Hello, friends! It is I, Ari. You may remember me from previous posts such as "Hey Brodie and Engelland don't work so well together, let's try something else" and "For the love of god, please stop playing Brodie with Engelland and play him with Diaz instead". Well, I am here on this fine morning after a rather unfortunate loss to reiterate those exact same sentiments yet again, because apparently, despite all evidence pointing towards this being a horrifically bad combination that needed to end weeks ago, we are still here.
Imagine my joy when I saw Brodie paired with Diaz to start the third! "Well, it took us a little long to get here," I said, "but this is just like Ottawa. Except no four-goal deficit! There is hope!" And lo and behold, the Flames got on the board.
... And that was apparently enough to sate Hartley, as he immediately switched back to Brodie and Engelland, and lo and behold, the Avalanche scored. Again. Their second even strength goal of the night, against that very same defence pairing. "OH MY GOD BOB WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THIS," I cried, because I am a very dramatic person, especially when the Flames' best defenceman is inexplicably paired with their worst for reasons I do not think us in the general public will ever comprehend.
Hartley did reunite Brodie and Diaz in the period's final minutes, but I have no hope. Not after the Ottawa game, when Brodie and Engelland were promptly reunited for the next eight periods. Fool me once, Robert, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. And I will not be shamed. I will simply feel extremely distraught every time I see #7 and #29 on the ice side-by-side.
... Please make it stop. I am begging you.
... So, stats? The Colorado Avalanche are one of the few teams worse at puck possession than the Calgary Flames. And the all situations corsi chart, via HockeyStats.ca, shows it:
The Flames really did have sustained periods of pressure and looked much better than the Avs at several points during the game. The problem was they apparently went to sleep in the second, and the Avs were able to actually capitalize on their chances. The Flames clawed back, but it was too late.
And when it comes to 5v5 scoring chances, via War on Ice, it was the Avs who pulled away and really made their high quality attempts count:
Going by sheer volume with the 5v5 shot plot, we can see a few different things:
When it came to the Avs, they were either right in the middle, only to be mostly blocked by the Flames, or on the very outskirts, off to the side in low quality chances (except for that John Mitchell bullet, which handily got through; Karri Ramo's left was not his strongest side on the night).
The Flames, meanwhile, were a bit more spread out in their attempts, but just as heavily blocked down the middle. The addition of the right-handed Drew Shore probably helped balance things out, as this shot plot is far less left-sided than Flames attempts normally are.
The real difference here was special teams.
And that while the Flames were, overall, the better team, it was one period that really hurt them. Via NaturalStatTrick:
Flames at Avalanche - All Situations
- Great first period by the Flames. They really had the chance to take control of the game, but unfortunately, just couldn't.
- The Avs came absolutely roaring back in response for the second, and their capitalizing on their chances made all the difference. Things would probably have been very different had the Flames just managed a goal in the first, or had Ramo stopped whatever came his way in the second.
- The third saw the Flames' return to possession greatness, in part because they really needed to get back in the game - which they did, finally capitalizing - and in part because they were the superior team.
- And overall, they were. It's an unfortunate loss, but the Flames really did play well.
- Although the Avs ended up with the better fenwick. The Flames only blocked 14 shots to their 26. This is because the Flames were controlling the bulk of the game, forcing Colorado to lay down their body more often. It didn't work out this time, but that's usually the position you want to be in; after all, forcing the other team to block more means you have the puck more, and while blocked shots aren't scoring chances, it's better than giving the other team opportunities, isn't it?
Flames at Avalanche - Even Strength
- The Flames won the powerplay breakdown, as they had the lone powerplays in the first and third, while Colorado and Calgary each had one in the second.
- That powerplay goal by the Avs really ended up being the difference. The Flames were still the better team overall, but they needed help from their special teams - which, this season, have normally been pretty good - they just didn't get last night.
Flames Even Strength Data
- Settle down at the fourth line's great possession stats, for Brandon Bollig, Matt Stajan, and Shore had the most favourable of circumstances by far: only trusted within the offensive zone, against poor competition, and in extremely limited minutes. The good news is they were that successful, so the Flames' depth is adequate. Too bad they couldn't score, though; there were a few chances from them.
- Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau, and Sean Monahan were likewise sheltered, zone start-wise; however, they played big minutes, and faced some of the Avs' top guns (especially the ever-dangerous Alex Tanguay). While they were the better players, their scoring streaks were snapped, and despite favourable circumstances and several good looks, they just weren't able to get on the board. Just unfortunate, because they were great, as they usually are.
- Joe Colborne, Lance Bouma, and Mason Raymond ended up with freakishly similar stats, which is odd, because Bouma does not play with Colborne and Raymond. Josh Jooris does, and he was right with them. For a somewhat sheltered line - high offensive zone starts, just not as high as others' - and playing a lower quality of competition, they were kind of disappointing.
- So give some major credit to Bouma here. He played more than Mikael Backlund and David Jones, and came away with the better possession statistics; however, it should be noted that his zone starts were slightly easier than those of his linemates'.
- Backlund and Jones got the really hard minutes, most often having to defend against a guy like, you know, Jarome Iginla, but starting in their own end. That's difficult, so their being at the bottom of the corsi totem pole makes complete sense. And yet, they were the only line that actually scored, all the while facing higher quality competition, too. The shutdown line can overpower on occasion, it would seem. (Credit to Backlund, of course. Jones floundered away from him and Bouma.)
- Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell played the biggest minutes, but they were the most sheltered of the defencemen, albeit playing against some tough competition. Still, in a game where the Flames were the positive possession team, their top pairing - with some pretty serious zone starts aid in comparison to their teammates - was negative. That's never a good sign.
- Maybe it's because it was the second of a back-to-back, but after the Flames thrashed the Maple Leafs badly enough the day prior that Deryk Engelland was given legitimate top four minutes, last night, he was not. Instead, he ended up with playing time more on par with that of depth defencemen Rafa Diaz and David Schlemko . Only the latter two had easier zone starts and played pretty light competition in comparison, so of course, they scored better corsi-wise.
- In case you were wondering; yes, TJ Brodie fared much better against top competition than Engelland did. It's almost as though they shouldn't be defence partners. For several reasons, really; one of those being that Brodie can handle a quality of competition Engelland cannot. There is literally nothing compatible about the two.
Player Spotlight - TJ Brodie
See, here's the thing: the only players Brodie had a worse performance with than with his new defence partner are the guys who had the worst zone starts and played the toughest competition. With Engelland, Brodie was actually pretty sheltered. And yet, in a game in which the Flames were the best possession team, with Engelland, Brodie was unable to crack 50.00% CF. So maybe this should... you know... stop.
- Brodie performed worse in harder circumstances - aka with the shutdown line - and better in easier circumstances - aka with the fourth line. He spent most of his time in the harder circumstances, and as the Flames' best defenceman, he should.
- He had a pretty good performance with the top line, too, in a decent number of minutes played.
- But going back to Brodie being the Flames' best defenceman: therein seriously lies the problem, as his partner is not compatible with top level quality. And there's only so much one budding defender can do with a partner nearly a decade older and yet significantly less mobile or able to play big minutes.
- Brodie didn't spend a ton of time with Diaz, or Schlemko, for that matter, but come on. Surely they're worth as much of a shot as this disastrous Engelland experiment? If Engelland is playing about as much as the bottom defence pairing, then why are we assuming he's capable of handling bigger minutes while the other two aren't? The other two are younger and have higher career ice time averages.
- Get over Engelland already. Literally nothing about him, other than being lucky enough to be a part of a pretty good Penguins team with friggin' Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on it, has indicated he's a better defenceman than Diaz or Schlemko. Lucking your way on to a good team and being "big" and "physical" doesn't make you worthy of top four minutes. Being able to actually play defence does. And instead, we're left with a good defenceman forced to handle everything while the pylon tags along, either standing still in front of his own net or following his partner about like a lost child. This has been going on for eight games now and it has not. Worked. Once.
Please make it stop. Please. Enough already.