Flames 4, Kings 1 post-game embers: There could’ve been more goals

For as many blowouts in their favour as the Flames have had lately, you’d have thought, the way this game played out, it would have been another one. It wasn’t – the empty netters don’t count, really – but the team had a solid bounce-back effort from a rough previous outing, and that’s exactly the kind of game you would have wanted to see from them.

Feel of the game

It was pretty much all Flames from the beginning. The way the past two weeks have gone, nobody would have blamed you for thinking Mikael Backlund’s early goal was going to be the start of a flurry of them. It wasn’t – not even close – and it probably shouldn’t have gone in to begin with, but it gave the Flames an early lead to work with, and that they controlled the game pretty much from there on out should have spelled a win for the Flames.

And it did, but for the “here we go again” moment when Mike Smith gave up a short-side goal that also shouldn’t have gone in. Suddenly, the team that had been controlling the puck for most of the game was tied with the team that couldn’t seem to get much in the way of pressure at all. It would have been fair to be at least a little worried: why weren’t the Flames scoring? And would that goal give the Kings life?

It didn’t. By continuing to press, the Flames were finally able to score another goal, and two empty-netters secured the regulation win – the fate that the Flames deserved the entire time, even if it took a little longer to make it a safe victory than one might have expected, considering how the night played out.

The good news

It oscillated throughout the game, but a lot of the Flames looked dialled in, particularly offensively. Backlund’s first goal may have been a bit of a fluke, but he was getting his fair share of chances at the game went on. James Neal looked engaged from the start. After a rare off night against the Stars, the top line was back to dominating and creating scoring chance after scoring chance. Austin Czarnik, in trying to score, drew the penalty that led to Johnny Gaudreau’s game winner. The team didn’t score much, but they were all trying, and most of them looked involved.

Special shoutout to Gaudreau in particular, who had horrid luck before he finally potted one. (Particularly the puck travelling along the goal line and then bouncing out – ouch.) He was engaged the entire night, and easily could’ve had – probably should have had – more than just the one goal.

Though it was either tied or a one-goal game most of the night, the Flames pretty much always looked in control. They had some major offensive zone time (particularly when the Kings kept icing the puck); they just couldn’t score as often as they have the past couple of weeks. The 4-1 score was probably a fair reflection of the game, even if two of the goals were empty netters.

The bad news

On the other hand: the Kings are literally the worst team in the NHL right now, so it’s kind of disappointing it took the Flames so long to put this one away. Credit to Cal Petersen, who’s had to do a lot with very little, but having this game be in doubt for as long as it was wasn’t the greatest. It goes to show that the Flames still have to work pretty hard to stay where they are in the standings.

Smith can’t let that goal in – especially when the skaters in front of him had only scored once at that time. This wasn’t a 6-0 Coyotes game where a goal against didn’t really matter; that could have cost the Flames a point and it was just bad all around. He had that great save against Dustin Brown in the third; he also had his fair share of moments in which he was flailing and didn’t look comfortable. I think starting Smith against the Kings was the right call – they’re a bad team – but he’s gotta be better. The Kings only had 14 shots all night, and that one shouldn’t have gone in.

Numbers of note

60.76% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF on the night. Their second and third periods had 5v5 CFs over 60%. It was never in doubt who was the better team.

37-14 – The Flames dominated the Kings on the shot clock. The Kings were never able to get more than five shots a period, and they were trailing most of the game. There’s playing on the second of a back-to-back, and then there’s whatever that was. Elias Lindholm had six shots, Sean Monahan had five, and Backlund and Derek Ryan had four each – those four players alone trounce an entire team in that department.

26-14 – According to Natural Stat Trick, those were the 5v5 scoring chances for the Flames. It was 16-4 in their favour in the third period alone. No matter what metric you use, it’s pretty clear who the better team was.

.929% – Smith’s save percentage, in which he let in one goal on 14 shots. He’s now up to .885% on the season. David Rittich should still be considered the starter, but there’s nothing wrong with giving Smith these games: Rittich will need to have nights off sometimes, and if these are the games that give Smith the best chance to win, well, go for it.

