Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Flames 2, Ducks 1 post-game embers: Let’s get this bread

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.

Final thought

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…

  • Orrwasbest

    Put Lindholm back on the first line for good. I like Benny with Matt and Backs. Anderson looks like he could replace TJ anytime on the first pairing. Third pairing is scary though would much rather see Kyl (when healthy) back with Anderson and Brodie with Gio.

  • Raffydog

    Report coming out of the Flames camp has confirmed what most have been assuming for weeks now about Tkachuks possible injury. “Matthew Tkachuk is playing through a serious injury the doctors are calling swollen ego. Its caused his head to swell so large they are having difficulty finding a helmet that fits.” Not sure if there is a cure, but I’m sending my thoughts and prayers to the Tkachuk family.

  • Jourflamesfan

    New Jersey Devils @NJDevils
    #NHLTrade: The #NJDevils have acquired defenseman @connorcarrick and a Third-Round pick in the 2019 #NHLDraft from the Dallas Stars in exchange for defenseman Ben Lovejoy (@RevLovejoy6).

    Media from: @NHLGIFs, @Sportsnet960, @NHL, @NHLFlames

  • The GREAT WW

    Fun Stone vs Neal comparison;

    Stone is having a great year this year, but over the 4 previous years;

    Stone: 91 goals plus 5 playoff goals.

    Neal: 102 goals plus 20 playoff goals.

    Stone is over rated in my books.
    I hope we pass unless we get an offer we can’t refuse…..


        • Phockey

          Wait til we have to look at Chucky’s play next year combined with his inflated salary. Hopefully this slump passes. Also, Peters needs to run some pee wee drills for the 1st line. If they are not going to score or get shots on net the least they can do is get the puck out of their own end once in awhile.

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    Really liking Smith’s play of late. At his age tho, is he one leg split away from a torn muscle? I’m sure Uncle Bill is aware of this but I wouldn’t want to throw Diesel Dave in the deep end like we did last year. I liked TJ’s game last nite. Maybe he needs to be a mentor to Sprout to tighten up his game.

    • Budgie

      Brodie is getting points, his contribution is solid but some like to pounce on miscues. Gadreau is coughing the puck up and there has been some giveaways but overall he is amazing. Smith has been solid, but the one intercepted pass with the aforementioned Brodie playing net is what people keen on. If you watch alot of hockey you see elite players like Crosby have off nights-especially Goaltenders, it happens-playing with less energy or an injury for a reason we won’t know.

  • Budgie

    Yes, Smith made a pass that was picked, however, how effective is having Smith play the puck? Darn effective for a quick transition. The top line is stalling because the opposition stands them up in the neutral zone and studying how they gain the zone and set up. Without the blue line they would be fine. Gadreau gets up a head of steam and finesses into the zone while Lindholm and Monahan wait trying to get free along the blueline, when forechecked it stalls. It reminds me of how the Russian Olympic team worked back in the 80s, always skating circles and having a fast player gain the zone, it was like gears in a watch-they never quit moving, always skating circling left and right-wing interchanging sides-a speed game. The top line will generate more chances if they keep skating, they have the speed and passing, it will come together after they study film and adjust.

    • freethe flames

      Calgary’s 2nd next year and Lazar for Zucc and McQuaid would be a deal I could live with. But we need to watch the transactions page as the Flames would need to IR Neal to make space for this to happen. We currently have 23/23 roster spots filled.

      • Vernon30

        I’d be ok with Brodie going somewhere, better than Kyl or Ras or really anyone else. Brodie and Gilles for Dzingel? Just throwing out names here. I’m not really an armchair GM.

  • How's She Goin'

    I was never a big fan of Hathaway, but he has really come into his own. He’s a pain in the ass to play against, has speed and will do whatever it takes to help the team. The kind of guy who helps teams win in the playoffs….

    • freethe flames

      Like many players if they are playing their proper role they are easy to cheer for but when they are in a role they can’t do they become easy to not appreciate. Especially if they are being overpaid. A good example is Frolik he is a solid 2 way player but his not a 2nd line winger and he is being paid to be one. At this point I would be okay with trying Mangiapne there.

