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Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Flames 5, Avalanche 3 post-game embers: Shots? Who needs shots?

In a delightful twist of fate, the Flames capitalized a bunch of times off of a goalie playing poorly. It might have been more fun to watch them do that if they had been playing well overall, but there’ll be more time for that later. And it’s definitely way, way more fun than being on the losing end of such a game.

Feel of the game

Things started off as a rather back and forth affair, a little more in the Avalanche’s favour due to an early powerplay, but the Flames looked to be well on their way to victory with an early 2-0 lead and David Rittich turning away anything that looked dangerous. At least, until the Avalanche were finally able to capitalize on some zone presence of their own, something that started courtesy of a Rittich clearing attempt. Then the Avs rushing back to the Flames’ end right at the end of the period allowed them to tie the game, putting things in a more precarious position.

And then, the Flames went right back to relying on Rittich, as Colorado controlled the puck for the most part. Rittich was up to the task, though, which was far more than one could say for the guy in the net on the other end of the ice. A quick powerplay goal by the Flames kind of stopped their bleeding, or at least allowed things to even out as they retook the lead.

But the Flames were better in the third period than they were in the second, and a flukey goal by Michael Frolik seemed like it was going to put an end to things – particularly with the way Rittich was playing. The Avs were able to add one more goal off of the rush to make things interesting, but there wasn’t enough time left. It was a weird win – but a win all the same, and one that definitely allows for further confidence in Rittich as the Flames’ starter, even when he didn’t even have his best game.

The good news

Big Save Dave is really good at living up to the nickname – he has a great ability to make the stops the team needs him to the most. On numerous occasions the Avalanche had extended zone time and were swarming around Rittich, and he just didn’t let anything in. Not every member of a team will have a good game simultaneously, which is why it’s always nice to see the goalie calm in net and able to take care of things. It’s like the total opposite of Mike Smith.

Mark Giordano doesn’t even need a stick to thwart a scoring chance on the other team’s powerplay in a game’s dying minutes. He can do all of that and have a three-point game while playing the most minutes on his team, because he’s a Norris-caliber defenceman.

Some shoutouts to the depth forwards, who worked to create some decent chances, even if they ultimately didn’t even result in a shot. James Neal’s assist was well deserved, and both he and centre Mark Jankowski could have added to their point totals on the night. Derek Ryan was noticeably hustling, and Austin Czarnik along with him. The depth isn’t going to shine like the 50-point scorers, but that the team’s fourth line can be out there causing havoc in the offensive zone is seriously such a big upgrade from what the Flames have had in the past.

Rasmus Andersson played well, too, even without his usual partner (one who’s a bit more capable of skating than Dalton Prout) on hand. He also got special teams time in: Andersson, Giordano, and TJ Brodie were the only Flames defencemen to play in all situations.

The bad news

The Flames were exceptionally good at turning the puck over, particularly in their own zone, leading to extended offensive zone opportunities for the Avalanche. They were fortunate it only resulted in one goal against: the chances were there, over and over again, for Colorado to take the lead. Sometimes it was thanks to a shot going wide, often times it was thanks to Rittich, but it’s definitely not a sustainable way to try to get wins. Turnovers and flubbed zone exits have come up as problems throughout the season, but it was like all of the worst moments happened over the course of this one game.

Noah Hanifin had a rough night on the Avalanche’s first two goals, which is the second game in a row that’s happened for him. The Flames were particularly passive on the Avalanche’s zone entry on the second goal against, right in the dying seconds of the first period – which was, evidently, a poor time to lay off.

As good as Rittich was, his attempts to play the puck still need some working on (or they could just be limited all together), and that third goal against certainly wasn’t pretty. That probably stands out a little more though because there’s been a lot of good from him otherwise!

Numbers of note

41.3% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF on the night, during which they didn’t even really have one period in which they were clearly the better team (goaltending aside).

35-16 – That’s a pretty ugly shot ratio. Interestingly, though, while the Avalanche out-corsied the Flames 54-38 at 5v5, via Natural Stat Trick, high danger 5v5 corsi events were 5-4 in the Flames’ favour.

60% vs 80% – Frolik was reunited on Backlund’s line, which probably had something to do with the Flames facing off against two of the top scorers in the NHL in Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon. It worked, for the most part: when MacKinnon faced Backlund, he had a 60% CF over 12:28 5v5 minutes, and when apart for 6:18, MacKinnon’s CF jumped up to 80% (mostly against Sean Monahan’s line). He led the Avalanche in 5v5 corsi, as well: 67.50%. The Flames rarely have to go up against super lines like their own, but they’ve definitely got a plan in place to counter it, and one that’s been consistently effective.

