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.
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.
— Sportsnet 960 (@Sportsnet960) January 3, 2019
This is so dumb, this is so much fun, I love it, I love them.