Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers 3, Flames 2 (SO) post-game embers: Unimpressive

It’s easy enough to accept excuses when the Flames are playing a really talented team, or are completely taking it to a goalie who just so happens to be playing out of his mind. The Panthers are closer to the bottom of the standings than the top, and James Reimer wasn’t exactly challenged, so I don’t know how you take anything but a sense of urgency from this.

Feel of the game

It took a long time for anything of note to happen in the game, but at some point, the Panthers started taking over. The Flames felt more reactive than engaging, and while the Panthers were missing quite a few shots at least near the Flames’ net, the Flames actually creating scoring chances of their own seemed more like a quaint rarity.

Mike Smith played well when called upon, and couldn’t be held at fault for either of the goals against him. The rest of the Flames, meanwhile, waited until the third period to really get anything going. Two goals in 20 minutes in such a time frame was perfectly acceptable – and there’s something that will always feel uplifting about a late game-tying goal like Elias Lindholm’s, no matter how the team had played earlier in the game – but the first 40 minutes were a problem.

You’ll give some credit to the Flames for fighting through the apparent slog that took over their game, but it really wasn’t enough. Overtime was a disaster in and of itself for both teams – pucks bouncing over sticks (poor Matthew Tkachuk), skaters on both sides falling down – and the Flames just can’t win in the shootout this year, so, that was that.

What an underwhelming couple of hours. That was an entirely winnable game for the Flames, and they just shrugged a point away.

The good news

Smith wasn’t miraculous, but he did exactly what the Flames needed him to do, which is all you can really ask from your goalie. He kept them in the game, gave them a chance to win, and rarely had any frantic moments (you know the ones: in which he loses sight of the puck or just falls over hoping it would hit him. Those moments weren’t there). He even picked up an assist; there really wasn’t much more that could have been asked from him. Goaltending is still a big question mark for the Flames, but Smith giving them a chance to win – even if against a weaker team – is still a positive for a team that needs a few of those right now.

Rasmus. Andersson. We’ve been seeing him take to the ice late in games since October, and it continues to pay off. He’s taken quite a few shots from the point now that have really helped the team, from making the second powerplay unit look functional to keeping the puck in the zone to helping create game-tying goals (or outright scoring one himself). He’s 22! Worst case scenario is looking like he’s a reliable bottom pairing defenceman who can help out in dire situations. He’ll probably be better than that, and there are so many years ahead.

I do recall my initial impression of Derek Ryan being like “oh, a younger Matt Stajan, kind of,” but he’s been playing really well for a while now. (At the very least since we hit 2019, but probably earlier than that.) He doesn’t get much in the way of minutes, but he seems to have at least one or two moments a game in which he’s singlehandedly trying to create a goal. The effort is appreciated.

It’s cool to see Mark Jankowski score at 5v5 sometimes. Three points in his last four games.

There are no shootouts in the playoffs, so whatever. It’d be less whatever if the Flames were in danger of missing them, but they really aren’t, so.

The bad news

It took 40 minutes for the Flames to really get going. That’s bad. And that was really only acceptable in this game because the Panthers are, frankly, a lesser opponent. The game before this one, we saw the Flames play poorly and get absolutely demolished for it, because the Lightning are a really good team, and you can’t afford to play like that against them. I do think part of the reason this one partially worked out for the Flames was because their opponent wasn’t near the top of the league standings. That’s not exactly a recipe for success.

They had 43 shots on net, but very few of them seemed actually dangerous. Against the Canucks, you could tell Jacob Markstrom stole that game; in this one, James Reimer had to stop a lot of rubber, but he didn’t really have to do anything miraculous to get the win. That’s concerning in and of itself – that and the overpassing and the reluctance to take an actual dangerous shot at times.

The Flames went scoreless on the powerplay in four opportunities (including one for which they should have had some momentum for, since it came off of a failed coach’s challenge right after they tied the game). Against the Lightning, they went two-for-four, which is fine; against the Canucks, zero-for-five; against the Sharks, one-for-seven. They’re slumping on the man advantage and it is costing them in some cases.

