That game was awesome. Could've done without the ending being quite so tense, but the Calgary Flames rebounded nicely from their crushing loss to the Los Angeles Kings, instead dealing the Vancouver Canucks a blow they really didn't need. Valentine's Day is over, and so, all love is officially lost for another 364 days. Good!
Let's kick things off with some quick looks at a couple of corsi charts, as always courtesy of HockeyStats.ca. First up is all situations corsi:
What we see here is a very evenly played game, with the slight edge to the Canucks: considering how they lost the lead about halfway through the game - right about where we see their line overtake the Flames' - and spent almost the entire third period down a goal and in desperate need to get it back.
Now, let's take a quick look at 5 v 5 even strength score adjusted corsi. This neutralizes the powerplays - and Calgary spent more time with the man advantage than Vancouver, hence an advantage of their own - as well as the fact that the Flames had the lead for about half the game, although it was never more than a goal:
The gap is a bit bigger, and it puts Vancouver in control throughout the entire game, but it's not a very big gap. Certainly nothing to the scale of the game against the Kings. So overall? The Flames could have been better, sure, but they clearly did enough to win, and played well.
Let's dig a little deeper and go a bit more specific, using War on Ice's 5 v 5 even strength shot plots:
Pretty even overall, but with a noticeable difference: the Canucks had little answer to the Flames' willingness to drive through the slot. Sure, the Canucks hit the Flames down the middle as well, but nowhere near as frequently as Calgary did. And that's right where the Flames scored all three of their goals. The Canucks' inability to hold the Flames out of the slot cost them. Really, Ryan Miller was great, considering what he had to work with.
And while overall shot counts are great, let's take an even closer look at another chart, this one tracking scoring chances, 5 v 5 even strength only:
It's a similar tale to corsi charts above - a rather evenly played game - but the Flames were the victors when it came to scoring chances. Probably had something to do with how easily they were able to go down the middle, eh?
Let's take an even deeper look into how each period went, via NaturalStatTrick:
Flames vs Canucks - All Situations
- The first period was the Flames' best, corsi-wise. It's also the only period when the Canucks weren't trailing them most of the time, so that definitely had a role in it.
- The Flames' possession got worse as the game went on... because they were scoring, and it got to the point where the Canucks were more desperate.
- Fenwick tells a different tale. It's similar to how in the charts above, the Flames are under the Canucks in corsi, but above them in scoring chances. The Flames blocked 17 shots to the Canucks' nine, so they come away with the positive differential between shots on net and missed shots.
- A blocked shot isn't really a scoring chance. It's an indication of possession, but the shot is stopped before it even makes its way to the net. It's a smaller sample size to draw from, but in conjunction with overall shot attempts, helps paint a clearer picture of this game.
Flames vs Canucks - Even Strength
- The powerplay breakdown goes as thus: two for the Flames in the first, one for the Canucks in the second, and mutual unsportsmanlikes exchanged in the second. The Canucks got a goal off of that four on four event.
- The first period, meanwhile, is the only one that really sees the Flames suffer. The bad news: their even strength play can certainly be improved, especially considering this was the period in which nobody had the lead for quite some time. The good news: special teams are helping them, not hurting them.
Flames Even Strength Data
- I'm going to start with zone starts here. The top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler, and Sean Monahan all saw the strong majority of their shifts start in the offensive zone, and yet, despite very similar ice times, all had varying degrees of possession. Gaudreau broke even, Hudler nearly did, and Monahan... saw a lot more shot attempts go against him. Hartley successfully limited their exposures to the Canucks' top players, but Monahan simply got caught in a crossfire at some point.
- On the flip side, the Flames' second line of Mikael Backlund, David Jones, and Lance Bouma drew the majority of defensive starts. They were matched primarily against the Canucks' top players, and came away with very respectable numbers (Bouma the worst of the group, but not by much - his extended playing time at even strength plays a role here). The trio has essentially become the Flames' shutdown line; it's just that sometimes, they score goals, too.
