Photo Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jets 2, Flames 1 post-game embers: Moral victories, in a good way

The Flames were down a top player, playing a rested playoff-bound team on the second of a back-to-back, and still the game was within reach the entire time. Moral victories don’t count in a tight division race, but the Flames are in the playoffs anyway – even if it isn’t official yet – and that game still means a fair bit going forward.

Feel of the game

Both the Flames and Jets got off to pretty decent starts, with both teams pressuring the other – in particular the Jets had a fair number of missed shots, and Johnny Gaudreau hit a fair number of posts – through most of the game. Really, there were only a couple of differences evident: the Flames completely forgetting, for a moment, that they were still playing hockey in the dying seconds of the first; and a four-minute minor granting both teams a goal.

But as the game went on, particularly with the Flames down a goal, they started to take over. And then came the third period, in which they really took over. They couldn’t get anything going for them, but they by far dominated zone time, they by far dominated scoring chances, they by far dominated overall play – and very well might have scored had they not been missing Sean Monahan or Sam Bennett, and had they not played the night before. The spirit was extremely willing; the flesh, less capable of carrying things out.

But it was still anyone’s game, right up until the end. And there’s something genuinely good in that, especially considering this was always going to be one tough to win – and they still looked the better team.

The good news

Gaudreau is an absolute machine. He was left trying to do a lot on his own – a somewhat rotating cast of forwards may have played a part in that – but you have to be left in awe of his speed, his hands, his offensive acumen and prowess. Of all of the Flames trying to create something, he was performing at the highest level, and hit quite a number of posts (and a goalie helmet) en route to being so close to evening up the score. He’s a really special talent. Of course, we’re very  aware of that nowadays since he just had a six-point game and all, but I still feel like sometimes it’s taken for granted. He’s just so good.

You have to love the audacity of the penalty kill. Faced with a double minor, the first thing the Flames sought to do was score: and they did. Coming off of a shorthanded goal, the first thing on their minds was to get another. It didn’t work out, and the game-winning goal came on the second of the minors, but there are several reasons the Flames lead the league in shorthanded goals, and their aggressiveness when down a man is one of them. It doesn’t really burn them, but they have a lot to gain from it. And it’s just fun to watch – who doesn’t get excited when the Flames enter the offensive zone shorthanded at this point?

The Jets were one of four potentially playoff-bound teams left for the Flames to play, and the last time they’ll have to do so tired. Considering every circumstance placed on the Flames dictated that they should lose, the fact that they did so by just one goal, and that the game was in reach the entire time, speaks highly of them. The playoffs are so often a crap shoot, but this genuinely does bode well – and the schedules will be fairer then, too.

The bad news

The Flames’ powerplays were pretty unimpressive, in particular their last one towards the end of the game, which seemed to suck some of their momentum from them. Surely not having Monahan available hurt, but we’ve seen poor powerplays in which the Flames are often left chasing with him in the lineup too; they were chasing throughout their man advantages, and had a difficult time getting set up. Credit to the Jets for playing them well, but a better powerplay probably would’ve gotten the Flames at least a point.

Connor Hellebuyck wasn’t letting low-angle shots in; it was weird to keep trying them. And even when the Flames were pressing they didn’t feel terribly threatening – though a lot of that was probably due to fatigue.

I think it’s fair to be a little uncomfortable with how many of the Jets’ scoring chances played out – they more missed the net a lot rather than be thwarted by anything the Flames were doing defensively (Sami Niku sending the puck high over a wide open net in the first period stands out). Again, not that big of a deal because they didn’t go in and fatigue, but at times it felt like the Jets were keeping the Flames in the game more than the Flames were.

Numbers of note

68.57% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF on the night. That includes an 81.82% third period, in which they only allowed four corsi events from the Jets and nothing particularly threatening. They were absolutely gunning for it, and had they been rested or at a full lineup, they probably would have gotten it.

