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Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Flames 5, Red Wings 3 post-game embers: Top line magic

Back in 2013, it seemed obvious the Flames were going to take whoever was available between Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan at sixth overall. Now that they have both, not to mention some random 104th overall draft pick from 2011, they appear to be unstoppable?

Feel of the game

The Flames are near the top of the league standings; the Red Wings are near the bottom. So you’d think that would spell an obvious conclusion to the game – a Flames victory – but they had to work for it after giving themselves a 2-0 deficit to start, the victims of their own play and the occasional iffy bounce.

But the Flames aren’t just a talented group this year – they’re also a resilient one, and came out to a much better second period. While they often had troubles scoring due to holding onto the puck too long or shooting it right into Jimmy Howard, Johnny Gaudreau kept working to create the breaks they needed in order to finally score – and eventually, it happened, resulting in a 2-2 game.

Except mere seconds letter, Oliver Kylington helping the Wings regain the lead via giving Andreas Athanasiou a penalty shot evoked a sense of “here we go again”. Except for mere seconds after that, when Lindholm’s snipe we all know and love tied the game up again. That couldn’t have felt too good for Detroit – and must have had the Flames feeling great going into the third, when they finally took their first lead of the game. It seemed all but done from there, and it essentially was, the empty net later sealing it.

The good news

Mike Smith hasn’t dressed since a pretty rough Dec. 22 outing against the Blues, but he held his own in a game in which his skaters weren’t at their best. It’s difficult to really solely blame him for any of the goals – poor defence/Darren Helm making a great move, bad bounces on a goalmouth scramble, a penalty shot by a very talented player – not like some of the ones he’s given up in previous outings. He was just as good as the team needed him to be, and gave them a respectable chance to win. That’s really all you can ask out of your backup, and he delivered.

Gaudreau had a four-point night and even still he could have scored way, way more. He couldn’t score on any of his breakaways – and he had a lot of those – but his patience with the puck and his sheer stickhandling, his sense of timing, just everything; he’s absolutely incredible. I’m really not sure what else there is to say about him; it isn’t just that he puts up a lot of points, but that so many of them are so gorgeous, and these kinds of plays just keep happening in literally every game.

Did Lindholm completely fix everything that ailed the Flames, or something? The top line hasn’t been this on fire since Jiri Hudler was on it, and Lindholm is actually Monahan’s age: there’s serious long-term potential here, with all three forwards under contract for at least the next three seasons after this one. This trio is probably going to stay a thing for years to come, and it’s just an incredible group. Even if they do drop off in the future, the talent is undeniably there to be total game changers.

They didn’t get on the scoreboard, but I thought the reunited 3M line looked good once again. Should the forward group stay as it is, Michael Frolik really is the best option up there: those three just click.

The bad news

The Flames have had good outings against good teams as of late – the Lightning, the Jets, the Sharks – but they’ve played poorly against lesser quality opponents, and that’s exactly how this game started. What’s up with that? There’s an understanding that the foot can’t be on the gas all the time, but it’s a little worrisome that this pattern is continuing. Beating up on weak teams is part of how good teams earn their points – but it shouldn’t take a period to get into gear.

Some of the rookies had a rough night, nothing more obvious than Athanasiou drawing a penalty shot off of Kylington. He’ll get better in all likelihood, but it does lend extra weight to the Flames reportedly looking for left-shot defencemen. Also, I didn’t notice Dillon Dube too much, and on reflection it appears he had a 0% 5v5 CF during the game which – yikes. That’s a pretty bad game.

Not that the rest of the defence was particularly hot: Noah Hanifin and Travis Hamonic were rough on the first goal against, and it’s certainly a question as to what TJ Brodie was doing in front of the net on the Wings’ second goal. The entire group can be better than that.

Not everyone is going to be able to score all the time. While the Flames used three lines to get on the board against the Sharks, they were much more a one-line team against the Red Wings. At least semi-consistent scoring from the rest of the forward group would likely go a long way.

Numbers of note

49.37% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF, largely in thanks to a monster second period getting them back in the game. The Wings took over the third period once the Flames had taken their first lead of the game.

47 – Lindholm has a new career high in points. It took him 41 games to get there. His previous career high was 45 points in 72 games. What the hell, Carolina? He’s on pace for 38 goals and 94 points this season.

4 – Not just the number of points Gaudreau had, but the number of four-point games he’s had this season. He’s also had five three-point games. And 17 multi-point games. He’s just out of his mind right now; with 59 points to his name, he’s fifth in NHL scoring.

50+ – Thirteen  players in the NHL are at 50+ points so far this season. The Flames have two of them: Gaudreau and Monahan, who hit 50 with a goal and assist on the night. The Avs, Oilers, and Lightning are the only other teams with multiple 50-point players. (If we lessen the threshold to 47 points to include Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk, then guess what – the Flames are the only team with more than two 47+ point players.)

