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Photo Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Flames 7, Kings 2 post-game embers: Winning while waiting

The games won’t be meaningful for a week and a half yet, but in the meantime, who’s to say the depth players can’t have any fun?

Feel of the game

The game lived up to its billing right away: one of the worst teams in the NHL facing one of the best’s prospects and depth players. That is to say, it was very minor league-y – sloppy, ugly, and honestly charming in how bad it was. It kicked right off with Derek Ryan opening the scoring while falling down, and continued as the Flames’ severely lacking defence couldn’t find a way to contend with the Kings.

A 2-2 game going into the second wasn’t all that surprising, but you could see the tide start to turn when the top line got involved. Johnny Gaudreau scored a very Gaudreau-like goal, but for the most part, it was just a game being played out. Really, it still could have gone either way.

At least until the third period. It was like a switch had been flipped: suddenly the Flames decided to stop messing around, stop playing down to the Kings’ level, and just go out and completely crush them. James Neal got the next two goals going (both by scoring, and with the primary assist), a couple of rookie defencemen kept the puck in the offensive zone to add on, and two goals 15 seconds apart were thrown in for good measure. The end result? A 7-2 game in which the Flames’ depth collectively rose up and decided they were going to get a decisive win.

The good news

The third and fourth lines did a lot throughout 60 minutes. They scored six of the Flames’ seven goals, and while they weren’t all pretty, they did serve to highlight how scary the Flames’ depth can be. Ryan has been proving himself an astute signing for at least half of the season now. Neal continues to look like someone who might actually contribute in the playoffs. Mark Jankowski jumped up in a big way. It won’t always be this good – definitely not against the significantly better competition the playoffs will provide – but opposing teams really will have to defend against everyone the Flames have to offer.

Obviously the context surrounding the game nullifies the excitement – two teams with nothing to play for, one of which is already very bad – but it’s cool the Flames legitimately have enough depth that they can sit their entire top four and be fine. Not that it didn’t show, but the only regular defenceman the Flames had dressed at all was Rasmus Andersson; of course everyone was going to be at least a little sloppy. The team has a lot of good options for their sixth defenceman in the playoffs, though.

Specifically, it was nice to see Oliver Kylington and Juuso Valimaki pick up a point here or there and show their instincts stayed intact despite substantive time off from playing in an NHL lineup (especially in Valimaki’s case). And really, who saw all of Andersson, Kylington, and Valimaki playing in the same NHL game all at once? That was awesome.

The bad news

There can’t really be a bad news section for the end of the regular season, can there? Criticism at this stage simply isn’t productive, at least not from a non-coaching perspective, which is all we can offer here. The Flames are the best team in the Western Conference. Praise the good that you see and shrug at the bad, because this wasn’t an optimal lineup and the game meant nothing.

Though Sam Bennett taking the hit he did genuinely was bad. It broke the one thing the Flames have left to play for: don’t get hurt. Good news that he’s apparently okay, but scary moment that left you with a sinking feeling in your gut. Let’s avoid that the next two games. And the next two months, at that.

Numbers of note

56.67% – The Flames’ 5v5 CF. They were actually a sub-50% team in the first period, but that was it.

50% – That said, the lowest corsi any Flame had at 5v5 was a mere 50%. That includes Bennett, who didn’t see any ice in the third period, when the Flames were playing rather well.

37 – With two goals, Ryan boosted his point total this season to 37. His career high is 38 from a year ago. He’s got a real shot of matching it, or even eclipsing it.

31 – Three points helped elevate Jankowski past the 30-point plateau. He scored 25 points as a rookie; he’s at 31 now. Still four goals off from his career high in goals scored, though we probably all remember how he fared in Game 82 a year ago…

3 – Neal is now riding a three-game point streak. He went point-less in his first three games back from injury (and remember before then, he had six points in 10 games). Now he’s got four in three.

6 – Neal also led the way with six shots. I really hope it’s this Neal showing up in the playoffs.

2 – I know this isn’t the right time to criticize, but maybe worth pointing out Elias Lindholm only has two assists in his past 10 games. He hasn’t had the point explosion like Sean Monahan has, but he was maybe the most consistent member of the line prior to its slump.

21:58 – Valimaki played the most minutes of any Flames skater, though Michael Stone (21:53) and Oscar Fantenberg (21:32) weren’t too far behind him.