43 – Giordano now sits at a point-per-game once again. It’s probably only a matter of time until he joins the Flames’ four forwards in the 50-point club, but in the meantime, he’s fifth in team scoring – and third in overall defencemen scoring.

20+ – Matthew Tkachuk’s empty netter means the Flames’ top four forwards all have at least 20 goals on the season now. There are presently 29 20-goal scorers in the NHL; the Flames are the only team with four of them, though the Avalanche and Lightning do come close with three each.

7:15 – In the previous game, Czarnik played just over 13 minutes, something he hasn’t really gotten to do much since October. That didn’t last long; he played the least out of all Flames players against the Avalanche. Other victims: 8:31 for Sam Bennett, and 9:53 for Garnet Hathaway (with 3:23 on the penalty kill helping him get there).

16:53 – Frolik got minutes, though – his highest ice time total of the season. The last time Frolik got 16 minutes in one game was on Oct. 25, the 9-1 loss to the Penguins. Is it just because he was a good option against MacKinnon’s line – one more trustworthy defensively than the other options in Bennett or Czarnik, at least – or will this be a turning of the corner? I’d bet the former, but who knows.

8:12 – Prout returned to the lineup for a spell. It’s at least more than the 6:31 he played in his previous two games for the Flames, though. Combined. He only saw one second against the Avalanche’s top line, which was probably for the best for all of us.

60 – Two teams in the NHL are sitting at 60 points on the season. The Flames are one of them.

Final thought

It’s good the Flames are still pulling wins out almost regardless of how they play – or how good of a job their goalie does for them, that too – but they definitely haven’t been at their best. Playing primarily at home for pretty much the next two weeks (there’s a road game in Edmonton, but it’s not like Edmonton is far away) could be telling: travel fatigue shouldn’t be a problem again until February, so we might get the chance to see how well they play in ideal circumstances once again, and hopefully, with it, just how good they really are.

  • Orrwasbest

    Why is Prout in the lineup? Kyl in my opinion was playing well. He was benched last game and sat out this game am I missing something? Avs put in way more effort then the Flames most of the night. Very few bright spots other then Gio and Dave. 2nd pairing d was especially brutal as was Prout.

    • Toma41

      Peter’s likes giving young defensemen a chance. I’m sure he wanted Kylington to watch and learn, correct some mistakes. I’m sure he will be back next game.

    • The Real SlimBrodie

      I’m guessing they want to see how the team would play with different d men before the trade deadline while working on trade packages. I really dont want to lose any of our young guys for a rental player.

  • Fat Tony

    “According to a trusted source…the NY Rangers are mulling over a great offer from the Calgary Flames for Mats Zuccarello….more to come…” as per Hockeybuzz

    • The Sultan

      He’s 31, wears #36, and is moving from the East to the West. I don’t want the Flames to explore this scenario if it’s too costly. The only saving grace is he’s a UFA after this season.

    • Flint

      I’m not super excited by a move for Zuccarello. I know, in isolation it’s not a big deal, but he’s very, very small. We would have a whole slew of not just small forwards, but VERY small forwards. Gaudreau, Zuccarello, Czarnik, Ryan, Mangiapane are all 5’10” or shorter with Zucc apparently being the smallest at 5’8″

      I’ll be honest, I was surprised to see that he is that small, because he’s got a bit of jam to his game. He always reminded me of a Versteeg type player. A guy who’s pretty good, but not great at anything, but with very good vision.

      But still… we’re already a little light up front, and I don;t want plugs, but a bit of size would help.

      • freethe flames

        For the life of me unless we are trading Foo for him and the NYR are eating half of his salary I just don’t see what he would add. In his prime yes but this year he is not the answer.

      • Baalzamon

        The Flames are a completely average team in terms of size. Also, some of the smallest teams in the league are Tampa Bay, Vegas, and Nashville so… who cares?

        There are many reasons to pass on Zuccarello. Size is not one of them.