94% – Elias Lindholm and Derek Ryan both had 5v5 CFs of just over 95%. Only one corsi event went against them all game. The makeshift top line was something else.

17 – The Flames already led the league in shorthanded goals, but now they do so with another to their collection. In second place are the Coyotes with 15 shorties; in third the Penguins and Devils have 10 each. The last time a team scored 17 shorthanded goals in a single season was the 2015-16 Senators.

5, 8 – And of course it was none other than Mark Jankowski who got the shorthanded goal, putting him back into a tie for first place league-wide in shorthanded goals and points, with five and eight, respectively. Mark Giordano is also now tied with Brent Burns for the most shorthanded points this season by a  defenceman, with five each – tied for fifth in overall shorthanded scoring.

23:54 – Just 11 forwards meant someone was going to get double shifted a lot, and it shouldn’t be to anyone’s surprise Gaudreau was that guy. He played the most out of all Flames (Jacob Trouba was the only skater to play more than him, and by all of 22 seconds). He lived up to the billing.

11:37 – It was hinted at in the previous game. Ryan became the first line centre with Monahan out; he and Gaudreau played 11:37 5v5 minutes together. Other than with Lindholm, Gaudreau also played over two minutes at 5v5 alongside Alan Quine, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, and Garnet Hathaway.

6:27 – Michael Stone played little in his return, his ice time mostly eating into Oscar Fantenberg’s 12:34. Major kudos towards making his way back; curious to see who the Flames will favour between him and Fantenberg, though, as Stone will presumably play more the next time he dresses. He had five shifts each in the first and second periods, but didn’t see the ice at all in the third.

Final thought

The Flames only have one more back-to-back left to play this season, and it’ll be a journey with no time zone skips, facing the Kings the night after facing the Sharks in a couple of weeks. This was the last real mulligan from here on out.

As long as the Flames and Sharks are keeping pace, though – and so far they are, with the slightest of edges to the Flames by virtue of all of one point and at a disadvantage when it comes to the season series – that March 31 game continues to loom huge. And they’ll be getting the Sharks on the second of a back-to-back. After they face Vegas. The Flames have the schedule advantage, but especially so from here on out: they just need to do something with it. Fingers crossed they keep up their current form, because if they do, you have to like their odds.

  • Skylardog

    Really tough to evaluate Stone in that one. Seemed solid, but only played in the first two periods when Winnipeg was pressing to score. As the Jets took off the third period offensively, his CF% reflects that, probably unfairly when compared to the rest of the team that played in the third period. I think he is far better than most of us seem to believe, plus he has size, a playoff trait. Really need a couple of full games from him to truly know where he is at.

    I truly think this:
    is our best lineup on defense from a defensive standpoint in a playoff situation. Stone is also second in points per 60 among all defensemen this season, albeit in just 12 games. He wasn’t signed for $3.5m per season because he is a poor player.

    This lineup gives us the upside we seem to get from Gio when he plays with Ras, plus Ras is better in both ends of the ice. if you are going to move Ras up, as you should, then Brodie and one of the rookies is not the best option.

    I don’t think anyone really understands how much Ras has contributed to making his playing partners look better all season. He has played such a smart season for a rookie, focusing on defense and letting the offensive side of the game suffer a bit to help keep the puck out of the net. Ky in particular has had success because of Ras and his stability.

    Fantenberg is the giveaway king on the Flames by the way, even ahead of Brodie by a bunch. His giveaways are less “timely” than Brodies mind you. I like his play, but I am still not sold on the idea he is better than Stone.

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      Skylar I hate it when you are right!

      I think you are onto something here. The only other combo that I’d be considering right now would be

      • Skylardog

        I actually want Vali to play every playoff game this year to get the experience he needs in a playoff situation. He will be a big part of the 3 year window ahead, and experience will only prepare him for the task.

        But as for this season, I think he is about 8th or 9th on the depth chart, mostly because of the injury and fact that he has not played in the NHL for some time.