16:30 – Kylington played the fewest minutes of the defence. Is this a sign of who’s in the running to play regularly in the playoffs? … Maybe?

+66 – The Flames just keep adding to their goal differential. The Lightning are in first place league-wide with a +100, while the Leafs are in third with a +41. There’s a gap between first and second, and almost as big of a gap between second and third.

50 – For the second time in their existence, the Flames reached 50 wins. Unless the Bruins win all of their remaining games, the Flames and the Lightning will be the only teams to reach that marker this season.

Final thought

That was fun. Hope everyone’s having a good, injury-free time.

  • Kzak

    I promised myself I wouldn’t get too excited about our playoff prospects, but articles like this one make that difficult. I don’t want to say it looks like the stars are lining up, but, the stars look like they’re lining up.

  • Alcanivorax

    Kylington seemed to be trying too hard to make something happen and made a few mistakes. That might account for his low minutes.

    Granted some of that trying too hard resulted in some great shots on goal.

    Stone did not look good to me. Poor passes, poor clearances. Sluggish. For me, Prout is a better option as a 7th defender (regardless of contract size).

    Can we get game 80-82 Jankowski for more of the regular season? He looked good last night…Backlund lite. Left me with the impression that he could in a few years take over that role. Level of opposition made him look better but my point being that if you could get that level of play more frequently it could make this team even harder to play.

    Glad Bennett is ok. That was some hit.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      I agree. We all know he has the chops for the offense, but its just that consistency–or maybe confidence–that he needs. I’m still hopeful for him.

  • withachance

    Mangi can snipe, the kids are alright, and super excited to see the Real Deal. Also lack of pressure for the top line had them looking real fresh last night, hope that transfers over to the playoffs.

    Also in terms of prospects, how exciting is it to have so many Flames draft picks contribute last night? With Dube and Valimaki full time next year, and Phillips + Ruzicka (hopefully) on the way – really excited to see this team contend in the forseeable future

          • Lazarus

            You’re right not as much for a while now..probably not since Tkachuk had gone beast mode and shown that no he is not the product of some fabled “Backlund Bump” but that he is a star on his own and blew Backlund away offensively

          • Albertabeef

            @Lazarus Blew Backs away offensively? I don’t think so. Take away Tkachuk’s pp points and he’s relatively close to Backs. Well lets’s put it this way, Mony is 11 points behind Johnny at even strength while Mony is 11 points up on Lindholm. Tkachuk is 10 points up on Backs even strength, and Backs is 11 points up on Frolik. 10 points is NOT blowing away numbers.

        • Avalain

          I’m pretty sure that Backlund gets a lot of credit for his ability to face off against the best in the league and hold his own. He’ll be critical if we’re facing a team like Colorado. LA? Not as critical.

          The other part of why Backlund gets so much credit is because the defensive side of the game is so underrated that people incorrectly think he’s useless. It’s the same reason why Burns is even in the same conversation as Gio for the Norris.

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    #58 is going to be a top tier D-man one day. I hope its with the Flames but he doesn’t get the love he deserves IMO. Razzy & Val deserve their accolades but Klinger has potential like no other.

    • Lazarus

      X Factor. Don’t know how you keep him out of the playoff 6D really but..we will see. Always these e joy these games when bodies are rested and you get to see what some others can do

    • withachance

      I feel like he’s going to have to wait for Gio to retire before he gets a chance on the Flames. Hanifin and Valimaki are both ahead of him.

      Might make more sense to trade him for a stud winger in a year or two

        • cjc

          Can ≠ will. Peters still has a preference for L:R pairings, and Brodie is only given a shot on the RHS because of his history/chemistry with Giordano. That said, it’s probably more important to play your six (or seven) best D than it is to ensure you have L:R pairings. The team could roll out 7D/11F, but there aren’t a lot of glaring holes at F that make that move obvious.

        • withachance

          We are seeing what having too many LHD can do in Toronto. Muzzin and Rielly are both extremely talented dman, who cant handle playing on their off sides. Its not as easy as you think. We have never seen any of those 3 play on the right for an extended amount of time. its a pretty unneccesary risk if you ask me

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        Well, it’s speculative, but if we trade Brodie in the offseason, I could honestly see a

        Gio-Ras
        H&H
        Vali-Kyl

        Tho, as mentioned here, I wonder about two rookie left shooting d-men on the same line…

        • withachance

          The general consensus is that Kylington has loads of potential, but needs to work on consistency/confidence/defensive positioning. Pretty sure playing him on his offhand isnt going to help much

  • CalgaryBornandRaised

    I can remember not long ago when the Kings were a dominant force, and the trip through California used to bring dread to me, now outside of the Sharks, California is looking pretty soft……..couldn’t be happier

    Is it April 10 yet?

