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.
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.