Numbers of note

52.63% – The Flames’ 5v5 corsi on the night. They have a 75% third period to thank for that. They were underwater during the first two frames.

5-10 – According to Natural Stat Trick, the Flames had five high-danger corsi events at 5v5. The Panthers had 10. The Flames have 50 total 5v5 corsi events for, and the Panthers had 45. That disparity is… not great, let’s say.

22.4% – The Flames’ powerplay for the season, which is still ninth in the NHL. It’s a good man advantage, but it does need to get going again.

3 – Smith picked up his third assist of the season. For some context, Garnet Hathaway has two.

5 – Johnny Gaudreau and Michael Frolik led the way with five shots each. Sam Bennett was trying while on Mikael Backlund’s line, but Frolik just does seem to be the better fit.

29:23 – Mark Giordano’s ice time on the night, the most he’s played in a single game this season.

17:53 – A new career high in ice time for Jankowski. It’s two more seconds than his previous high, but still: he got a lot of minutes; more than Backlund, even, though that’s due to special teams. (He was also credited with five giveaways – far more than anyone else on the Flames.)

0.938% – Smith’s save percentage. He had a good game.

Final thought

This stretch has been frustrating. The Flames should probably at least have a couple of extra points. They don’t, and it largely is their own fault. But the sky still isn’t falling. The Flames are still in first place in the Western Conference, with 75 points and a game in hand. Remember when they took over first in the West in December, and how that was a novelty in and of itself? Yeah, the gap has closed substantially, but they’re still there! Things will be fine.

But man they’ve really gotta start figuring out how to win games again. Five games left until the trade deadline. Gotta wonder just how much this first half of February has impacted management’s thoughts on what to do at the deadline, though.

  • Puck Head

    I would suggest that BP have a tantrum and launch a stick into the stands but we already know that these young fellas don’t respond well to that sort of thing. Maybe it’s time for him to express the gravity of the situation by send out a strongly worded group text.

    • Off the wall

      Puck, watching the Ducks GM behind the bench is intimidating for the players. All of them are playing for jobs.

      Would be fun to see Treliving down at the bench for a game, just glaring at our players.

      I’m sure that would motivate them!

  • freethe flames

    The James Neal injury: a blessing. First I don’t want to wish James Neal ill; I don’t. But his injury if it is long term even if it’s only a week or so is not bad news for this team. This injury will allow BP to shuffle his lines and whether it will allow Czarnik to play or the Flames to call someone up it does not really matter; shuffling this squad will get them out of their funk. Anyone they bring up will bring more speed to the line up and that is a good thing.

    Secondly it will give BT a reason to make a decision on the TDL. To decide if he thinks this team is really a contender or not. If he believe we are truly a contender he will be adding a significant forward to this group to replace the injured Neal. If not he may become a seller of some of the bit pieces.(He may do that anyways in order to make an upgrade)

    If Neal goes on the LTIR it also creates cap space at the TDL. Until we know the nature of his injury there is no reason to speculate any more than this.

  • withachance

    Frustrating game. Again, if, and I emphasize the IF part, battle and return to form, then this stretch will make them a better team. I’d rather them figure out how to dig themselves out now rather than in March or April

  • freethe flames

    Ari; I’m glad you mentioned the lack of performance of the PP. As good as the PP is at times when the first unit dries up like it does at times this team struggles. If it had scored once last night we win the game. if it scores against Vancouver we win, if it scores against SJ maybe the game changes.

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        Hard to do when you have Lindholm generally on the right side, and Johnny on the left. If you want a one timer like the Lightning or Caps do, then you need players playing on their offwing, and you need players that can actually do a one timer proficiently.

        Our system works for one timers down low: chuck is behind the net feeding the wings (Lindy and Johnny), or Johnny is feeding Mony. Not saying it’s a bad system, but despite it looking similar to the Lightning and Caps’ its slightly different in its approach.

