Canucks 3, Flames 2 (OT) post-game embers: When does the whistle blow?

Against the Jets, the Flames played mostly poorly, and won due to amazing goaltending. Against the Canucks, they ran into another team’s amazing goaltending – and that nullified most of their scoring chances, and cost them a point.

Feel of the game

Through most of the game, the Flames looked like they were on another level compared to the Canucks – at least, at 5v5. Unfortunately for them, there were nine penalties committed through the game, leading to a lot of special teams play (particularly time on the powerplay, which was overall rather poor) – but also two shorthanded goals, the only goals the Flames ended up being able to score.

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Though the Canucks drew first blood, the Flames were playing strongly enough that you knew they’d come back, and they did with a shorthanded goal. They then flat out dominated the start of the second, vastly outplaying the Canucks – at least, until they took a penalty, leading to their first lead of the game. But poor defence led to the Canucks scoring the only 5v5 goal of the game, and they gathered momentum from that, leading to a suddenly more precarious outlook than there had been before.

Both teams just played out the third period, and that kind of carried through into overtime, in which both teams got chances, but the Canucks capitalized on theirs.

All of that, but one goal in the game didn’t count: a Flames powerplay goal towards the end of the first that was nullified due to an inexplicably early whistle, and one that, had it counted, likely would have given the Flames the win. It can’t be blamed for everything – that early whistle gave the Flames a lengthy 5v3, which they did absolutely nothing with – but wiping a goal off the board is pretty big, particularly in a game as close as this one.

The good news

After more duds than not as of late, the Flames actually played a pretty good game. They controlled play at 5v5, particularly during the first half, and dominated scoring chances. It didn’t result in a win, but it was a step in the right direction – albeit, just a step, but it was good to see they still have it in them.

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Freshly recalled after about a month’s absence from the NHL, Dillon Dube looked like his preseason self: energetic, smart, and with a couple of scoring chances to boot. He was noticeable, largely in a positive way, when he stepped out on the ice. There’s just as much to like about him as there was at the start of the year; hopefully it’ll translate into more points, should he stay up. Alongside Alan Quine – who’s five years his senior – he’s been the best of the Flames’ AHL forwards.

Gotta give credit to Mark Jankowski, who yet again proved dangerous on the penalty kill (and you’ve gotta love an aggressive penalty kill!) and factored in on both of the Flames’ goals. A little more on his numbers shortly, but if anything, he’s an absolute treat to watch when the Flames are down a man – his instincts in that game scenario have been outstanding.

David Rittich didn’t have his best game, but he didn’t let in anything particularly atrocious, either, and still made a number of solid stops. Really, it’s just a good sign that he got the start – further evidence that the best goalie the Flames have is getting the games to match that title.

The bad news

It’s great the Flames outplayed the Canucks, but scoring actual goals to go along with that level of play would have been even better. Jacob Markstrom was great – it’s probably the same scenario in which the Jets had to tip their caps to Rittich in their previous game – and the Flames definitely made it tough on him, but there were also times when they neglected to get a shot off in favour of holding the puck or squeezing an extra pass in, which has been kind of a theme with these guys. This game shouldn’t have been as close as it was.

Out of five powerplay opportunities, only one really looked threatening. Maybe two. The Flames have some high end offensive weapons, but their powerplay is going through a major slump at the moment. It’s not just that they aren’t scoring on it: it’s that they aren’t getting many chances, either, and sometimes end up killing their own powerplay. Looking more dangerous on your penalty kill is not a great sign for your man advantage, and it’s kind of been a theme on the season.

I really, really, really hate criticizing officials, because it’s so easy to miss calls, a fair number of them would be subjective, and like, I’d be a terrible ref, myself. But there are some errors that are just flat out inexcusable, and one happened against the Flames Saturday night: blowing the play dead as the Flames were about to get another powerplay, even though the Canucks did not have the puck. It seems as though that’s been happening around the league a lot more this season, and in particular for the Flames, that’s now twice in two games: the officials blew a play dead when the Jets took a penalty, even though the Flames were creating a scoring chance. This one was extremely costly, as it wiped a Flames goal off the board in what ended up being a one-goal game. Yes, the Flames should have been better, but still: the officials directly cost the Flames a point in the standings, and on an error that’s occurred more than once this season for several teams. What’s going on here? Okay, fine, this particular instance really sucked, but I’d take it if we saw anything resembling a hint of accountability from the NHL. We aren’t getting that, we’re just getting more plays blown dead when they shouldn’t be. Thanks.

