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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Flames 3, Canucks 1 post-game embers: The hockey team form of the 100 emoji

Once again, we saw what happens when a good hockey team plays a significantly worse hockey team: the good team wins. With ease. It’s been like this for most of the season, but it’s still such a delight seeing the Flames be that outstandingly good team.

Feel of the game

While the game started with both teams getting chances, the Flames got the edge early on and never relinquished it. That wasn’t just signified by their opening goal – though it was beautiful – but by their overall dominance in the offensive zone for the majority of the period, the only real life from the Canucks coming after a tough penalty kill. Even with just a one-goal lead, there was good reason to think the Flames had this in the bag.

Though the Canucks responded with a good start to the second, the Flames got things back under control pretty quickly, and the isolated spurts of Canucks chances weren’t really a match for the Flames’ ability to either completely take them away (thanks, Mark Giordano) or just play with the puck on a string for a far longer period of time. The Flames’ second goal wasn’t the prettiest ever, but it doesn’t matter if they’re pretty, as long as they count – and a two-goal lead for this team looked insurmountable.

It basically was. The Canucks got an early four-on-three powerplay goal, and looked better in the third period than they had all game, but an absolute blast by  Andrew Mangiapane put any and all worries of a Canucks comeback to bed pretty quickly. The Flames had some luck on their side – the Canucks missing the net a fair bit, pucks rolling off of sticks – but for the most part, they were just the better team through 60. That’ll win you a lot of games, as we’ve been very fortunate to experience this year.

The good news

The fourth line rules. Again, on repeat from the previous game: Derek Ryan has proved an excellent signing, it is an absolute joy to see Mangiapane further come into his own with each passing day in the NHL, and Garnet Hathaway is a good complement to the line. They’re playing well together. Even when it doesn’t result in points, you can see the impact they’re having on games: often positive, often creating chances, often keeping the puck in the offensive zone. Then you get to the stretches in which they’re actually scoring, and it’s so good to see them rewarded for everything they’ve been doing all year, but especially for the past couple of months specifically.

This probably isn’t Mangiapane’s ceiling, either – throw in Dillon Dube’s progression, the fact that the Flames already have a pretty young top forward group, and there’s a lot to look forward to for a while yet.

Ryan deserves a specific shoutout of his own, too. He had a somewhat slow start to the season, but his impact on the fourth line is probably what’s really making him stand out as of late (even putting aside the points – and he’s got 33 of them, and an outside shot at matching his career high of 38 even though he’s playing two fewer minutes per game). He’s just cerebral. His vision on the Flames’ first goal was pristine. And he’s been playing at this level since about December. He doesn’t make mistakes, he’s setting his teammates up, he’s awesome.

Giordano had a three-point night – his eighth of the season (including a four-point night) – all the while having a strong defensive game and it was just like, yeah. That’s what Giordano does. Not that one expects this of him every single night, but it’s also not even remotely surprising when he has this kind of game because we all know he’s capable of it.

Though honestly? Giordano is the star, but shoutout to the entire defensive unit. Everyone made smart defensive plays, everyone got in on trying to create offence at some point; all six of them are trustworthy and should someone go down Oliver Kylington is right there, too. The Flames have a good defence and three-plus pairings that can all play at a high level. What’s not to love?

The bad news

The fourth line was amazing. The second line did a fantastic job in creating chances. The first and third lines were a little less than present, though. It’s one thing for lines to rotate between having good games – the fourth line rules now but they probably aren’t going to keep scoring at this pace, though they’ll likely keep doing most things right – but it’s fair to wish to see more offensive chances out of the first line, at least akin to the second line’s play.

If Johnny Gaudreau could not take a penalty like the one he had again that would be great. There’s standing up for oneself/a teammate or just doing whatever one can to prevent a breakaway, and then there’s something with just no justification.

