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Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Flames 3, Hurricanes 2 (OT) post-game embers: That was a game before a long break alright

The Flames weren’t anywhere close to their best, but I think they can be forgiven considering how they got the two points anyway, it’s only January, there are nine days until their next game, and oh yeah, that one little thing in which they’re literally second overall in the entire NHL.

Feel of the game

Oliver Kylington scored early to give the Flames some life, but aside from spurts here and there, the Flames didn’t really have that much life at all. The Hurricanes just completely dominated zone time early, and aside from a couple of high danger chances the Flames created – namely an early opportunity by Mark Giordano that Petr Mrazek stretched out to deny, and some pretty good James Neal almost-goals – they didn’t have much going for them (Mark Jankowski’s goal at four-on-four – because why score at five-on-five? – aside).

Though he wasn’t really challenged that much, Mrazek had a good game; he did have to make a couple of stops on the Flames that looked like they would be sure goals otherwise. But on the other end of the ice, it was David Rittich who had to do the bulk of the work – and he held strong against Hurricanes players, denying them in most every opportunity they got. He really couldn’t be blamed for either goal that went against him either; an unfortunate tip-in by his own defenceman and a late game-tying goal after his team had failed to show up for most of the game.

At least until overtime, in which TJ Brodie, he who scored the Hurricanes’ first goal, rushed the puck up the ice, and Mikael Backlund, he who helped create the Flames’ second goal, deftly got it in the back of the net. Fifteen seconds. The Flames didn’t deserve to win, but they did anyway – and that’s the Flames this season on their worst nights.

The good news

Backlund had a great game against the Oilers, and he kept it up against the Hurricanes with another multi-point night. Not everyone can be a 50+ point scorer on the Flames – only like, five guys are – but Backlund’s the sixth guy, and moves like his overtime winner help remind everybody that he can be a serious threat on the ice, too. He’s a key part of this team, and it’s always fun to see him show up in big moments like that.

Remember that, between all of the Flames’ rookie defencemen, Kylington was the afterthought. Injuries opened up an avenue for him, though, and it was a blessing in disguise in a way: now having played in 26 games this season, it looks like Kylington has real NHL talent. He’s up to three goals in his career now, including two in back-to-back games. Playoffs can be a whole different beast, but maybe the Flames won’t have too much reason to worry about defensive depth down the line?

The fourth line has shown a lot of jump as of late, and they kept it up in this game. I just like bringing this up because it wasn’t that long ago the fourth line would consist of, like, Backlund having to centre Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth. Instead, a rookie in Andrew Mangiapane and someone who plays a harder game in Garnet Hathaway end up buzzing around the offensive zone causing havoc. It’s so much better nowadays.

Rittich has had some not-great efforts as of late, and some pretty okay ones, but it’s been a bit since he’s had to outright steal a game like he did against the Hurricanes. Though it’s not ideal that’s the situation the team put him in, it was wonderful to see that he’s still capable of having a game like that. He was fantastic.

The bad news

But it’s really, really not great the Flames led Rittich to do so much of their work for them en route to the win. though they got better as a group as the game went on, their start was pretty bad. It’d be a little easier to write this off as “they’re just excited to go on vacation” but for the fact that the Flames have had a number of games this year in which they haven’t looked great. Good to pull out the win regardless, but this is going to stop come springtime, right?

Though credit to the Hurricanes for shutting the Flames down. The top line, in particular, tends to be a lot more noticeable; against Carolina, aside from a good chance or two, there just wasn’t much going for them. You wouldn’t think a two-on-one with Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm would end without even a shot, and yet that’s exactly the kind of night it was for them.

Neal’s bad luck is just comical at this point. Sure, having the goalie make a save or just shooting the puck wide is one thing, but having the puck bounce over your stick while you’re facing a wide open net? That’s just a whole other level. On the other hand, it goes to show he’s doing a lot of things right, and that there’s hope things do turn around – but it’s just silly right now.

Numbers of note

35% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF on the night. They were not good. They were much better in the third period, but overall, they were not good.