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Numbers of note

50.55% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF through this one. They killed it during the first period and a large chunk of the second, but ended up letting the Canucks back in it overall. Not being able to capitalize on their chances cost them.

12 – The Flames now lead the NHL with shorthanded goals.

66.67% – Jankowski, with four shorthanded goals and six shorthanded points, is tied with the Coyotes’ Michael Grabner for the league lead in both categories. He has six goals and 15 points total on the season, so two-thirds of his goals have come during the penalty kill, and 40% of his total points.

12 – The number of powerplays the Flames have had since their last powerplay goal, a quick rebound strike by Matthew Tkachuk against the Blues back on Dec. 22. They went 0-for-4 against the Jets and 0-for-5 against the Canucks, not including the goal they scored that was waved off due to an early whistle. Sometimes they don’t even get a shot off; other times, they  get a 54-second 5-on-3 and do very little with it. The Flames’ powerplay now sits at 21.0%, 14th in the NHL, but Saturday night, it cost them.

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6:52 – The amount of ice time Dube had in his return to the Flames, the least out of everyone on the team. He managed two shots on net, which was about on par with those who played many more minutes than he did.

26:15 – And then there’s Johnny Gaudreau’s ice time; only Mark Giordano (26:58) played more than he did. Gaudreau led the way with five shots on net, and was consistently dangerous. So was his line, quite frankly, and they also saw a lot of ice time for their efforts: Elias Lindholm played 25:07, while Sean Monahan got 24:56. Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund both played over 19 minutes; the rest of the forward group was kind of a wash. This is a five-forward team in its current incarnation; they really need a sixth guy.

4 – After Gaudreau’s five shots, Jankowski, Giordano, and Noah Hanifin led the way with four each. It might not be the best sign when defencemen are leaders in the offensive charge. (Monahan only getting one shot off in nearly 25 minutes of ice time is also… not great.)

6-5-1 – The Flames’ record against their divisional opponents. They’re at the top of their division now, but they absolutely have to be better against these guys: dunking on the Kings and Coyotes alone isn’t good enough, especially with the Sharks starting to close in.

Final thought

The Flames will close out 2018 against the Sharks, their biggest competition for the Pacific Division crown. Really, the Sharks were widely expected to carry the division before the season started; that the Flames have held onto the top spot for so long has been both impressive and surprising. So that sets a very big stage for New Year’s Eve: a win and the Flames pull a little further ahead, still with a game in hand; a regulation loss and the Sharks take over top spot.

Considering the Flames’ overall lacking play as of late and their lacking record against their own division, this would be a perfect game for them to show up and prove they’re really in contention for the division lead, not just keeping the seat warm. Like the game against the Lightning, this one is starting to get the makings of what should be a good game – so hopefully the Flames live up to the billing they’ve set for themselves.

  • MontanaMan

    The only emotion I ever see out of Backlund is against the referees which usually results in an unsportsmanlike penalty. He should channel some of that energy into his play as he’s been awful most of the year.

    • Skylardog

      And last night his rage against the refs continued after the Canucks popped in the winner. Perhaps a focus on the play rather than the refs and we are talking about how we squeaked out 2 points.

          • Bawcos

            I don’t see him as “playing poorly”. As far as last night goes… He has a point. He had a goal taken away on a bad whistle (could have been the difference) and then didn’t draw a penalty. He was dragged down and effectively out of the play when the winning goal happened. Whether or not he complained to the refs, he wasn’t getting back in time. Again… He had a case.

      • MontanaMan

        He wasn’t “held” or “dragged down”. At best he was pushed from behind. The point is he needs to be stronger on the puck and needs to be better for his inflated contract. Spending time yelling at the referees serves no point, especially during 3 on 3 when he needs to get back into the play.

