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Flames at Leafs fancy stats recap: The score is not always a reflection of the play

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The Flames' first real losing streak of the season comes on the backs of two games they deserved better fates in. Dang.

FUNCTIONAL FOURTH LINE
FUNCTIONAL FOURTH LINE
Abelimages/Getty Images

Give this one up to Jonathan Bernier, friends. The Calgary Flames came to Toronto and, aside from some stretches in the second period, played an outstanding game. Now, it was during one of these stretches that Toronto scored the game winner, so, that's a bit of a problem, but much of the credit in this contest goes to the Maple Leafs' goaltender, who held off a surging Flames team at both the beginning and end.

Via HockeyStats.ca:

29flamesleafsCORSIC

See? The Flames led the entire time, and even though they did flatline for a bit there, the Leafs never caught up. Unfortunately, the Flames never quite caught up when it came to actually scoring goals, but again: this is still a rebuilding team, and in games like these, you want to look for the little things. Aside from some spots in the second, the Flames did the little things very, very well.

Let's take a deeper look into the period by period play, because this game, in particular, certainly calls for it. Via NaturalStatTrick:

Flames at Maple Leafs - All Situations

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  • The Flames had an absolutely monstrous first, and were more unlucky than anything else to not score during it. Johnny Gaudreau and friends, in particular, were pressing really hard. It's just a shame that it was during one of their tries that generated a ton of chances the bounces went against them to open the scoring.
  • I guess the team came out demoralized for the second, because they seriously flatlined, and the Leafs ran roughshod over them. That obviously didn't help matters.
  • Chalk up the third, which saw the return of the First Period Flames, in part to the team itself and in part to score effects. They needed goals more than anyone else in that frame, while the Leafs really just needed to protect their lead. The Leafs won out that battle, but it definitely wasn't for lack of trying on Calgary's part.
Flames at Maple Leafs - Even Strength

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  • The powerplay breakdown was thus: one for the Flames in the first, and then one each for both teams in the second and third. So it's not surprising to see there isn't much difference between all situations and even strength stats.
  • Except that's a pretty decent jump for the Flames in the third period. Which is weird, considering how much the team was crushing it both with the man advantage, and the handful of shorthanded chances they had when desperate to tie it up. But hey, the majority of the game is played at even strength, so being a better team five on five is a good thing.
Flames Even Strength Data

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  • FUNCTIONAL FOURTH LINE! FUNCTIONAL FOURTH LINE! Lance Bouma, Matt Stajan, and Michael Ferland formed one of the Flames' best fourth lines in recent memory. While they didn't play the toughest competition, unlike last game's fourth line, they received the worst zone starts on the team.
  • The only reason Brian McGrattan or Brandon Bollig should ever dress for the Flames again is in case of injury. Or to healthy scratch a struggling prospect for one game. Seriously, we're done here.
  • Having a functional fourth line allowed forward ice times to be much more even, which allowed for better performance from the team's best as the game was winding down. Because they hadn't spent so much energy playing to begin with. Seriously, being able to roll four lines is so important, and the Flames are trending that way.
  • That's why I keep saying the Bollig trade was a horrible mistake. Josh Jooris never played an NHL game before this season. Michael Ferland never played an NHL game before this season. Both are already miles better than Bollig. Adding Bollig to the team only set up needless impediments for the team's prospects already in the system. And when you're rebuilding, you should be looking within your system, not out of it. So... yeah. It was a dumb trade that's never gonna look good at any point in time ever, basically.
  • Ladislav Smid and Deryk Engelland struggled, Engelland in particular. We have McGrattan gone, we have Bollig trending that way. Engelland's the remaining goony type, so quite frankly, him having a poor game isn't surprising. The fact that Hartley played him the least out of everybody in all situations shouldn't come as a shock. Everyone was surprised at his contract, but Treliving tried to justify it by saying something along the lines of Engelland possessing hidden value. There is no hidden value. There isn't much value at all.
  • Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell struggled as well, Russell in particular. The difference? They actually played, and against much better players. Russell had a far better fenwick though. Probably because of the 11 shots the Flames blocked, he had seven of them... wow.
  • Hey meanwhile did you know Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie are amazing? Because Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie are amazing.
  • So it's kind of confusing Wideman and Russell had more ice time overall. The Flames have a pretty decent top four, but there's a chasm separating the first and second pairings.
  • Markus Granlund had a great game, and it wasn't just because of his goal. He faced off against some decent Leafs, but what stands out is the trust put in him and how he really delivered, having one of his better games in recent history.
  • David Jones and Mason Raymond, meanwhile, had some rough nights. Considering the circumstances, what with Raymond returning for his first game in over a month and Jones playing in overall easier conditions, Jones could've had a better game.
  • Jones spent the entire third period on the fourth line with Stajan and Bouma. That could be a sign of things to come, especially when Joe Colborne comes back - and especially because Colborne has spent time on Monahan's right wing in the recent past.
  • There's a pretty clear trend overall: players with weaker zone starts tended to play against weaker Leafs, and did better; players with stronger zone starts played against the Leafs' best, and had lesser possession stats.
Player Spotlight - Michael Ferland

Ferland's first stint with the Flames could be coming to an end soon, albeit through no fault of his own. With Colborne nearing a return, somebody's going to have to be sent down, and Ferland is the obvious choice. He's the most recent call up. He hasn't gotten quite the minutes or the point production Granlund has. And it's better for him to play than to sit in general, no matter what the league. In all likelihood, he'll be back soon. But in the meantime, we can take a closer look at one member of the Flames' actually functional fourth line (so functional that he got promoted):

29ferlandWOWY

  • It should be noted Ferland primarily played against the Leafs' fourth line and bottom pairing, so that makes the percentages, well, a little less impressive.
  • That said: FUNCTIONAL FOURTH LINE. Ferland stayed with Bouma and Stajan for about half the game and they clearly worked kinda well together. While your fourth line isn't typically going to make or break the game, it certainly doesn't hurt to have your fourth line be better than the opposition's. Actually that tends to help. As you can tell by the vastly superior numbers put up throughout the game.
  • Ferland actually got put with Granlund about the time the Flames snapped out of their first big slump. And while the quality of competition surely increased a bit, he still did well.
  • Basically: Ferland is, at the very least, capable of playing against other team's easier competition. And while he's not there yet, he may become a guy who can handle tougher competition later down the line.
  • Tiny tiny sample size, of course, but what I'm getting at is if you have a guy like Ferland on your fourth line, chances are your fourth line is going to be pretty okay.