13 – Halfway through the season, the Flames have scored at least five goals 13 times. Yes, they’ve won every one of those games (though one required overtime in order to do so). Their 3.56 goals per game is third in the NHL.

Final thought

This is definitely a top-heavy team, but when that top just keeps going and going and going, well, you take it. Nobody else has a top group performing this way. The Flames have a line that can completely change the course of any game, and that’s just special.

Also:

This is so dumb, this is so much fun, I love it, I love them.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Kingston penalty call was questionable resulting in a penalty shot, again very questionable. Could have been demoralizing but the guys came back, sign of a strong team. And Smith played well.

    • Ramskull

      I think the call was the right one. Kylington turned his stick over and used the curve to hook the stick. If he keeps his stick blade in the right direction and does a stick press instead it’s not a penalty but that’s not what he did.

      • Cfan in Van

        What I don’t get is that the Wing’s D was whacking his stick back and forth between Johnny’s legs on his breakaway in the 3rd, and that wasn’t called. So you can’t tie up a stick while leaving the skater physically uncontested, but you can interfere with skating stride without tripping, and it’s not a breakaway. I don’t get that at all.

  • Skylardog

    Have to put a positive spin on a disappointing season so far in Stockton. With it likely there will be no playoffs this year for the Heat, that means we can raid the roster near the end of the season for a playoff run. There are a few issues such as cap space to keep in order, as well as limits on how many can be brought in, but think of the possibilities.

    Along with the current lineup, we would have access to Lazar, Quine, Rychel, and Mangi. We get very deep if you add these guys as options up front.

      • Skylardog

        Yup – Missed Phillips but wrote that quickly.

        Not as worried about DMen, and yes, there is no one.

        But we have Vali and he will be available. We also have Stone. Whether Stone can go is up in the air, but they could leave him on IR until well after the trade deadline and only activate him in time to get a conditioning stint in Stockton. We still have Prout too remember (not that I want him on the ice). That would give us 9 DMen if Stone can play again this season.

        One of the things that has crossed my mind in the rumours of Tre looking for a left D is that he has something in the works for a trade involving Kylington. I will go as far as to say that he is getting close to a deal for Stone in Ottawa, with Kylington and possibly someone else going to the Sens. Mangi?

        He can’t do this until he finds a replacement for Kylington on left D with Vali still out.

        I think Ottawa does that deal, as the get some youth and cut salaries. They do not like the finances surrounding Stone’s resigning. Mangi and Kylington check some boxes for how Ottawa is trying to retool while cutting costs.

        • freethe flames

          So you would trade Kylington, Mangiapane and maybe more for a rental? I like Stone and he would really change things here for the playoff run but how would we be able to resign him?

          • Skylardog

            Took Jagger the Devil Dog for a walk. Always gives me time to think while having my arms pulled off by a 90 pound nightmare.

            Wondering now if Benny and Kylington for Stone is in the works.

            With the cap forecast at $83 million, and Smith and Benny off the books, there are options to get a signing done. Will take a look at things on CapFriendly later in the week.

            Love what Benny brings to the table for a cup run, but upgrading to Stone would be even better. Michael Stone shipped out or on LTIR also makes it doable. M. Stone’s contract is at the point now where someone would be willing to pick him up if he passed the physical. If he can’t he is a candidate for LTIR. Not saying yet that the numbers work, but we have to be close.

          • freethe flames

            Skylar: What kind of dog is Jagger? My 75/80 mutt would do the same except I now walk him with a waste leash.
            For the Flames to acquire Stone and retain him would require the Flames also moving someone like Frolik’s cap hit. Bennett/Frolik/3rd rounder; the team I think that goes after Stone is Buffalo; they have 3 first rounders and if they are in the hunt near the deadline I could see them being buyers,

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        Wiki version:

        The NHL covers hooking in Rule 55, which defines it as “the act of using the stick in a manner that enables a player or goalkeeper to restrain an opponent.” It goes on to specify that “when a player is checking another in such a way that there is only stick-to-stick contact, such action is not to be penalized as hooking.” The NHL groups hooking with other “Restraining fouls” such as holding, interference and tripping.[1]

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      Just tried to check for the rules on Black Aces and it seems essentially that you can have as many as you want. They aren’t on your NHL roster so they don’t impact cap. They are essentially the pool from which injury replacements can be pulled. So if Stone and Valimaki are both healthy then one of Vali and Oli would be a Black Ace along with Prout. I don’t see another D in Stockton ready to add to that list, hence the discussions now about perhaps adding a LD.

      • freethe flames

        The Flames currently have 5 spots that they could fill organizationally but do they have the cap space. I have yet to find a good source for potential NCAA free agents. Does anyone know of one?

