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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Flames 6, Ducks 1 post-game embers: Almost time for playoffs

Ah, yes. That’s right. The Flames are a playoff team; have indisputably been one for some time now, even if it only just recently became official. It’s not exactly a surprise when they resume looking the part.

Feel of the game

The Flames had a strong start, as one would expect, considering the quality of the matchup. That didn’t translate, though; at least not right away, when the Ducks briefly got ahold of the game and made it 1-0 as a result. But it didn’t last long at all. Following a powerplay that looked much improved, Mark Giordano tied the game. The first period ended tied, perhaps with a sense of disappointment – the Flames could be better. We saw flashes of it.

The flashes expanded into extended sets of play through the second period, and eventually just completely took over in the second half of the game. Sean Monahan looked alive on the Flames’ first goal; he carried that through, picking up another two points in the second. Around him, the entire group looked ready to go – while the Ducks, down two goals, tried to get back into the game to start the third, they couldn’t match up to the wave upon wave upon wave the Flames could send after them. The 3M line had substantial pressure. The fourth line got two goals. Monahan got another one for the hell of it. And what started out as a game in which the Flames looked to be getting their feet back under them ended with a reminder that: oh yeah. This is a good team.

The good news

Welcome back, Monahan. It wasn’t just that he had a four-point night – although that in and of itself will always be good – but he looked engaged throughout the game, ready to be all over the ice, and with strong offensive instincts and a great shot. Perhaps one of the best signs? Not just his willingness for board play, but being a presence in the slot as well. One of the top line’s problems as of late has been a reduction in creating high-danger events; Monahan got a goal out of creating one of those (and an assist as well, though it was on the powerplay, so it wouldn’t have been noted in the linked piece which only took 5v5 data into account). Great sign moving forward.

Monahan deserves the majority of the accolades, but James Neal had a great game, too. He didn’t get a point for it, but he helped create the Flames’ first goal. Even if their third goal hadn’t been credited to him, he would have at least gotten an assist for it. He wasn’t as strong as Monahan was, but he was engaged, too – and remember, we’re talking about someone who has consistently been an offensive player until this season and is shooting at a mere 4.6%. Neal has the talent. He can be a threat. Games like this help emphasize that – and the Flames will be all the better off in the postseason if they give their opponents a reason to be scared of all of their lines on any given night. (Hello, too, to the fourth line; we know they aren’t going to score every game – but they evidently have the potential to do so.)

Rasmus Andersson is smart, helps create offence, can be trusted well enough to slide up to the first pairing and not look out of place, and the Flames’ defence would be so much less formidable without him around.

The powerplay looks like it’s slowly righting itself. Not just because they finally got a goal again, but also because they actually didn’t spend too much time chasing and looked comfortable controlling things in the offensive zone. Maybe some of that was the opponent, but I really like the new units, with Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk separated from Johnny Gaudreau and Monahan. They look much more balanced, now, with two major forward scoring threats on each. And the Flames have the forward depth to fill the rest out accordingly – it’s certainly a good experiment before the playoffs, at least. (Does this mean Austin Czarnik stays in the lineup?)

The bad news

Mike Smith only got beat once, and made a number of good saves when it was still a close game. However, he still looked off to me in a number of lower danger moments, and not just due to the occasional equipment issue. Seemingly routine saves appeared to result in jerky movements, there was some casualness in getting back in the net; it seemed to smooth out as the game went on, but a lot was just… weird. And maybe a reminder we are talking about a 37-year-old who has dealt with injuries. It’s not an indictment on his play; it was odd to watch, though.

Before we get too excited, let’s remember that the Ducks are a bad, lottery-bound team. The Flames can’t control their opponent, and beating up on a weaker opponent will always be preferable to not, but it’s also not necessarily a guarantee that the Flames/Monahan/whoever are/is “back” (remember the game against the Devils? And the followup to that?). We aren’t going to know if the Flames are truly “back” until the playoffs actually start. It’s been a while since they’ve played a truly meaningful game.

This section was less “bad news” and more “temper expectations,” I guess.

Numbers of note

61.46% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF on the night. Good team beats bad team convincingly.

50% – The lowest CF any Flames skater had at 5v5, which is neat.

80 – Monahan is now an 80-point player for the first time in his career. His previous career high was 64 points. The Flames now join a handful of other teams with multiple 80-point players (five others have two 80-point guys; Tampa has three) – though Lindholm and Tkachuk are two and four points off, respectively. Four 80-point guys this season is a possibility, which I don’t believe any other team would be able to match. At least two is a certainty.