James Neal had, uh, a return to action. We can be fair to him: he was out for five weeks, and that’s a lot of time to miss, and a lot to get his legs back under him. And let’s remember: before he was injured, he was playing his best hockey of the season (yeah, yeah, fair enough that he hasn’t lived up to the standard he’s set with his play in previous years, but also this is the time of year when you just take what you can get, and he was looking good comparatively before he went down). So this is kind of a mulligan, and hopefully not a sign of things to come. Teams can do a lot worse than having Neal in their bottom six, but the need for him to get going once again remains pronounced. At least don’t just stand still while your teammate is trying to carry the puck out of the zone but has no choice but to run into you.

I am genuinely concerned the Flames are going to start their inferior goalie for the playoffs and justify it by him having okay games against hilariously inferior, blatantly not playoff-caliber competition.

Numbers of note

55.56% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF on the night. They had an extremely strong first but kind of let up a bit in the third period, albeit when the game was looking pretty safe for them.

70 – And with Giordano’s first point of the night, the Flames officially have five 70-point players. There are only 39 70-point players in the NHL at the moment, and one team has five of them. The Penguins have four 70-point players. The Sharks have five 60-point players. That’s kind of it. No other team is even remotely comparable to the Flames in this department at all.

3 – Now that he has 72 points this season, Giordano officially has the third-highest scoring season by a defenceman 35 years or older of all time. Nicklas Lidstrom and Ray Bourque have him beat with 80- and 82-point seasons, respectively. If Giordano can keep it up for the next seven games, he has a chance at passing both of them. If he can’t, well, he still has the third-highest scoring season by a defenceman 35 years or older of all time.

24 – Ryan may be in tight to set a new career high in points (he’s five off), but he does have a career high in assists with 24. He had 23 last season.

10 – Hathaway scored his 10th goal of the season, giving the Flames their 10th double digit goal scorer (with it being entirely likely that Ryan, who has nine goals, joins the group, and maybe TJ Brodie with eight as well… and who knows, maybe Andrew Mangiapane gets three more, but it’ll probably be just Ryan, if anyone). A lot of teams are in this position, but most don’t have the sheer high-end scoring that the Flames do, too, San Jose being the only real comparable when combining this point with the one above. The Flames are both top-heavy and deep.

14.3% – There’s a lot to love this season, and this is more a commentary on the future than the present, but Hathaway does have a high shooting percentage at 14.3% – and the season before this one, he shot 5.9%; the season before that, 4.5%. Is Hathaway having an awesome year? Absolutely. He’s a very Lance Bouma-type getting a boost by playing on a team with great centre depth. Just when all is said and done and Hathaway needs a new deal, remember how the Bouma thing turned out the first time around. You get teams deep like the Flames by generally avoiding overpayments.

12:12 – Neal’s ice time in his return. The only forwards who played less were Mangiapane and Hathaway. Mark Jankowski edged him out by 10 seconds.

Final thought

The Flames are a good team dominating bad teams. They are probably going to win the division. They’ve arrived early. They have the talent to play for a while longer yet. It’s still a lot to take in when you look back to October – who was expecting this season?

And they didn’t give anything up at the trade deadline, either. This is only the beginning.

  • Pizzaman

    Ari’ last sentence is interesting. BT didn’t want to overpay, and mentioned getting Stone and Neal back would be like adding at the TDL without ruining chemistry. Instead of Stone and Neal it’s the 4th line with Mangi scoring (not Neal (ever)) and some guy named Oskar on Defence – not Stone. Ari is right we didn’t give away anything really.

  • Greg

    I’m fully expecting someone to write a $2m+ cheque for Hathaway this off-season, and I don’t think it’ll be us thankfully. I’ve always liked him, but he’s going to get a big overpay next year, especially if they have a long playoff run, and I’ll be fine letting him go at whatever that over pay price ends up being.

    Just opens up Dube’s spot. 😀

    • Greg

      Now that I think about it though, it could mean we feel it necessary to acquire and play a dancing bear so we have some #gritChart – let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

          • withachance

            I dont think you can apply that same logic word for word when comparing stocks in an investment portfolio versus athletes on a sports team….

