Hockey is back. I know it’s back because the Calgary Flames of Calgary Alberta came out and started a game with a tremendous period only to collapse and eventually lose. It’s not as bad as game 6 vs. Dallas but the Flames played the same game script eerily similar. Get off to a hot start with the defenceman jumping in the rush in the 1st, lay off the gas in the 2nd and lose your ability to effectively transition through the neutral zone, have the other team out score you. Typical recipe for a season opening Flames game (as the streak extends to 11 years without winning an opener.) Now for the fun stuff, time to see who was good and who was bad based on the numbers, I already have my suspicions from watching, lets see if they line up. (Stats will be 5v5 SVA unless stated otherwise)
It’s a Team Game (Debut) – The Flames got off to quite the hot start with a 1st period CF% at 66.13%, SCF% of 73.06, and an xGF% of 77.99. Mixed with a 3-1 lead and you could say just about everything had gone right other than the Lucic-Bennett-Nordstrom line getting buried everytime they were on the ice. So naturally the best way to start the 2nd is with your one line that got outplayed. Absolutely no way they could lose you momentum, right? Anyways the Flames finished with a CF% of 50.45%, a SCF% of 47.82%, and an xGF% of 37.37
Corsi King – The inaugural champion of the possession game (for the Flames) is Andrew Mangiapane at 63.92%. There were a lot of Flames positives from the upper half of the Flames lineup. Lindholm (53.44%), Matthew Tkachuk (61.77%), and Mikael Backlund (60.28%) all finished with 5v5 SVA CF%’s above 60.
Corsi Clown – 2 players specifically were on the ice 5v5 and hardly had the puck. Derek Ryan (26.44%) was the worst and Joakim Nordstrom (27.97%) came as advertised 5v5 with a low score as well. One would think with how bad the 4th line played (Lucic and Bennett included) that Dominik Simon will draw into the home opener.
Taken By Chance – Tied for the lead at 72.67% of the scoring chances we have Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. The top D pair for the night was Juuso Valimaki & Nikita Nesterov (59.07% each). Mikael Backlund was a curios case tonight as he had a 69.91% in all situation scoring chance ratio at 5v5, but not a single one was classified as High Danger. Not enough from him getting to the net. The Pair of Hanifin – Tanev also allowed a high level of High Danger chances against. That might be a sentence you should get used to reading.
xGF% - The importance of quality scoring chances is more important than one would think. Milan Lucic tonight had a 6.99% xGF%. This means that when he was on the ice tonight the Flames chances of scoring a goal were 7%, and the odds the other team would score was at 93%. Obviously they’re EXPECTED goals and not actual goals, but this is very indicative of just how outmatched he was tonight. This is the area where I’d love to see Johnny Gaudreau be over 50% every night. Alas Mr. Jonathan Hockey put up 39.19%. The Flames will continue to struggle if 13 isn’t on his offensive best. Andrew Mangiapane led the way with 59.49%
Game Flow –
The Flames really got off to that hot start than stalled. The latter half of the second period was real bad as evidenced as the almost vertical line going back towards the Jets end. The fact that the game flow line never completely goes into the Jets side of the board even though the Flames numbers were faltering is a testament to just how dominant the 1st period was.
Game Score – They led on the offensive side of the puck tonight and they lead here. Matthew Tkachuk (2.31) and Elias Lindholm (2.76) actually had the highest scores here of every skater on either team. That’s counteracted by Regular season Sam Bennett (-1.95) and Nordstrom (-1.79). I will give Bennett credit, after switching with Ryan and being deployed on the 3rd line he picked up his game, but that was too late in the third to change the negative contributions to that point.
Shot Heatmap -
The strength of the Flames team for the last two seasons has been their ability to capitalize on a quick rush attack. The first showed that the quick strike transitions are still employed in the team arsenal, but it disappeared in the 2nd half of the game. The positive news is that if they decide to limit their defence’s mobility they have the skill to get in deep and drive the net from in low, but they didn’t execute that tonight.
In The Crease – Expected goals against at 5v5? 2.10. Actual goals against at 5v5? 2. Anxiety from new Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom trying to throw hits and play the puck in the last 5 minutes of the game? Through the damn roof. Markstrom got the Flames to overtime, only allowed 1 high danger chance and one medium danger chance and did his job tonight. I will never blame a goalie for a 5-on-3 goal against, and both of Laine’s goals were absolute rockets. His 5v5 save percentage tonight was 0.923%, and I’d gladly take that any night.
Today’s Specials – I have a genuine question. On a 5 on 3 with the faceoff to the right of Markstrom, one would normally deploy a right-handed centerman to take the draw. The Flames went with Backlund which is fine (It IS a 5 on 3, hope was low) but I would think Derek Ryan would be better suited to be out there for the faceoff. Win it, clear the zone, have him immediately change for Backlund. He loses it? Well, you were in the exact same hopeless situation with three guys standing still while the Jets played cute with passing the puck. No worse for wear there.
Player Spotlight – Rasmus Andersson – This year kicks off the first year of Razzmatazz’s 6 year extension, and when he was jumping in the rush in the 1st period he was absolutely everywhere. One of the big reasons for the Flames hot start in the first was Andersson, who finished with a stat line of CF%: 53.79, SCF%: 46.16, xGF%: 38.92. The struggles were evident for many players in the 2nd and 3rd period, most specifically in controlled zone exits as the defenceman kept making their breakout passes to the wingers who would fail to get the puck into the neutral zone, hindering the entire on ice contingents numbers. If razz can find consistency to play like he did in the first the Flames are gonna be leading more games than trailing.
Flashalytics 3 Stars –
1) Andrew Mangiapane
2) Elias Lindholm
3) Matthew Tkachuk
Let us as a fan base not panic. There were plenty of positives from this new look Flames team whose only pre-season test was an inter-squad scrimmage. As the season goes on, chemistry will form and this roster will (hopefully) go off on an extended run. They definitely have the potential for it.