I guess the Calgary Flames are just never going to win in Anaheim ever again. And maybe, once we accept that, it will get easier. But until then. Man, screw the Ducks. The Flames are cursed. Just cursed. Because honestly, they didn't even have that bad of a start to the game, but then things just spiralled completely out of control. Via HockeyStats.ca:
That's the standard all situations corsi chart for this game. The Flames had a good start, but the Ducks got on the board first. The Ducks took over for a bit, but after that, it was all Flames. The good news: they didn't really plateau at any point, and certainly not for some of the extended stretches we've seen before.
The bad news: score effects. The Ducks had a 3-0 lead after one period, so of course, the Flames had reason to press much harder, while Anaheim could afford to take a backseat. Here's the even strength, score-adjusted corsi chart to correct for this:
When correcting for the fact that the Ducks jumped out to an early lead and never let it even get back to a one-goal game, things look a little less positive for the Flames. They aren't the best team in the league - I'd sooner give that title to the Chicago Blackhawks - but they're still a pretty good one, of course, and better than the Flames. So it makes sense that when you correct for the situation both teams found themselves in, the Ducks still come out on top.
That isn't to say there aren't any positive to the Flames' play, though. Overall, the Ducks were the better team, but that's not to say the Flames rolled over and died. Fact is, they did play themselves back into the game, and may very well have been just one missed Mikael Backlund empty net away from getting at least a point.
The even strength shot plot from War on Ice, in particular, shows something rather encouraging:
A fair amount of this was a case of Frederik Andersen having a good game. Look at how often the Flames got in close on him. They gave him more to deal with than the Ducks did Joni Ortio and Jonas Hiller, and it paid off with a couple of goals. Now, if we could see that level of pressure from the Flames before they're down three goals, we'll be on our way to some good stuff.
The Ducks, meanwhile, were much more all over the place. That ended up paying off for them, though. It happens. Sometimes the bounces or your goaltending will just sink you early. Who's to say how the Ducks would have played it had they not jumped out to such a big lead?
Period by period analysis, via NaturalStatTrick, continues to show the tale of score effects:
Flames at Ducks - All Situations
- The Flames did better the Ducks throughout; the only hint of the Ducks having superior possession comes from their first period fenwick stats. (In total, the Ducks blocked 18 shots to the Flames' 15.)
- It didn't even take five minutes in for the Ducks to get a lead, though, so take these numbers with a grain of salt. Had the game been tied going into the third, the Ducks almost certainly would have been out-possessing the Flames.
- Anaheim got much more serious in the third period. The Flames closed out the second cutting their lead in half, and what with the narrative of the Flames and third periods, that probably spurred them on to ensure they got the win.
- This really was a game where score effects shined, but again: at least the Flames didn't mope around and feel sorry for themselves after falling behind by so much. I mean, that's what you'd expect out of a group of professional athletes and all, especially ones in a playoff race, but it's good, regardless, that the kids on the team are a part of it. This is still a rebuild.
Flames at Ducks - Even Strength
- The powerplay breakdown went thus: two for the Flames in the first, one each in the second, and one for the Ducks in the third.
- So take away the Flames' men advantages that they got early on, and they come out all the worse. Which is... I guess a sign of improvement? Because we all know how terrible the powerplay has been for some time now, so at least they were outperforming the opposition with the extra man. Baby steps. (Even if the best scoring chance out of all of them was probably Ryan Getzlaf's shorthanded break.)
- The Ducks actually didn't get anything going for them during their powerplay in the second, whereas the Flames were able to generate an additional four shot attempts. Baby steps!!
- And the Flames fared better in the third when we only look at even strength data. The Ducks did almost score on their powerplay, which gave them a boost in the final frame. So when it was coming down to the wire, Calgary was the better team.
- (... Because score effects, but you already knew that.)
Flames Even Strength Data
- Remember when Hartley had Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau separated? Now why would you ever do that? The two were the beneficiaries of some favourable zone starts, but they did see a fair amount of top six players from the Ducks, as well. Anyway, keep them together.
- Josh Jooris - who, in his return from injury, didn't get that many minutes - got a pretty noticeable boost playing with them. (Think along the lines of 20% CF.)
- Put Sean Monahan in between the two, though - something this blog has wanted since, like, November - and things become much more even-keeled all around. His own numbers improved a bit, which is ideal. I understand wanting to spread out the offence, but do we honestly want to entertain the idea that David Jones is Hudler's equal, or Lance Bouma is Gaudreau's? Load up your top lines and while you're lacking the talent at the moment, convert the others to shutdown.
- (And you can't tell me you don't wanna see more Gaudreau-Monahan chemistry. That was a nice assist and a nice goal. I like Bouma, but we're not going to see that kind of play from him.)