            One has intangible consequences to the rest of the group, and the other can be thrown away with no consequences if it doesnt pan out. You cant exactly recoup your losses when a “buy low” player doesnt pan out.

          • Willi P

            Watched a lot of Virtanen live with the Hitmen. Can be a great player when motivated but takes nights off for no reason, even in the playoffs. Looks the same in the NHL. No thanks.

    • aye

      Doubtful Hathaway gets much of a raise next year, players like him are plentiful around the league, and most GM’s know better than to overpay for 4th liners. You look at Chiasson, won the cup with the caps, big body, right shot, and had some decent years bouncing around the league, but barely got an NHL contract on a team with no winger depth.

      • fumanchu1968

        I like Hath. Most fans don’t realize just how important a guy like him is who plays his role is, especially when he plays his role night in and night out. He is super consistent. Bowma & others were never consistent like Hathaway is.

    • deantheraven

      Wins. And battles. And does lots of other things that make us crazy sometimes.
      Smith came in with high expectations and played to them for a time until he didn’t. He seems to be back on track, found his mojo or whatever and is improving his stats line. maybe one day his numbers will allow Ari and others to accept him as a winner, maybe not.
      He’s probably not ever going to stop letting in the occasional soft goal, but he’s not going to stop battling and winning.
      Get used to it, Ari. You only have to put up with it until summer. Of course, if Smith helps them win in the playoffs, you may have to put up with him for another year or two.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I have to agree. Smith made at least 5 saves yesterday that he wouldn’t have in the first part of the season. He still gets cocky playing the puck and puts himself in a vulnerable position but he is reminding me a lot of Holtby last year….and we know how that ended.

      The first line is not scoring which happens from time to time but more concerning is how they bleed chances. Lindholm is not bringing a lot to the top line lately.

      If only Neal wasn’t so slow I would like to see him given a shot on the top line and drop Lindholm to play with Janko. Ideally I would like to see Janko and Monny swap for a game because they are both stale…but that won’t happen.

      The Flames are trending in the direction of TB for next year, with more small speedy forwards playing a significant role in the likes of Dube and Mangi. I would like to see the team utilize Mangi’s one timer on the PP.

        • HOCKEY83

          Not only did he hit that BEAutiful 1 timer on that play but he hammered 2 seperate guys in the O zone to help create the opening for that one timer. I’ve been sayin this guy is as good as Debrincat for the last 2 years. The only difference between the 2 is debrincat gets to play with star talent and gets way more ice time. Lately Mangi has been getting more ice time and it shows.

    • Cheeky

      Smith is playing better but don’t let that fool you into hoping the Flames resign him. A back up he is right now, doing a mighty fine job however Rittich is our starter and should be (don’t forget the defense is playing much better these days too)…

      • Willi P

        Decent job last night but he was kind of flailing and spastic with his movements. That’s usually a sign that the bad Smith is going to emerge. Luckily, the team in front of him held the ‘Nucks in check.

        Thinking Peters started Smith due to the record against those Canucks. A change. Didn’t check and see who started all of the games though.

      • HOCKEY83

        I don’t think there is a fool on the planet who’s hoping the flames re-sign Smith. I think there are more fans worried that the flames are going to re-sign him for one more season to back up rittich. Wouldn’t shock me at all if that’s what they did. It would be at a very discounted rate because it would be the only offer smith would get to continue his career in the NHL if he still wanted to play.

    • oddclod

      Agreed. It’s benign AF, petulant and childish to mention your personal distain article after article knowing the dude was literally on Team Canada his whole career, dragged an underdog to the finals, and now providing leadership, and key wins down the stretch. If you took a vote, the majority would choose Ritter to start the playoffs. We agree with you. GET OVER IT.

  • Stu Gotz

    One thing that has not been said often this year the Flames have had an injury free season for the most part. I would like to see them wrap up 1st place soon and give Gio a rest down the stretch!

