First game back since the break, I'm sure a lot of people were really worried about the rust and how the Flames might be sluggish. Not really. Once that third period started...hooo boy you best believe that all of what I'm going to tell you is accurate.
I've never seen a period by the Flames this strong in my life but I'm very optimistic that once the rebuild is over, we'll see consistency that makes for incredibly more exciting hockey that we have now.
- Pretty close couple of periods at ES for both Clubs. Then the Flames.... ignited (I'm not sorry) and well the entire existence of the Buffalo Sabres seemed to disappear for 20 minutes.
- The Flames' PP did have some visual impacts numbers wise for the team. More so in the second period as we generated six shot attempts because of it.
- The Sabres' third period might be their worst. Though that's unconfirmed at this point.
- It took a few minutes to get a single shot attempt on net until the Sabres started with theirs. From there, after a handful of attempts, the Flames took over at 5v5. The Flames PP added to their shot attempt lead (we'll touch on those man advantages below here) and for the most part, the first period was a close period.
- The Second period is when all hell opened up at first for the Flames. Score effects would have had some weight into what happened in the first ten minutes of the period. Thankfully they tied it on the PP. That said, they would nearly triple their shot attempt output in the period. Their play on the ice matched what we see here.
- They were confident, persistent, and capable of sustaining intervals of shot attempts that we normally don't see from them. Albeit, against the Sabres.
- The third period aka Calgary's wheelhouse was just a bloodbath. We'll probably never see anything else like this during the season so let's savor it.
- 9:52 of play into the period, after the Flames had 14 shot attempts on net; the Sabres got one. The consistent surge of persistent shot attempts virtually existed the entire period until the Sabres got all of two more at 5v5.
- This is exactly what you want to see from this team against lower rung teams. Asserting their dominance and utilizing resources they have to make sure fans are aware of what the future holds.
- I've marked the Flames' power plays in red. First dot signifies the first shot attempt on the PP and the final dot would be the final shot attempt.
- In ALL situations of play, the Flames virtually played pretty well. The PP goal they gave up was a definite black mark on the game initially but was soon forgotten. The Flames got ample shot attempts and used every opportunity to maintain zone pressure when they had the chance.
- The Flames did limit chances as much as they could on their penalty kill including the soft call on Colborne.
- The Sabres really had one instance of leading in shot attempts before it was over. McDavid is going to be a Sabre.
- Alright let's look at the defensive side of things for the Flames. Due to their overwhelming control of the game in terms of possession (by proxy of CF/FF) they didn't have much to worry about at ES. Optimal shot-blocking in the crucial lanes and areas for scoring were used... mostly.
- The Sabres did find ways to get in close to Hiller. The collapsing defense that the Flames play is often broke by bad positioning and communication. Last night it wasn't so apparent due to their dominance but it was visible. Prime example: the Chris Stewart goal.
- That said, Jonas Hiller had to come up big on those chances directly in close. Fortunately he brought his A-Game.
- Offensively, I mean...the Flames put up massive volumes of shots. Optimally they took advantage of the weakness on the left slot and low slot to score three ES goals and the PP goal.
- They had a diverse set of shots from the points, circles, and middle slot as well. Buffalo did spend a lot of time blocking shots in those optimal areas as well.
- Still a concern that is visible issue on the wing with right-handed shooters. A lot of nothing from around the left-low side of the circle which is a location Calgary needs to take advantage of. Hopefully line-up adjustments or small deals can maximize this location.
- Key thing to stress here: Corsi Rel, Fenwick Rel, and SF% Rel are going to show negatives due to the player's relative numbers compared to their team. So don't panic over those numbers!
- TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano played quite excellent last night. Both matched up against the Sabres' top competition and were successful. Giordano was 100% CF/FF against Tyler Myers and Brodie was 90% CF / 100% FF. The entire roster aside from Drew Stafford was the only sub-50% CF guy for the pairing.
- Mikael Backlund is never talked about besides on the internet. Sportsnet barely acknowledges his existence besides when he scores goals. He does so much for the team and he is worthy of note. He was 57.14% CF / 54.55% FF at his lowest last night. The rest of the night against players he matched up against for more than 5:00 he was basically unstoppable. He does so many little things and is such an important facet of the PK that re-signing him is the highest priority. More so than fixing the defense.