    • everton fc

      Not to toot my own horn (some may remember how I felt Guillaume Desbiens would be a good 4th line plugger for our team, years ago!) but I’ve always been both a fan, and a believer, in Hathaway. And you are 100% correct – Hathaway is the type of guy teams like the Wings, in their heydays, had on their 4th line, for years. The guys a winner. He knows his role, his positives, his “areas of opportunity”, and his weak spots. He’s a heck of a penalty killer, and will generally, genuinely stick up for his teammates. We have to re-sign him.

      • Off the wall

        You should toot your own horn Everton!

        You’re the guy who stood behind him, among all the doubt surrounding him for years.

        Peter’s tapped into his strength and looks like a genius for doing so. But you saw that, when most of us didn’t.

        Since you’re a modest person(which we all appreciate), this is for you… TOOT TOOT

      • MontanaMan

        You are correct Everton and I was one of those calling him a “plug” and a career AHLer. I can’t say I’m 100% sold on him and he should never be confused with a fighter, but he plays a solid game, has turned into an excellent PKer and is reliable in key situations. The key to getting him signed is agreeing on a reasonable number, given is role.

  • freethe flames

    it should be clear now that anyone below Carolina in the east should be sellers. In the west anyone below the Yote’s should be sellers. For what was advertised as a buyers market it sure seems that prices are high for rentals; the fact that Lovejoy got a 3rd and tweener to be a depth defender is crazy. In Calgary he would likely be the 8th defender.

    My worry is that BT will make an over pay on a rental. Honestly would like to see prefer to see a team like Carolina be the guys who get Stone via an over pay.

    • slapshot444

      The fact that Winnipeg has not yet traded for Stone tells you the price is sky high.We may have to wait till the morning of trade day for the sellers come down to earth. Hopefully after Stone goes there will be time for other trades before the clock strikes 1.

    • Cfan in Van

      Yeah this market is making me nervous about the next couple days. Overpays a plenty. Almost as nervous as our top 4 dudes going cold before the playoffs. A whole handful of guys that need to figure it out if we’re going to have any success past game 82.

  • Speed Kills

    Great Picture…. Probably the best thing about the game last night. Poorly executed and played game, very sloppy play. What was with the pucks last night? they were bouncing all over the place… Still happy with the W… Should be an interesting next 72 hrs…

    • Mickey O'Reaves

      Noticed that great snapshot as well. Right after it Ryan entered the picture and that was a look on all 3 of unabashed joy.
      A 6th rounder, a guy that played all over the world, and a possible tweener. All making the show. Great to see.

      Contrast that with Brodie’s goal. To say that was a muted celebration would be an understatement. The kind of celebration you give – and get – when you make it 6-2 in the third period.

      But to end on a positive…that ‘ugly duckling’ 4th line is getting things done. You couldn’t have 3 more different players and personalities, and how they made it to the NHL, so their celebration in a tied game was fantastic to see.

  • Off the wall

    1. Rittich must start the next game. He’s doing no good sitting this long. Even potatoes grow mysterious eyes’ when left too long.

    2. Lindholm needs to be reunited with the top line, not for parts of a game, but permanently.
    Sorry, but the Tkachuk experiment isn’t working. That line is now too slow. Lindholm is the only (scoring) forward who has the speed to keep up with Gaudreau.

    3. Dalton Prout has been really good. I’m pleasantly surprised by his play.

    4.Brodie did not look happy at all on that bottom pairing. Did you see his body language? Yet, he didn’t let it affect his game. Yeah, Brodie is a professional.

    5. Speaking of invisible. Tkachuk is off, like really off. Good thing he’s playing against his brother for the first time on Sunday. If there’s one game you expect him to be better, it’ll be against his lil’ brother.

    Brothers have that uncanny ability to cause bragging rights among themselves. I loved playing against my brother in hockey. He was bigger and stronger, I was older and a bit faster. We enjoyed the trash talk. We both made sure we played our best against each other and jawed non-stop on the ice.
    Followed by a few laughs, and a beer together after the game. Good times!

    • Justthateasy

      Brody did look peeved. He was moved to that line for balance. Why could he not see that? I thought he looked peeved because of the chatter of him possibly getting traded when the young guys are ready.
      It looked like Anderson could have shot a lot more from the point then he did.
      And sure, Smith made a bad pass but he is entitled to one bad pass in 10 just like every other player on the team. He adds so much to moving the puck.