8 minutes and above 50% – In a tight game, the fourth line understandably did not see that much ice time; Mangiapane and Hathaway specifically only played a little over eight minutes each – but that also allowed them to have the best corsis on the Flames. Not to take stock into single-game corsi results, but it was at least a little illuminating: they had good games overall, and the numbers matched their play.

4 – Rasmus Andersson led the way for the Flames with four shots on net. He also seems to have near-singlehandedly fixed the second powerplay unit, which looks much more threatening with him manning the point.

0.943% – Rittich’s save percentage, one of his best games since he stole a game for the Flames against the Jets back on Dec. 27, then stopping 35 of 36 shots. He has a 0.918 save percentage on the season now, good for 10th in the NHL among goalies with at least 1,000 minutes played. Switch to even strength, and he’s at 0.930% – tied for fourth.

11 – Gaudreau’s point streak ended after 11 games. He scored 22 points in that time frame. He currently has 361 career points in 363 career games.

19 – The Flames earned 19 total points in the standings through the month of January. The most they could have earned was 22.

Final thought

The Flames just haven’t been able to stop rolling. What happens when they go into a slump? I might even argue they’ve been in a slump much of this time – a number of the games they’ve played for the past month they haven’t been at their best, but they’ve been winning anyway. We’ve seen how dangerous this team can be when firing on all cylinders, though. If they’re able to consistently reach that level over the next couple of months, well, it’s going to be an interesting spring in Calgary.

In the meantime, hopefully the extended time off from games does everyone some good. Eleven games to go until the trade deadline!

  • withachance

    Not a great showing before the break, but to be honest glad it was against a mediocre team like Carolina. They might’ve gotten terribly outshot but Rittich didnt have to make an outrageous save on any shot, most were pretty straightforward to be fair. Great game by Rittich and the Backs line. Hope BP keeps Neal with Backs and Fro they were buzzing, especially Neal that was his best game in a Flames jersey.

    Just want to say how nice it was to see Ferly play his hardest against his old team. I know for me his performance in the Canucks series was probably the biggest reason for being excited by this team again. The amount of hate he got from Bieksa and Canucks fans brought a smile to my face and I was genuinely looking forward to watching the Flames again after a couple of dark years. It’s a shame his body is taking a toll from his play style and honestly all the best to him with injuries and career. A late round pick by us, I still consider him one of our own.

    • cjc

      Maybe the Neal-Backs-Fro combo can go a little longer (or go against the bottom feeders), but I’m not sure Neal should be getting more ice-time than Chucky (Neal saw almost 2 more minutes than him last night). Chucky’s point streak came to an end last night, and he wasn’t particularly effective with them (they combined for just 1 SOG; Tkachuk and Bennett weren’t on for Jankowski’s goal). I understand that Peters is going to use their cushion in the standings to tinker with the lineup and that’s fine, but I hope there isn’t some petty reason that Tkachuk’s ice time is down.

      • Flaymin Frank

        Management is desperately trying to rightside Nil’s upside down game and Chucky is paying for that desperation. He’s a solid kid tho and he won’t utter a word of complaint. Nil’s last 2 goals bounced in off of various body parts. This had everyone all sparked up about his recent play.

        • Skylardog

          I will not view it that way. Tinkering to find chemistry is a great thing. We need to win but also find ways to protect the health and fatigue for our key guys. What would we be saying if it worked (the Matty, janko Benny line)

          • withachance

            Not sure why the trashes. Agree with this 100%. Fact of the matter is that Neal looked great, the Matty Janko line looked decent the past couple of games. give them time to settle, see if it works, great balance for the playoffs. Gives the team a legit 4 line combo

          • Albertabeef

            The Matty Janko Benny line could work if placed properly. I still think Sam is the better center and they told Chucky to train as right wing in the offseason. So why not put them as Janks-Benny-Chucky?

    • everton fc

      I was playing some outdoor shinny with my son and a few others this weekend. One kid had a Ferland jersey – the only one I’ve seen here. I told him Ferland was my favourite Flame. Followed him in Brandon. Ferland gave a lot fo First Nations kids a great role model here. This kid felt the same. Pretty cool.