        But it would be nice to see maybe some sort of one timer opportunities. It seems like as a whole this team really never uses those, and hasn’t for years.

  • Inglewood

    Tough game, tough stretch. Hopefully with some scoreboard help and sliding back into the 1st seed with a shootout lose, the guys get up a bit for this game in Pitt. When I sit back and look and things from a distance, I wonder how moving from -25 weather in Calgary to +25 in Tampa, jumping through airports, and trying to protect themselves from the disgusting amount of people that habituate this planet really affects them? Every time I travel in the winter months I always seem to catch some kind of end of the world head cold. Stretches like this with professional sports teams, you gotta wonder how well their able to combat those kinds of illnesses. Watching some of the guys skate around the last couple of games, it sure looks like their missing a step. Maybe a couple more NightQuil tablets need to get popped for them to get back on track.

  • L.Kolkind

    Unfortunate that Neal got injured, hopefully, it’s not too bad. With that being said I do hope we see an extended look of Czarnik on the 3rd line. I think he has looked good so far and hasn’t earned being sat as much as he has. Overall he is a better player than Hathaway, but Peters likes Hathaway on the PK so Hathaway won’t sit. Tre also got 2 other RW’s this summer both of which make significantly more and won’t be benched for him not that Lindholm should be.

    • Luter 1

      Its not just the PP, he is the only guy that throws a body-check on a team that is dead last in that department. You think Czarnik’s bringing that to the table? You didn’t notice that Tampa Bay put the run on us the other night, including banging Johnny around and Hathaways the only guy to answer the bell. We will absolutely get run out of the rink come playoff time without some guys that push back and right now we don’t have nearly enough of them.

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        This is a very good point. I saw Neal throw a hit last night, which was good. But where is the team toughness? Bennett? Even Backs can throw em to some degree.

        The lads just don’t seem particularly engaged. It’s not ‘speed’ alone that teams need, but ‘tenacity’. We need more of that right now.

      • Mickey O'Reaves

        It is frustrating. Monahan, Jankowski, Neal, Hanifin…those are all big dudes. Neal used to be a pain in the arse to play against. But none of those guys listed makes anyone really pay the price and keep the opposition wondering where they are on the ice.

      • L.Kolkind

        I mean yeah Hathaway is physical, but if what you’re saying is that Tampa is a big team you are crazy. Tampa is highly skilled but not a lot of their top players are huge only really Hedman, even Stralman is 5’1″. When I think Lightning I think speed, high skill, players like Point, Kucherov, Killorn, Palat are not really scary tough, just scary good.

        But physicality is completely aside from my point, which isn’t that Hathaway should be sitting but that Czarnik is a capable NHL player. I think Czarnik has all the tools to be a decent point producing 3rd liner, and he just happens to be a right wing like Neal. I think if he gets consistent linemates and playing time he will be able to show what he is really capable of.

        In the playoffs you might be right that is it’s worth it to carry a lesser player on the 4th line to provide some toughness, but then that player ends up costing the team goals at 5v5. If you want toughness you’re in luck so the Flames but not to the extent of McGratten. Hathaway I will say has been amazing on the PK and could very easily justify having him in the lineup just because of how good at PKs he is.

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    This is where I’m tempted to say that the hole in the the line up caused by Neal’s absence could be filled with a mop bucket on a skateboard. But FN peeps will quickly point out that he’s been on a scoring binge of late so I’ll keep quiet on that front.

    I’ve always been a TJ fan but now is the time in his career to cash in on his trade value. His reluctance to blast the puck at goal is frustrating to say the least. He’s hard wired to make a fancy pass or cutesy dish off instead of making the smart play. Razzy has the skill set and sweet one timer to move up and be Gio’s full time partner.

    We’ve hit some turbulence. We are not in a full blown nose dive.

