The Calgary Flames were definitely the better team, full stop. An excellent performance by Sergei Bobrovsky, combined with a few boneheaded plays - looking right at you, Kris Russell - cost them two points. At least they got the one, but man, this is a game they had. This is one they should have won.
They didn't, and that stings, both in general and playoff-chances-wise.
Kicking things off with the all situations corsi chart, via HockeyStats.ca:
The two teams may have been exchanging chances with one another a bit in the first, but after that, it was all Flames.
To be fair to the Jackets, though, the Flames did have five powerplays to their none. So looking at things just at 5 v 5 even strength:
... And they didn't need the man advantage to cement themselves as the superior team at all. It helped, sure, but they were just better in general.
But that's just a general possession metric. As we all know, if the Flames have been anything this year, it's been efficient; not taking a ton of shots, but scoring on most of them anyway. So when it came to 5 v 5 even strength scoring chances, via War on Ice:
Things are a little less transparently dominant here, but it's not like the Flames ever really took time off. The game ramped up once it was 2-1 for Calgary, and Columbus managed to catch up in the scoring chance department, but the Flames once again pulled away at the very end of the game. They just couldn't find that one extra goal.
The 5 v 5 even strength shot plot just reaffirms the Flames' overall dominance, though:
The Flames had the puck on their stick way more often than the Jackets did. Both Jackets goals were very opportune; but in fairness, so were the Flames'. Through no fault of Karri Ramo's own, he got outplayed by Bobrovsky, who was outstanding. Look at just how many shots reached him (40, to be exact) - several from pretty prime scoring chances - and he stopped almost all of them.
The Flames definitely needed more, but dang, it's pretty hard to blame them. Because they really did control the majority of the game. Via NaturalStatTrick:
Flames vs Blue Jackets - All Situations
- Talk about consistent offensive pressure from the Flames: 23 shot attempts for them in every single 20-minute frame, with varying degrees of defensive success against the Jackets. They still controlled the game throughout, though.
- They did steadily regress each period as the Jackets seemed to finally get their legs under them, so it's a real shame they weren't able to score more in the earlier stages to really put the win away, and have the score reflect their dominating play.
Flames vs Blue Jackets - Even Strength
- This is where we take into account the fact that the Flames had five powerplays - two in the first, three in the third - while the Jackets got nothing. That takes away some from how impressive they were, but they were still the better team.
- Calgary really didn't have a great third period, though, and relied on three powerplays to try to make it up - although they still couldn't score, and even gave up a few chances with the man advantage.
- Here is where I would like to posit that the Flames don't have outstanding third periods because of their conditioning; otherwise, why would today's have been so bad? Rather, I'd suggest they have outstanding third periods due to score effects. Because they're usually coming from behind, or after being outplayed in the first two.
- Today was an oddity in which the Flames were the dominant team to start the game, but they let Columbus back in it. Bobrovsky and the Flames' inability to score on the powerplay were their major undoings.
Flames Even Strength Data
- Eleven Flames the beneficiaries of breaking even to being positive possession players: a good performance, and what you'd expect when one team dominates another.
- The top line, in particular, was amazing. They were put in position to succeed, and boy, did they ever. Big minutes, and lots of chances for over that time.
- Just look at Sean Monahan up there. He's 20. He's on the verge of becoming a 30-goal scorer in his second NHL season. And he led what could very well be becoming his team in terms of both offence and defence - and he's probably going to get even better.
- Jiri Hudler, the ever-reliable elder statesman, wasn't quite as big a force offensively; while Johnny Gaudreau, adorable upstart rookie, had a weaker defensive game, but more ice time.
- The shutdown line showed they have it in them to contribute offensively, too; any Flames scoring chance that didn't come from the top line pretty much came from them. David Jones had a particularly great performance, but he was more sheltered than both Lance Bouma and Mikael Backlund; this is reflected in the fact that fewer shot attempts went against the Flames with him on the ice.