      I still hope we at least speak to Ferland, and see if he’d come back for a “home-town discount”, so we can fit him in, and still sign Tkachuk, Rittich, Bennett, and Hathaway. One can dream here…

        • Albertabeef

          No way does Ferly get 35 points when he’s not on the first line lol. 20 points maybe. Plus the back and concussion problems? No thank you. He also has only 6 goals and 8 assists in his last 29 games after his decent start. I like Ferly don’t get me wrong but Benny is just as good and is 4 years younger. Bennett has 108 career points while Ferly has 114. Benny also spent a fraction of the time Ferland did playing with Johnny, let alone prime line 1 time like he gets in Carolina. Love Ferly for what he did, but sometimes though if you love something, you have to set it free :).

  • freethe flames

    Sometimes your best players carry you to victory and this year this has happened a great deal but sometimes it’s your lesser lights that get the job done. After the preseason few thought that Rittich would become the starter and he has. He has won a number of games for this team and he did it again last night. Back’s played well again last night and seems to have found some of his offensive touch w/o Tkachuk. This experiement of moving Tkachuk to play with Janko and Bennett may end up paying off big time for the Flames. It seems that Neal is playing better; he is more engaged and that is leading to more opportunities for him hopefully he will cash in after the break. Have a good break boys and heal up all those aches and pains and be ready for the long push.

  • The Sultan

    “You wouldn’t think a two-on-one with Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm would end without even a shot…”

    Lemme stop you right there. Have you watched this team attempt odd-man rushes this year? It’s a problem that creeps into their game once in a while, a problem with trying to be too cute with the puck and making too many passes. If all else fails just take the shot. And make that decision beforehand. That brutal 3-on-1 against Buffalo in overtime that actually resulted in Eichel scoring is going to haunt me until this team can really find that killer instinct and start taking advantages of these opportunities that are gifted to them.

  • Baalzamon

    The silver lining (aside from, you know, winning the game) was that the Flames actually outplayed Carolina in the third. While leading.

    But yeah… their play has been slipping lately and they definitely need to be better if they’re going to do anything in the playoffs. Still, I guess this is what watching a good team is like. They get outplayed… and can still win.

  • everton fc

    Our secondary scoring seems to be coming around. Things seems to be coming together – even Smith’s game is getting a bit better. The vibe is extremely positive.

  • Flaymin Frank

    Good to see the ASG & CBA break are a combined effort this year. We came outta the Xmas break like a sling shot. Hoefully we can repeat that starting Feb.1

    Noah’s bonehead play in the dying seconds of the game needlessly sent this affair into o.t. That has to stop real quick. I know he wanted to extend JH’s point streak with an EN goal but that stuff will cost you games in the SCPO.

  • The Fall

    Whatever, the better team had better players and won the game. I’m tired of reading reports that the losing team ‘out played’ the winning team. We saw this garbage for the past two years. Sure Flames got out shot and ‘out chanced’ — but seriously, CAR has been out-shooting teams and have had trouble scoring for almost five season now…

  • Skylardog

    Breaks have always killed us, but I think this time it will be a huge benefit. Come back rested and ready for a cup run. We are playing hockey in June this year!

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    We’ve certainly employed the “rope a dope” strategy to much success this season. Bad for my cardiac health, good for fans. Is it intentional? Probably not. Will it continue to bring victories our way? I hope so.

    • The Fall

      I see it as more of an NFL style strategy: sometimes you need to march-up the field in the last two minutes to win the game. Doesn’t mean youre weak or bad at first halves — just play your game, conserve energy: if you’re up good, if you’re down, just keep it close and play the clock.

      • Flames fan since 83

        I think of it in terms of a mountain bike race. If you win a race by 10 seconds or 45 seconds, it doesn’t matter. You still win.
        If you chose to win every race by 45, you increase the risk of Crashing and injuring yourself or Burning yourself out by the end of the season.
        I say we not panic, and keep tweaking/experimenting/teaching our group for another month. And then bear down and giver hell for a long Cup Run!

