Photo Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Flames 2, Senators 1 post-game embers: Last minute heroics

First by the post, then by Austin Czarnik’s backhand. Though I think it would be entirely fair to say that’s probably not how any of us would have really expected a game between the second best team in the league and the worst (that’s selling off its best players, at that) to go.

Feel of the game

Sam Bennett and Mikael Backlund picked up right where they left off against the Ducks – that is to say, as the Flames’ best forwards – to open the scoring. It looked like the Flames were set to run away with the game early, too, as soon after their linemate, Matthew Tkachuk, appeared to score, but for a long challenge that ultimately declared he had interfered with Craig Anderson’s ability to freeze the puck. But no biggie, because the Flames were clearly the better team and were going to dominate on the scoreboard, right?

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Not quite the case, due both to the Flames getting too cutesy with the puck at times – a common refrain this season, but more pronounced when it’s just not going in – and Craig Anderson’s own aggressive play in breaking up the Flames’ ability to get the puck to one another. The Flames thought they had more to work with than they actually did, and Anderson apparently had no intentions to roll over.

David Rittich, in contrast, rarely had to come up big – though he was certainly capable when the moment called for it. His only blemish on the night wasn’t so much on him as it was on a poor line change allowing Brady Tkachuk a breakaway, which was something one could feel coming, even as the Flames had controlled play most of the game, a shift by the top line stuck in their own zone preceding the game-tying goal.

Things appeared to take a turn for the hopeless when it looked like the Senators took the lead on the powerplay, but upon reflection, Rittich had been victimized by the exact same play Anderson had on Matthew Tkachuk’s goal. The officials stayed consistent – they had to – and the game stayed tied. The Flames’ powerplay didn’t do much to make a case for itself, and things looked destined for overtime.

At least until the final minute, when Anthony Duclair rang one right off the post. And then, seconds later, with the puck back in the offensive zone, Czarnik got it and ended it with 41 seconds to go.

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The Flames clearly should have been the victors all along – though playing it that close was a surprise.

The good news

After Bennett played so well against the Ducks, he had the chance to stay with Backlund for this outing, and the two showed why they can work so well together. The really good thing here, though, is that the Flames have enough players that they can switch up their lines whenever necessary and still have an offensively talented, dangerous line. When Bennett slowed down early in the season, Michael Frolik stepped up and looked like the solution. When Frolik slowed down, Bennett did the same in kind. Combine that with a coach in Bill Peters who’s willing to shake things up, and it provides some further versatility for the Flames going forward, whether they bring in a new player or not.

It’s just always really enjoyable to see a player like Czarnik get the chance to step back into the lineup and make something of it. He probably won’t be able to keep this up – he has four goals in five games since dressing as a regular, which is unsustainable for basically any player – but he’s still playing well enough that it’s clear he deserves to stay in the lineup. The more forwards playing like that, the better.

Rittich had a really rough go of things the last time he dressed. Though the Senators aren’t the most formidable opponent, it was a good game to ease him back into things. He still had to make a couple of high-danger saves, he was alert, and he didn’t come close to costing his team the game, as he’d been flirting with in games before his Tampa outing. Probably the easiest first step forward to take, but he took it.

The officials were consistent! Whatever your thoughts on if Matthew Tkachuk’s goal should have been called or waived off, the exact same standard was applied to the Senators later in the game. At least NHL officiating isn’t so bad that they aren’t calling what’s obviously the exact same play two different ways.

The bad news

When will the top line return from the war? They were better than they were against the Ducks – that is to say, they actually got shots on net, and legitimately tried to score on occasion – but they just don’t look dangerous or threatening, which is a really weird thing to say about one of the few teams so close to having three 70-point forwards (Tampa is the only one that actually does). You’d especially think they’d start picking up against a weaker team that should, in theory, having more trouble defending against them; instead, they were often thwarted by the goalie before even getting a proper shot off. Is someone hurt? Are multiple someones hurt? Is this just regression kicking in, as is wont to happen to even the best players? Whatever it is, hopefully they snap out of it sooner rather than later, or a potential deadline acquisition may not really matter.

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The cutesy play the Flames had on display when trying to score really was bad. Anderson played well, but there’s no excuse for that game to have been as close as it was. All it took was one bad line change to put the Flames’ victory into jeopardy. It’s good that they won a close game, yes – but this isn’t a game that should have been close. Neither was the game against the Ducks, for that matter. That this is how they followed up that stellar game against the Islanders is perplexing. At least they can’t play down to their competition in the playoffs, probably?

Numbers of note

58% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF. They were particularly better in the third period – 64.71% – when it became very clear they were going to have to at least score again in order to get the two points they absolutely needed to get.

8:52 – The amount of time Matthew Tkachuk faced Brady at 5v5. Brady was Matthew’s most common opponent, while Backlund was Brady’s. In the 8:52, Matthew won the battle – he had a 64.29% CF against his brother. (A lot of that comes from playing on the better team, but still, some bragging rights since only one of their goals actually counted.)

4 – Matthew Tkachuk leading the Flames in shots isn’t much of a surprise; really, it’s rather welcome, considering how he has his own slump he needs to get out of. (Also helps that he was playing alongside Backlund and Bennett, and the three worked together well, especially early on.) More of a surprise? That Travis Hamonic also led the way with four shots.

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10 – Czarnik became the Flames’ 17th 10-point scorer, tied with Garnet Hathaway in 22 fewer games played. Czarnik has a shooting percentage of 13.3%; Hathway, 13.5%, and neither much in the way of assists. The depth is great, but it’s not reliable in the long-term.