      • Skylardog

        Just going by memory and no time to check, but I thought the Black Aces counted towards the cap?

        Is it a case of just making year end cap, but the daily cap requirements are out the window. Right now are cap troubles are the daily compliance.

    • Stockton's Finest

      Skylar, so if you do a deal with Ottawa, do you try to swing a goalie swap as well? Add Gillies for Guttavsson or McKenna? I think this is a must. Guttavsson was highly touted but has fallen recently. Maybe a change of systems for both of these goalies would benefit them.

  • freethe flames

    We did not notice Dube b/c BP went down to 3 lines which is something he does frequently and usually gets it right especially when they struggle in the first period. That’s called coaching. Hopefully the guys who got stapled to the bench have lots of energy for tonights’ tilt in Beantown.

    The announcers were speculating that Rittich might be able to go tonight.

  • Sven

    Brian Burke when asked this morning about whether Calgary fans have a legitimate complaint about only Gaudreau repping the side in San Jose on the 26th

    “Its like someone complaining about having to recycle the cardboard from all the Gucci and Chanel boxes they got at Christmas”

    in that

    if multiple ‘All Star’ snubs are your problem

    you have no problem

    • Skylardog

      Karllson over – well just about anyone is a farce this season. He has been no where near all star status.

      But give Gio, Mony, Lind, and Ritter the weekend off so the Flames can be ready for the playoffs. I prefer this to having 2 or 3 guys go. All could easily be argued as equal or better than 2 of the 3 Sharks that were picked. Ritter has to be a close 3rd to Fleury.

    • Toma41

      I think after Frolik’s agent had his temper tantrum, either Frolik is getting traded or BP’s will be forced to play him. Regardless, we could do a lot worse than Frolik. Also, I would not trade Kylington. I have a feeling he is going to be a star in this league.

    • moore_tweets

      Peters always changes the lines tho. We were down 2-0, so changes were coming. Bennett was -2 and the 3m line looked stale. I don’t mind the move TBH, gotta find a way to spark the team sometimes. Peters is good at it. Much better than GG ever was.

  • Alberta Ice

    Just realized a possible pattern that bodes well: 1989 Flames win Cup. 15 years later, 2004 and in the Stanley Cup Final (of which missed the Cup by a replay miss). 15 years later, 2019. I like the looks of this pattern. Hope she stays true!

    • Alberta Ice

      (At least this pattern through this current time span. Really would like to see the rate of Cup appearances increase after this year while the team has a young core group. Very difficult to do though in the Cap Space era.) GFG.

      • Willi P

        If it comes down to a call again, Flames will definitely not win.

        They have been on the wrong side of a lot of early whistles, called off goals and a phantom penalty shot last night.

  • Toma41

    Ari brings up Hamonic, Brodie and Hanifin in the bad news section. I said it before, the last few games, they have been making some stupid mistakes. I really hope those 3 can straighten their defensive play sooner than later. Several goals against due to their “rookie like” mistakes.

  • KeepitReal

    I hope Neal is given extra opportunities and that he upticks his stats. And then we trade him. He’s not quite the next Lucic situation but we’re pointed in that direction.

  • TKO

    this team has talent top to bottom, but their defensive play, the “system” play, needs to be drilled in deeper to avoid these lapses. BT wants another defensemen for the left side, I get that givenKylington’s occasional brain fart, but i worry about goaltending more.

    • KootenayFlamesFan

      I just don’t know how you upgrade Kylington without giving up something significant that we will need for a playoff run. I think by the time we hit playoffs he’ll be fine. If he’s not, hopefully Valimaki is back by then. In my opinion it makes no sense to upgrade this position. These guys have not made more mistakes than Hamonic, Brodie or Hanifin so I don’t get the sudden panic.

    • deantheraven

      That penalty shot was undeserved. 2 min., ok but the guy got a good shot off. We didn’t get a penalty shot at least 3 times in recent memory for the same result: defender defends, shooter gets a scoring chance + 2 min PP.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      I think the brain fart was Hanifin, doing a Russell with Helm walking around him.
      The other was a forward not covering the net front player.
      The only other goal was the WTF PS.
      Since when is a stick check considered a hook?
      Blade on blade.

      • Skylardog

        It was the bad pinch at the blueline by Hamonic that caused that one if I remember it clearly. Hanifin was left as a passenger on a really bad gaff up ice.

    • calgaryfan

      John Shannon just makes things up, I think. Why would Tre be looking for a left d, Valimaki will be available soon according to Tre’s radio interview. Tre is pretty tight lipped about his dealings. I would like the Flames to find a play making center for the 2nd line.

  • Chucky

    There is a certain amount of humor in the comment that they did not play that well but won. Seems to me that the trick is to play well enough to win and not worry about the perfect game.
    Last night they came out sluggish and really light on their sticks, oh well. Against San Jose they came out like the first period was life and death. In the end whatever it takes is what they need.