  • Cfan in Van

    I gotta give a shout out to Dougie, who played a really strong game, and clearly wanted the W on this one. It might be the best effort I’ve seen out of him. Surprised there wasn’t any mention of him in any of the write-ups and none of the post-game comments that I’ve seen.

    Ferland played well, and was really effective. But then, most saw that one coming I think.

    • Cfan in Van

      Plenty of trashes here, so did people think Dougie had a bad game or cost them the W? I’m not a DH fan, glad we don’t have to watch him get turn-styled on a game-by-game basis, but just trying to give credit where it’s due. He played way better then I expected.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I thought Dougie was good offensively but wondered why the Flames didn’t try and pick on him defensively. It is never good when your coach publicly states that he doesn’t know what they have in Dougie.

  • Sven

    All Star break statistics
    (all situation – year to date analysis)

    Reasons for optimism:

    A) The Flames field four of the most effective 16 forwards league wide with Gaudreau coming in at number one
    (Gaudreau 1st, Monahan 6th , Lindholm 14th, Tkachuk 16th)

    B) Calgarys top line ranks only behind the Colorado line as the NHLs best

    C) Over the last 10 games Calgarys 3M line sits as the NHLs 11th most effective unit

    D) The Flames offer 4 of the top 50 D-men league wide
    (Giordano 3rd, Brodie 22nd, Hanifin 32nd , Hamonic 48th)

    E) Calgarys top pairing is the 3rd ranked duo in the NHL and the Flames second D unit sits at number 9

    Reasons for concern:

    A) Mike Smith has regained the crown as the worst goalie in the league from Jake Allen – having now cost the Flames 12 goals as compared to expected league average goal-tending

    B) David Rittich has fallen back toward the pack – now sitting as the 21st most effective NHL net minder – having saved the Flames 3.4 goals year to date as compared to league average data
    (he now ranks below Brian Elliott)

    but all in all – ya gotta be happy with the first 50 games

    although I wish Chiarelli was still throwing the tires into the dumpster fire up in North Red Deer

  • Garry T

    Well written article, Ari.

    The Flames are a “ light “ team and do not hit near as much as we need them to. Carolina is not, repeat not a crap team. They were but between picking up good players off waivers, bringing up guys from the farm and some nice trades, they have some nice pieces. Their coach was an outstanding player in his day. He looks like he could still play. He has instilled a great team format into his group and they will turn some heads towards the playoffs. They have moved up in league standings and beaten some good teams.

    To close out, I would like guys like Jankowski and others to throw some serious hits as teams break out of their and enter into our zones. We have dropped off a bit in our fore check and they need to address that. Good example, Carolina playing the same style last night.

    • withachance

      Honestly kind of hard to consistently put up big shot blocking numbers and hits as a team when the Flames are a solid possession team and have the puck most of the time. Totally agree on needing to address the forecheck though!

  • Dunk

    I would love to see Kylington experimented at forward. It would be awesome to have him ready for in game injuries… He has to much skill to be sent down. He might be a secret weapon. When Valimaki comes back. Wow what a team
    GFG

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    It is funny how all these post game embers start off “the Flames did not play a great game” but still won; compared to last year when the general theme was”the Flames were the better team” but found a way to lose.

    We were a lot like Carolina last year, the better team while out shooting our opponents but generating very little quality scoring chances. I much prefer being the second best team on the ice while continuing to win. Because if a team can win bringing their “D” game they will be unstoppable when they hit their “A” game.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Lasts night’s game was painfully bad. The line of Janko cantering Tkachuk and Bennett has so much potential yet did not generate much. I hope they try it for a few games. Bennett was one of the few players last night that was engaged in the play. I think he is going to be a late bloomer like Kadri but worth the wait. Any thought why Janko is scoring 4 v 5 and 4 v 4 but not so much 5 v 5. He plays well with Lindholm as his linemate when killing a penalty.