Winning three in a row after losing eight in a row feels pretty great. Calgary is all about Johnny Gaudreau right now, and we damn well should be. That kid's amazing, and while he didn't put up first star of the week caliber numbers last night, he still got on the scoreboard and continued to dazzle us.
Lose eight in a row; win three in a row, and two of those are against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. What's not to love about that? The Flames are rolling! ... Except, oh my gosh, no, no, this was... not a banner game. Umm. Via HockeyStats.ca:
Things started off great! And then the Flames just... kind of... completely flat lined. For two thirds of the game. Now, part of that probably (definitely) had to do with them scoring two goals in the first, and maintaining that two-goal lead for most of the game. But the second and third periods... Well, let's just look at the individual numbers, courtesy of NaturalStatTrick:
Flames vs Kings - All Situations
- Here's the thing: the first period was genuinely an awesome one by the Flames. Take away the two goals, and they still played it really, really well. (Of course, keep the two goals in there, because they were great. And useful for that whole scoreboard thing.) The Los Angeles Kings are known as a pretty good possession team, and the Flames actually outclassed them for a period.
- And then everything went straight to hell.
- I'm not saying that scoring two goals back-to-back is a bad thing to do. I would never say that. It takes the wind out of your opponent's sails and, of course, either gives you a quick lead or brings you right back into the game. But this happened last game against the Oilers: Flames scored two (well, three) quick goals, and kind of stopped the rest of the game.
- The major difference between the Oilers and Kings: the Kings are good, and they'll burn you. The Flames got their butts back in gear for the third against the Oilers. Against the Kings, the Flames were marginally less terrible in the third, but they were still pretty horrific.
- It's a miracle they won this game at all. I attribute it to Jonas Hiller and his stellar new all-black mask. The things a good goalie can do for you... because for the second straight game against the Kings, the Flames were thoroughly outclassed. It's just that this time, they scored their goals at the beginning, not the end.
- The Flames' overall numbers for this game were brutal, and that's including the excellent first period they had. That was probably one of their best periods all season. They rode one good period to victory last night, but that is never something you can rely on. Hopefully, as the rebuild progresses, we'll see games like this fall by the wayside. But in the meantime, yikes. Yikes.
Flames vs Kings - Even Strength
- Here's your penalty breakdown: a powerplay for each team in the first, a powerplay for the Kings in the second, and a powerplay for the Flames in the third.
- The Flames' excellent first gets even better when you take out special teams. This means two things: 1. The Kings have a very good powerplay, and we're fortunate they didn't score; and 2. The Flames really had a genuinely fantastic period, and that's the period they want to emulate for the future.
- The second and third periods follow the typical script: take away the team's powerplay, and their even strength numbers fall closer to 50%. It's just that, you know, the Kings still completely outclassed the Flames every stretch of the way those periods. The only contest was LA vs. Hiller. At least Hiller won.
Flames Even Strength Data
- So we had some great corsi/fenwick conversation in the gamethread last night, and I wanna start off with some quick blocked shot stats. The Kings blocked 13 shots. The Flames blocked 26. And contrary to what Sportsnet will tell you, having more blocked shots is not a good thing. It means you're the one shooting less. You want to be the one shooting more. This is just another stat in which the Kings thoroughly throttled the Flames all game (well, last two periods) long.
- Notice how TJ Brodie has a pretty negative CF%, but his comparative FF% isn't quite as bad. He blocked nine shots against the Kings. Nine. All on his own. That's... something.
- I get why blocked shots are lionized. It takes courage to throw your body in front of a hardened disc of freezing, vulcanized rubber to ensure it doesn't reach your net. And if you have to choose between letting the shot hit the net and blocking it yourself, you should probably block it (praying that you're not gonna break something while you do). But possession-wise - and possession is pretty important - it's not a good thing to do it more than the other team.
- Possession-wise, the second and third periods really sunk the Flames in, so there aren't any real winners. Those at the top are our favourite fourth liners - Brandon Bollig, Lance Bouma, and Matt Stajan - and our bottom pairing D, Rafa Diaz and Deryk Engelland. How come they made out so well, especially with such disastrous zone starts? Because they played less, and saw more of the Kings' bottom players than their top.