        • Flint

          I think you might be skewing that by AVG height, and the West is different. Marchessault is the only regular on Vegas under 6′ tall. So they have 1! Plus they have Reeves who makes everyone 2″ taller.
          https://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/VEG/2019.html
          Nashvile also has 1! – Arvidsson under 5’10”, and they have a few in that 5’10-5’11” range but they’re tough! Zac Rinaldo, Ryan Ellis, and Kevin Fiala. Those teams have skill, speed and toughness!

          I don’t think it’s quite the same as our make-up. We’ve got small guys and Lady Bing big guys (and that’s not a joke) They rightfully talk about Monahan for the Lady Byng. Jankowski, Backlund, Frolik, Lindholm, Neal (everyone said Neal had jam)…. he just falls over!

          Again. I don’t want plugs…. nor “truculence” but I think we could use a guy or two who can play through heavy playoff hockey vs ANOTHER small guy… that’s all I’m saying.

    • Fat Tony

      Give me all the trashes and negative comments you want. Just wanted to relay the information I read to get your thoughts. Personally I would rather have a big body player to come aboard rather than another small guy, but if we trade a small guy like Czarnik for a small guy like Zucc with retained salary it kinda makes sense. The first thing BT needs to do, however, is address the LHD and back up goalie situation.

      • Dr.Wahooka

        I don’t think anyone is trashing you per se, but the source. Eklund is well known for not having any actually credibility when it comes to trades and transactions. It’s basically just click bait.

  • canadian1967

    Freidman suggesting in his latest 31 thoughts that Ferland could end up in Pittsburgh or Dun dun dun… Edmonton.

    How would we feel about Ferly playing on Connor’s line in a BOA?

  • withachance

    My takeaways:

    1) Questions about depth and Rittich’s consistencies is starting to wane for me. On a night where the top line didnt really contribute, both the bottom 6 and Rittich stepped up, and they’ve been doing that for the better part of the last 2 months. This is a deep team, with a reliable goalie, full stop.

    2) Backlund, and the 3M line is too valuable in shutting down the best players in the league. Frolik – Backlund combo is going to be key in the playoffs.

    3) Good teams find ways to win games that they should have no business winning. The Flames are a good team. No team in the league can say they can play their best for all 81 games, so before the inevitable comments of “this was the worst game ever by the team” come, lets just agree that if that the Flames can win ugly games like last night, the team will be alright.

    Oh and Gio for Norris.

  • deantheraven

    High danger chances 5-4, in a 5-3 game. I’m really curious what constitutes a “high danger” scoring chance, according to whatever “authorities” we get that stat from.
    Johnny in the slot is more dangerous than Hathaway in the same position, so to me if it’s JH, it’s HD, literally from almost anywhere.
    Where does a shot from inside the blue line on an empty net rank?
    Are scoring odds calculated? Because sometimes corsi % means as much as “Odds to win the cup” from Vegas.
    This was another example of corsi having no bearing on the game results.

  • SouthernFlame

    I cant stop thinking about Ferland and how nice it would be to have him back for the playoffs. I just remember him and Sam Bennett against those Canucks. I miss Ferland

    • TKO

      I too think I would bring Ferland in, even if it is as a rental. I do not believe the Flames window will close after this year, but Gio won’t be the best for ever, and this team has real potential. I’d go for it this year. Add Ferland, a left shooting D, and a proven backup. we NEED some functional toughness like Ferland, or someone equally difficult to play against with a heavy game and a dangerous offensive threat

      • Cfan in Van

        I gonna go out on a limb and say the Flames would not be able to add Ferland, a left shooting D (that we actually want playing on this team), and a proven backup, without giving up our future and some valuable playoff depth.

        The only GMs that are thinking solely about this year, are the ones who will get canned if they don’t make it to the playoffs (cough, Chia, cough).

  • The GREAT WW

    Bob is in the dog house in Columbus.
    Pure 1 year rental at $7.5 ish.
    Probably expensive and terrible in the room….

    I’m guessing a hard no for the good people of FN…..?

    WW

  • Fat Tony

    Solid game for Rittich and the teams depth. It really is nice to be on the opposite end of a game like that. Also Nate Mackinnon flipping out reminded me of Taylor Hall losing it years back when Dallas Eakins was coaching the Oilers.
    Good times.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Well, Jankowski is certainly starting to roll, great checker and a quick release. Peters is going to have to tell Rittich to stop trying to impersonate Smith, risk reward, trying to break a player or turn over the puck, play safe and smart.
    Fun to watch after so many years of heartbreak.

