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Five observations from Calgary vs Boston:
1. Mike Smith is cooked
I think we've reached the point of no return with Smith. After another poor performance in Boston, Smith's save percentage now sits at .886 on the year. Goaltending has been worse across the board this season but that is still substantially lower than league average. He has appeared in 23 games so it's not as if this is over a very small sample and he hasn't had time to figure things out. His struggles aren't anything new, either. Dating back to February 1st of last season, Smith owns a .895 save percentage at 5v5(!!) and has saved -18.58 goals above average. Among 47 goaltenders to play 1,000+ minutes during that stretch, only Scott Darling has fared worse. And he is in the AHL.
It's time the Flames stop pretending Smith is capable of providing them with quality goaltending and face the facts: he can't. He has given them anything but for six months now. The deadline is next month and it's pretty clear the Flames should be looking for outside help. If anything happens to David Rittich, there is no reason to believe Smith can hold down the fort.
2. The score was deceiving
Calgary was a little slow out of the gate – they didn't register a high-danger chance at 5v5 in the opening period and also took too many penalties – but otherwise played well. At 5v5, the Flames won the shot attempt, chance, and high-danger chance battle by a 2:1 ratio. They controlled territorial play for much of the night, which is no small feat in a road back-to-back against a strong Bruins team that is finally starting to get healthy.
Be it via breakaways, odd-man rushes, or zone play, the Flames didn't have much issue getting good looks around the net. The same could not be said of the Bruins.
If not for Smith's struggles, the Flames probably would have walked away with two points. It's hard to look at the heatmap and think anything different.
3. The top line continues to roll
Going into Boston and creating offense while playing primarily against Patrice Bergeron is a very tough task. Perhaps the toughest the NHL has to offer. And yet Calgary's top line managed to do it. They didn't just generate opportunities here and there, which would have been perfectly understandable. They created a lot. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm accounted for 10 chances and a couple goals at 5v5 while dominating the Bergeron line in terms of possession.
Gaudreau was the driver, as usual, and continues to show why he deserves legitimate consideration for the Hart Trophy.
4. Michael Frolik deserves more ice
When coaches form opinions on players, it is generally very difficult to change their minds. Even more so when there is outside noise (Allan Walsh has made it very clear he's not happy with Frolik's usage – understandably so). In saying that, I think Bill Peters is going to have to take one on the chin and start giving Frolik more work. He has played very well since returning to the lineup and perhaps put forth his best performance last night. He scored a shorthanded goal, posted a 68 Corsi For%, and finished 2nd to only Gaudreau with five chances. Yet only Garnet Hathaway saw less ice – and the difference was 15 seconds. He drives play, he is reliable defensively, and he can chip in some offense. He's an excellent, modern-day two-way forward and the Flames are much better with him than without him. His ice should reflect that.
5. The power play struggled
Even in defeat, the Flames had a lot of things working for them in Boston. The power play was not one of them. They went 0/4 and were full marks for it creating just two high-danger opportunities while giving them right back at the other end of the ice. The Bruins sit 28th in Expected Goals Against/60 while down a man so it was a little surprising to see them struggle so badly, although perhaps it shouldn't be given some of Boston's personnel. Nevertheless, Geoff Ward and co. have some work to do.
On getting James Neal going and giving David Rittich more starts
Predicting the Pacific Division standings