29 – Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk are tied for the team’s points lead. We’re over a quarter of the way into the season and Tkachuk is still hanging there with the best offensive player the Flames have had for the better part of five years. So that’s incredibly interesting.

20.9% – The Flames went one-for-three on the powerplay, and it won them the game. Their season success rate is now 20.9% – it’s much less of a disaster than, well, pretty much any time in the 2017-18 season. It’s also 14th in the NHL.

8:14 – Ryan Lomberg’s ice time, a little more than Garnet Hathaway’s 7:53 (including 22 seconds on the penalty kill). Huh. Though you gotta think Andrew Mangiapane is in next game…

Final thought

There are some games you just have to have. For the Flames, this was one of them. It would have been better to see them take a commanding lead on the scoreboard before the empty nets came into play, but what really matters is they got the two points, and looked like they deserved them the entire time.

    • Albertabeef

      So what we just discard those two overtime losses? We don’t count them for some reason like they don’t actually exist or never happened? Why try to sugarcoat a loss? Oh boy we got a stupid loser point yeah! Ugh. It’s still a loss.

  • buts

    When the flames got up 2-1 I really enjoyed how they pushed the pace and kept the kings hemmed in there zone. No sitting back on a 1 goal lead…..good on ya BP.

    • Ari Yanover

      I really hope he is but that he was still flailing around gives me cause for concern… I’d stick to giving him weaker opponents.

      Though there is a back to back with Nashville and Edmonton next week soooo who knows which game he’ll get then.

      • Cfan in Van

        Yep. I’m still looking for a 3:1 Rittich-Smith split. Allow Smith to have some in the tank for playoffs, and get a great read on Rittich, with a large sample of starts going into the offseason.

        • Ari Yanover

          A friend of mine is coming in from out of town for their first ever Flames games in Alberta so I’ll be at both and I’m really conflicted about the starts haha.

          • Burnward

            Time to work Smith in more.

            He is playing much better and his comments have been absolutely tone perfect to what is wrong with his game.

            If he has settled down in his head and that continues to translate he can be a monster.

            If rittich gets 40 this year that’s amazing for his and the team’s long term development.

            But rittich is still a flash in the pan until he isn’t

    • MDG1600

      I thought Smith looked really shakey last night. He basically only faced 1 tough shot and luckily he stopped it. The goal LA scored should have been an easy save except he was in such poor position. I don’t get the lunging forward on to his belly all the time – I don’t recall him doing that last year. At this point I am actually concerned Smith isn’t even a viable back up. If Rittich falters I think we are in a heap of trouble. Bottom line is I think Calgary should consider waiving Smith and looking for goalie help.

      • Just.Visiting

        Yes…I wish I had thought of the name, but someone on here calls that flopping movement the “scorpion” because his legs bend up at the same time. My daughter who has only recently begun to watch games with me this season keeps asking why he does that move too. I had mixed feelings when it worked last night on the key save, as it potentially encourages him to keep using the move.

  • Ben.

    good for Smith’s confidence, but he dives when he should slide, etc…this acrobatic style won’t age well

    Phaneuf has not aged well, truculence doesn’t win, the fact he still plays shows how bad the Kings lineup is.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    I’m still not convinced Smith is back in any way, Kings couldn’t hit the barn door with there shots, granted Smith made one spectacular save, but he still looks out of position most of the time.
    Sloppy game, but we’ll take the 2 points.

  • Davebot

    Boy, howdy, are the Kings ever a slow team. Every now and then when they managed to get a cycle going along the boards you could see the remnants of their Stanley Cup DNA, but they could never manage to find space for themselves because they just couldn’t skate away from the Flames. I sometimes hear people say the Flames lack an identity, but you could see the identity tonight: attack with speed and skill.

    • wot96

      Oh no…it was just incidental contact; he was just following his defenceman down the boards; he even tried to get out of the way….