    • Alberta Ice

      Those Smith like risks the last two games have not gone well for Rittich. Talk about a momentum changer when he tried to flick it out for a bit greedy risk. Glad he played smarter the rest of the way. Also, I was impressed how fast that first line was for Colorado, but, thankfully, they appeared to run out of gas in the 3rd. (It was a back to back and against the Jets the night before.)

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      Yeah, how many points has Janko gotten in the last 6 to 8 games? He was on a point streak for a while too…he’s also only two points away from Backlund. Real impressed with his play.

  • Heeeeere’s Johnny

    Off topic but interesting thought on Sportsnet about retaining the 2014 draft. Question would Tampa make this 4-1 trade?

    Brayden Point for Sam Bennett, Mason MacDonald, Hunter Smith and Brandon Hickey?

    My answer = not a chance. But all 4 were drafted by the Flames ahead of Point. Just another example what a crap shoot drafting is and a reminder not to sleep on smaller players.

  • FlamesFan27

    At the end of winning streaks teams usually win a couple they shouldn’t. At the end of losing streaks teams usually lose a couple they shouldn’t. I wasn’t able to watch a lot of the game last night, but it’s been quite a few games since I thought the team played really well. The Flames need to get back to being tighter defensively.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    If Rittich’s only flaw is that he lets in a greasy goal after the Flames score an insurance goal…I’ll take that every time. Last night was the worst team defensive effort this year. How players can attempt to leave the zone while overskating the puck continuously is beyond me. In the last 2 games the flames have taken a penalty in the final 4 minutes allowing the other team to pull the goalie for a 2 man advantage. I would be interested to know the HDSC rate.

    There is no doubt that Rittich let’s in a few that he should stop but he saves a ton that likely shouldn’t be saved. More importantly, he rarely gives up untimely goals. Calgary does not win that game if tha Avs have average goal keeping. There are clearly some warts that have covered up…but for how much longer. Huska’s PK has been a difference maker in the last couple games. I thought Janko, Andersson, Frolik, Rittich, and Gio had strong games….Hanifin and Monny not so much.

  • Cfan in Van

    Not a big mistake, but Flames are the only team with 60 points. Tampa has 68, and everyone else is below… I’m OK taking second fiddle to TB at the moment (for now, at least).

  • Sven

    A) Who knew that acceptable goaltending could win games

    B) After giving up 3 goals on 17 shots Tuesday night Jake Allen regained the title of the worst goalie in the NHL from Mike Smith dropping down to a score of -11.7 goals allowed vs average as compared to Mr Smiths metric of -11.3

    C) After last night – Johnny Gaudreau passed Nathan MacKinnon and now sits as the most effective player in the NHL in both “5 on 5” and “all situation” game score numbers

    Monahan is 9th
    Lindholm is 13th
    Tkachuk is 20th
    .
    .
    let the good times keep on a rolling

  • Off the wall

    I think my favourite thing from last nights game was Giordano breaking his stick and then proceeding to go down (like he was giving his kids a piggy back ride) and swat the puck away in the defensive zone!

    Dads are really good at playing on all fours! 😉

  • Off the wall

    Doing some research this morning, I started to type “Why doesn’t” on my phone.

    I stopped in the middle of typing because it came up with “Why doesn’t my poo float?” Of course I had to read it.

    Pretty interesting stuff for those who have a morbid curiosity like me.

    Reading it reminded me of being an Oilers fan..

  • Off the wall

    Fun fact- Possums play dead when feeling threatened.

    Monkeys throw poo when feeling threatened. Yup, that’s where I ended up in my poo research.

    I’m guessing monkeys have easy target practice with possum’s.

    Anyone doing business with Chia, might want to think about this scenario?!

    I’ve overstayed my welcome..I’ll leave now…

  • Alberta Ice

    Looking into February, the first 5 games will have 3 majorly tough tests: At Washington, Home to San Jose, and at Tampa Bay. So here’s trusting the Flames have a very good home stand before the all star break. And please, Flames, don’t play down to the opponents level and think you will have cake walks. Get ‘er done!

    • TKO

      and yet between now and then, there is a really soft schedule for the Flames, giving them the time to work on the finer points of the defensive system and team game… this is the year for the flames to go for it all!

  • TKO

    January and February are the softer portion of the schedule – really good timing to fine tune the defensive systems especially over this home stand. then in March we close out with a lot of contending teams such as san jose, toronto, vegas, and others