33 – Monahan also set a career high by scoring his 32nd and 33rd goals of the season; he’d reached 31 twice before. Boston, Chicago, Colorado, Tampa, and Winnipeg also have three 30-goal scorers. Lindholm is just three goals away from reaching 30 himself – but it’s going to be tough to make that happen.

10 – Derek Ryan became the 11th Flame to hit double digits in goals scored. TJ Brodie is sitting at nine; he could still make it 12 players total. Considering his goal the previous game and it being his shot that got Ryan the goal, maybe he will?

32 – Noah Hanifin tied his career high in points, hitting 32 on the season. He had 32 last year as well.

.900% – Smith has finally escaped the dredges of a sub-.900 save percentage season, where he has been confined pretty much the entire year. He now sits at .900% exactly.

Final thought

The Flames are thiiiis close to clinching first in the Western Conference. Be honest: back in October, approximately zero of us saw that coming. But watching them in this game, they looked exactly like a team worthy of such a feat.

Every player is streaky; the hope is the Flames have enough weapons to overcome others’ slumps, especially going into play a week and a half away. The playoffs are a different monster entirely, but that might also be what kicks guys back into shape. This is a team that’s never been in this position before in the regular season: they’ve never had so much security with so many games remaining. It’s just a gut feeling, but I think we see games more like this one in the postseason than the previous two.

  • Korcan

    Nice to see Monahan have a good game – I’m sure he feels 50lbs lighter today. Neal too (remember, nobody asks “how”…).

    I liked the defensive pairings Peters chose to go with last night. Andersson appears capable of top pairing minutes and Brodie played well with Prout (who also did well). Imo giving Brodie less 5vs5 responsibility plus powerplay time helps his game – he so often appears overwhelmed when given the heavy defensive minutes playing alongside Gio. The fact he can play both sides is also a boon, because Peters then has the luxury of playing him with either Fantenburg or Prout (whom he can rotate in depending on the opponent), two stay at home types. I hope Peters continues with this arrangement over the final four games to give Andersson more reps with Gio prior to playoffs.

    • Korcan

      P.S. Also nice to see Smith’s game rounding into form. It will be awesome if both Rittich and Smith are rolling come playoff time. The timing couldn’t be better.

      • Stu Gotz

        Agree with both of your posts Korcan. However one bad goal will be the difference in playoff games. As well as Smith is shaping into form he needs to be better.

  • Day1-Cfan

    Nice game against the rival ducks. Got some scoring finally, Smith played well but still looks unsure of himself. A win is a win! Moving closer to the title of Western Champs.
    Can not wait to see that first playoff game! GFG!

  • TheDallyLama

    I know the Ducks are a bad team, looks like they’re ready to hit the links….but having said that isn’t it just a good feeling to beat them? Still get a bad taste in my mouth seeing Cory Perry lol. I highly doubt the Ducks felt bad for all those years they stuck it to us during our rebuild. Great game boys. Avs first round? GfG🔥

    • Albertabeef

      Just during our rebuild? No it was way before that. Only team I ever really bet with against the Flames. I made a ton of money on that bet in the Iggy years. Ducks were always a well paid long shot against the Flames. Ducks vs Detroit always paid me well too.

  • Peters knows how to get Prout into the line-up without disrupting the back-end too badly… good to know if Reaves comes to town. Prouter’s one of the very few guys on the team capable of tangling with the beast.

      • SgtRoadBlock

        lol people worry about Janko?? when he has Neal as his Linemate.. Janko 95 shots on net Neal 135…Janko can score more shorthanded goals then Neal on a powerplay…

        Sean can Casper away for 3 weeks but one great game vs The Tanking Ducks it a wash he forgiven..

        • Albertabeef

          Compare Janks stats and Mony’s stats and tell me you can’t forgive Mony for some lackluster games at a meaningless time of the season. Janks hasn’t proven anything. He is spotty on the PK and does not play to his size. Honestly, despite all our shorthanded goals or PK sucks. It ranks as 22nd in the league. Time to rethink our PK players before the playoffs.

