convert a pass or rebound into a goal. Don’t know if his positioning on offence has been poor all season, but No way was Neal going to score last night with his positioning. If age has caught up to Neal he has to reinvent himself as a useful player but he did himself few favours last night by not getting himself into spots where he is a deadly shooter.

      • HOCKEY83

        I was at the game last night and it looked like a comedy of errors most of the night. They were watching Dallas play the game a lot. They had no desire to get to the puck first.

  • Alberta Ice

    Ari, totally agree with your comment on Rittich going behind the net to play the puck before the give away goal. It looked like he was doing the Smith gamble thing of trying to get to the puck to play it out; but the enemy got there at the same time too and he didn’t get it out. (Saw this horror with Smith in the preseason game in China). Suddenly the puck was up for grabs behind the net with Rittich needing to get back into net. Rittich got back to the net but the Stars got the puck control; easy one timer. Gamble and game over. I’m okay with the goalie going behind the net to stop it or play it; but not with the opposition coming in at the same time. A bad mistake to make in overtime for sure. Will our goalies learn from this? Hope so.

    • flames2015

      Johnny was also piss poor defensively on that shift, the entire sequence he was ready to blow the zone instead of recongizing he should help provide some coverage.

  • MDG1600

    I know Johnny is small but it wouldn’t kill him to try a little harder defensively. In our end he tends to hang out near the blue line hoping for a turnover and odd man rush. First Dallas goal is typical JH not wanting to follow his man deep in to the zone.

    • Alberta Ice

      Sean and John know they can do better. Great to hear Sean own up to the fact he can do better. Expect a much better game from the team against LA. Good wake up call from the Stars.

      • TheDallyLama

        @cid you’re such a dbag.. you really are. And I’m not gonna provide reasoning or why, cuz you obviously dont for every comment you make. So yes you sir are a dbag for every single comment you have made since surfacing here on FN a few weeks ago. Thank you hagd ??

      • Albertabeef

        Truth be told I skipped the article an went straight to the comments for the same reason. I always do these days with Ari. Always blah blah blah Mike Smith like a broken record. Damn near plagiarism with that article about the future of flames defense that I’ve read from two other authors on this site in the last month. Why in hell would I read it a third time from another author who can’t do original work. Just simply a bad reporter.

    • KeepitReal

      You are right sir. Article would be much better and easier to understand if Sans Script was used instead of plain font. Oh, and maybe thought bubbles instead of traditional paragraph set up.

    • The Doctor

      They were also very obstructionist in their own zone, blocking and deflecting passes and shots. I’ve noticed a pattern where when opponents do that effectively, we get stupid with our puck management.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Any good reason Rittich was on his knees on the first goal? Never a good thing for the club to be in the hole before the first minute.

      Don’t think Rittich was going to make the save in OT even if he had had enough time to set himself.

      I agree with Ari about wandering Rittich trying to play the puck. Maybe I haven’t seen him play enough but he makes me nervous when he strays from his net in search of the puck. I noticed a couple of times on Flames’ pps, Rittich in retrieving the puck and setting it for one of his teammates didn’t seem to be helping his mate. If the defenceman had got the puck himself he might have transitioned a second or two faster than with Rittich’s help.

  • Off the wall

    Here’s a silly story for ya.
    Last night I attended a concert with my darling wife. It was General seating, so the earlier you got there the better seats you’d get. It was a small venue.

    Mrs Otw loves being close to the musicians, so we arrived early.

    We stood in line for 1/2 hour, waiting for the doors to open for the concert.

    Once we got in, it was everyone heading for the best seats possible. Like I said, it was a small venue, so any seat would be a great one.

    Mrs Otw got us a seat in the 3rd row. I went to the washroom and when I came back, I found Mrs Otw arguing with a BIG man behind us. Apparently, he moved his seat 3 times and was now trying to claim our seats.

    Well that didn’t sit too well with lil” Otw. My wife never gets involved in altercations, so this guy must have really put a burr in her saddle.

    Otw did what any husband would. He told the guy to “back off”. Only now he decided to get in Mr Otw face.

    “ Why don’t you tell your woman to mind her own f’ing business ” he yelled. Otw didn’t like his tone, so he replied, “Sit the Flock down!”

    Well steroid monster didn’t really like my reply, so he edged within inches of my face. I was a bit scared, but this was my wife he was badgering, so Otw met him even closer, we were now almost nose to nose.

    “ You really want to do this?” I replied
    I didn’t think I stood a chance against him, but I wasn’t going to let him berate my darling wife.

    “ What are you, a 12 year old?”
    A few of the other patrons heard my outburst and started laughing at him.

    I guess the laughing of the patrons caught him off guard, and he went silent. He backed off and went and sat down a row behind us.

    But he pointed his finger at me, as if to indicate this wasn’t over. Great, he’s going to be waiting for me in the parking lot after, I imagined. Oh well, I’m crossing fingers, that he enjoys the concert and forgets about his roid rage.

    After the concert, he came up to me. Oh “ fix auto” he still wants to settle this. I was ready, but I really haven’t been in a fight for decades – and now’ wasn’t feeling like a great time to remember how to fight again.

    Instead, much to my surprise, he shook my hand and said he’s never seen a lil’ guy stand up to him the way I did and that he respected it. He confessed that when I came within inches of his face, it scared him!

    We both laughed.. and nonsense was avoided. Thank goodness, I didn’t really feel like getting pummeled. But I was ready to take my licking if need be.

    Our team has been playing well since the Pittsburgh pummeling.
    However, what’s been noticeable since then, it’s that our teammates have been sticking up for one another. We’re definitely not a fist fighting’ team, but when push comes to shove, our players will defend each other vehemently.

    That’s all you can ask for!

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Love Hanifin’s end to end rushes but he simply can’t end them with a lame shot that wouldn’t even fool a pee wee goalie. He has to learn to fearlessly drive for the net and try to deke the goalie. Alternatively, a backpass to a trailer who one times it will result in a big uptick Hanifin’s assists. Hanifin can’t waste his end to end dashes as he did twice last night.

  • The Doctor

    That shot blocking stat — it was 24-3 early in the third period — was a screaming elephant in the room. That screamed out the fact that we were being stupid and sloppy in the offensive zone, shooting into obvious blocks, etc. Dallas was obviously being smart with their sticks and bodies, but there is no excuse for a number like that. We need to manage the puck more intelligently in the O zone, including getting shots off faster before opponents can get in a position to block etc.

    • Albertabeef

      Be nice if our current players blocked shots like Russell and Bouma did. Just checked the stats and Flames are tied for last in the league for blocked shots. That’s not good. On top of that we have the third most giveaways but the 5th most takeaways too.