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Analytical Analysis — Game 3 — The Second Shalacking of VanCity

The Flames overcame a slow start for the first time since Donald Trumps inaugeration and cruised to a dominating 5-2 victory

Vancouver Canucks v Calgary Flames Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

I sent a tweet out in the first intermission (@Flash_33 if you want to tweet along) describing my belief that the Flames had what it took to bounce back in this game. The first was very one sided, but that came from the Flames 4th line getting stuck in their own zone twice, and the struggle to regain momentum after a PK. The top guns were still dominating they just hadn’t had the opportunity to get ice time. Cue the start of the second and the Flames picked up right where they left off last game and ended up drumming the Canucks in a 5-2 victory. No Canucks player was able to directly score either, both VAN goals deflecting past Markstrom off a Flames defenders stick.

It’s a Team Game – The numbers after the first period were CF% - 28.75%, SCF% - 36.37%, HDCF% - 16.82%, and xGF% - 34.74%. Absolutely terrible numbers despite the Flames top line having excellent possession numbers and JG13’s line running about even. They ended with a CF% - 54.51%, SCF% - 69.56%, HDCF% - 53.07%, and an xGF% of 66.38%. They made the Canucks look like a peewee team for 5/6 periods and it wasn’t even close. (36:58 was played at 5v5)

Corsi King – Matthew Tkachuk (79.01%) and Elias Lindholm (75.35%) have shown through 3 games that they are ready to dominate all the competition they face. Now it’s only been two games and they haven’t tested themselves against Montreal or Toronto yet, but what we’ve seen so far is almost perfection on both ends of the puck. Dillon Dube (74.39%) has been the perfect puzzle piece on that line and I can only hope he’s not hurt long term. Josh Leivo (78.78%) had his best game as a Flame taking Dube’s spot after he went down.

Corsi Clown – It was a rough night for Derek Ryan (22.42%) as the first period saw the Simon-Ryan-Lucic line get buried in their own end. Ward ended up shuffling his lines throught the 2nd and 3rd and used Ryan mostly on the PK after that and it worked to the teams advantage. Mangiapane (32.85%) also struggled heavily in the 1st, but was able to salvage his numbers by about 13% through the 2nd and 3rd to recover

Taken By Chance – Elias Lindholm will get the Scoring chance crown with our first 100% SCF of the season! Dube also had that, but he can claim second place as he played under 4 mins of 5v5 tonight (injury). Tkachuk can be added to the 100% HDCF club with Lindholm as nobody on the Canucks was able to get a high quality scoring chance while that duo was on the ice. Dominik Simon got the High Danger 100 honour as well tonight. You could also guess that Dube’s replacement Leivo was very high in these categories too. Only TWO Flames finished 5v5 play allowing more chances than created. Andrew Mangiapane (42.25%) and Derek Ryan (40.94%)

xGF% - I could talk about Tkachuk (90.70%) and Lindholm (90.16%) in every column as they both played almost a perfect hockey game. I’m going to highlight Johnny Gaudreau (52.46%) and Sean Monahan (59.18%) here. The struggle last season was finding a way to get these two guys scoring, because if they weren’t playing dominant offensive hockey the Flames tended to struggle. Ward got a bunch of extra tools in the offseason and so far he has used them tremendously so much so that the depth of the lineup is 3 lines deep with spares to play in case anyone gets hurt along the way. Again the whole team (except 10 & 88) finished above 50%. Just domination.

Game Flow –

A million powerplays help to turn the tide, but the Flames started the comeback by laying on the gas at about 4 minutes into the second and never letting off after. No significant pushbacks by the Canucks who are going to have to answer a lot of their own questions after back to back beatdowns.

Game Score – As I have yet to explain this stat this season let me take some time to do it now. It was invented by the Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn to combine analytics data with that of box score data to give everyone a number (or “Game score”) to assess their performance on the night. Boston Bruins PxP announcer Jack Edwards today described it as “translating analytics into English). Scores can range anywhere from negative to positive, telling you who played strong and who played weak.

I’ve talked so far about Tkachuk and Lindholm’s near perfect games, yet at 5v5 they didn’t find the back of the net. Tkachuk didn’t find the scoresheet at all, yet still finished with a score of 0.94. Lindholms PP marker got him to 1.55 and that was good for 6th on the team tonight. Rasmus Andersson’s (2.29) 180ft empty net goal stole the nights top score from linemate Mark Giordano (2.23). The pair of defenders limited quality chances at a high rate tonight and didn’t get scored on 5v5. Jonathan Hockey Gaudreau was the top forward tonight with a 2.19

Shot Heatmap –

For the lack of HD chances the Canucks got at 5v5 it sure seems they got a bit of traffic in close around Markstrom. This is the third straight match the Flames haven’t allowed chances from the high slot. The team is really buying into Geoff Ward’s message and if this keeps up i’m going to owe him an apology for how i treated him all summer. I’ve said that two reviews in a row now, and i’m hoping it happens tbh because that means the Flames will continue to roll.

In The Crease – Would the Flames have even had the opportunity to come back had it not been for Jacob Markstrom? His 5v5 stats had him face an xGA of 0.84, a sv% of 0.933, and a GAA of 1.62. He was credited with his first low danger shot going in (Virtanen goal) which you could hardly blame on him. No high danger chances against tonight, although he only faced 5 at 5v5. Markstrom’s back to back tremendous nights are quickly winning the C of Red over.

Today’s Specials – Today I’m going to hint at top unit vs. second unit and the slight differences in chances they create. The Flames #1 PP unit saw about 6 mins more of PP ice time than the second unit, they possess the puck about 6% more (82% vs. 75%), and created a bit more quality (91% vs. 89%). Now the top unit was credited with a GA, but that happened on an odd man rush that the second PP unit gave up on a Bennett mishandle of the puck. That normally wouldn’t happen if Dube was healthy and in his spot, but it did and the Flames had an unfortunate bounce off Giordano’s stick go past Markstrom.

Player Spotlight – Nikita Nesterov – I was extremely critical of this signing in the off season. I wanted more Kylington, or to try Mackey, but this man has shut me up early. CF% - 62.50%, SCF% - 75.26%, HDCF% - 62.79%, xGF% - 74.96%. It hasn’t just been Valimaki whose absolutely brought an early stability to the Flames third Dpair. I actually don’t think I’ve EVER seen the Flames have their 3rd pair play this well in consecutive games. If Nesterov can continue this all season the Flames will be laughing their way to a playoff spot.

Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –

1) Elias Lindholm

2) Matthew Tkachuk

3) Nikita Nesterov

The Flames now get a long stretch of games off before facing the Mape Leafs for the first time, a team that will truly test their ability to limit xG> Expect Markstrom to be thoroughly tested by the Leafs big 4, and especially be prepared to say welcome back to old long time Flame, TJ Brodie.

(Stats compiled from Naturalstattrick.com // Game Score from Hockeystatcards.com)