  • JusAFlamer

    “I am genuinely concerned the Flames are going to start their inferior goalie for the playoffs and justify it by him having okay games against hilariously inferior, blatantly not playoff-caliber competition.”

    really? i am not advocating that Smith be gifted the playoff starts, just that still do not see why you need to continually get a dig in against him. What more did you want him to do in that game? he was dialed in and really invested

    • aye

      Smith has been solid for the most part for about 20 games now. The way he is playing right now, I’d be more confident with him than any of the Sharks goalies.

      • Justthateasy

        Smith needs to come in rested. And he’s getting that rest. And he can’t be complacent and when you’ve got Riddick breathing down his neck that keeps him on his toes. When he’s fresh and focused he’s as good as anyone then when you add the puck-moving abilities, that is huge.

    • oddclod

      The writer doesn’t really understand or respect ‘pedigree’, and the strength and charachter a vet like Smith brings to the team.

      Gio is the leader bar none, but don’t think Smith doesn’t have the respect of the room and entire organization. This team is first place and Smith is part of that rarity.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    Solid win. This has got to be the deepest Flames team I’ve ever seen. I know its only one game back after missing a few weeks but James Neal looks like he’s just going through the motions out there. From day one he’s looked uninterested and unmotivated. I keep hearing, “wait until the playoffs”, I hope that’s the case.

  • deantheraven

    Nice to see Doc getting some love here, after 5 months of mostl complaints and criticism. And he’s dragging his line mates, hell even his team mates, with him. Doc was an overpay. Hathaway was “replacement level”, or a “throwback”. Mangi was a question mark to make the NHL.
    Seems BP and BT have more patience than some of us round here.
    Thank the Hockey Gods for that.

      • deantheraven

        And inflammatory statements bring us out of the woodwork.
        I’m reminded of an old cartoon, don’t remember where from, but it was two vultures sitting in a tree, high over a barren desert. One buzzard looks angry. The caption reads: “Patience my a$$. I’m gonna kill something!”
        Sometimes I’m that old buzzard, and sometimes I’m the other one.
        Patience is the brother of optimism.

        • Jobu

          True dat.

          And this impatience is the second cousin of pessimism.

          Flames fans have had a lot of reasons to grow impatient. And our fickle nature towards our team is the result.

          Should we make a statement in the playoffs this year, a new generation of optimistic Flames Fans will be born from it. And hopefully the club will do better at keeping a winning franchise than previous versions did.

    • The Beej

      Totally agree Ravem. I was blown away last year with the pessimism surrounding Mangiapane from posters like The Fall and others.

      I dont understand how people can rush to judgement on a player after just a few games. Rookies are going to take a while to figure things out.

      Glad to see Mangiapane proving a lot of the posters here wrong.

    • HOCKEY83

      I’ve always been very high on Mangi..watched him whenever I could all through junior. Hathaway…he will always be a great 4th line soldier but I was one who was perplexed by the ryan signing but really like him now.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Manny reminds me of Brent Hull. Gio outstanding, what else can you say. Neil, really don’t need supposedly scoring prowess. Smith played well, good point, against a weak team.

  • The GREAT WW

    The Canucks pull their goalie…..the Flames gain possession in the Canuck zone for the empty net…..the officials blow the whistle “by accident”…..?!!!!!!!

    Is the league looking into this garbage?

    WW

    • aye

      As easy as the remaining schedule may look, 4.5 games to clinch is still not a given.
      Just as it’s common for a losing streak to follow a long winning streak, the opposite is also true, and it’s not inconceivable for the sharks to win out to close the regular season.
      Aside from DAL (whom they’ve not beaten in the last 2 seasons), Flames remaining games are against division rivals, which are never easy regardless of where they are in the standings, even harder when it’s twice in a short period as with kings and ducks. So, they still have some work to do.

  • theartfuldodger

    I missed the game. Strange you make Neals return sound not great. The radio guys and Coach mentioned that they were impressed by Neals game. The answer must be in the middle….

  • Stockton's Finest

    Time to experiment a period or two with 1st and 3rd lines? Play Neil with Johnny and move Lindholm with Janko and Bennett? Or switch Monahan and Janko?
    Again, only for a few shifts or a period to see if it will jump start those players.