- Bouma dropped off when he stopped playing with Monahan. He actually did fare better when paired with Joe Colborne and Backlund, though I'd still rather see someone like Mason Raymond in that position. Can't deny his work on the Flames' first goal, though. The best case scenario for him, offensively, really is to go out there with skill players and crash and bang around until the opposition is overwhelmed. Monahan isn't exactly someone who needs that on his line.
- The only forward who genuinely benefited from Jones' presence was Bouma, although Jooris wasn't that far off. So... I guess I'm suggesting a Bouma - Jooris - Jones shutdown-style line? That could be worth a look at. Three guys you don't count on to score, but three guys who can do it on occasion.
- Because with Backlund back, the Flames can afford to go all-in on a couple of lines. Colborne and Backlund helped prop one another up, and both performed better when Raymond was with them.
- I know Backlund and Colborne are lower on the possession spectrum, but they still did manage to be above water, even if largely thanks to score effects.
- The fourth line, meanwhile - Brandon Bollig, Paul Byron, and Matt Stajan - just got completely buried. No offensive zone starts makes it pretty unlikely you're going to post good possession rates, but man, they got killed. I think the only thing you can do to improve that group is try to give them a softer cushion.
- As for the defence, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell got hella sheltered. Wideman had the stronger offensive performance, but then again, the defenceman he played with next most often was Mark Giordano, and for a fair bit as well, when the Flames were trying to tie the game up. That almost certainly had something to do with it.
- Surprise performer here in Rafa Diaz. He didn't face tough competition, but he didn't get preferable zone starts, either, but he sure was an asset, and he was miles better when separated from Deryk Engelland - we're talking from 43.75% CF with to 88.89% without - although it should be stressed that that's 10 minutes with, and three without.
- Still, Engelland just isn't as good. He had a harder time in regards to zone starts, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the Flames were doing much better possession-wise with Diaz out there. I genuinely cannot, for the life of me, understand why Hartley defaults to Ladislav Smid with Engelland when everyone's healthy. Diaz isn't this team's #7 defenceman, he's the #5.
- Makes me sad that when Tyler Wotherspoon gets to draw in he'll almost certainly be taking Diaz's spot and not Engelland's. Gotta commit to that absurd contract everyone balked at from inception, I guess?
- Middling zone starts and spending about half their even strength time against the Ducks' top line explains Gio and TJ Brodie's slightly underwhelming possession stats. Big-minute, non-sheltered defenders.
Player Spotlight - Sean Monahan
Ah yes, the case to play Monahan with Gaudreau and Hudler on the regular (numbers are even strength, so you aren't seeing anything boosted by special teams here):
- Okay, so: Monahan's numbers didn't improve by a lot when with Hudler and Gaudreau. They went up a little, but the overall impact wasn't that strong. (For the sake of completion, Gaudreau's numbers saw no real change (63.16% CF either way), while Hudler was a bit better away from Monahan (61.90% CF vs 66.67%).
- But think about it like this: Who's more likely to score? If the game is on the line, who would you rather have out there? Gaudreau, or Bouma? Hudler, or Jones? Monahan, or Jooris? And if the former three still perform at a high level when playing with one another, you'd want them out together, wouldn't you? That's way more offensive firepower.
- And Monahan was better away from Jones.
- His performance with Bouma is a bit more tricky to analyze, because of their reduced time together, and the disparity between corsi and fenwick numbers. Bouma had a greater benefit from playing with Monahan than Monahan with Bouma, though. (Monahan dropped about 8% CF, while Bouma fell 15%. Bouma needs Monahan way more than Monahan needs Bouma.)
- Granted, Monahan got way more sheltered zone starts with Gaudreau and Hudler. Is that a bad thing, though? With Backlund and Stajan also down the middle, he doesn't need to do the heavy lifting.
- Meanwhile, on the defensive side of things... Yeah, Giordano and Brodie are the top pairing for a reason. Hartley had Gio and Wideman pegged as the most offensive defencemen though - which is a bit off, since Brodie does have one more point than Wideman (albeit in one more game played) despite not getting the same level of respect he does in key situations and powerplay time, although Wideman does have four more goals - so Monahan spent more time with them. The dramatic improvements from playing with Brodie and Russell are more symptoms of the dramatic fluctuations small sample sizes provide.
- ... There isn't enough data here especially to really look into it, buuuut I'd still like to emphasize that Diaz is better than Engelland.
I understood the hesitation to put together an all-offensive line when Monahan was the only veteran centre on the roster. I continued to understand it with the acceptance that Stajan is apparently forever a fourth liner in Hartley's eyes. But with Backlund back, there's no reason to not load up on offence on the top two lines. Monahan, Gaudreau, and Hudler don't hurt each other. They're the highest-scoring Flames forwards. Put them together on the regular. And especially put them together on the powerplay - with Brodie and Giordano. That's the best five-man unit this year's Flames can put together; gotta take advantage of it when you can.