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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Flames 3, Stars 2 (SO) post game embers: Getting it done (barely)

Now that the Calgary Flames have actually completed a comeback, do you think they’ll stop putting themselves in a position where they need to come back? Magic eight ball says unlikely, but hooo boy was that a fun ending.

Feel of the game 

Well, it certainly was a much better start to this game. However, it feels as though someone should have mentioned that having a good start isn’t enough. A lot of the early season maladies were on display again in the second, which is a different kind of frustrating. Though they were able the weather the first couple of penalties, it really felt that the Flames were off their rhythm for the rest of the period. Escaping the period down 1-0? Honestly, it was a bit of a relief.

Sure, once they went down 2-0 they found a way to get back in this one, but it’s still a rollercoaster to see what happens shift after shift, and not in the fun way that it was during last season. All it takes is one less David Rittich save and the feel of the game changes quite a bit. Even after they found the equalizer, they was no team unity in seeking that go-ahead goal. Individual bursts of great hockey, sure, but the Dallas Stars looked like the hungrier team as a whole.

We’re starting to see a lot of Flames find a groove though, which is great. It felt like Mikael Backlund had his best game of the season, and the patience on that tying goal was just fantastic. Rasmus Andersson looked great on that top pairing, especially in overtime….although his great shift was overshadowed by the fact it led to Alexander Radulov’s penalty shot. Johnny Gaudreau (who sadly sees his point streak end) and Sean Monahan looked particularly dialed in on the offense side of things last night. Rittich is clearly showing he’s ready to be a starting goalie in the National Hockey League.

The rest of the team will get there, probably. Or they won’t! One of these scenarios is a lot more ideal.

The good news

The Flames won a shootout for the first time since November of 2017! They also beat Dallas for their first time in seven attempts. These are both good things. Two points aren’t bad either.

The second line looked pretty good with new convert Mandrew Mangiapane. Even though his underlying stats took a bit of a hit now that he was facing tougher competition on the regular, he didn’t look out of place. Perhaps even more encouraging? Bill Peters kept them together and gave them regular shifts in the third period. It seems safe to expect that line to stay together through the rest of this road trip at least, which takes pressure off that top line.

Rittich is feeling it. That celebration after stopping Radulov’s penalty shot was awesome, and it’s hard to fault him on either of the goals Dallas scored. It sounds like he’s making it tough for Peters and co. to put Talbot in, which is exactly the news that Flames fans want to hear. Amidst the little things with Rittich now though is how he knows when to stay dialed in. He had Tyler Seguin trying to get in his face later in the game, and Rittich didn’t bite. He’s no cool-as-ice Miikka Kiprusoff in the net (which is fine, because watching Rittich dance and celebrate himself is a joy) but he’s channeling his emotions wisely.

Thought it was a boring-kind-of-good night for Noah Hanifin and Travis Hamonic. Yes, Hanifin capped off a thrilling passing play to tie it up, but otherwise they were steady in their end, and were routinely getting more chances than having to stop them. It seems unlikely that Hanifin will ever hit Dougie Hamilton levels of offense, but if he can produce more games like this, it bodes well for him. As for Hamonic, he’s really become a valuable part of the back end since his bumpy start (and subsequent shift away from T.J. Brodie). It would be great if the Flames were able to extend him, but that’s a whole other set of articles.

It was nice that the Flames were able to turn this one around themselves, and not rely on waiting for someone to instigate a meaningless fight.

The bad news 

There is a difference between a good start and a good enough start and last night felt like the latter. If you were looking for the Flames to make a statement after how they started their last one, this likely wasn’t it. They had some great sustained bursts of pressure in the first, but nothing where it felt like they were close to a goal. With the second period they had, it retroactively diminishes the passable efforts of the first.

Brodie and Michael Stone did not look good together. There’s a lot of contributing factors here, like Stone getting his first action of the season and Brodie being played on his natural side again. However, they were routinely pressed in their end by the Stars, and had very little offense between them when they did manage to escape. I do not understand playing Brodie on the left side at this point in his career.

The Flames need to stop taking so many penalties! Granted, a number of the calls in the game felt as though they were going against the Flames, but they can only play the hand they’re dealt! They only got burned once, but with the back-to-back games against San Jose and especially Vegas this weekend, that simply cannot fly.

The bottom six still does not look especially convincing at 5v5. Mark Jankowski had his best game yet, but it still wasn’t enough to push it into the good news section. Personally, I would love to see Austin Czarnik draw back in. He brought a lot of hustle in Colorado and was slammed twice for it, which was apparently enough to see him back in the press box.

The penalty kill has not looked good to start this season. A very different feel than last season, one that is passive. Goodbye all those shorthanded goals, you were awesome.

Numbers of note 

28:27 – Giordano’s ice time. The only other players to eclipse 20 minutes were Andersson, Backlund, Gaudreau, and Hamonic, and none more than 22:31. He was a workhorse in this one, although maybe not a viable long-term strategy for the team’s oldest player.

2 – The number of shots taken by the Flames bottom. The top line had 14. Backlund and Mangiapane each had three. Something’s gotta give with the other half of the forward roster.

3.15 – The expected goals against for David Rittich, compared to the two he actually let in. Make no mistake, he’s the main reason the Flames won last night.

4:22 – The amount of ice time that Tobias Rieder, Mark Jankowski, and Michael Frolik played together as a line at 5v5. As FlamesNation’s Ryan Pike noted last night, they played so little together last night they weren’t ever on the ice at the same time for a faceoff.

26.3% – Johnny Gaudreau’s career shootout conversion rate. I’ll fully admit I questioned the choice to send him out there in the top three, and he made me eat my hypothetical tweets about it.

Final thought

It’s going to be a real exciting game when the Flames put in a full 60 minute effort. Will it be this weekend against a division rival? You want to believe it will, but I remain unconvinced that the wrinkles get ironed out that quickly. Still, if they can still keep getting points playing like this, it makes the prospective future very tantalizing.