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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Flames 5, Senators 1 post-game embers: Let’s get going

When a good team plays a bad team, well, this is just the sort of thing that happens.

Feel of the game

The game started out rather tepid. Things were stacked in the Flames’ favour: one of the best teams in the NHL playing one of the worst, hurting from suspensions and injuries, playing on the second of a back-to-back. It was a game the Flames were going to win. Period. So the slow start was curious, and the Senators opening the scoring with an end-to-end rush was very much a “what the hell was that?” moment.

Only that seemed to wake the Flames up. The Senators’ powerplay was not threatening – they just don’t have the personnel right now – but Mark Giordano was, as was the Flames’ entire fourth line. From there, one could rest easy – because, after all, this was a game the Flames were set to win.

Except the Senators came out and took over the second period as best as they could. They controlled play for most of the frame, but couldn’t get anything really dangerous going for them; it’s not like they’re the Flames’ fourth line, which resumed putting on a show with their second goal of the game. Though the Senators continued to try, towards the end of the period the Flames just took over, and that really was that. The 3M line threw in another couple of goals, and it was over.

The Senators tried as much as they could, but at a certain point, one just can’t overcome reality. Or this Flames team, it would seem.

The good news

So the fourth line is kind of good, huh? No wonder Derek Ryan got a promotion to the first line for a couple of games, and no wonder why Andrew Mangiapane has been up in the NHL since December. Garnet Hathaway is proving to be a great complement to the line, as well; if this is a team’s fourth line then said team really has no reason to complain about any of its forward personnel. It wasn’t even just that the fourth line provided some good energy or decent play in the offensive zone – those goals were pretty. Level of competition and all, but it’s a sign the Flames really do have four lines that can kill the opponent at any given night.

The 3M line added to that, as well, taking a game well within victory and cementing it. Against the Blue Jackets it was the third line; any line can take over a game at any moment and that’s got to boost everyone’s confidence going forward. If someone’s having an off night, what are the chances all 11 remaining guys are, too?

The bad news

Considering just how much better the Flames are than the Senators, it probably would have been fair to expect a little more out of the Flames. Not that a four-goal victory is bad or wasn’t deserved, by any means, but the Flames weren’t really in the game to start, and the Senators did take control of the second period (and things probably would have been worse off if they had marginally better players). It’s fair that the Flames probably knew they didn’t have to totally give it their all – and they did eventually start to come on and look more like themselves, especially towards the end – but maybe at least a little bit of cause for concern, considering most of their regular season is playing out against sub-.500 teams?

The Senators’ lone goal was a pretty bad look for the Flames. The third pairing has been solid but neither could get a handle on the puck, and Sam Bennett was kind of coasting on the backcheck a little. Though that might not be his fault, since he missed the entire third period due to injury; it’s also a bit of a reminder that staying healthy before the playoffs is a priority.

Numbers of note

56.38% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF. They didn’t have to do too much.

18 – The Flames now have 18 shorthanded goals on the season, leading the league. The Coyotes are in second place with 16. Eighteen is the most shorties in the NHL since the Senators scored that many back in 2007-08.

4, 6 – Giordano now leads the NHL in most shorthanded goals and points by a defenceman. He’s awesome. Just doing it all this year.

101 – Shoutout to Ryan, who now has a career 101 points. He’s a .45 point-per-game player – not at all bad for a late bloomer. This season specifically, he seemed to have a bit of a slow start, but really took off at the turn of the calendar – 19 of his 32 points this season have come in 2019.

30+ – Missed this earlier, but the Flames have 10 players with 30 or more points scored this season. That’s not common this year at all: the Sharks also have 10 30+ point guys, the Lightning have 11, and that’s it.

20 – For the third time in his career, Mikael Backlund is a 20-goal scorer. This gives the Flames five 20-goal scorers on the season; unless Michael Frolik or Giordano, who have 15 each, completely lose their minds over the next eight games, it’ll probably stay that way. A bunch of teams have four; the Panthers, Sharks, Lightning, and Leafs have five each as well; and the Capitals have six.

7:12 – Bennett missed the entire third period due to injury, resulting in not a lot of ice time overall. Also affected were linemates Austin Czarnik (8:28) and Mark Jankowski (9:17), who only had two shifts each in the third period themselves. Which, fair enough – the way the game was going, how do you bench anyone else? The third line was the only one that wasn’t particularly noticeable in a positive way.

Final thought

If the Sharks have proven anything, it’s that no games are gimmes. But the Flames do have a laughably easy schedule at the moment, and they’re playing just well enough to make it through – and looking like they’re doing it with ease, too.

First in the division isn’t clinched, but it’s looking highly probable. So I propose we take these final couple weeks of the regular season, sit back, and enjoy them and this team for what it is and everything it’s shown it can be over the course of the entire season: because soon enough games are gonna be stressful. Really, really stressful. Too stressful. And it’s what we’re all waiting for.

  • Skylardog

    Not sure why everyone is talking about how good the 4th line looks out there: Janko’s line with Benny and Czar hasn’t done much in quite a few games. It really hasn’t done much when Neal has been with them either.

    The start to the second period was lethargic. How many games as of late, have the Flames looked a bit off, only to have the Ryan line turn things around?

    Right now the clear top line is Ryan’s, with Backs 2nd and Mony’s 3rd. That will have to change if the Flames are going to have playoff success. What in the world has happened to Lindholm? If he is hurting we best get him some nights off to heal. The man has become invisible.

    The magic number to clinch the West is now 6, with 8 games remaining. It is also just 3 to clinch home advantage in the first round. Could see a situation where a win on the 31st against SJ and it is over. In reality, ITS OVER ALREADY!