  • Off the wall

    Gaudreau sits at 97 points. Two games remaining. Does Peters give him a chance to reach 100, or does he rest him?

    I think Lindholm could definitely use a game off. He’s played every game this season and it might refresh him.

    Damn did Bennett ever get his bell rung. Watching the replay, he had no idea where he was. You hate seeing anything like that happening. He is one tough hockey player! Glad he’s not severely hurt.

    Looks like Doughty got schooled all night, even without Tkachuk’s presence? That brings me happiness!

    Dirty Ducks are next. Stay safe Flames. Postseason is just around the corner! 🔥

    • Cfan in Van

      I’d like to see the whole top line sit for the next game, given that Peters will probably want most guys back against the Oil, to stay sharp. 100pnts is nice, but playoffs preparedness is tops over century marks.

    • Chucky

      I hope that Peters gives Johnny the choice of playing and he takes the initiative to take a rest with the “team success is more important than individual accomplishment” comment.

    • Avalain

      I don’t like the idea of sitting Gaudreau or Monahan. Remember what happened the last time they had a bit of a break? Maybe it’s a coincidence, but especially in Monahan’s case his slump seems to have been in his head. Don’t do anything that will make Monahan doubt himself.

      The only reason to hold them out is if they are injured. But if they were injured they wouldn’t have played yesterday, so I say keep them in. Just give them less minutes in the game and do not shorten the bench.

  • Girouxalem

    For the Record. Bennett is NOT ok. He 100% suffered a concussion on that play. I’m not sure of his recent concussion history, but the flames should be shutting him down for a period of time, not trying to get him into more games before the playoffs. This is the exact type of play the NHL should be looking to eliminate. MacDermid was running around for several shifts prior trying to get Bennett, and when he finally does he gives him a concussion. That kind of stuff shouldn’t have a place in the game anymore with what we know about head injuries.

    I saw some saying not to worry because its a medical decision not a coaching decision as to when he can get back in to the lineup. But ask yourself, who does the doctor clearing him work for? I highly suggest listening to some of the interviews Dan Carcillo has done on the subject…Incidents like this have me worried for guys like Bennett’s future.

    • Rockmorton65

      The doctors who make the final decision are the league’s not the teams, if that’s what you’re insinuating. The team has enough depth to compete without him. I have total faith that Tre & co would not have any issue shutting him down to protect his health, if it was deemed necessary.

    • Willi P

      Please provide your medical credentials and medical proof that Sam Bennett was 100% concussed on that play. Thought so.

      If he is hurt, he should sit out. NHL does not want further concussion litigation. They dictate the rules, not the team.

      • Girouxalem

        Concussion is a head injury that temporarily affects brain functioning. Did you watch Bennett skate back to the bench? What possible medical explanation is there for his bambi legs attempt to get up and skate back to the bench. I’m all ears

        • Rockmorton65

          Girouxalem. You can get your bell rung without it being a concussion. There are varying degrees. Similar to how a muscle pull is different than a muscle tear. They have almost identical symptoms but require much different treatment.

          • Girouxalem

            Actually you can’t. Look up what any medical professional has to say on this. “Getting your bell rung” is a concussive event. Obviously there are varying degrees of severity, but we’ve been under diagnosing concussions for decades and are only now starting to realize the long term effects.

          • Avalain

            Not really, no. I mean, yes, there are varying degrees of severity of concussion. But getting your bell rung is a concussion. Just because we never called it that years ago doesn’t mean that it’s not. Just think of Crosby. He “gets his bell rung” in one game but is fine, so he keeps playing. The next game he gets hit again and because he was concussed already this second one takes him out of the game for a year. Bennett could be “fine” but playing him again in these next two meaningless games is a stupid risk that could mean we lose him for the entire playoffs, if not more.