  • JMK

    Halfway through the season, wanted to check the all time records for the Flames (mainly looking at current players in top 20):

    All time points:
    – 11th Mark Giordano (416), 8 points off moving into top 10
    – 16th Johnny (347)
    – 17th Monahan (331)
    – 20th Backlund (293)

    Goals scored:
    – 12th Monahan (160), 7 goals away from Joel Otto in 10th.
    – 16th Gaudreau (119)
    – 17th Giordano (118)
    – 18th Backlund (116)

    Assists:
    – 6th Giordano (298), 4 behind Nieuwendyk
    – 13th Gaudreau (228)
    – 21st Brodie (189), 2 off top 20

    PIMs
    – 13th Giordano (675), 50 behind 12th

    Games played
    – 4th Giordano (794), healthy end to season will see him occupy 2nd. Might need a couple more seasons after contract to catch Iggy (1219)
    – 11th Backlund (580)
    – 15th Brodie (532)
    – 20th Monahan (434)

  • Flaymin Frank

    This talk of trading defenceman makes me a tad nervous. All assets are movable. But we have two young, fast, puck smart d-men in Razzy & Oli. They don’t grow on trees like they used to. Proceed with caution.

    • Skylardog

      Would it feel bad if they could find a way to bring in Muzzin with Stone remaining on IR for the rest of the season? Not saying that it could happen, but if the right LD could be had, is Ky expendable. We all know Vali is not. Muzzins $4 mill is close to Stones $3.? is it not.

      • Flaymin Frank

        Identifying and developing top shelf d-men are a big picture strategy because of that position. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice future assets for a short term goal (playoff run). A deep playoff run is probably going to require another 2 defensemen and our reserve strength is apparently thin. In Treliving we trust.

  • imthedude63

    After the last two years this is so much fun to watch. It’s a long season and many things can happen BUT this is a very solid, consistent hockey team. I think we also know that they can get better. Good teams and close teams have fun playing and being together. This team is in that group.

    GFG

    • Cfan in Van

      That’s the big take-away for me. The team still has a lot of room for improvement. A LOT. We’ve got some bottom 6 players that can score more than they are, and team-wide defense that hasn’t totally and consistently clamped down yet. Sky’s the limit if those things happen, but we’re already a top team with those short comings.

      Good times.

    • Rudy27

      Might be one of the most exciting players I’ve seen in 60 years of watching hockey. Gretzky was great, but Johnny’s skating and stick handling moves are amazing!

  • Alberta Ice

    Two thoughts on tonight’s game: Good news. Flames really play well against NHL top teams. Boston is a top team. Bad news: Back to back games, lousy flight, and late night of travel. Will be greatly delighted if we win tonight or get a point.

  • Lazarus

    Regarding Smith’s play “that’s really all you expect out of your backup..” I found that to be a bit of a low blow.
    I know everyone loves Rittich and his bandwagon is full but no need sending Smith a low blow. The team hasn’t said he is the backup, Smith is a proud man. I don’t see why that comment was necessary. They have split time equally this year and just because you are pounding the BSD drum doesn’t mean you need to pigeon hole the other. IMO

    • Cfan in Van

      I’m OK with it. Bandwagon aside, as long as the team is toeing the company line, everyone else can speak the truth. I don’t think anybody considers Smith as the defacto starter these days.

  • Off the wall

    I wonder if Purple Gatorade has taken a spike in sales due to Johnny’s recent antics?

    It sure would be funny to have Gaudreau, Monahan and Lindholm do a Purple Gatorade commercial.

    I’m not short on ideas, I could be their talent agent… I already have 3 commercials of the top of my head, that would make you piss your pants.

    They don’t call me Otw for no reason..

  • cberg

    Ari, bye and away a good write-up except for ragging on Kylington for the penalty shot. If you look at it closely not only did Kylington use his wheels to get back into the play but he adroitly checked on both sides without hooking, nor slashing. I thought it was pretty brilliant defence, NOT a penalty and definitely not worthy of a penalty shot. To further suggest Kylington is the reason why the Flames “supposedly” is looking for a left shot defenceman when all he’s done is play solid, steady D is disappointing, but sure, it is good click bait so there’s that….

    • Cfan in Van

      Yeah, shopping or not, Kylington has been way better than expected in his role. He played that breakaway perfectly, and that shouldn’t have been a penalty shot. I hope he’s a part of this team for a long time.

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    Remember when, “The Novelty”, Jaromir Jagr said last season that Johnny Hockey could win the scoring race one day? He wasn’t far wrong.
    Mario Jr. would make a fine coach one day…if that’s what he decides he wants to do with the rest of his life.