    • Luter 1

      Couldn’t have said it better myself, although Neal’s sister, mom and wife will be giving us trashes – the guys a stiff – and he finally starts putting some effort in and gets injured mostly because he was on cruise control for 50 games without breaking a sweat. Just as I called it a month ago – mysterious injury will derail his unimpressive season!
      Absolutely perfect time to trade Brodie, a few teams seen him at his finest this year – game 20-35 – and it won’t get any better than he played then but has gotten a lot worse, in fact dragging Gio down a little right now. If he has value, trade him for someone with some sandpaper.
      Frolik- same thing- value was highest 15 games ago when he was getting empty netters and skating after being benched. Back to playing a less than average game.
      Janko rounding into a very good young defensive player and timely goal scorer, could see it happening last year, Do not continue to lump him in as tradebait with all the topped out veterans we need to rid ourselves of first.

    • Eggy

      Yep same here, when he was having a rough year the last couple of years I was really hoping they wouldn’t trade him because I knew he was better than what his trade value would be. However now he has a really good + minus and has 29 point about 3 quarters through season. I say keep him until offseason then try and make a splash and maybe trade him for a first rounder because we don’t really wanna take in cap right now. Either that or trade him and our low first rounder and move up to a higher first round pick

  • Raffydog

    Flames should just sell off everybody they can at the trade deadline and start a real rebuild. This group will never win a championship. No leadership, no heart, no talent. Canucks are in year 2 of their rebuild and already have a more promising future. Even if they somehow manage to make the playoffs, they are just a stepping stone for a better teams Stanley cup aspirations, and that’s all they’ll ever be.

  • Raffydog

    When every other teams cranks up the intensity the Flames throw it in cruise control. This has been going on for 30 years now. One of the least successful, and worst run franchises in the history of sports.

  • Skylardog

    Just cause I love stirring it up, lets go full CrazyDog this AM

    Benny and Fro to Boston for a 2nd round pick in 2019. Boston needs depth forwards, especially with their recent injuries. Clears an estimated $6.8M for next season.

    Hanifin and Tkachuk for Stone and Chabot. Will clear about $3.0 for next season.

    Janko, Mangi, Czar, and our 2020 1st for Krieder and Zibanejad. Net cost next season is $9.0M
    after replacing roster spots for 1 guy. May have to add another prospect to this.

    Smith and a 2019 second (from Boston) to Detroit for Howard. If the Flames make the Cup final it becomes a first rounder in 2019.

    For depth in net
    Gillies and a 5th in 2020 for Tristan Jarry – both are in the doghouse, lets see if he can do something.

    I would be happy with just the Benny and Fro trade – That’s good for both teams in the long run.

    • Chucky

      Not sure why you didn’t propose Gaudreau, Monahan and Lindholm to Philly for a 6th round 2030 pick, opens up almost $18 million for Treliving to spend in early July.

    • BendingCorners

      Good for a laugh, and some of those trades even make sense.
      Not sure about Janko moving, but a third body for sure in that trade.
      The really bad trade is the first one. Bennett and Frolik for a 2nd? The thinking behind that escapes me, unless you meant to include Neal to reduce the value?
      Woke me up though 🙂 Have a good day Dog.

    • Luter 1

      Your nuts, Benny probably on lots of teams lists for some more sandpaper – probably worth a first rounder by himself plus we need him based on the fact we have no one past him and Hathaway that can throw a check or a punch.
      Frolik for a second would make sense maybe but both players?????

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Tkachuk in the shootout, he can tip in goals and bang the net but he doesn’t really have soft hands. Why wouldn’t Peters use his pure goal scorers, I’ve noticed he’s put some unlikely characters out for the shootout.
    It shouldn’t have come down to this anyway, if this is our real Flames, we are in trouble.

    • Avalain

      Tkachuk hasn’t done well at all this year in the shootout, but last year he went 4 for 5. He was our best shootout player. This year he’s 0 for 4, but this year Monahan is literally the only Flame who has scored at all in the shootout. Honestly, except for Monahan you can come up with a reason to not send out EVERY player on the team.