    • aye

      Agree that although it was a clean hit, there was still some intent (not sure the intent was to injure Bennett, but definitely to hit him hard and send a message), but at the same time MacDermid was just doing his job just as Bennett was doing his going after Doughty for going after Valimaki, it’s just the ugly part of the hockey culture, which unfortunately there’s no easy fix. And there were plenty of people on here calling for Prout to go after MacDermid, which to me is just hypocritical thuggery.
      Speaking of things league should be looking at to eliminate, did anyone see the “fight” between Buff and Cagiula? What a goon Byfuglien is bullying someone 8″ and 90lbs smaller, and continued to throw punches well after the linesmen have jumped in. What happened to the code of big boys like him not going after little guys half his size? And he only got 5 for fighting, the same as Cagiula, who only threw 2 punches trying to defend himself, not even a misconduct for clearly being the aggressor and not stopping after clearly overpowering his opponent, and the linesmen already jumped in.

    • Albertabeef

      My neurologist hates the term “concussion”. They would rather call it what it is, a brain injury. Either way not a fun thing to go through and needs to be taken seriously.

  • Chucky

    It seems odd that Jankowski, Neal and Bennett/ Frolik played opposite Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown all night and the message is that he had easy competition. With the first line getting 4th line minutes the Jankowski and Ryan lines had to move up the lineup. They preformed very well against the top two LA lines.
    That is a big boost of confidence for those guys, it will be interesting to see if Jankowski draws the McDavid detail on Saturday.

  • oddclod

    You can’t try to “avoid” getting hurt in this game Ari. You have to play the game the right way. The moment you let up or play cautiously things can go south fast. You can however use your lone enforcer to send a message to the rest of the teams the flames have to play, that you’re going to pay a hefty price for taking shots at our guys.

    Coaching was on autopilot last night. Peters and co should have had Prout boxing MacDermid’s ears the moment he began chasing Bennett. Twice he went after Bennett. The third time he connected. Third time should have not happened. Not making him pay the price after tells the remaining teams, go ahead, take shots at out guys. You won’t have to pay the price. This is the reason why enforcers are necessary. If you’re a nobody running around taking shots at Bennett you need to pay a heavy price.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Yes you can try to avoid getting hurt. It’s a crucial part of the game and if players didn’t do it there’d be no hockey because the players would all be off with injury.

      I’ve seen players move the puck quickly to dodge a hit, and it has nothing to do with being cautious, but being aware of where you are on the ice and-more importantly-who you’re up against. For example, if Tom Wilson is on the ice, the answer is to play smart, not get beat up by a goon for a nothing play only to have our goon go out and be a goon, too. If you play the right way-as you said-you don’t get hit by Wilson, you draw a penalty, and then there’s a goal for.

      Also, I’m looking at our roster and I don’t see an enforcer. I see some toughness, but our team doesn’t work like that. And that’s the thing with your comment: YOU think there’s need of an enforcer, but the wins, the standings, and the very construction of our roster prove you wrong. We don’t need an enforcer in the playoffs, either: we just need to get faster.

      Which we can.

    • someone

      You may want to look at the final score last night. I would guess the “remaining teams” are more focused on how to defend against the high scoring flames, rather than a potential bear dance. Fights are quite rare in the playoffs, BTW, being the goons are relegated to cheer duty.

      • oddclod

        240lb 6’5″ MacDermit chased Bennett around for two shifts until he rung his bell good. That should have been prevented or answered. If you weren’t upset that Bennett was targeted and taken out, you don’t have a pulse. Don’t care what triggered fools that don’t know the game think.

    • calgaryfan

      Why do players learn to keep there head up? It is to avoid being hurt. Or how about head on a swivel not only know where everybody is but keep you from getting hurt. McDermid is huge and it is unlikely anyone on the Flames is going to box his ears.

  • Budgie

    I like Anderson-Giordano as the top defense pairing-Anderson has a heavy slap shot and Giordano the wrist shot-rush. Valamaki could make it in as a starter if there are injuries-he looked good-Stone will improve likely to be a starter-Calgary has a glut of Defenseman- Prout has the size for playoffs-Fatenberg is steady enough-Kylington is fast, this is perfect for the playoffs

    • Getpucksdeep

      Not sold on Kjillingtons work in our end yet however he still has a bright future. Of the 4 substitute defenders I thought Valimaki was great, Stone was good, Kjillington could play in a pinch and we know what we have in Prout. Kjillington can skate and shoot for sure however I still think he isn’t ready for prime time defending.