  • Flaymin Frank

    We didn’t deserve the win in Winnipeg. We probably should have won last nite. That’s the law of averages at work I guess. We had two defensive gaffes last nite & it cost us two goals. This game is fast and very unforgiving if you take your eye off the ball even for a micro second. If we repeat this performance on NYE we should probably walk away with 2 points.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Last Night’s Takeaways:

    As much heat as Benning has taken for being an inept GM, he hit a couple of grand salamis when he drafted Boeser and Pettersson. His trade for Goldobin last year also looks inspired.

    Speaking of Petterrsson, does he ever look like a very young Paul Kariya with his helmet on, a resemblance that vanishes immediately when he removes his bucket and liberates his shock of blond hair. Then he reminds me of the iconic Harry Spencer in Eraserhead.

    Still on looks like, does Travis Green ever look like the late great Sal Mineo. They could have passed as twins.

    One thing I like about Hamonic is that when he finds himself in the offensive zone and he is in a position to shoot, he shoots rather than passes. He does this even though he is not the possessor of a particularly good shot. His mates need to follow his lead as once again last night, too much passing in the OZ strangled to death good scoring opportunities.

    Over passing was the chief culprit in the anemic Flames’ PP last night.

    Don’t know about you but after the Canucks tied it, I had the sneaking feeling that they were one shot away from winning it. I’m not blaming Rittich for the loss, only saying that I have yet to put my “In Rittich We Trust” stamp on the guy as he remains largely an unknown as a starter in the NHL.

    Dube looked fine in his return to the lineup, no better or worse than Mangipane or Quine when they had their turns.

    Was seeing the Huawei symbol on the set of the cackling hens during the intermissions as repugnant to you as it was to me? I get the contractual requirement of having to do it, but it is damned offensive considering the intense pressure the Chinese dictatorship is putting on the weak-kneed Libs, including the illegal detention of Canadians in China, to stop the extradition to the US of that crooked-as-a-dog’s hindleg ‘s Huawei dame.

    Yes or no, if you were Tre, and the hard-charging Knights of Vegas offered to take Jimmy Neal’s contract in full in exchange for a couple of very late draft picks in 2019 and 2020, would you do it?

    Having lost 4 of their last 5 games and not looking especially sharp in their lone win, are the Flames officially in a slump? And if they are, how to blast them out of their current funk? A roadie is as good a slump buster as anything, and the upcoming one might be exactly what is needed. Mind you, if the club returns with fewer than 6 out of a possible 8 points on their eastern trip, they will have not shaken the slump. Of course, before the roadie, the Flames still have to kill a shark.

    By the way, if this is the second greatest first 39 games in Flames’ history, how come they are just a point ahead of the Sharks and could be level with Knights, if the Newtons win tonight? Tight to say the least.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Something not right, they should have run away with this one, total domination for long stretches, Peters is going to have to drill into there heads to keep it simple, shoot the puck, except for a handful of the guys, they’re all trying to get to fancy. Any pucks thrown at the net could result in a goal, were are all the puck battles right in front of the net, none. I don’t see Tkachuk or Bennett crashing the net, they were successful earlier in the season playing hard.
    Time to get back to hard nosed hockey.

    • KeepitReal

      @ Haggy. Totally agree. Forcing passes thru stick cluttered lanes rarely results in quality shots. Yet the boys seem to do it way too often. Its hi-lite material when it works but most often it results in a turn over.

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    A couple of thoughts.

    Janko was the 2nd most dangerous forward, yet saw zero PP time and zero OT time.
    Bennett was useless on the game winner, does he possess any hockey IQ?
    Speaking of which, why was he out there with Backlund in OT?

    Hamonic getting caught up ice is one thing (where was his partner), but playing the pass with Petterrsen is like expecting Kesler not to be a douchebag. He’s going to shoot every time. His release is one t=of the most difficult to read; I thought he was going high glove side.

    The PK in which Boesser scored was too passive. Gio allowed him to walk in and get the shot away. Not a great goal, but it could have been played better.