      • Luter 1

        And all 4 goals were the little flip shot, tried and failed on that twice this year, goalies figured it out. Only benefit is Tkachuks value has to be dropping, his skating is really standing out as not up to par with the Mariners, etc. Without him bringing some attitude to his game his talent is really average. How interested do you think he will be to get dirty after signing for 40 million, probably not, so you will be signing just above an average player and this idea he is the next captain, I don’t quite get?
        If Lindholm keeps improving, has an edge to his game, works hard and seems to hate losing – possible captain material.

  • Em Durp Em Hrudey

    Was going to kick the tires on what everyone thought of trying to get Ilya Kovalchuk from the Kings, then I looked at his cap hit….yikes. No thanks.

  • Flameon13

    3 more trade scenarios I thought about ranking from likely to least:
    Scenario 1:
    Brodie and Janko to Toronto for Kadri and Brown
    Czarnik to Rangers for Mcquaid
    Reasoning: Toronto needs Defenseman who can play the right side and who are signed to a good contract into next season. Kadri is a good target since it’ll free up money on their third line. Janko goes and becomes a cheap third line center and helps the pk. Brown comes back due to loss of Janko. Mcquaid fills the bottom pair roll, fits on the right side and will check and czarnik gets a chance in a new place while fitting into their age group.

    Scenario 2:
    Frolik, Kylington, Czarnik, 2020 First rounder, 2019 Third rounder to NYR for Zibanejad and Mcquaid
    Reasoning: NYR are a rebuilding team and any deal for one of their top players will involve picks coming back as well as prospects. Frolik goes the other way because although he doesn’t mean much to NYR he is cap that needs to move for this deal and he is still useful to a team. Kylington meets a future need for young defensemen as 4 of their big money defensemen are in their 30s.

    Scenario 3:
    Backlund, Smith, Dube, 2019 first rounder, 2020 first rounder to Philly for Couturier, Elliot
    Reasoning: I honestly don’t even think Philly would except this but the talk of Monny not being a true number 1 center(I disagree) sent me searching for something that could work for those people.

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    Couple of things. Looking at the replay it looks like Neal hurt his left elbow when he went into the glass. It didn’t look like much of anything to be honest.

    More troubling was Johnny on the bench before the shootout. He was yelling and animated to nobody in particular. Then he doesn’t get picked in the shootout again. If that was JG getting all cranky at Peters then that is a really bad visual, and a problem going forward.

    • Off the wall

      It might be something, or it could be nothing Mickey.

      Johnny has always been animated. You can hear him swearing on the ice when he misses an opportunity, or a pass for that matter. He’s pretty vocal.

      I think that’s a good sign. He really cares about how he plays.
      I wish we had more of that on our squad. More troubling to me, is the seemingly lack of vocal players on this team.

      Remember when we were winning? Players were vocal, engaged and animated.

      Perhaps it’s the wear- and- tear of the long season. Or some bad blood on the team? I hope not.

      The Purple Gatorade hasn’t been a thing for a while. We looked like a fun and close team then. Perhaps there’s a little jealousy surfacing?

      Regardless, Peters better get to the bottom of this. Our season depends on it!

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I am tempted to keep Johnny in the shootout rotation until he figures it out. But before putting him back in the rotation I am going to force him to watch all his old BC games and show him how he would roof puck on the backhand or rifle the puck top shelf on breakaways. I realize the the goalies are better in the NHL but this does not explain why he does not at least try to mix it up. Right now if a goalie keeps his legs together Johnny is not going to score. If Byron can figure it out so can Johnny.

