In the real world, ducks can kind of be jerks. It’s also a common thing to go down to the lakeshore, or wherever, and feed them bread. (Which you shouldn’t do, bread is bad for ducks.)
Andrew Mangiapane went to the slot and made the Ducks eat bread.
Feel of the game
It certainly wasn’t pretty. Even though the officials (mostly) put their whistles away (quite noticeably, in a certain blatant Ryan Kesler interference case), the game was a bit of an unstructured slog to get through, with periods of little happening punctuated by moments of random chaos.
You could put some of that blame on the Flames’ top line, who were near-invisible throughout the entire night, while heaping praise on their bottom two lines in particular for keeping things going. The Ducks, meanwhile, had their own extended chances buzzing around the Flames’ zone, a combination of missed shots and actual saves preventing them from getting a lead in the game.
For the second game in a row, a Flames defenceman scored right off of the faceoff. For the second game in a row, Mike Smith made a brutal misjudgment in playing the puck – only when he got away with it against the Islanders, he wasn’t as fortunate against the Ducks, letting them tie the game just five minutes later.
The game was looking destined for overtime when TJ Brodie sprung Mangiapane and Garnet Hathaway on a two-on-one; Mangiapane benefited from a fortunate bounce and Ryan Miller being unable to adjust to it in time to give the Flames the lead once again with just a few minutes to go. They tried for the insurance goal but couldn’t get it, but it was fine in the end – their less-heralded players made sure they got the victory.
The good news
I feel like I’ve been saying this for at least the past month, but: how great has the Flames’ depth been as of late? Sam Bennett didn’t score, but he looked fantastic throughout the game: engaged, physical, going for it. Mikael Backlund doesn’t really count as “depth” but he was great too, and the two had an even more noticeable jump in trying to create chances offensively when they were put together. They were both feeling it throughout the night, and played big parts in keeping the Flames looking respectable.
Mangiapane has gone from looking like he might be one of those guys who’s too good for the AHL, not good enough for the NHL to maybe turning that corner. He was quick on the third goal of his career, and has been increasingly looking like he belongs since he scored his first goal just two weeks ago. It’s hard to tell if this will last, but the way he’s playing – even when he isn’t getting points – the Flames could certainly do a lot worse than him for depth options. Maybe it’s time to start wondering if he even plays in the AHL again – probably not this year, at least barring a major move.
Nice to see Brodie pick up two points in his demotion. It’s definitely more of a future problem to wonder who will end up being the odd man out on the Flames’ defensive group as the rookie class steps in. For the present, it helps a lot to have someone like Brodie who can still, at the very least, provide a reliable presence even from the bottom of the lineup, plus the foresight to generate offence.
And on the other side of that coin: how natural does Rasmus Andersson already look playing alongside Mark Giordano? I’m sure a lot of that has to do with Giordano being just that good on his own, but it takes talent to play with talent.
The bad news
So, while guys like Bennett and Backlund were great… where was the top line? For a group of 60- and 70-point forwards that led most of them in ice time, they sure weren’t noticeable. And as fortunate as the Flames were to get the win, they didn’t really do anything to help. Had they been more on their game, it might have been a more comfortable victory. They’ve still been able to pick up points here and there during this slump, but it’s especially noticeable when they don’t – or when they, say, fail to even get any shots on net.
The Flames only gave up one goal, which is really good, considering how they were having a tough time both generating offence of their own and solving Miller on top of that. But the goal they did give up was completely preventable. Smith has frequently made dangerous plays with the puck; it’s just been fortunate that, most of the time, they don’t go in. I’m not keeping a tally, just relying on a decent memory here, but this was at least the second goal this season Smith has given up that was only caused by him trying to play the puck to begin with (the first was an October game in St. Louis; David Perron’s second goal of that day). You could look at the number of times Smith plays the puck and think, “He’s only given up two goals doing that all season? That’s pretty good!” But how many needless goals against is too many? In St. Louis, it was the Blues’ fourth goal of the game – and they won 5-3. Against the Ducks, it could have cost them a point. And it’s all just so… why? Brodie was right there. He’s a really good skater. Why not just let him take the puck?
With each passing game, I’m getting a little more anxious waiting for David Rittich to get another start. I’m not on the “never play Smith ever again” bandwagon – the Ducks are a bad team this year, him getting the start against them made sense, and frankly the same would be the case if he got the next game against Ottawa – but if Rittich doesn’t get the next game, he’ll have gone two straight weeks without seeing any NHL action. And he should probably still be the team’s starter in the playoffs. He got the quick hook against the Sharks for two atrocious goals against, he wasn’t great against the Canucks, and he was okay against a Lightning team that completely killed all of the skaters in front of him with far superior play. At what point do you stop sitting him?
Numbers of note
57.55% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF. Significantly less great? They had a 45% 5v5 HDCF. The Flames had control of the puck more often than the Ducks, but the Ducks were the scarier team most of the night.
1 – Dalton Prout picked up his first point as a Flame! And his first NHL point since April 8, 2017 at that. Now Rittich is the only active member of the roster without a point this season.
1 – Also the number of shots Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and Elias Lindholm combined for (it was Monahan’s shot). Yikes. Lindholm and Gaudreau led all Flames forwards in ice time, too, so double yikes – what were they doing? The only other Flames to not get a single shot on net were Michael Frolik (replaced by Bennett on his line later in the game), Andersson, and Prout. The last time Lindholm failed to get a shot on net was Jan. 13; for Gaudreau, it was Feb. 16. In fairness, Gaudreau was coming off of a seven-shot game, and Lindholm had eight in his past two, but this game was pretty symbolic for the “somebody needs to get the top line going again, please please please” notion.
6 – Backlund, meanwhile, had six shots on net. Giordano had five.
30+ – Brodie’s goal gave him his 30th point of the season; his assist got him his 31st. The Flames now have seven 30+ point players. That’s among the most in the league, tied with Columbus (including the Matt Duchene trade), Montreal, Nashville, Ottawa (they had eight until they traded Duchene), and Toronto. However, Winnipeg and Washington have eight each, Tampa has nine, and San Jose has 10. Next up: Noah Hanifin has 28 points.
17:52 – Brodie played the fifth most out of all Flames defencemen, among his lowest ice times for the season.
20:04 – Take out all special teams time, and Andersson led the way with 20:04 5v5 minutes. Still blows my mind he didn’t make the team out of camp, and back in October I was constantly tracking his ice time compared to Michael Stone’s while looking for signs that they wouldn’t be able to send Andersson down whenever Travis Hamonic got healthy. And here we are today.
0.895% – For as significantly better as Smith has been playing as of late, his season save percentage is still under 0.900%. In case you were wondering why some people still don’t trust him.
38 – This was the Flames’ 38th win of the season. They won 37 games last year. There are still 21 games to go this year.
The Flames followed up an outstanding game against the Islanders with a pretty weak one against the Ducks. They got the same result, which is nice, and the depth is proving itself even more reliable with each passing game, which is also extremely nice – especially when you look at the top line’s present struggles.
One game until the trade deadline. Considering the Flames’ dire state of prospects, you have to wonder if they even want to so much as consider trading any of the current guys who are looking NHL-level (the three defencemen, plus Mangiapane and Dillon Dube). And if not them, what else is there for them to really give up – especially without a second round pick this year? You have to give to get… or maybe just be comfortable enough in continuing the unexpected ride that this season has been, and seeing how far this group on its own can go.
Though the Senators did just trade one of their top forwards to their visiting opponent, and had him play against them that very night… and the Flames are their last opponents before the deadline… so…