      • Cfan in Van

        On Andersson shooting… He needs to be set up perfectly to be confident in his shot at this point. If the pass isn’t in just the right place, he’ll hesitate or defer to someone else. He’s got a great shot, and when he learns to release it from slightly less ideal circumstances we’ll see it a lot more often. Contrast that with Gio’s uncanny ability to slid into a better shooting position (slapper or wrister) when he’s fed a pile of garbage from his team mates, and it’s like night and day. Andersson will work on that, and Gio is just amazing at it.

        • Mickey O'Reaves

          Andersson has a cannon on the back end, but he realizes that if the puck gets blocked it is coming the other way. Watch for him to intentionally shoot it wide and look for tips and rebounds in upcoming games. Agree, Gio needs to be mentoring young Ras to get into better shooting positions so the puck does go through. The tools are there in Rasmus Andersson.

          Also it must be totally refreshing for Giordano, and the whole team, to see Rasmus intentionally get into a scrap after Gio got injured in a scrum. Dougie Hamilton and TJ Brodie simply don’t have it in them.

      • slapshot444

        Brodie has been peeved since last year. Honestly I think he’s been peeved the year after he took a home town discount. He would have been traded in the summer had they known how much D they have now. He’s gone lickety split for picks at the draft in June, unless he goes on Monday.

    • Kevin R

      Bang on OTW! A game against Brady may be the thing that gets the norepinephrine flowing in Matty.
      Seems like the first line is in the dog days & not even that purple gatorade is enough to get the jump. Last night I noticed even Gaudreau wasnt as hungry for the puck. Get Lindholm back on that line stat! Cant trade guys like Brodie & Frolik as they are part of this chemistry & magic but this summer decisions have to be made. Anderson convinced me last night he is ready for top pairing. Hamonic & Hanifin may not always be perfect but they are a very solid 2nd pairing I would like to see continued next year. I would love to see Anderson left with Gio for the remainder of the year & playoffs, Anderson will grow so much more playing with him. Going to be an interesting offseason for sure. Prediction is that we may not see a trade from Tre until last minute Monday & he acquires a player no one saw coming for a bargain basement price.

      Also Magpie looked good last night, I think he has the ability to potentially control the puck & play like Gaudreau can when he really gets his confidence. I see a similar progression of ceiling like Anderson. Kid has good hands when he gets there.

    • Juan Valdez

      I love the fact Peters tries to get under a player’s skin when they aren’t performing up to expectations. That’s what makes him one of the best coaches.

    • Kevin R

      Thats why I am not totally disappointed he has slowed down on the points. We still seem to find ways to win & I see Tkachuk being signed to a Nylander type of deal which would be perfect!

      • Mickey O'Reaves

        This so-called slump is fantastic timing. Tkachuk could be a Flame for 15 years.
        Treliving will play hard-ball with young Byng to get the next contract at a number he wants.

  • moodyblue2

    Magpie reminds me of a younger, nicer, Brad Marchand. I think he has played himself onto the Flames for many years! Kind of takes the sting out of those lost draft picks! By the way who did the Isles pick up with our first last year in the Hamonic deal?

    • Off the wall

      Moody, NYI picked up Noah Dobson with our 1st pick. He’s in the Q right now, but is a highly touted D, with skill and solid defensive play. Islanders did well with our pick.

      2nd pick was Rusian Iskhakov. Never heard of him, he’s a Russian, who’d have guessed with that first name?

      I like you’re happy with Mangiapane. But him and Marchand are not good comparables.

      Marchand licks faces. Mangy doesn’t. Marchand will never win the Byng trophy. Mangy might be a candidate in the future.

      Marchand is a pure sniper. Mangy, not close to that level.
      Although he can shoot from his bum, so that’s progress.

      Marchand slew foots. See Byng comment.

      Marchand is really fast. Mangy is really fast. That’s the only similarities I can find. ?

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    “Sam Bennett didn’t score, but he looked fantastic throughout the game…”

    He’s a bust.

    “Mikael Backlund doesn’t really count as “depth” but he was great too…”

    Trade the lazy tool.

    “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.”

    Just a deal-sweetener for a real goaltender.

    “Nice to see Brodie pick up two points in his demotion.”

    Please. Just part of the package for Stone.

    P.S. I’m joking 😀