Final thought

At time of publishing, there will only be a couple of hours left before the Flames can no longer add to their roster. They’re already in the playoffs – that much is clear – but a lot of their play this season has left a fair bit to be desired, it’s just that they’ve been able to keep winning anyway. Is that the exact situation in which they should go big? Spend assets to further improve a team that’s probably playing at least a little above its head, try to ensure that they’re no longer playing above their head but that they’re reaching their full potential? Or wait it out, be happy with this unexpectedly good year, and see where the future takes the team without having to worry about giving up prospects or starting future cap concerns early?

Guess Brad Treliving will have it figured out soon enough. The Flames, though still a good team, have looked pretty different in February than from their January play.

  • Skylardog

    Ahhh – Forget last nights game. Its go time on TDL Day!

    Don’t think Flames fans have ever had so much anticipation for one of these, well – ever.

    Go BT Go!

    • The GREAT WW

      I LOVE being buyers at the deadline!!!

      I also love the Oilers and Canucks being in no mans land; can’t buy……..can’t sell……..
      Good times!


      • Skylardog

        See – the day just gets better and better all the time.

        You get the feeling Kas values a no chance playoff appearance and 2 home game over doing what is best for the team. They should be selling pieces they don’t want or need 3 years from now. Instead, they probably hold onto some guys that should and need to go.

        Van should just stick to the plan, and I think they will. A couple of parts they can sell and pick up picks maybe?

  • Skylardog

    Interesting take on the “chemistry” in the room from a former player on the TSN panel.

    Picking up players at the deadline is seen as a reward for a well played season.
    And the question in the room is always “Who did we get!”

  • withachance

    All the buzz really points toward BT going after Stone, makes me excited that it might actually happen. A trade and sign really wouldnt surprise me at the end of the day

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    One word for yesterday’s game. CASUAL. Way too freaking casual. Maybe its good too leave some gas in the tank for the stretch run?? In terms of trades, our bottom six is currently carrying the team on its back so me thinks we don’t need to mess with this group.

  • cjc

    Not surprised at all by this result – Ottawa is full of young guys looking to prove themselves. It is hard to fault a team that is third league wide in goals for being too cutesy. We notice when an extra pass kills a high danger chance, but not when a decision to shoot means a pass to a wide open teammate was missed. Overall their fundamentals are good at 5 v5 and they are getting contributions from each line.

    Rittich was solid, but it did look like he had trouble on a few saves. Maybe just a result of not being too busy or rust from not playing, but he needs more reps to settle down. I am lukewarm about Peters playing the hot hand with goaltending. Rittich deserves some starts, he earned the number one job and a longer leash.

    Not worried about Purple Rain. Every line goes through a slump, this is no different and they have lots of time to sort it out.

    The Special teams needs to be better though. SJ, Tampa and Boston are all more lethal in this category.

    • cjc

      Hmmm… I do wonder if Calgary needs to make an add. SJ grabbed Nyquist, now Hayes gone. I have this feeling they’ll trade for Simmonds, which wouldn’t be terrible depending on the cost, but definitely not my first choice.

        • cjc

          Agreed – that is where he would slot in. With Neal out I can see them doing this, he could help the PP and GMs always like that crash and bang mentality in the playoffs. Plus SJ and Winnipeg have started a bit of an arms race. It’s only a good idea if the cost is reasonable. The first or any of Dube, Mangiapane, Kylington would be too much. But a third rounder or later, or a b prospect might be worth the risk. It is a buyers market.

    • Jourflamesfan

      Bob McKenzie @TSNBobMcKenzie
      WPG closing in on a deal for Kevin Hayes with the NYR, but not finalized yet.

      Darren Dreger @DarrenDreger
      Lots of talk about Winnipeg’s 1st and Brendan Lemieux.

      Bob McKenzie @TSNBobMcKenzie
      This potential WPG-NYR deal is WPG 2019 first-round pick, Brendan Lemieux and a conditional pick in exchange for Kevin Hayes. Believe an agreement is in place but trade call not set yet.

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

    • Mickey O'Reaves

      Jets are going to need a d-man as well. Watched most of the Jets game yesterday, and Josh Morrissey might have blown out his shoulder. He went straight to the bench after the hit.

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    Ryan Leslie
    Don Maloney telling me moments ago, the #Flames were “in on something big” last night but that it fell apart.

    Again, they are not willing to use their high end prospects for a rental.

    8:27 AM – Feb 25, 2019
    Twitter Ads info and privacy
    See Ryan Leslie’s other Tweets

    …. taking these off the Sportsnet feed

      • Mickey O'Reaves

        There is no good position to be in on the Stone game from my way of thinking.

        Treliving may just be looking to bail on Brodie now, as opposed to the draft.
        Rasmus has shown enough that he can handle bigger minutes with Giordano.

        • The Sultan

          I’m hoping for either a hockey trade or for Treliving to fleece Ottawa at the last minute. Remember when the Flames failed to trade Cammalleri because the returns weren’t good enough, only to have him walk in the off season anyways?

  • The Sultan

    Everything is falling into place. Winnipeg gave up way too much for a rental for the second year in a row, and I doubt Hayes signs in Winterpeg given the reports he didn’t want to sign with a Canadian team. The more Winnipeg/Nashville/San Jose spend now the shorter their window gets. Glad it wasn’t the Flames.

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    John Shannon

    Practice Updates:
    Ferland practicing in Raleigh…
    Simmonds will not practice in Philadelphia.#NHLTrade

    9:09 AM – Feb 25, 2019

      • Baalzamon

        Austin Czarnik: 1.54 pts/60
        Andrew Mangiapane: 1.35 pts/60
        Wayne Simmonds: 1.11 pts/60
        Garnet Hathaway: 1.04 pts/60

        I keep telling you guys. Simmonds is done. His game has been dying a slow death for years now. Unless you can get him for like Kerby Rychel straight across (Rychel is worth basically nothing) it’s an overpay.