      I can’t believe the excuses coming out of Washington for that crap.

      • Burnward

        Tom Wilson just had the misfortune of everyone deciding to change the rules of hockey on him.

        He’s awesome at the sport and crushes dudes that didn’t learn the basic self-preservation rules of minor hockey.

        No issues with him. Except he’s not a Flame.

      • Avalain

        Looking at the reddit post about it and even the Pittsburgh fans are defending this hit.

        Personally, he does a lot of bad things, but this one was not anything more than interference. It wasn’t a hit on the head. Wilson does actually try to minimize the impact (just not as much as he should).

        • KeepitReal

          Wilson is not Joe Citizen. He’s a registered Dirty Hit Offender. He’s under the microscope and won’t get a pass that maybe a Joe Citizen might be afforded. But he’s too dumb to appreciate the difference. Hitting a player from behind who doesn’t have the puck when he had oodles of time to change lanes won’t bode well at the parole hearing. I like Wilson but he’s becoming a liability that his team might not want for much longer.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    My takeaways from last night’s game.

    Has it really been 30 years since the Great One and Marty McSorely christened those horrible silver and black Raider ripoff uniforms? Still the worst uni in the NHL.

    Jimmy Neal looked pretty good last night. I was pleased to see that he used his size a couple of times to hold his position and to steal the puck from a King.

    Czarnik reminded me last night of Paul Byron as a Flame–all pep and no finish. Not a knock because Byron eventually figured out how to finish, alas as a Hab.

    Is it just me or do others feel a lot more secure when Smitty plays the puck than when Rittich does?

    While I liked Lomborg’s banging and crashing last night, that robust style looks so out of place in today’s NHL. I can see Lomborg having value against big clubs and a useful teammate when the Flames play against punks like Wilson and Kassian, but apart from that, he is a waste of a roster spot.

    Don’t know if Johnny needs corrective eyewear or was just unlucky with all those hit posts. Any reason why he can’t score 40+ a season?

    Hated Backs looking behind him prior to scoring the fourth goal. Chucky’s body language on that play was probably the same as what he likely said, “Shoot the damn puck!” I mostly never agree with the notion of passing the puck when a player has the chance for a freebie. Too many things can go wrong with a pass. If you are in position to get a goal, SHOOT!

    Finally, apart from scoring 6 against a sloppy Arizona team and 2 empty netters last night, the Flames have scored 3 goals in their last 4 games. That just isn’t good enough because the club remains vulnerable on the defensive end. Until rather late in the 3rd, the Flames were a cough-up away from trailing the lowly KIngs. With the offensive talent this club possesses, it must score more.

  • KeepitReal

    As already stated by others I think there’s a chance Red Lite Mike can rehab his game. But I’m cautiously optimistic and would only want him taking 25% of the starts. He still comes up with huge saves but looks shaky & bewildered on easy shots. This game could have easily slipped away to a 3 point affair if RLM had let in another softie.


  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Johnny’s defence is suspect this year but his offense is way more dangerous. He has found his shot again which is good for us but bad for the league because now he is more difficult to defend.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Agreed he has annoying defensive tendencies. He’s never going to out-muscle anyone or block shots, but last night he was at least backchecking. Stripping the puck is his forte, not man on man. Monahan and Lindholm need to recognize this and do a better job themselves. Gaudreau survives clearing the puck by chipping the puck, not standing there making a play while getting hit.

      Finally, we are seeing more shots from Johnny. Less bad angle, more from the slot or in traffic from the center of the ice. Would like to see him work more on the RW half boards during PP’s, though. He has a good shot from that side.

  • Jobu

    It’s great Smith got the win and hope it help him in the long run but agree with Ari and most comments here.

    The goal against he did the usual ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ as in “I don’t know how that went in” or “cmon guys what are you doing?”. Neither statement helps his cause.

    And the constant throwing up of both his arms when he can’t see the shot screams poor decision making. He lost his stick trying to make a save AGAIN! I think that’s 3 starts in a row now he’s done that.