    The Flames will have first officially locked up before the calendar flips over to April.

  • withachance

    The main takeaway from last night was probably that this team absolutely MUST win this division. VGK absolutely crushed WPG, but lost Pacioretty.

    Sharks and VGK are too good of a team to be playing in the first round. No letups until the conference is clinched!

    • redwhiteblack

      It seems more apparent that Vegas might be the wall we need to climb over to get out of the West. Best scenario is a Sharks vs Knights in a long taxing series as we take care of our own business.

      • Baalzamon

        I kind of agree. I think if the Flames make it out of the pacific they’ll win the conference. Winnipeg and Nashville don’t worry me. Vegas and San Jose do.

        • Albertabeef

          Vegas is the 14th best team in the NHL since Jan 1st, even with including their latest 10-1 run. We are the only team to beat them since adding Stone.
          SJ has allowed 20 more goals against than us since Jan 1st.

  • Skylardog

    Feeling good about this team as they finish up the regular season, so lets have fun with some playoff thoughts.

    Arizona looked like they were rolling towards a playoff spot, then they took a trip to the state of Florida. Not sure they can recover. Why in the world would anyone from Arizona need to take their spring break in Florida?

    With how badly Martin Jones is playing, I would expect Vegas to be our second round opponent. I will say, “should we get there,” just to be safe. Don’t want to be the one blamed for jinxing it all.

    Not sure Dallas holds onto the top wildcard spot. Really don’t want Dallas in round 1. Bishop scares me. Colorado or Arizona are really good match-ups for us. Go Yotes!

    St Louis is looking like the team to beat in the Central. 8 of the top 9 teams since the All-star break are from the East. Tops in the West, and the only team to infiltrate that list is St. Louis at 3rd. Chicago is 2nd best in the West on that list, and they won’t even make the playoffs. The Flames are tied for 12th since then. Vegas are just one point back, but in less games. They too scare me. Funny how they have MAF. Playoff goaltending…

    Tampa and Boston are a combined 38-5-4 since the break. And Toronto fans think they had a chance this year. They will not enjoy their 2 home playoff games this season. Boston sweeps them. Their best chance would be to slide down to 4th in the Atlantic, and face Washington. That would end in 5, still just 2 sad home games for the Leaf’s faithful. Fire Babcock? Good chance that happens if they get swept, or even if they just lose in round 1. Fickle market.

    The Bruins made 2 really good moves adding forward depth at the TDL in Coyle and Johanssen. Part of this was done because Krejci went down with an injury and they felt they needed to fill the void. That was the move for Coyle. Johanssen was just a smart depth move.

    The Bruins went on their run after the All Star break without Krejci. How good will they be now that he is back. Great seasons can and often come to an end prematurely. Tampa goes down in round 2 against Boston.

  • The Fall

    The Flames ‘ laughable easy schedule’ is further proof they deserve to be where they are… they have already played the tougher opponents and still lead the West. Time to get in some garbage time and build on the confidence and chemistry.

    • Cfan in Van

      Yeah, they had a really hard go with the schedule in the first 2/3 of the season. It’s funny how it didn’t even seem that way because they were makin hay, pretty much the whole time. In previous years those stretches would seem like a never ending slog.

  • cjc

    I am not too concerned about the slow starts the last few games (NJD, CBJ, OTT). The team isn’t going to go out and destroy itself trying to dominate from start to finish. They are going to work on the little things, manage ice time and let the bottom six try to do some damage instead of playing it safe. It’s actually kind of Tampa-esque. They’ve been “outplayed” a few times, but their talent carried them through, with big contributions from their bottom 6.

    My only real concern is that the powerplay is in a rut. They have the same number of power play goals as they do shorthanded goals so far this month (2). To be fair, they haven’t had many powerplay opportunities either, but it’s a bit concerning.

  • everton fc

    If we could get more out of our third line, consistently… We’d be a tough opponent, even for the Bolts. I personally don’t see Neal all of a sudden “coming to life”. I think Jankowski might produce more offence, with more dynamic wings. My hope is Bennett-Jankowski-Neal will gel and score, often, come playoff time. But I do like our depth – Czarnik (I was not a fan, but see his value now), Quine, Lazar… Others…

  • deantheraven

    I read the line about the Sens “taking over” the second period and and thought to myself “whaaat?”
    Then I remembered how much corsi is valued here and wondered if you wathced the period.
    Yes, Ottawa was trying to drive the play, emphasis on the word ‘trying’. They had the puck lots, and had few chances, emphasis on the word few. The Flames had the puck lots too, but didn’t generate much until late. But the Flames were keeping them outside and blocking shots, essentially letting them play with the puck but not giving up too many chances, like Columbus.

    • Albertabeef

      Do you know what Corsi is? Do you know what it counts, and how it works?

      But the Flames were keeping them outside and blocking shots, essentially letting them play with the puck- Key words “letting them play with the puck” equals “sat back on a lead” which shows in the corsi.

    • Baalzamon

      Yeah, that shot is kind of his thing. For the most part he’s had trouble finding the space for it in the NHL (as you’d expect) but he’s getting better at it with time.

      Who knows? Maybe one day he’ll be a bonafide scoring threat. Or he’ll be Brandon Pirri forever (though Pirri is still a useful forward, so if that’s the worst case…)

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Should we be concerned that Monny and Lindholm are not burying the gift passes from Johnny. I agree that the third line is a bit stale. Bennett and Janko don’t really compliment each other’s style. But I can see that line being tough to play against in the playoffs. Why not move Janko’s PK partner, Lindholm on to Janko’s wing to trick him into thinking he is constantly on the PK.