    • Pizzaman

      Agree SF and you saw a lot of Janko in the past. He seems to have gotten softer and less engaged with only flashes of his skills.
      At the beginning of the year I am on record as saying this is Janko and Bennetts year to prove they are top 6 or stall out. They clearly are first rounders who have made the NHL (remember Klimchuk, Poirier and Lazar) but they are bottom 6 and attractive trade bait this summer for somebody. We will still need a top 6 to replace Frolik and a goalie come this summer.

      • Trevy

        I’m still hoping Treliving will revisit the trade that fell through last month for Zucker that involved Frolik. As for Bennett and Janko, I would definitely feel the market for Janko but still keep Benny unless there’s an offer we can’t refuse. Despite Benny’s draft status, he’s a serviceable, cheap 3rd liner that has some skill and grit. With Tkachuk’s impending contract coming, we need to be smart with our budget

    • Cfan in Van

      Mrs. Finest must be squeezing her stick a bit, when it comes to the sharks’ slide these days… How’s she feel about the goaltending going into the playoffs?

    • Stu Gotz

      SF….you know these players well! Yes Mark does need a kick in the butt occasionally however I like his PK abilities and his size which will be invaluable come playoffs.

      • Stockton's Finest

        Stu, no question that his PK skills have increased tremendously. But it’s his 5 on 5 that I am worried about. I thought he looked good to start Wednesday with his old Stockton line mates. Worth exploring more and move Ryan to 3C. I just think he is in his own head. He has improved his point total from last year, but his play overall has dipped. I think next year, a contract year, will tell us a lot about him. Just hope I can continue to wear both his Calgary 77 jersey and his game worn Stockton 17 jersey past next season.

      • Joel Ottos Jock

        His size? He plays small. Outside of his pk contributions, he should be regulated to the least amount of ice. Mango is playin more physically. That is sad.

    • Dunk

      Janko is a late bloomer and tends to get. Comfortable easy. With the right prodding I think he will be awesome perhaps a playoff run will bring out the beast that we all see hiding inside…..don’t be afraid of your greatness Janko..

  • Pizzaman

    Anybody else going to be in San Jose this weekend?
    Me and PizzaMama are in town for the Sharks Knights game tonight and Flames Sharks tomorrow. Should be the clincher!
    Poor Sharks. No goalies. Back to back at home against their two rivals with Flames having a day of rest. We thought it was great scheduling 3 months ago! Looks like a funeral dirge for the Sharks now.

    • Avalain

      We can start calling Ryan’s line the 3rd line as soon as Peters starts to play them more minutes than Jankowski’s line. Oh, would you look at that. 14 minutes for Ryan, 13 for Mangiapane and Hathaway, only 12 for Jankowski and Frolik. Seems that they have flipped lines, haven’t they?

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Last Night’s Takeaways:

    A very good three-period effort against a very bad Duck’s lineup. Amateur Hour at its worst.

    I am convinced those word-defying markings on Miller’s mask are satanic symbols.

    How about Cassie going yard with her bold and daring prediction that Smitty starts Game 1 of the playoffs while so many of her male counterparts continue to hum and haw refusing to commit to who will start.

    If Monahan hasn’t been battling through an owie, was he just doin’ the dawg the past several weeks?

    Monahan’s tatties on his wrist look like they are homemade. Where did you do time, sport?

    Keep hearing from “experts” and laymen that Neal played a pretty well last night. Frankly, I didn’t see anything different in his effort last night from other nights where he was just there. I did like the intense glare in his eyes during a break in the action while he was on the bench talking to Czarnik. That was a playoff stare.

    Don’t know if Neal suffers from stage fright but he was breathing like puffin’ Billy during that intermission interview with Leslie. It wasn’t just after the period ended, so you’d have figured Neal would have got his wind back by then.

    Neal needs to become training partners with Gio this offseason if he wants to remain a relevant NHLer now that he’s in his 30s.

    How long before Sam Steel gets tagged Sam “the man of” Steel and it sticks?

    The Ducks have some pretty promising fledglings in Steel, Terry and Jones. Clear out some of those bad contracts, and the Ducks will be back in the playoff picture sooner than you’d expect.

    You make the call. Next Saturday, the Flames have 1st in the Pac and 1st in the West long sown up. Johnny sits at 99 points. If you’re Peters do you dress Johnny to get his milestone century against the Oilers who you know will be going full on goon? You make the call.

  • Zalapski

    putting Mike Smith in the bad is just for the sake of it now? He was totally fine and has been for a while. I’m still hungover from is awfulness early in the season, but man alive he gets bashed for NO reason sometimes.