    Brodie could have ended the game by just taking a simple shot. Instead, he tries as hard as he can not to. Great skater, but forces passes over a simple play.

    • checkmeup

      Totally agree, how Ryan is on the PP and Janko is not makes no sence what so ever. BENNETT must be traded before he loses any value he has left. Throw Backland in with Bennett and we my still get a good power forward that can score on the PP and then just pay out Ryan because nobody will take him, we would then surely have a contender for the cup.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Wait a sec. You want to trade Bennett ASAP, but you also want to pair him with Backlund? Which is it? Think you might have missed the life lesson on having and eating cake.

        • KootenayFlamesFan

          I think you may have missed reading comprehension 101. He would like to send backlund and Bennett out of town in return for a power forward while can score.

      • flames2015

        I agree Janko should be on the pp. But their are far more passengers on that second unit than Ryan. Backlund has zero powerplay points, zero. Ryan has 6 points, two of which are goals. The 2nd unit needs to go with 3 forwards and 2 d. Anderson absolutely needs to be on the pp. He’s always on when we are 6 on 5 so why is he not on the pp?

  • Skylardog

    I thought that the third was probably the worst period of hockey the Flames have played all season. Boring, slow, lacking motivation.

    And then you realize that 5 forwards played around 45 minutes of the total game. Fatigue? You would think Peters would have seen that.

    That is utter and total bench mismanagement. Jankowski, Neal, and Dube were the top 3 forwards in terms of scoring chances per 60 last night. Their 5v5 reward? 9:55, 9:16, and 6:52 in 5v5 icetime. Benny was ahead of Gaudreau and Monahan in SC/60. Monahan was only better than Czar and Hath in that category, yet got 18:04.

    I agree: Monahan, Gaudreau and Lindholm give you the best chance to win. But not when they play about 25 minutes of the game.

    We have the best group of 12 forwards in the NHL this season. No one has the depth we have. But we play them like we have just 2 lines at times. We are just 18th in GF/60 at 5v5. Frankly that is brutal for a team with all of this offensive talent.

    The Sharks will shut down the Monahan line on New Years Eve unless we make some line changes. We need at the very least the change that was proposed last night of having Janko and Matty together. If it doesn’t happen, we will lose to the Sharks and finish 2018 in 2nd place. Given how this has gone so far, that is utter disappointment. If they lose, they will finish the year at just one win in the last 6 games, and that win a steal of a win by Rittich.

    • Toma41

      We simply do not have the best group of 12 forwards this season. Not even close. We have a legit scoring line and tkachuk. Janko seams to be waking up. Other than that, we have severalmplayers who cant find any consistancy and score. Teams like the sharks have 3 lines that can score.

    • calgaryfan

      It seems the Flames are a 1 man team, shut down Johnny and the Flames can’t score. Whether Johnny has an off game or the other team shuts him down, the Flames struggle to score. The Canucks clogged up the middle in the defensive zone blocking shots and kept the Flames on the outside. Where was the forward depth last night?

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        And more to the point, it makes it mighty hard to get momentum and build chemistry with a line (third line, Neal) when you’re only playing 6-9 mins a night. And it seems to me that playing those big minutes (or any minutes in the third, at this point) is what can really help bond players, and also give them the opportunity to get points. Like, as has been said, Janko has to score all his points on the PK cuz he doesn’t get PP or much 5v5 time. I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but like you say Skylardawg, when is this third line going to be able to be relied upon?

  • The GREAT WW

    I loved it how hard Backlund slammed the puck into the net AFTER the whistle had gone……

    He never does that; he tries to get cute with a weak flip of his stick, the puck wobbles over his stick, and he misses the open net…..

    Good times…..


  • Chucky

    I am having trouble guessing what Ari means by “This is a five-forward team in its current incarnation; they really need a sixth guy.” I assume that the five are Gaudreau, Monahn, Lindholm, Tkachuk and Backlund.
    It seems to me that Jankoski scoring 0.42 points per game, playing 11:53 per game with no power play time and low scoring wingers is just as good as Backlund’s 0.51 PPG playing 18:42. Jankowski’s shooting % of 12.5% is not abnormally high but his 52% faceoff wins is quite good particularly when a lot of those are penalty killing and therefore against top centres.
    Beyond statistically he is making other guys look good and proving to be extremely responsible defensively. He needs to start getting more time on the ice and more situations where his wicked wrister is optimized.