      • Stockton's Finest

        I have noticed he is playing further out and standing up more. Don’t know if that came from watching old tape or a new direction from the goalie coach. He seems to be seeing the puck better and controlling rebounds better as well. Don’t know if that is from better D play, forwards dropping back, or all of the above. I said it before: if the Heat had this Gillies all year long, they would be in the playoffs

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I get why Flames fans have a lot of angst with Mike Smith’s goaltending. He’s been unsteady and unreliable since the 2017/18 Allstar break. I can even understand the dislike and in some cases the hate for the player. Smith at times, shrugged off personable responsibility and on a couple of occasions has placed blame on his teammates where he’s play had been the principle cause of a loss. He’s been a frustrating player on my favourite team. By my eye and with virtually every publicly available metric, Mike Smith is a below-average goalie. He’s been infuriating to watch.

    At the end of the day, every fan gets to love or hate players and teams they way they want. There are no rules. This is the way it ought to be. I’m partial to advanced stats and generally value and like players that are good possession-wise. The flawed and imperfect metrics available are of interest to me. I like challenging my own “eye-test” with the metrics. While, I enjoy hockey this way I’m very aware most fans I know could care less about hockey-math. It’s not my job or place to tell them how they should enjoy the game.

    Last night however provided a perfect example of a criticism I do have with a lot of fans. Twitter erupted after Smith was hit behind his net playing the puck. A Canucks penalty was called at a critical time of the game. Instead of Flames fans rejoicing, many were mad at Mike Smith for getting hit. Mostly the sentiment is a distaste for how much Mike Smith comes out of his net and plays the puck. So, even though the play drew a penalty and advanced the Flames chances to win, we witness rage? I don’t get and I’m asking for a thoughtful answer.
    It does seem that some fans are more interested in being right about a player and his perceived value than the team succeeding. For some, it appears that narratives and supporting strongly held biases are more important than wins. I really would like to understand where this is coming from.

    • Lazarus

      Smith had a bad first month and a half. That is it. Since Nov 15 he is 16-7-1. In the last 11 games he has given up over 2 goals just twice, routinely hitting now at over .900 each game.
      Smith had us in a playoff spot when he went down last year.
      The Smith Vitriol is idiotic, and I smile each time Peters has been giving him a start and he comes through with flying colors… funny to me that drives some of you bonkers. He isn’t playing inferior to anyone that I can see lately

      • Jobu

        Does this also apply to coaches?

        Jobu is pretty sure every single person on this forum hated GG. Why? Because he cost us games. A player can do exactly the same with selfish play.

  • Dunk

    Im most worried about Monahan.
    He really looks lost out there. He is dragging the first line, Power play and whole team down. He has been brutal. When he touches the puck he turns it over. Point blank setups are being wasted on him. He has become the weakest link. Something must be done.

    • Albertabeef

      These bottom dwelling teams are playing thug style against our first line. Ottawa’s big Dman was trying to injure everyone. Columbus and Van were much of the same. Probably see the same treatment from LA. Good thing we have depth.

  • Off the wall

    Perhaps it’s time for all of us to get behind this Flames team of ours. We’re playoff bound!

    We’re 2nd in the league with a +58 goal differential. We’re tied for 2nd in the league with 101 points. Damn.

    We have 2 goalies who have over 20 wins apiece! Yet we’re still debating who gets the first game in the playoffs. I don’t care. I leave that up to Peters, who has the pulse of this team and the ability to know this team better than any of us.

    5 players with 70 points and we have the audacity to call any of them out? I’m sorry, but this is uncalled for.

    Maybe decorate your vehicle, buy a Flames flag. Hang a “ Go Flames Go” sign in your home. Show a little support!

    Because this is one special season and this fan isn’t going to let that pass by without showing some “love” for this team!

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Oh we can offer suggestions to tweak our line up so that we have 4 lines clicking and still love the team. Every top line in the history of hockey has been broken up at one time so it is not an unreasonable request. I f this team ever starts firing on all cylinders they will be tough to beat.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          Totally agree. Right now Monny and Janko leave me wanting more maybe a swap is the fix. I find both players over the last couple of years tiring down the streatch. Monny had injuries last year but this is not supposed to be the case this year…assuming full transparency lol.