    • Joel Ottos Jock

      No reason? He should have stopped that goal. He is lunging at pucks, his unathleticness is showing. He looks like my 295 lbs pound beer league goalie. The props he was given for that lucky pad save that turned into a flames goal baffled me. Smith got lucky. He got caught and the shooter shot to early. Smith is bad. The team does not play with swagger when he is in net.

  • Vinnsanity0412

    This and that…Fantenberg and Prout, both are solid options at the #6 slot, T.J. plays much better on the third pairing, less minutes and less responsibility=less pressure=better performance. Sean Monahan can skate…he just chooses not to…during a second period PP they gave the puck away and he came back HARD, almost breaking up a 2 on 1 (no need thanks to Gio!). If any of you PVR’d the game, go back to the second period when Czarnik got crunched and crank the audio. A classic example of hockey chirping 101, hilarious! The number of goals that Mike Smith’s wonderings have led to vs. the unknown number of HDSC’s he’s likely broken up to me is a no brainer, risk vs. reward, the reward is much higher in this case and I’m sure his D-men and coaches would agree. Heck, T.J. has knocked at least 5 into his own net this year, and who knows how many of his giveaways have led directly to goals. For Smith to have gotten his stats back to a semi respectable level as they are now means he has been killing it for a while now. Quine and Bennett in, Czarnik and Janks out…coming soon to a playoff series near you!

  • Flames fan since 83

    Solid game, good result.
    Sean looked like his old self last night.
    I really wish we could play Anderson with Gio all the time.
    Cassie Campbell mentioned that she feels Brodie plays better when his minutes are 18 something and not 23 something. I agree.
    Ryan is getting better and better and better since the all star break.
    For me, Smith is playing better, but there is still something wrong. He doesn’t look comfortable to my eye.
    All good today in FN. Personally, I hope for Colorado in the first round.

  • Sterls

    As happy as I am with the Flames team right now, I am almost ready to jettison the entire 3rd line. I was day dreaming while watching the game last night, after we had surrendered the first goal in the game for what seemed like the 60th time this season, and was imagining a possible trade with Toronto that sends Janko, Brodie and Kylington to TO for Kadri and Kapinan. Then it got real fantastical, and I sent Bennett, Neal and Frolik to Columbus for Jenner and a pick. The results of my day dreaming ended up looking something like this:

    Gaurdeau-Monahan-Lindholm
    Tkchuck-Kadri-Kapinan
    Jenner-Backlund-Dube
    Mangiapane-Ryan-Hathaway

    Gio-Andersen
    Hanifin-Hamonic
    Valimaki-Fanta
    Stone

    Then we scored 6 unanswered and I snapped out of my delusional daydreaming. The team is doing alright. But still like the results of my day dreaming.

  • Alberta Ice

    Pretty amazing that Neal is in another Stanley Cup playoff run. Here’s hoping he finds his next level for the the upcoming run. Liking our depth and liking our D and liking our goalies and liking our coaching and liking the outcome of all our team points and results of this season. KIGF into the playoffs. (Also, when you look at the goal differential for teams in the West, things are finally righted. As of today, March 30, those teams with the positive goals differential are presently in the playoffs – Calgary +59; Winnipeg +32; San Jose +27; Vegas +24; Nashville +24; St. Louis +18; Colorado +13; and Dallas +7. All teams below this are out beginning with Arizona at -13; Minnesota -20; Chicago -23; Edmonton -33 (although give ’em credit and media hype, because they have two 100+ goal scoring divas which has to be a positive for them going into the next season); Vancouver -30; LA -59; and Anaheim -61.)

  • Lazarus

    Enjoyed that shot of Monny, Neal and Czarnik on the bench laughing and talking and joking after Neal’s goal.
    Have there been 3 more maligned forwards this year. Smiles looking good Boys

  • The GREAT WW

    What’s the magic number for the Flames to clinch first?
    And what’s the number for the Oilers to be mathematically eliminated?
    Can we celebrate both on the same night?

    WW

  • Speed Kills

    The Calgary Flames announce today that they have signed left winger Dmitry Zavgorodniy to a three year entry level contract.
    Zavgorodniy, a native of Omsk, Russia, is in his second season with the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The 18-year-old had 28 goals and 36 assists for 64 points in 67 games during the regular season. Rimouski is fresh off a sweep in the opening round of the QMJHL playoffs where Dmitry is third in league goals with four and has added an assist for five points in his first four playoff games.