  • Alberta Ice

    Pretty crazy to see the Flames on top in the Pacific this morning. Despite this poor start after the All-Star break, the two points gained in ties have been incredibly significant. Imagine if we could actually win an NHL shootout competition? It’s beginning to look like if we don’t win in OT, we don’t win. The Iginla shootout days are back again! (He and the team were terrible in shootouts his last few years. No doubt we peaked in our shootout history when we had the Schlemko move making the highlight reels. And hats off to Sean Monahan who appears to be the only one that can bury an overtime shootout rush.) But, hey, if you were watching the Oilers the other night against the Penguins, Matt Murray absolutely robbed Conner McDavid on his penalty shot. On the other hand, the Elias Peterrson shoot out winner in Vancouver the other night was absolutely amazing. He literally stops in slow motion and picked his corner against Rittich. Ugh. And Johnny had all kinds of chances one on one against Markstrom the other night and gets robbed each time. I’m kind of wondering if those robberies and these shoot out robberies are what are mentally taking on toll on JG and Tkachuk for getting more bold to shoot at the net? That ugly mental gorilla is showing up on this team right now more than I like. Would one of you Flames rise up and kill that gorilla in a game soon? And gain back some of our game winning momentum?

  • MDG1600

    Stopping 33% of shots in a shoot out will win you zero shootouts. I know Smith was good last night but if you look at big sample size since Christmas the Flames goaltending hasn’t been great, hasn’t been good and hasn’t even been average. Before trashing check out the team save % vs league average. Flames need to overhaul their entire staff involved in making goaltending decisions. Add in our “prospects “ in the AHL and it is possible that statistically the Flames have the worst organizational goaltending in the NHL.

  • Korcan

    Basically, the Flame’s problems can be summed up thus: their top players (Giordano and Lindholm the exception) are all slumping at the same time. Rittich is struggling, Monahan is not noticeable, Johnny is noticeable but less effective, Backlund is struggling, and Tkachuk is a shell of the player that made him a fan favorite. Because of this, their powerplay is slumping as is their 5v5 production.

    The supporting cast is playing well, IMO, but they can not be expected to win you games — they are simply there to help you avoid losing games, which they did last night in getting the team out of Miami with 1 point.

    What we are witnessing is a Flames team when its best players are not its best players, and the results will not change until that changes.

    • Luter 1

      Bang on but why are the big dogs not playing well? Because it’s a way tougher time of the year, Johnny has been manhandled (Thornton-San Jose, Lightning – all over him) Monahan has been crushed with a couple cross checks (Kane) Backlund scared of his own shadow.
      Somebody big and miserable sorely needed on this team, really too bad we couldn’t go back in time and get Reaves versus Neal. Guaranteed our talent would have more room to move out there.
      Anyone trashing this hasn’t been paying attention to how we have been physically manhandled lately.

      • Albertabeef

        As long as they are not playing “Goon” when they should be playing hockey. A lot of these goons get out of position because they are too worried about hitting and not playing the game the right way. First game against Edmonton, the Oil played goon and we played hockey and won the game. Please do not turn us into the Oilers!!!!

        • Luter 1

          We have a roster of non-contact players and since the All-star break they’ve been out of position most of the time. Getting some guys that can hit doesn’t make it goon hockey. Being the softest team in the league doesn’t earn you browny points in the standings for most gentlemanly.

  • everton fc

    No need for BT or Peters to be tossing sticks into the seats, like Gulutzan – this is where “GG” lost the team, last season.

    Steady as she goes. A playmaker, or two, hopefully a degree of “truculence” built into their game,. using Frolik, Czarnik, our first, our third, or a combination of these three assets… An AHL goalie w/NHL experience, “Just in case” (late round pick is the cost)… Dump Gillies somehow…

    Nothing insanely dramatic needed here.

  • Vernon30

    On a serious note regarding trades, what’s Gilles’s value? Our goalie depth is even worse when written down. Rittich, Smith (yikes), Gilles (bad year again…) Parsons (struggling and currently out) Fisher? ECHL goalie who catches right-handed, but whose name I’ve forgotten…wait, MacDonald. Got it.