This comes a little late and delayed as I was at the Sabres / Oilers game last night laughing at the existence of both teams. That said, it was disappointing to see Edmonton win and then find out the Flames lost to the Wild. Coming home I was kind of bummed about the loss but hey, we have some positives to draw from this game.
I've spent the entire morning rewatching it and taking a look at we can look at here. A lot of people are disappointing they lost to a floundering team who is struggling to get back to the level they were at earlier this season. That's the nature of the game I guess. Minnesota is an incredibly deep team at forward and defense; their struggles shouldn't mean we can take them lightly either.
- Limited power play time for both teams (one each) had very little impact on the possession numbers we'll look at. That said, the Flames and Wild in the first period was interesting. It's not often the Flames can go toe to toe with a team that has talent.
- Not the strongest opening period but they had some strong instances of play. Overall turnovers lead to Minnesota generating shot attempts leading to their lead.
- Score effects were visibly the most forceful reason behind the second period attack on Devan Dubnyk.
- Very close final period with the Flames commanding control of finding better shooting lanes leading to their edge in FF% (Fenwick For). When we examine shot plots, we'll see some interesting data too.
- Though the Wild would jump out to a quick early lead, the Flames aggressively coming back and controlling for the first nine minutes roughly is something that warmed my heart this morning. At one point leading 12-5 in Corsi before a MASSIVE surge of shot attempts from Minnesota lead to the Zach Parise goal.
- During that flurry, Minnesota would cap off a 15-6 shot attempt lead which pushed Calgary a bit on their backs. They would exchange a few shot attempts to end the period. That surge was the reason behind Minnesota's goal (thanks to turnovers and smart play) that allowed them to control the possession lead.
- The Koivu penalty to open the second period didn't have much impact on the play of the team. From the start of the period to about 9:01 of play, Calgary picked away at the possession lead by the Wild finding only one real window of attempts to close in.
- It wasn't until 31:46 of total play that the Flames really...ignited. An icing call by the Wild would lead to a continued surge of shot attempts and offensive zone pressure. Mostly because of a Dennis Wideman point shot and the top line doing their thing.
- In the last half of the second period, the Flames would out-Corsi (is that even a term?) the Wild 15-8 in terms of shot attempts to head into the third.
- The too-many men call did impact their start to the third but Calgary would have yet another consistent third period. Unfortunately they failed to become the "comeback kids" last night to tie the game. Overall, I wasn't completely disappointed. Engelland's stretch pass to Byron to Gaudreau could have been what the Flames needed to create a different outcome.
- Fortunately due to a small interval of shot attempts they were able to win the possession game but lose 1-0 to a hot goalie.
- Positives: The Flames found well-rounded shot attempts at even strength last night. With a proper mix from the left and right points, they were able to get some shots that they normally don't produce.
- Positives: Shots in the middle-slot and high-slot are nice to see from this team
- Positives: Jonas Hiller did everything possible in his role to keep this team in it.
- Positives: Blocking optimal shooting lanes like usual. It's one of those things that has value but the value is often over-sold. In games like these when you're playing a struggling team WITH talent, you need everything at your disposal to be successful. Shot-blocking at the right times is one of those things.
- Negatives: Limited shots in and around the crease. For some head-scratching reason, they didn't include a couple attempts from Gaudeau in close. Regardless, they need to find a way to get closer to the net and score there. A bulk of their offense and shot attempts tend to be from that location.
- Negatives: Allowing Minnesota to get in close to Hiller. Two of those shots close to Hiller came off rushes, communication is crucial to preventing those plays; along with positioning on the ice. These are things the Flames blueline continues to struggle with.
- Calgary got a little flat for the last half of the first period. That's no good at all. Minnesota's control in the last half of the first period really put the Flames on their heels.
- Second period surge in that flurry of shot attempts would essentially triple their scoring chance output from the start of the game to the the start of the third period.
- Not much in terms of legitimate scoring chances happened in the third as the Flames ran out of time to draw even.
- Brandon Bollig makes me laugh. Mostly because he is a product of Matt Stajan and company. Once again it begs the question: Why isn't David Wolf or Sven Baertschi playing? Especially in a game when we lose 1-0. Wolf has been finding his game nicely this season in Adirondack and Sven seemingly found his when he was sent down. Has Bollig improved this season? Yes, a bit. Nothing groundbreaking. Would the Flames be better WITHOUT him in the line-up? Yes.
- Josh Jooris' placement on the third line or fourth line is interchangeable. He had a decent evening in the loss but mostly because of his zone starts and teammates. He mostly played against Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella; and he was up and down against those guys. Going 46.47% CF / 50% FF (Scandella) and 36.36% CF / 57.14% FF (Spurgeon). Away from them, 75% CF / 66.67, 71.43% FF.
- Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell had strong games though their zone starts and match-ups play huge factors in their play often. I was happy to see them trying to get things going; and they weren't complete human disasters in their own zone. Wideman had a incredibly roller coaster match-up against Minnesota being as low as 36.84% CF against Jason Zucker and 100% CF against guys like Thomas Vanek.
- Russell was even more all over with a 16.67% CF against Nino Niederreiter and 100% against Mikael Granlund; oh and Vanek too. That's what we get from this pairing though. Flashes of awesome play and then they get hemmed in their own zone or make a bad decision leading to... something.
- Raphael Diaz is making Deryk Engelland semi-competent. You have to wonder whether or not Treliving is going to pull the trigger on a Smid deal sometime soon. Last night, Tyler Myers got injured and before that Nikita Nikitin got injured. I wonder if Buffalo would be willing to consider taking Smid for anything. Or we can ship him back to Edmonton. It works for me.
- Diaz in basically half of what Wideman and Russell got for TOI at 5v5, was more successful than those two. His only sub-50% CF/FF opponent was Ryan Suter. Everyone else in the varying sample sizes was 50% or higher. Though the key part of that is TOI, zone starts, and linemates; he needs to be tried in that second pairing for a bit.
- Engelland is Engelland. I feel like I'm wasting time typing about how much we all agree he is not good. Let's just dwell on Rafa Diaz.
- Joe Colborne got carried last night. Jooris and Raymond make him a better player. Which means I hope this spells the end of Colborne in a top-six role. Though he primarily played much of last night with Raymond and Jooris, without them he was horrendous. 33.33% CF / 33.33% FF without Raymond and 37.5% CF / 50% FF without Jooris. I like Colborne when he is being optimally used as he is clearly a bottom six forward. I think the right mix with him produces his best game and the wrong deployment shows off his opportunities to grow. He's confusing to me at times.
- I really feel like Matt Stajan needs more about two more minutes of 5v5 time a game with better teammates. I'm going to bore you about Matt Stajan tomorrow when I write something stats riddled about his value and play. He had a decent game and faced some very tough competition. He flourished against guys like Charlie Coyle, Niederreiter, and Parise. He had some difficulty against Suter and Jonas Brodin. For the most part, in adequate samples he was 50% or higher.
- Another night of Mark Giordano (or Marc if you're the AHL) and TJ Brodie of facing tough starts, opposition, and heavy minutes. Giordano played phenomenally well against Nate Prosser, Niederreiter, and human garbage dump Matt Cooke. Though those samples were smaller than other match-ups. Facing basically the top pairing and top six of the Wild, he was well into the high 30% and low to mid 40% areas.
- Brodie is the same case. Heavy TOI against the top six and top pairing, high 30% and low to mid 40% ranges. Flourished against the same type of opposition as Giordano did.
- Finally: Remove Lance Bouma from the top six. Please.
Player Spotlight - Mason Raymond
I really though Mason has a stellar game last night. He was creating chances, getting shots on net, and trying to create chances. There are elements of the third-line that I really like right now: Raymond and Jooris. Colborne seems to work a bit with them but it could be because he is putting up some numbers. That said, I'd love to see what Raymond could do with Stajan and Jooris on a line.
- As you can see with the eye-test from last night and here, Raymond had a pretty decent night. Of his top TOI match-ups, he only had a couple not-so good CF% matchings. That said he was more successful FF% wise against Scandella and Spurgeon.
- He was optimally successful against Brodin, Cooke, Brodziak, and company. Even in varying competition last night, he still managed to find general success against much of Minnesota's roster.
- Had some incredibly roller coaster zone starts in the game and a majority of them lead to him being successful.
- As I mentioned at the top, I think playing with Stajan in a game and with a proper amount of TOI together might yield some interesting results. That said, 1:36 of play together didn't help much. Especially when you consider the very small intervals of his play with Gaudreau, Monahan, Hudler, Bollig, and co yielding 100% CF/FF.
- I really like Jooris with Raymond on a line. They compliment each other and I'd love to explore them on the third-line as I've said. It's all about moving Jooris to that RW though and slotting someone more capable at centre in. Jooris can be a decent centre but he's still finding his NHL game. Plus we need help on the RW.
- Playing much of the night with Wideman and Russell benefited Mason quite a bit. Optimal lines make the world of difference for teams and especially at home when you change last; deployment can be a make or break situation at times.
The Flames take on Edmonton tomorrow night at the Saddledome. We'll have all your coverage on that here. Also if you're looking to join us here, Ari and I are going to be going over submissions and contacting folks soon. Please try to have any writing samples in so we can make some decisions.