    • Redleader

      Jankowski had a slow start but I’d say both players are playing well of late despite the losing skid , Jankowski and Neal’s skating is much improved, I liked Dube but Czar just makes bad plays , right now I’d almost have to put Ryan in the doghouse right now as the weak link ,him and czar again are turn over city !!!

    • oddclod

      Ari doesn’t know much about hockey. Pretty much the worst writer but this is a blog. I take it for what it is and skip to the comments unless Pat’s dropping heat.

  • Luter 1

    Most guys on the team need a specific role, for example Jankowski has bought into penalty killing and a good defensive forward. Lot of FN wanted him traded but he’s now made guys like Frolik even Backlund expendable for the right price. He definitely has earned 2nd power play time over especially Ryan if only because he’s got a great wrist shot. Sammy seemed to find his role crashing and banging but since his head injury he’s back to overhandling the puck and should not have been out 3 on 3. I’m a big fan because of his heart but I even have to agree his hockey sense is 4th line quality.
    Flickers from Neal only put on hold the inevitable; he brings little to the team, skating is below average, strangely unaggressive and is one of the worst passers on the team.
    Dube will be a player, Kylington and Raz big pleasant surprise, Hathaway playing his role just fine, nothing wrong with Quine as a tweeter. Bad news, Czarnik has no role – not good enough for top 6 and defensively and size wise too weak for bottom 6. Ryan: if not for faceoffs, what does this guy bring to earn all the PP time? Unearned in my opinion. For WW, Tkachuk needs to get his butt in gear, he’s been slacking about as long as our losing streak.

    • Toma41

      Tkachuk is slow. Last night he seemed out of place several times and even just gave up a few times on plays. I noticed this in other games vs high speed opponents. He needs to work on his skating to become a first line star.

      • Flaymin Frank

        Skating is not ever gonna be his #1 skill set. But he makes up for it in other ways. I had a chance to get inside the ropes at a recent Flames game. The place where the players warm up, stretch, play hackey sack soccer, etc, just before game time. I noticed that Byng was wearing a lower back brace and doing his own thing by himself. Makes me wonder if he’s not nursing himself thru a significant lower back injury.

        • calgaryfan

          But he can improve his skating with a skating coach in the summer. Bo Horvat worked on his skating every summer and is now very fast. His scouting report coming out of junior was poor skating.

          • MDG1600

            I believe last year there was talk that Byng used a skating coach all summer of 2017 and Hrudey pointed out some examples of his improved skating during a broadcast. That said – it is almost 2019 and his skating is still lousy. If it was better he could be a superstar in the truest sense of the word

          • Luter 1

            Your bar has been set very low for the two of them if you think that’s decent as Backlund has been playing quite invisible and Neal has a got a few shots away. Based on both their salaries, less than acceptable. Jankowski has clearly taken over #1 pk ahead of Backs so his ice time will be cut as he won’t score so he better be a hell of a shadow on top players.

      • calgaryfan

        Agree Toma41, maybe the worst skater in the NHL right now. Great hockey IQ but as the game continues to get faster his skating will become more of a problem.

      • Luter 1

        Without him playing at or being at 100% this team lacks that edge for sure. Bennett hasn’t been bringing that and at he same time Johnny’s been taking abuse. Can you imagine the room our skilled players would have if we had Reaves patrolling on the 4th line versus signing Neal or Ryan.

  • canadian1967

    looks to me like we need to split up the gang. To be more dangerous we need more than one line. Too bad JN hasn’t been able to get it going. If he was, then we should look like this:

    Gaudreau Monahan Neal
    Tkachuk Jankowski Lindholm
    Frolik Backlund Bennett
    Dube Ryan Hathaway

    Neal looks like he’s starting to get the feel of whatever new stick it is he’s using now. Seems to be able to receive passes and get shots off lately, so maybe all he needs now is to actually get a couple to go in and he’ll be off to the races.