        • Stockton's Finest

          @ Skylardog, regarding Valimaki, I know I sound like a broken record, but too bad he is not getting playoff experience in Stockton. Everyone continues to talk about “player development only” when it comes to the AHL, but isn’t competing for the Calder Cup and experiencing a playoff run still part of “player development”? (Steps off his soapbox and stops beating that dead horse while waiting for the trashes to pile up)

          • Skylardog

            I agree. If we could have playoff games in Stockton it would help the organization as a whole, but in the case of Vali, the intensity of NHL playoffs would be beneficial.

          • Albertabeef

            Actually our two calder cup finals(97-98, 00-01) probably helped our 03-04 run a little. May have helped Marty St Louis more lol. I saw him play live as a Flame and saw his vision and skill that was coming through at the NHL level. Kind of like Mangiapane this year but better. You could see he just needed a little more time. I was more mad at the time about the Flames buying him out, than losing Baertschi or Byron or pretty much anyone else. Still stings. He was part of that baby flames 98 run to the CC finals. I believe in having a winning attitude with the farm team maybe a little more than development. Development, well the best stuff comes from learning how to win. “We suck but we are learning” only goes so far.

    • Stockton's Finest

      Really surprised that the Flames called Stone back up that early. He could have had two more games here in Stockton before his reassigned ran out. Two games (back-to-back) and a week full of practice time may have helped in the grand scheme of things.

      • Beer League Coach

        If Heat had Stone for both games this weekend the end result might well have been different. 2 wins for the Heat could have kept their playoff hopes alive. I, for one, really hope that Flames will shore up the blue line brigade for the Heat next season. That is the position that let the Heat down in so many games this year. Not sure where Flames will find the D they need for AHL squad next year. If they come via the draft most will still be at least a year away from AHL. Graduating srs from NCAA have not been standouts for the Flames/Heat either in recent years.

      • supra steve

        I believe Stone had to agree to the conditioning assignment. I imagine he set a limit on the number of games he would spend in the A, and 3 games would probably seem like about enough to an NHL vet of his experience.
        I agree that the Flames could have spared him, and the Heat could have used him. But Stone had his own priorities, no doubt.

    • Off the wall

      I don’t know if I agree with Fantenberg being a giveaway king. He’s had 7 in 7 games.

      Here’s something interesting though. We score more when he’s on the ice, than we get scored on.

      His GF per 60 even strength is 3.5
      His GA per 60 even strength is 1.2

      That doesn’t look like bleeding chances to me! ?

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      I agree, this d-man line up seems to be the best. I’m not sure I’d say that Ras is better (especially) offensively or defensively than Brodie, but if Brodie and Stone can have some chemistry, I think this is definitely the way to go.

      I couldn’t watch the game last night, but Stone apparently has really been working on his skating with his time off. I would be curious to see him in action (and for more than <7 mins) to see about this. But yes, he gives us size, which is very important, and body position. Those battles in front of the net can win and lose games for teams. I cannot underscore that enough, especially in playoff hockey. We NEED our d-men to really get guys out of the front of the net–this is playoff hockey, its a grind, its physical, its positional.

      Pushing Brodie down the lineup takes pressure off him, which is perhaps a good thing for his game, and it evens out the 6 man unit. I would be very into it.

      If we are playing a fast team, and playing track meet style, maybe lets go with Kylington. But point is, there are options. But I would definitely love to see this lineup.

  • Skylardog

    Despite all of the recent “hate” for Mony’s play, it really felt like the Flames were no threat at 5v5 last night. He was clearly missed. Even in the third, when the teams played almost the whole period in the Jets zone, they rarely to never felt like they were going to score. The last 2 periods seemed like a battle played from the top of the circles in the Jets end to the top of the circles in the Flames end. Not much happening at either end.