- Brandon Bollig: small sample size, barely plays. Why was he in the game? Oh well, the fourth line is functional and he is partially NHL capable because of Matt Stajan. Bollig was MINIMALLY 50% last night. You know what? He wasn't Brandon Bollig: Human Disaster either.
- Lance Bouma or Bance Louma depending on how many B-named players he is with; wasn't bad. Optimally giving him 10-12 minutes a night in the right conditions helps but WITH Mikael Backlund, he was 77.78% CF / 71.43%. Without you may ask? 0% CF / 62.5% FF. Still, the bulk of his sample size was with David Jones and Backlund. Similar results show up as well with Davey Jones. 72.73% CF / 71.43% FF, without: 0% CF/FF.
- Paul Byron is like a brand new handcrafted piece of wooden furniture but with no finish. That said, he continues to be a consistent bottom-six guy in terms of maintaining possession most nights. Even in 20% OZS last night he still was successful. Even with Bollig for 7:02 of play! I just wish he could finish more and score. I feel for the guy, I really do.
- RAPHAEL DIAZ DOING STUFF THAT RAPHAEL DIAZ NEEDS TO BE DOING. Fairly certain that Bob Hartley reads this site and agreed that utilizing Diaz more is necessary. Small steps though, he looked really good compared to the other 20 or so games we've seen from him. He got more TOI than Engelland as well. This was a great trial for him under Hartley's often watchful eye to see if he can handle more minutes. He did have some sub-50% CF/FF% WOWYs but it wasn't a trend or anything.
- Jiri Hudler on his worst days is still pretty much better than most players. Jiri was a game-time decision with the flu and he played pretty much like he normally does. Hartley once again taking a page from Ari's blogging history this season and keeping Monahan and his new son with him on the ice. He had a lot of match-ups in the mid to high 60% CF while only having three sub-50% CF opponents in Matt Moulson (3:02) - 28.57% CF / 25% FF, Tyler Ennis (3:24) - 28.57% CF/25% FF, and Latvia's god-king Zemgus Girgensons (3:24) - 44.44% CF / 50% FF.
- Dennis Wideman was the lone player below 50% CF but was a positive Fenwick player at 57.14%. Overall I wasn't incredibly shocked when I saw this last night. For the majority of his match-ups he was a low to mid 50% guy. What killed him was his TOI against competition against some high sample guys like Rasmus Ristolainen, Tyler Myers, and Josh Gorges. Those three oddly enough were on the ice when he struggled. Oh well, he was shooting more so that helps!
Player Spotlight - The Entire Team
We're going to skip singling out a single player on their performance last night to mention the entire team. Listen, even with Bollig and Engelland in the line-up they played well. It was a game where they were expected to win and they did it. That's what matters at the end of the game in it's most simplified way.
The micro-analysis we do is crucial to understanding the full scope of the game. Some fans love it, others are on the fence, and some hate it. That's cool, we respect that. We're going to keep analyzing the games and micro-analyzing the team because we're in the right spot at the right time to observe the progress of the club.
That said the strongest positives I'm seeing still stand to be:
- The necessity for QUALITY shot attempts. Blocked shots against Calgary are a huge problem because of our limitations of left-handed versus right-handed shots. You can see a pattern a times on the shot plot history.
- Brodie and Giordano's consistency drives this club. Supporting them with the right roster means higher success.
- Backlund is necessary for the long-term. His solidification as the eventual third-line centre is going to be in a few years if Sam Bennett has success and Sean Monahan continues his ascension.
- Play Sven, okay? I know Glencross might be good to go tomorrow but maybe play Sven. Do it.
One final note, today is #BellLetsTalk. Show some empathy and compassion for those around you who might be struggling or who are. We're all in this together, fans, friends, neighbors, and etc. It's an important moment for a lot of people who are hurt by mental illness to speak out and raise awareness. The hockey world has their share of victims to succumbing to their demons. Thanks for reading!