    • Off the wall

      I think it would be worth a good look. I like your lineup.

      Neal is a shooter. Gaudreau will set him up for lots of opportunities.

      Jankowski should get a serious look at 2nd line centre. Lindholm and Tkachuk are both great at generating plays. It’s a great fit for Jankowski.

      A 3rd line defensive line. Yup.

      4th line with speed and a bit of grit . I’m in.

      Fax it to Peters!

      And apologies to Thunder, as I’m sure he’s going to call us crazy or insane…

  • Jobu

    Good rant about the refs.

    You are right they have blown calls quite a bit for calgary this year. You are also right that we are not the only ones.

    Sad thing is the club can’t complain to the league as it only makes the problem worse. Look at Peters behind the bench – he knows that chewing out the refs isn’t going to get him anywhere so he keeps his mouth shut with a grin of disdain on his face.

    Jobu thinks that “parity” also means officiating for balance and to make an exciting on-ice product by keeping it close both per game and in the standings. They’ve been doing it forever and it’s pretty obvious.

    Sad thing is it will never change. As you suggest there is no accountability at that level anymore.

  • SetTheWorldOnFire

    I agree that it feels like the refs cost us a point. They had 2 early whistles in quick succession where one was a goal the other was a great scoring chance. The no call on Backlund in OT as well leaves me with a sour taste…but I feel like the Flames complaining all game may have led the ref to just start ignoring them at that point. Hearing the fans at the game mock-cheering the refs in the 3rd did make me smile though.

  • MDG1600

    Meanwhile on the James Neal wake up watch………..
    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……. cricket ……………………………….. cricket………

    • Redleader

      That was the most noticeable and engaged I’ve seen Neal and season,he was much better and can see him turning his game around, keep it going , Hamonic is playing like a stud !! I for the most part liked our defenceman, trying to complain to the refs is futile so your better off putting that frustration back onto the ice . Flames let off the gas for a little stretch in the 3rd but I thought we had that game. Hopefully more motivation to win the next game !!

  • Justthateasy

    Refs need to get their head in the game 100% of the time. It’s called Focus. Either that or stop skating around with a whistle in your mouth and breathing too hard.
    Flames did not shoot enough from the point. Canucks did.
    I like Dube but one time from the right side he power drove to the net to get a shot instead of passing to 2 guys open in the left circle.

  • BendingCorners

    Good recap, Ari.
    The Flames dominated but couldn’t bury it. They have stuff to work on but with three months to go they have time to make adjustments.
    Tkachuk looks like he’s playing through an injury.
    Neal was signed to provide secondary scoring but really doesn’t provide mucb of anything. If he doesn’t start producing BT will need to make some kind of deal at the TDL to round out the roster.
    Looking forward to tomorrow’s game – I flew in to watch both games so I’m hoping for a better result Monday.

  • slapshot444

    It’s probably sacrilegious to ever critique Johnny G but his shot is not especially hard. Last night he wrested a few that were easily tracked. Is his forte not close in magic? I’d like to see him set up players that have harder shots more.

      • slapshot444

        He has several strengths, we see them nightly, “wizzard” below is almost an understatement , my point being is I see him shooting more now than he used to, just think he needs to set up other players more to capitalize on others harder shots.

        • Kevin R

          Was at the game & quite frankly, Johnny Hockey was excellent! I would say he had way more impact on the game & flow than that Pettersen kid, dont get me wrong, that kid has a humdinger of a shot.
          The one that floated a lot last night was Byng. & until they moved Bennett up on that line, they were invisible most of the night. Czarnik I was not impressed with. He’s a 3rd line forward at best. Agree, Peters needs to roll at least 3 lines & get those minutes down with our top line. Markstrom played well but he was f###**g lucky last night too, we did not have a lot of puck luck going for us & as for the refs, Im kinda getting used to getting screwed on most calls.

  • KootenayFlamesFan

    I think you may have missed reading comprehension 101. He would like to send backlund and Bennett out of town in return for a power forward while can score.