    Top 6 depth is the weakness this team has this season. While many teams that are contending are carrying 7 to 9 guys that can truly play in the top 6, we have just 4, with Backland on the fringe. And what is crazy, is we may have the best top 4 forwards in the NHL, as points suggest. It is a severe drop of to 5, and a cliff to number 6. that is not going to help us go deep. Shut down hockey is such a big part of the playoffs. The more guys that need shutting down, the better your chance a few of those buggers escape and run up some goals.

    A bunch of posts early on in the game was the story for the Flames last night.

    • canadian1967

      All the posts truly did feel like a Harbinger of Doom.
      So close, yet so far.
      It was the type of game where I feel like Benny would have made a big difference. Speed, Fire and Grit.

    • Justthateasy

      It was a nice opportunity to see what Ryan can bring as 1C. Overall he might bring more than Monahan. Monahan is a better sniper but I would say that’s about it. Ryan is more aggressive and more defensive.
      Buy running 7D it was another opportunity to gradually re-enter Stone into the NHL.
      Is somebody actually keeping track of Brody’s giveaways over the season? And what constitutes a giveaway? Plus minus might be a better gauge.

    • HOCKEY83

      Flames drop off at the 5th guys were most of the other teams we may be playing in the playoffs drop off at 4 or in nashville’s case backlund would be a star on that team. The only team with more offensive depth than the flames is san jose in the west

  • Heeeeere’s Johnny

    That was a hard game to watch. One one hand I was super proud of the effort. On the other they seemed out of sync all night. Fatigue was definitely a part of it but my sense is having 11 forwards messed with the rhythm of the lines too much. Also both PP units missing a key member didn’t help. But the Sharks lost a game they were favoured to win and we lost a game we we underdogs in. We move ahead a tiny bit!

    • Skylardog

      I agree on the 11 forward part, it really messed up the flow.

      It was a necessary evil however. With only 13 forwards up and the team needing to ensure they can cover all of the bonuses due at the end of the season with this years cap and not have them roll into next years cap hit, they really couldn’t bring up another forward. We are also stuck with the 9 DMen due to the rules, making bringing up that extra forward impossible.

      It is going to be real hard to give guys nights off with the situation the way it is. To make matters worse, we played JG way more than we should last night to compensate. We can’t burn out the key guys leading up to the first playoff game.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Flames stacked up pretty good to a good team, looked a lot like a playoff game. Plus we were without 2 top 6 forwards.
    Smith has to stop wandering out to play the puck, 3 or 4 giveaways.
    And what is with Don Cherry, had no interest in the Tkachuk highlight reel, but sure excited about some line change blunder.

    • Skylardog

      I assume you are speaking of missing Mony and Neal as the 2 top 6 guys.
      Benny is one of the guys we have enough data on to clearly state he is a third liner at best. He is not even a good option to fill in as a top 6 guy. Numbers for this long just don’t lie.

      Nice of you to put Neal in the top 6. We really need him to be that guy come playoffs.

      • HOCKEY83

        Bennett could easily be a top 6 guy if he was given more than a one or 2 game tryout on the top 2 lines. He’s still just 23. He’s never been given top 6 minutes. the top 2 lines play 5 to 7 minutes more than he does every game. It’s narrow minded to think this is all he has to give. Put it this way…at his age he’s not been given the same chance tkachuk or even lindholm has been given. Lindholm’s first 4 years are very similar to bennetts except lindholm got more minutes. You’re data that’s making you think Bennett is a third line guy at best would have had you thinking that exact same thing about lindholm 2 seasons ago.

        • HOCKEY83

          Wasn’t aware he’s been playing center. The fact is his first 4 year career path is nearly identical to lindholm except lindholm got way more minutes…look at him now…2 years older…at 24 and given the chance to play with amazing talent and his game has been elevated. Couldn’t possibly happen to bennett. Hey if Skylardog says Benny has reached his ceiling at 22.5 years old it must be true.