- That isn't to downplay their efforts. The fact that any Flame made it out of that thrashing with something resembling good possession is something to be lauded, for sure. It's just to provide context. They did relatively well in relatively easy circumstances. That's all.
- Take out blocked shots, and the fourth line fared better. Bollig's fenwick against was particularly impressive. He has genuinely been much improved since this recent win streak started.
- The third line - Mason Raymond, Joe Colborne, and Paul Byron - didn't play a ton either, but they're next down the possession line. They also faced off against higher caliber players: think more Dustin Brown, less Kyle Clifford.
- (The fourth line also saw more Mike Richards, which sounds impressive, until you remember he's on the Kings' fourth line now. Man, how far has he fallen?)
- Kids Gaudreau and Markus Granlund got hit the hardest, despite their sheltered offensive zone starts. You can see the affect Jiri Hudler has on them: he's the beneficiary of some easier zone starts as well, but as the veteran who's been around the NHL a while, he fares better. Granlund away from Hudler posted a CF% of 12.50%, while Gaudreau away from him was at 0.00%. Hudler is important.
- Sean Monahan got crushed, but other than the fourth line, nobody enjoyed worse zone starts than him - and he faced the top dogs. Monahan got buried, and had to face off against Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Dwight King (uh... less impressive, but he was Marian Gaborik's last-minute replacement on the top line), Drew Doughty, and Jake Muzzin. That's pretty insane for a sophomore player, and he didn't post great numbers. The fact that he managed it, though, is really showing us just why he went sixth overall.
- Linemates David Jones and Curtis Glencross had marginally better numbers with marginally better zone starts and marginally less even strength ice time. They also played the Kings' top line, but they saw more of King and less of Kopitar. Full credit really goes to Monahan here, but Jones and Glencross aren't bad veterans to have alongside him.
- Brodie and Mark Giordano received more special teams time, so Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell came out on top of even strength ice time. Brodano took the top line, while Wideman and Russell were more second line hindrances. As you'd expect, though, the top line faced much tougher circumstances, hence the worse numbers.
- Mike suggested this in his post-game recap: how about taking some time away from Wideman and Russell, and increasing Diaz and Engelland's responsibilities? True, they don't play in circumstances as difficult, so that leads to better numbers, but we're almost halfway through the season. Might be worth trying to even things out on the backend a bit, because it's very top-heavy.
Player Spotlight - Markus Granlund
With Mikael Backlund right around the corner to return, barring another injury, someone's going to have to be sent down. Granlund had the game-winner, the trailing end of a perfect passing play by two excellent linemates, and he was one of just three Flames to get two shots on net last night (the other two being Raymond and Bollig). All things considered, he's done very well in his 27-game call up, scoring five goals and 13 points along the way (just two points back of his older brother!). His on-ice corsi hasn't been great, but relative to the rest of the Flames, he's been slightly above average.
Still, his time with the Flames - at least for now, because he'll definitely be back - is probably nearing its end. So let's take a closer look at him while we can:
- These numbers are at all situations, so they include the couple of seconds Granlund played on both the powerplay and penalty kill.
- He spent almost all of his time with Hudler and Gaudreau, and man, Hudler had an amazingly positive affect on his game. Granted, he only spent about three minutes separated from them, but the difference between Granlund with Hudler and Granlund without is palpable.
- Glencross looked to have a positive affect on his game as well, for all the very little time they spent together. (Glencross actually had a positive affect on a couple of Flames, most notably Jones.)
- As for the defence Granlund played with, considering the circumstances in which they were typically deployed: Russell and Wideman need a break, or fewer minutes, or whatever. Engelland and Diaz were fine against lesser competition. And Brodie and Giordano probably struck the best medium of them all, considering they always get the hardest minutes, and still had a positive impact on Granlund's game.
Granlund played 14:44, third out of Flames centres. Monahan led the charge with 18:45 on the ice, but after him, things were much closer, as Colborne and Stajan sandwiched him with 15:10 and 13:06, respectively. Granlund had the worst possession performance out of all centres, but he's definitely grown over his call up. The main takeaway from his WOWY numbers, though, is Hudler, and the dramatic impact he has on rookies.
So when Backlund returns, do you put Monahan with Hudler and Gaudreau? Backlund has historically been the Flames' best possession forward while handling the heavy minutes, and Monahan is still developing himself. Hudler + developing players = good things, it would seem.