          I just think we under estimate how excited these pros are getting to play on the top line with the “Golden Goose”. When Tkachuk was asked about it he says he has been waiting his entire career for that opportunity. Neal and Janko would probably give their left kidney for a regular chance.

  • Justthateasy

    Here’s one for ya. Sitting in a moderately popular hotel bar last night in a smaller city in the West Kootenays watching the game with two minutes to go, bartender decides to switch the TV to a skiing video. I’m watching this crap waiting for the ad to stop and I think to myself WTF. I have to go over and tune the guy up and make him switch it back to the game. He was an obvious loser nuk fan. So I missed the hack on tkachuk. I was surprised that there were quite a few Flames fans.

  • Astroboymammy

    From Calgary, but at the game last night. There were a lot of Flames fans there. Go Flames Go chants were causing the Canucks fans to cheer out of embarrassment. It was good to see this in someone else’s barn. It was incredibly enjoyable to bond with all the other Flames fans there.

  • Speed Kills

    Beating the knuckleheads is Always a wonderful thing, esp when it hurts their chance of a wildcard spot… C’mon Tortz put another nail in the lid of the nucks coffin for this year. Gio better win the Noris this year, he has been the (one of, if not the) best Flame game in ~ game out all year long… I just hope the Eastern eyes aren’t Blind to his Season this year.

  • Alcanivorax

    Just here for the trashes 😜

    Neal might not have contributed much offensively last night but it seemed noticeable to me that he was more physically engaged and was taking the body more and making some hits.

    Be nice to have that AND the offence he was known for but hopefully his engagement is a sign of things turning around for him.

    I know lots on here don’t like him but I’m going to cheer FOR him and not AGAINST him…he’s a Flame and I support them.

  • Ramskull

    The first line really concerns me. It looks like they’ve lost their chemistry and all three are more concerned about their personal point totals than competing as a unit. Watching Ras get under Petterson’s skin was awesome. I was surprised that Ras kept pace with him on that waved off icing call since Ras skates like a tank and Petterson skates like a gazelle. I’m also thinking Fatenberg is the best of the depth defenseman.

    • Ari Yanover

      I rarely mention opposing players in these morning after posts – they’re intended to be almost entirely about the Flames, unless a player on the other team does something so notable I’ve pretty much gotta include them (I think I’d have mentioned Markstrom’s name after the game he stole in February in that post).

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        SF…whatever happened to a goalie named Parsons. If the team can’t make the playoffs shouldn’t these be Parson’s games. I don’t understand the reasoning.

        • The GREAT WW

          LOL!!!!!

          Parsons is a goalie…….VOODOO!

          Look at the last 30 years of Flames drafting goalies…….

          Don’t waste another pick on a goalie, trade for them or look across the pond….

          WW

          • Ari Yanover

            @ Gazoinks – in the top banner, on the far right, you should see a circle with your current avatar’s picture. Click on that, it’ll take you to a spot you can edit your profile. Your avatar should be one of the first options, via Gravatar.

          • Puck Head

            So we have two goalies, one of which we traded for and the other from across the pond. I think it’s safe to safe that neither one of them is elite. So you’re saying stick with decent goalies and don’t risk netting an elite one via the draft? As long as BT is here I highly doubt tha we will be trading a kings ransom for an elite goalie. No risk = no reward = loser.

          • The GREAT WW

            Both Smith and Rittich are better than any goalie we have drafted in the last 30 years.
            With the only possible exception of Brossoitt…..AND WE TRADED HIM TO THE OILERS FOR LADISLAV SMID….!!!!!?

            WW

          • withachance

            Lets look at previous cup winners and their goalies:

            Holtby, Murray/MAF, Crawford, Quick, Osgood. The only goalie in the last decade to win the cup and not drafted by that team is Tim Thomas… Again, logic not really there WW