    • Beer League Coach

      The only thing that excites Don Cherry is the sound of Don Cherry’s voice. He is the reason they put a mute button on your remote control. I use it all the time and have done that for the last 15 or more years. His commentary matches his playing ability from the 1960’s when he did skate. I lived in Kitchener when he played for the Beavers in the EPHL and he was the worst skater and worst D man on the team. Hamilton TV station used to do Sunday night AHL games back then and I saw a lot of him in those games when he was with Rochester. Again he was nothing to get excited about. Average minor league D man at the best of his game.

      • Off the wall

        Lol. He can’t pronounce half the players names in the NHL.
        I’ve never seen anyone butcher names like Don Cherry.

        He was an iconic figure for so many years with Ron Maclean. I grew up listening to him on Coaches Corner, as did many of us. I stopped listening to him after he became political in his views towards Canada’s non-involvement in the Iraqi war.
        He should stick to hockey.

        I wish I had the money he’s spent on tailored suits though!

      • flamesburn89

        YEah Cherry is an idiot and he wades into the political landscape half of the time. I’ve been switching the channel during the 1st intermission for years.

  • Joel Ottos Jock

    I liked seeing Ryan on the first line. It’s time to split up monny and Johnny when its 5 on 5. Ryan is not the awnser for top line center, but maybe experimenting with Lindholm or Bennet?

    • ZZMiddle

      Some people talk too much. Then they come to FN and post multiple times on every post like they are blessing us with their wisdom. I now get more laughs from this place than I do informed information. You know who you are.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I am not disappointed in the effort yesterday. I believe it is a different game if we scored first instead of hitting all those posts. I believe our PP cost us the win. It has not been good for awhile. This has to be fixed for the playoffs.

  • Budgie

    The Brodie bashing continues, I see the giveaways but I see the good plays too-the coaching staff have him slotted with Gio for good reasons. He is a good skater, makes some good plays-I just see a balance between some miscues and some good positional play. Address bad penalties and puck turnovers from poor defensive zone passes. When Smith clears the puck up the boards it often ends up getting turned over, however his passes often lead to a fast breakout play.. I like Andersson, what a solid player he has become, and a good hard shot. Lay off Brodie, the coaches see more and have him where he is for a reason

    • KootenayFlamesFan

      When Brodie is playing well, hes dynamite! Unfortunately that happens rarely, and almost never for an entire game. When he messes up, he messes up BIG! Next to Smith I’d say he’s cost the team the most this year. Giveaway stats be damned, Fantenburg has not been a defensive liability at all. He’s been rock solid in his role and in my opinion should stay there. Any giveaways he’s had have been inconsequential.

      I’ve never been sold on stone. In the defensive zone I’m just waiting for that holding call when he’s on the ice. Too slow, and while he has a great shot, he either doesn’t use it or doesn’t hit the net when he does.

      Gio – Ras
      Hanifin – Hamonic
      Fantenburg – Brodie

      This would be my defensive pairings going into the playoffs unless Valimaki is ready to go. Then fantenburg would be my #7.

      • Budgie

        Calgary is stocked with Defense men, pretty enviable despite losing Fox, and Kulak. I agree with you on Brodie, however I have been watching for good plays versus bad/turnovers-it is about 70 good to 30 bad the last couple of games. I noticed Monahan and Gadreau coughing up the puck for the last month but it seemed to rectify itself recently. Players go through spells, Brodie in my estimation has become the most criticized player next to Smith. Smith is better, and Brodie can rebound too-Both Brodie and Smith could be a real assets in the playoffs if they play a bit more conservatively. That isn’t their game so when they make errors they are glaring, they are risk takers-Brodie has made some great passes through the neutral zone, but they are risky. Nothing beats Thachuk’ s pass to Gadreau, that was a highlight to remember

    • KootenayFlamesFan

      That’s why they play the games. If the flames stick to their game, the real physical guys on those other teams are to slow to be effective. We score while they run around like hooligans.

  • Sterls

    Just realized something, If both Minny and Florida win tonight, and Tampa wins tomorrow night they will clinch the president’s trophy before any other team clinches a playoff spot. The Flames are having a great year, but that is truly dominate.