    Something ain’t right there and I hope he fixes it, but until the mechanics that made him so successful in 2017 come back, Jobu doesn’t have much confidence in keeping him in the crease.

    It’s Rittichs job to lose now. He’s the only potential starting goalie under contract control next year. We need to prove if Ritter is starter material and he hasn’t played enough games yet.

  • Chucky

    There has to be something done to Peters’ player selection. To give Czarnik, Ryan and Neal over 10 minutes each and sit the fourth line is just a joke. On average the third line is over $3 million a year and they could not score if their life depended upon it. Ryan is the most ham handed puck handler I have seen in a flames uniform since Nick Grossman, Neal has perfected the shot in the centre of the crest, maybe he is feeling bad about the smaller chest protectors and Czarnik is a laughing stock , the guy would not go into the corner with two bodyguards and a Kevlar vest. When it comes down to the crunch the Flames are going to need a third line that can score and defend, with the available talent that line is going to include Hathaway and Jankowski.
    Time to realize that once again UFA money is wasted and home grown talent is more effective.

    • Just.Visiting

      For the Flames to go deep, I think it will depend a lot more on Janko and Bennett growing than Ryan and Czarnik being Ryan and Czarnik. It looks like Bennett is on track. It’s time to figure out how to get Janko going, which I don’t think is limited minutes on the 4th line.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      The 3rd line screams need for change. The way it is, you either have to play both wings on their wrong sides or play Neal on LW, which isn;t his best look. Janko is far away better than Ryan on both sides of the game, but Ryan is usually dominant in faceoffs. Problem is that his hockey sense is limited. Put Janko with Neal and Mangiapane and see what happens. It’s about the best scenario you can have to start feeding Neal, as well as giving Janko a decent player that can finish (Breadman).

      The other area is that Tkachuk is being held back, believe it or not, by playing with Backlund. Perhaps Bennett is part of the problem too. Bennett can;t seem to finish anything, and gets decent looks every game. If he passes off to Backlund, he misses wide open nets. Perhaps its time to break of that line and create a couple of better constructed lines. Bennett-Backlund-Folik(Czarnik) and Tkachuk-Janko-Neal, which would slide Mangiapane to 4th line with Ryan and Hathaway.

    • MDG1600

      Two edged sword with Benny since one of the knocks on him is he tends to overhandle the puck and not pass – which I am pretty sure is why he they moved him away from being a centre.

  • Raffydog

    I love it. Remember not to many years ago when the Kings would dominate the Flames for the entire game. Sometimes it seemed like Calgary could never get out of their zone. Nice to see the script get flipped the last couple of years.

    • Cfan in Van

      It’s been on and off with the Kings. They’ve also been dominant at times, dating back to clinching a playoff spot in ’15. That seemed like a bit of a turning point, and the with the Tkachuk/Doughty business, I’d day it’s been a wash. They’re horrible now though.

  • Squishin

    My thoughts:
    – Bennett had a great game, even if he didn’t have much to show for it. I can see his confidence coming back. Some of those o-zone dekes were just filthy.
    – Smith did not look great still. I agree with some of the other posters here – why does he dive forward all the time? He wasn’t doing that last year. It’s not good form.
    – Kylington looked great! Much better than he did in the Dallas game. He’s really fast for a defenceman. Nice pick by the Flames.
    – Johnny is a wizard. They didn’t show the replay of it, but there was this nutty move where he faked out three guys twice in a row and set up a scoring chance. I could only shake my head in wonder.
    – Lomberg looked way better in this game than in his debut last year. If he keeps that hard-on-the-puck style going, I would be very okay with having him as the 13th or 14th permanently, able to step in and play well.
    – I’m starting to get excited about Jankowski’s two-way game. His positioning in the d-zone is getting better and better. More often than not, he’s able to break up the cycle and get the puck out. Very encouraging.
    – Czarnik is looking more comfortable now. I wonder who comes out when Frolik is back?