The Flames dug themselves into a big hole and then spent the rest of the game digging themselves out of it. The result is fine, but the process is questionable.
Feel of the game
Mikael Backlund just now on #Flames radio – "That might have been the worst period of hockey we've ever played in this building."
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) October 9, 2019
You sure said it, Mikael.
The team thankfully bounced back and played some of their finest hockey so far in this young season to grab one point from this affair. They were relentless and kept this one entertaining when it really should not have been.
It really just felt like a vintage Bill Peters Flames game: go down early, turn it around. There’s a handful of games from last season that followed this exact script.
The good news
This is going to be all about Matthew Tkachuk, light of our lives, and new linemate Andrew Mangiapane.
On Tkachuk: he’s just so fun to watch. Had his good work not been outdone by cosmic irony, this would probably be a whole love letter to him (I could just write one anyways). He was one of the Flames who looked involved in all three periods, dragging the team to a point in the process. There’s been the fear that his holdout could hurt his performances a la William Nylander, but he’s silenced the doubters so far.
Even though Drew Doughty got the last laugh, it was fun seeing Tkachuk harass him at every given opportunity. Doughty reportedly wants to squash the beef (coward!), but I say that it should go on forever. They’ve made a rivalry out of nothing, adding spice to games that otherwise are just, well, games.
On Mangiapane: the Flames have been aching for one more top six winger to round out their roster, and they may have found one with Mangiapane. It’s nice to see him be rewarded after he was one of the better players in the first two games of the season. I’ll keep my expectations tempered, as it could just be a fine few games for a kid eager to prove himself, but there’s been no player more deserving of a promotion than him. Let’s see if he can keep it up.
To offer just one general thought on the game, it does speak to this team’s talent that they are capable of sleeping through half the game and still find a way to make it a winnable affair.
The bad news
The other side of that take is that there’s no real reason the Flames have to sleep through half of a game.
This team has a habit of going down early and then spending the rest of the game catching up. Most of the times, they pull it off and we’re all happy. Other times, they flirt with danger a bit too much and find themselves running out of time before they can salvage something other than pride.
As I said, this is a familiar feeling for the Flames, and it (still) doesn’t make sense to me why they can’t just always play like they did in the second and third period. Obviously, losing is a huge motivator in these comebacks, but we know they have the talent to put together wire-to-wire dominant performances. Why they don’t show it is beyond me.
Also, this was against the Kings, who are projected to finish somewhere in the bottom of the division. To comeback down 3-0 against most other teams is a statement that you can contend. When it’s against clearly inferior opponents, it’s the opposite.
I hate to dump on one particular player in a loss, but I do have to give a big yikes to Sam Bennett. The kid began the game on the second line, got taken off after one period, and had two brutal penalties in the third. I think the hype on him has dialed back from “this will be his breakout year” to “well, let’s hope he can do better” but tonight was not a great showing even by those standards. You do hope that he does find that extra step to his game and then that happens. He might be the world’s best player at shooting himself in the foot.
Numbers of note
64.52%- Andrew Mangiapane’s 5v5 CF%. That’s also his lowest CF% this season. The kid’s been good.
5- Total shots by Rasmus Andersson, who had a quietly good game blasting pucks in from the blueline. The 2015 draft class has been showing well for themselves (Oliver Kylington was decent too)
4- Bennett’s total shots, which led all forwards. He can do good things, but my-oh-my does the bad overshadow them.
3- We aren’t practicing our counting, this is just Tkachuk’s individual high danger scoring chances number.
7:31- Mark Jankowski’s ice time. He’s crossed ten minutes once this season (against Vancouver), and it’s mostly because the Flames have had plenty of penalty killing opportunities. You can’t help but feel that Peters is running out of uses for him.
The team is still working out the kinks to begin the year. They’ve never started a game perfectly (though they didn’t take a penalty within the first minute of this one, so progress), but it’s still early in the year so we can forgive them a bit. There’s still some rust and the team generally plays their best hockey after October. No reason to worry.
Just don’t get outshot 20-3 in the first again. The rest of it was good.