- Josh Jooris, Curtis Glencross, and Mason Raymond were relatively sheltered, but not quite to the same extent as the top line. Jooris and Glencross performed admirably, while Raymond - in extended even strength time (he played the most on special teams out of the trio, though) - less so. They primarily faced the Canucks' third line, and were better than them. This is where the importance of depth comes in.
- (Seriously - Flames forwards ice times were very even across the board. Don't let Brandon Bollig draw back in unless he's a last resort. With him in the lineup, the Flames can't cleanly roll four lines, players get overplayed and outplayed, and it's just detrimental to the team overall. If you value his particular skill set, well, anything Bollig can do, Bouma can do better.)
- Paul Byron, Matt Stajan, and Joe Colborne - a trio of guys who can all play centre (remember when the Flames didn't have centres?!) - rounded out the lines. They received primarily defensive zone starts, and fared okay against the Canucks' own bottom players; most of the damage dealt against them was by the Canucks' defencemen.
- Byron, in particular, was entrusted with more minutes against the Canucks' second line then Stajan or Colborne were. He's quietly very valuable: if a player gets hurt mid-game, Byron is capable of stepping up a few spots. You want that kind of guy in your lineup, game in and game out.
- Skipping over to the backend: TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano were the Flames' best defencemen, to the surprise of literally nobody. This is almost always the case. Even though Giordano did get burned on the Canucks' second goal.
- Kris Russell benefited from some great zone starts, and now that he's no longer on the powerplay, was entrusted with the most even strength time.
- Dennis Wideman didn't get quite the zone start benefit his regular partner did, and so, he had fewer offensive opportunities, and more chances went against him (and that first Canucks goal... yeesh).
- Deryk Engelland was far more sheltered than Rafa Diaz, resulting in better possession stats for him. He was granted more ice time, as well, as Diaz's night was a bit more of a struggle for him. Still, it's important to remember his circumstances were more difficult by default, even though both players faced a similar level of competition.
Player Spotlight - The bottom four D
We're doing something a little different here. As you may have noticed during the game, Wideman, Russell, Diaz, and Engelland were swingers, engaging in a couple's swap. While all four defencemen played with their normal guy in the first and third periods, the second was a different story: Wideman paired up with Diaz, while Russell and Engelland were put together.
Mind, these sample sizes are super tiny, but why not take a glimpse at the defencemen's performances with someone new? At even strength:
The black bars are where a player meets up with his own stats, while n/a is non-applicable; that is to say, Wideman and Engelland never played together, and the same goes for Russell and Diaz.
- Wideman posted better stats with Russell than with Diaz. However, zone starts are crucial here. With Russell, Wideman started in the offensive zone 60% of the time. With Diaz, that number drops to 25%. That automatically puts the two in a position more likely to fail than succeed, and that's what happened.
- While they didn't spend that much time together, Wideman and Diaz were trusted in a defensive role. This is directly in opposition to Wideman with Russell, as that pairing has typically been sheltered throughout the year, last night's game being no exception.
- The combination of Russell and Engelland is the opposite. Russell posted overall beneficial possession stats, but they all came at his starting primarily in the offensive zone. Russell's performance with Engelland is slightly better than his performance with Wideman because he started in the offensive zone a little more often. That pairing required sheltering.
- Diaz saw more success with Engelland than with Wideman, while Engelland saw more success with Russell than with Diaz. This all comes from zone starts, although Engelland's success was much more pronounced with Russell, while Diaz's failures with Wideman were less extreme.
Is the swap in defensive partners worth continuing experimenting with? Maybe. The Flames' defensive depth is rather poor, and while Russell and Engelland were bolstered by this switch, Wideman and Diaz suffered for it. (Someone other than Brodano is going to have to take those defensive zone starts on occasion.) Of course, a far greater sample size is required to determine this.
The ultimate takeaway, however, should be this: the Flames aren't likely to experience long-term success with this group of six, and Ladislav Smid isn't the answer, either. To find consistent success, the team needs another top four defenceman in order to push one of Wideman or Russell down and give them more favourable circumstances they may succeed in.