It wasn't a bad game. It started off that way, but eventually, the Flames were able to turn it around. They just waited too late to do it, but this is game five of a six-game road trip; a road trip that's been plagued by the flu and has had its fair share of wacky moments and percentages already. And while the Blue Jackets completely dominated for long stretches, the Flames had their fair share of chances, too.
It's cool that a lot of them were sparked by a rookie, who brought real, genuine enthusiasm to the game, and was wonderfully rewarded for it. And besides, this is just year two of a rebuild. Moral victories still mean something here.
The Flames were definitely outplayed, but managed to even it up by the end (well, except on the scoreboard, but they were so close to their third overtime game in three games). Via HockeyStats:
So, every period the Flames fell behind, and every period they got themselves back in it. It reflects in the score: the game never turned into the blowout it looked like it might have become. And they were a goalpost away from tying it up. Period by period analysis from NaturalStatTrick:
Flames at Blue Jackets - All Situations
- Score effects resulted in the Flames ultimately generating more shot attempts. The Jackets never really took their skates off the pedals, but it took being down three goals - and then being down one goal with just a few minutes left - for the Flames to really get their butts in gear.
- Still, one good period (in this case, the third, geez) isn't going to win you many games. They came close to extending it, but the Flames have been, well, playing with fire the past couple games.
- Considering how tired the team probably is by now, though, at least they can dig down and find that extra gear when they really need it.
Flames at Blue Jackets - Even Strength
- The Jackets had five powerplays to the Flames' four, but factoring those out, the Flames actually had a worse game overall. It makes sense: the Flames had an aggressive penalty kill, and generated a number of shot attempts from there.
- Games are mostly played at even strength. Gotta be better there. Period.
Even Strength Corsi Data
- Josh Jooris is the obvious standout here, and rightfully so. He had an excellent debut. A sheltered, excellent debut, since he had the second highest zone starts out of the entire team, and I'm pretty sure he didn't start a single shift in the neutral or defensive zones until the third period. Great numbers, but remember, there's a strong context for them, and he isn't likely to repeat.
- As for his most frequent linemates, Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler got slightly better zone starts, but were unable to maintain Jooris' numbers. That's because they faced tougher competition than Jooris. Still, those zone starts clearly helped them: they had some of the best numbers on the team largely because of them.
- Continuing with the high offensive zone starts theme, Brian McGrattan and Brandon Bollig were sheltered, but not quite as heavily so. Still, they put up some of the worst possession numbers on the team. McGrattan and Bollig played 5:46 and 5:56 respectively, and didn't see a second of ice time in the third, when the Flames had their best period. Hartley didn't trust them to take part in the comeback, and rightfully so.
- Jumping around a bit, Lance Bouma had the worst numbers, but that's with a return from injury and much weaker zone starts. He had the third least amount of ice time, but was the most frequent forward on the penalty kill (this doesn't factor into the chart, it's just interesting to note).
- Lowest zone starts: Paul Byron and Mikael Backlund. They were, predictably, under par for the team, but did a pretty formidable job considering what they were given. It's great to see they're sticking together as a pair, too, because they work really well with one another.
- Curtis Glencross, meanwhile, did really well with his ice time, and was one of the top Fenwick players with it. He most frequently played with Byron and Backlund, but shared time with Stajan, Monahan, and Jooris as well. Stajan and Jooris in particular bolstered him.
- Considering his zone starts, Joe Colborne didn't perform particularly well. He wasn't as bad as McGrattan or Bollig, but he was next in line. His most common linemate, Mason Raymond, had a better performance despite spending more time out of the offensive zone. And while Raymond's numbers really aren't anything remarkable, I really like him as a free agent pickup.
- Defencemen! Ladislav Smid and Raphael Diaz got the worst starts. Smid broke even, but played the least; Diaz was finally given a bit more trust, and put forward a respectable effort.
- Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman were the sheltered pair, zone start-wise, and did not have as great a performance; that said, they both played over 20 minutes, so they had more to work with. Wideman was more sheltered than Russell, and the stats say Russell did far better when he was separated from his defence partner. Wideman did better away from Russell as well, and even Smid and Diaz seemed to have increased performance when not playing with one another. Small sample size, but maybe further experimentation with a partner swap is in order?
- Last but never least, Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie were given slightly favourable zone starts, but also faced the toughest competition, and while they got burned on Columbus' first goal, were by far the best defensive pairing. Of course they were. They always are. They had four shots apiece and played 24~25 minutes, too.
Player Spotlight - Matt Stajan
And then there's Stajan, he whose percentages shot way up. He saw much more playing time - 13:35 minutes - than normal, with his usual linemates benched for the entire comeback period. This gave Stajan the chance to play in more difficult circumstances with players who can match his skill set, and, well, took a look for yourself as to how he did:
- Individual game WOWYs are always a really small sample size, so they have to be taken with a grain of salt. Especially in a case like Stajan's, where he played the least out of all four of Calgary's centres. That said, we can take some stake in a very clear pattern here: the second he was no longer flanked by McGrattan and Bollig, he started performing very, very well.
- At even strength, Stajan played about four more minutes than McGrattan and Bollig. He spent the bulk of that time with Glencross and Jooris, while Jooris was having his outstanding third period effort. He seemed much livelier and involved with the play then, probably because, well, he had more to work with.
- Quick defence analysis: Of course he fared best with Giordano and Brodie. Smid and Diaz pulled respectable numbers for little ice time, while Russell and Wideman didn't have great nights, so everything's in line with what we can expect here. Gio and Brodie though. Dang.
So yeah. Small sample size, but very, very clear pattern. Matt Stajan is not a fourth liner, so don't play him with them.