- Russell and Dennis Wideman performed pretty well, especially taking into consideration the massive minutes they got; but also keep in mind they were insanely sheltered, starting the strong majority of their shifts in the offensive zone, and the most out of anybody wearing red. I'm also going to go out on a limb here and suggest Russell might be playing a little too much. TJ Brodie is the one who should be getting those kinds of minutes, not him.
- One small, silver lining to Russell's giveaway: you can bet he's probably never going to do that again.
- I remember from years ago, back in Backlund's first seasons, he tried to force an empty netter. It was a bad angle shot, one he definitely shouldn't have taken, but he was trying to be a glory hound. He ended up turning it over and the opposing team tied the game up in the final minute, and ended up winning it. Backlund wasn't trusted out there in the dying minutes of a one-goal lead for a really long time, but he got the chance again near the end of the season. That time, he collected the puck between his skates and hugged the corner of the boards, refusing to budge. No more glory-seeking, just doing everything in his power to prevent a chance against.
- The key difference here being Backlund back then was in his early 20s and Russell is in his late 20s. But... you know. He's probably not going to pull that kind of move again.
- Going back to Brodie: yeah, he shouldn't be playing five minutes fewer than Russell. That's insanity. Much more difficult circumstances for him and Deryk Engelland led to not as impressive results, but there's got to be more balance here.
- Speaking of Engelland: why is it that Hartley will trust him with top four minutes, but won't give him a single shift in overtime? Brodie was out there with both Rafa Diaz and David Schlemko. No Engelland. Look, either a guy's good enough to be out there for the majority of the game and in the crucial moments, or he's not. Hartley's contradicting himself here.
- That said, Schlemko and Diaz could have stood to have much better games. Diaz's additional minutes led to more chances going against him, hence his lower ranking possession-wise. Not enough offensive tries from the Flames when they were on the ice to make up for it.
- The fourth line had a really good game, especially compared to how they were not nearly as sheltered as the top two lines. Props to Michael Ferland, who could probably stand to get a few more minutes, but as long as he's performing well with what he's getting, he'll get there. Props to Brandon Bollig, too, who hasn't really been in human disaster form for some time now. As long as he's doing better than the opposition's fourth line, that's all we can really ask for.
- Matt Stajan played way more than they did, not to mention faced tougher opposition. That's why he's below them. He's definitely the Flames' best on the fourth line, hence why he can be called upon to take more minutes.
- The third line did not have a good game. They drew some of the toughest starts, but couldn't get into the offensive zone at all. Mason Raymond is kind of getting dragged down, while Markus Granlund, despite his extensive NHL experience this season, still isn't ready.
- If "always earned, never given" was a real thing, there's no way in hell Joe Colborne would be getting the minutes he does. Disaster. Way, way too much going against him.
Player Spotlight - Joe Colborne
Other than being 6'5, I have no idea what it is Colborne did to pick up so many minutes. He played more than Backlund. Backlund is the Flames' best forward after the top line. It's unacceptable.
- Colborne didn't really have a good performance with anybody. He was somewhat better with his regular linemates, but those are also the guys he spent the most time with.
- For some reason, he ended up with Stajan and Bouma towards the end of the game. They were beyond disastrous together. Don't do that again. (What were those three doing out there at the end of a tied game in which the Flames desperately needed two points? If you're trying to at least preserve the tie, his name is Mikael Backlund...)
- Colborne's best performances - which still weren't anything to really write home about - came while sharing the ice with the Flames' third pairing, aka weaker competition.
- Consequently, whenever Colborne was out there with Brodie - aka the guy who plays the tougher competition - he was promptly killed.
- Decent performance with Russell, who faced a lot of the tough guys, but also, they played the least together out of everyone on the backend, so there's not too much to look into there.
Colborne is, at best, a depth player. Not a top six guy. So don't give him top six minutes.