Womp womp womp. Look, this losing streak hasn't been all on the Flames. There have been games where they outplayed the opposition, most notably at the start of this recent unfortunate stretch when facing the Sharks, Leafs, and Sabres. Since then, though, they've been mostly outplayed. This includes the game against the Rangers: while the Flames outshot and out-possessed the Rangers, it was a matter of score effects: playing a team that had already built up a substantial lead and had no need to press for further goals.
The game against the Stars was not one of those games. It was close all game long, thus forcing the Stars to play to the best of their abilities all game long. And when you look at the overall picture, man, it really wasn't pretty. Via HockeyStats.ca:
The first period: not so bad! Could be better, but both teams are clearly in it and here to play a decent game. The rest of the game: ohh dear god no that's not good at all.
And that's the game in all situations. When we look at the teams' shot attempts at even strength only, it gets even worse:
Again: first period, which had no powerplays, looks okay. After that, the Flames just totally flatlined. They couldn't get anything going at even strength, which is not particularly good, since most hockey games are played five on five. The Stars had no problems keeping the pressure up, and were rewarded for it with two goals. The Flames were pretty lucky to get the one they did.
The period-by-period numbers, via NaturalStatTrick, really lay out just how poor a game the Flames had:
Flames vs Stars - All Situations
- Absolutely disgusting effort. The first period was okay. It wasn't fantastic, but it was okay.
- After that, the Flames were thoroughly, completely, and unquestionably streamrolled. That isn't a team trying to get out of a losing streak. That's just a team that's given up.
- Well, given up in addition to not being very good to begin with.
- Remember that the Flames are only in year two of the rebuild. They have a couple of quality prospects that have yet to play an NHL game. They'll (hopefully) get there, but as it stands right now, this is not a good team. And this is the team the Flames started the season with. Expect more performances like this than the ones they had at the beginning of the year.
- They won't all be this bad - I'm very sure a big part of this is the Flames beating up on themselves (long losing streaks can't be fun or really help you in any way) - but this is still a reflection of the level of talent the Flames, in their current incarnation, actually have. It's not a high level.
Flames vs Stars - Even Strength
- It's even more disgusting when you exclude powerplays. Both teams skated a clean first period, and had offsetting calls in the second.
- But I'd like to draw your attention to the third period. The Flames are down just one goal. They've got three powerplays. The Stars have none.
- Take away the Flames' three powerplays, and gone are nearly 36% of the Flames' shot attempts. Down by one goal with the advantage throughout the period, and they manage to put nearly next to nothing on net. Meanwhile, the Stars pepper them with 17 shots, and they're the ones already leading.
- To put it very simply, it was extremely bad. That third period might be one of the absolute worst the Flames have played all season. It's not an acceptable performance for any team, and certainly not for one sliding into oblivion.
Flames Even Strength Data
- Not that his name needs drawing out, but it's gotta be said: Johnny Gaudreau. Now, it's certainly worth noting he had the most favourable zone starts on the team, and he didn't face top competition. At the same time, in a pretty poor game for the Flames overall, Gaudreau was easily the best. You saw him dance through opponents and generate primo scoring chances single handedly. The numbers just back him up: he was the best Flame when it came to generating chances and controlling possession, and it wasn't even a contest. And he's a rookie on a team relatively early in its rebuild. He's pretty special.
- With Gaudreau, it seems there's always Jiri Hudler. Hudler, the ever-steady and supportive veteran, seems to be glued to Gaudreau's side, and that's a good thing. The two clearly work pretty well with one another, and no doubt Hudler has been a positive influence on him as his rookie season continues. It's a pair that should probably stick together.
- So, to that note... The Flames still aren't at optimal lineup yet (not with Mikael Backlund still on the shelf). That said, Sean Monahan is definitely the top centre right now, and Gaudreau and Hudler are two top forwards. The trio were the forward leaders in corsi. The only major obstacle I can see preventing them from playing together is the fact that unlike Gaudreau, Monahan does play top competition, and there's nobody else down the middle who can handle that (well, maybe Matt Stajan, if he wasn't scratched for no apparent reason). Or is Gaudreau ready to go head to head with someone like Tyler Seguin?
- I like Josh Jooris and all, but he's not really a second line centre, and Gaudreau and Hudler both are carrying him. Jooris spent about half his even strength ice time with those two, and together, they averaged nearly 50% in CF. When Jooris was away from them, his CF dropped to about 31%.
- I bring all this up just to point out: the Flames are having trouble scoring goals right now. They're letting in bad ones, too, but you aren't going to get many 49-save performances out of your goaltending tandem. Right now, the Flames need scoring, and they need it bad. It's possible to put one rather high-powered line together right now, but it'll be at the expense of others. Is that worth it? (I say 1. yes, and 2. this team needs Backlund back something fierce.)
- Talking about Backlund - you know, the second he's able to suit up again, Markus Granlund is going down. ... That sounded threatening. Uh, he'll be going back to the AHL. Once the team's second-line centre, he's now been demoted to the fourth. He faced relatively weak competition last night, and uh, he didn't do a very good job. It's fine - he's a rookie - but his place is probably in the AHL for a little while yet.
- That said, the entire fourth line had a game to forget. They're all down there at the bottom. Lance Bouma threw some big hits, but got kinda throttled. And Brandon Bollig wasn't even trusted with 10 minutes.
- No for real I guarantee you things would have been at least a little better with Stajan out there. Just compare Stajan and Bollig's career numbers. You want physicality? Uh, well, Bouma was throwing huge hits all night, and there's a reason he gets to actually play 10 minutes. (Heck, you can compare his and Bollig's career numbers too, while you're at it.) If you need grit, what exactly does Bollig do that Bouma doesn't, all the while being cheaper and younger and able to play more?
- Joe Colborne was moved back to centre. Considering his zone starts and competition (poor and he saw a lot of Jason Spezza, who is, well, better), he was okay, I guess? He wasn't great, but then again, nobody was, really.
- Okay we all saw how poorly Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell handed that first goal against. Look at their CA: brutal, 27 and 24 each. Russell blocked seven shots alone, meaning the Stars were handling the puck a fair amount when he was on the ice. That's insane. Neither had particularly great games at all, and they weren't even facing top competition. Just... bad.
- Not that Rafa Diaz performed stellar himself, but I want to draw your attention to his zone starts. And what's that: trust! He didn't start a single shift in the offensive zone. He's starting to pick up in ice time, too. I don't know if that means he'll be a regular whenever Ladislav Smid is healthy again, but...
- ... I'm finding myself liking Deryk Engelland more and more, and a lot of it is due to Diaz. Diaz is a different type of player than Engelland (and Smid, for that matter), and it gives the pairing way more flexibility. Engelland can do things like get shots on net because Diaz is right there, ready to bail him out should things go south. The two are performing much better than Smid-Engelland ever did.
- I'd be remiss if I didn't just say "hey guys Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie are still a great defence pairing thanks for your time bye". So... I said it. While they couldn't exactly keep Dallas' top line in check, things would've been much worse without them eating up most of those minutes.
Player Spotlight - Sean Monahan
Okay, so there isn't a whole lot of data to be gleamed from this game when advocating for Monahan to be centring Gaudreau and Hudler, but! I can still take what we have - at even strength, so I'm not even including the powerplay-inflated numbers here - and just keep on aggressively pleading for this to become a line. Right now the Flames can't score. Monahan plus Gaudreau equals good! Maybe then they will score. (Seriously - the number of times I watched Gaudreau do something amazing only to have Jooris flub it, and same for Monahan and his linemates - come onnnn end my suffering, Bob.)
- Okay, so this data is very skewed in that Monahan spent the absolute bulk of his time with four players, including the top defence pairing. So comparing how Monahan did with and without certain players - in this case, regular linemates David Jones and Mason Raymond especially - needs to be handled with several grains of salt.
- That said, of the approximately 16 and a half minutes Monahan played at even strength, about four and a half or five of those were away from his regular linemates, and in that time, he posted a better performance.
- You can also see that he was at his best (within reason - sorry Colborne but those 59 seconds are definitely not enough to make count) with Hudler and Gaudreau. Remember, this is at even strength, so no advantage of powerplay time here.
- That said, he only played about three minutes with the two of them.
- THAT SAID, there's a marked improvement.
- THAT SAID, who's to say a line like that would be able to keep it up for an entire game?
- THAT SAID (almost done I promise), who's to say they can't? In all the lineup shuffling, only Gaudreau - Jooris - Hudler has really remained intact. We know Jooris is a passenger along the Johnny Hockey hype train with Hudler serving as conductor. Monahan would probably be a driver. Because, you know, he's better and has greater offensive talent and potential, and if your team is struggling to score, why not put all your top offensive players together?
- For the record, Gaudreau and Hudler perform better with Monahan as well. Together, they averaged about a 73% CF. Apart, it dropped to 46%. Don't you think that's something worth looking at for longer than just a couple minutes?
In conclusion please try out a Gaudreau - Monahan - Hudler line, it would probably be worth it.