It started frustrating. The team was playing very well at 5v5 in the first period, pushing the pace against the top team in the division. Montreal got a couple powerplay goals and the team STILL kept pushing. Montreal started to push back, got an unfortunate 2 on 1 from a bad pinch, a tremendous hand eye goal from Josh Anderson and it was 3-0 Habs. It was at that point that you could clearly see the wind fall out of the players sails (not all of them, but most). Not enough penetration to any hard scoring areas tonight, and that’s just not enough against any NHL team.
It’s a Team Game – The Flames CF% for the whole game was 49.32%. Makes it seem close. How about we just look at the last two periods of play where it was 41.99%. 8:42 seconds were played 5v5 in the 3rd period and the Flames were able to muster 0 scoring chances. That’s right ZERO scoring chances when the data is SVA. That Bennett goal was so low chance the data doesn’t recognise it. Imagine getting a gift of a weak goal like that and having it mean nothing. Believe it or not the Toronto game where they had 1 shot after the 1st was a better showing from this club than what they put in through 60 tonight.
Corsi King – You know who didn’t play bad all game, was constantly pushing play into the Habs zone and was creating scoring chances? Matthew Tkachuk (80.94%) was someone that the Habs couldn’t solve. Linemates Elias Lindholm (74.33%) and Josh Leivo (71.64%) also had positive showings.
Corsi Clown – Where to start. The 4th line was miserable but it’s hardly their fault they’re consistent;ly getting deployed against competition well above their skill level. Sam Bennett (33.02%) and worst on the team tonight Mikael Backlund (25.42%) sufficiently brought down sparkplug Andrew Mangiapane (34.49%).
Taken By Chance – Joakim Nordstrom (0% SCF% & HDCF%) got benched tonight. If Geoff Ward has had enough than you know it’s bad. 1 player tonight had bad possession but positive scoring chance ratio, Dominik Simon (54.64 SCF%) however none of them were of any significance (32.09 HDCF%). 3 players tonight didn’t allow a high danger chance against tonight. Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin, and Chris Tanev all had HDCF ratios of 100%.
xGF% - I can not emphasize enough just how much Matthew Tkachuk was going tonight. 95.27 xGF% in this game with those final two periods what they were… pretty remarkable. Matthew Tkachuk is more than just a pest, he’s an elite talent that plays two way hockey with the best of them. The other 2 players that played well were Hanifin (93.48%) and Tanev (87.38%) who for the 6th straight game have impressed me.
This was the second straight game where Mikael Backlund (37.36%) put up bad numbers. Tonight however he seemed to have more oompf. This was a bad game from the 4th line who tend to get momentum killed whenever they get deployed. Milan Lucic (19.46%) is usually the first with a line promotion, but despite the random goal against the Leafs that’s an unwise thing to do based on his summation of play through 6 games.
Game Flow –
That 3rd period flatlined. Like absolutely no movement in either direction at 5v5. Neither team did anything which is sad when one of those teams was down by 4. You can also see the point in the second period where the Flames quit skating and got ran over. After the 3rd goal it kind of teetered off to even, but the lead up to that was a flames collapse.
Game Score – This is the main stat in these reviews that quantifies hard box score stats like goals and assists. A goal is a goal is a goal when this is calculated and thus the Flames top performer for the night in this category was Sam Bennett (1.59) whose season average is -0.30. The skaters who struggled tonight were Juuso Valimaki (-0.73) and Nikita Nesterov (-0.48). I won’t get mad at Valimaki for working through some growing pains because he’s brought way more positives to the blue line this season than negatives.
Shot Heatmap –
Just look at that absolutely pitiful effort to get to the net. The dump and chase did not work as the Habs forwards clogged up the neutral zone forcing the Flames to give over possession to Montreal’s defencemen. If the Flames did ever get a chance it was siphoned to the left point and then a long distance shot that hardly would test price was let off. Lacklustre is my favourite word to describe it.
In The Crease – I’m going be the one to say it, that Shorthanded goal where Toffoli didn’t get anything on it was one Dave should want back. The powerplay goal by Gallagher was the result of Gio losing a stick battle in front while the second PP goal was a weird deflection you could blame no goalie for. Josh Anderson banking a well-placed rebound out of mid-air was some super skill that you don’t usually bank on happening. All in all, I’m giving David Rittich a passing grade for tonight. He did his job at 5v5 tonight, but that shorthanded goal might haunt him.
Today’s Specials – A late powerplay goal is not going to deter me from mentioning that tonight was the worst I’ve seen this top unit run. No zone entries were available as the Habs PK unit shut everything down at their own blue line. That shorthanded breakaway was a victim of their own system of rimming the puck around the boards to try and maintain possession when under pressure. It worked against the defensively deficient Canucks, but adjustments should be made to try and solve the Habs unit.
Player Spotlight – Joakim Nordstrom – His 5v5 play has been some of the worst I’ve ever seen in a Flames uniform. I’m not joking when I say Zac Rinaldo was consistently putting up better numbers. Nordstrom’s PK skill couldn’t stop the opposition powerplay from netting 2 early, and that\s supposed to be his specialty. I won’t blame him for both as he was only out there for one against, but he brought nothing to the lineup tonight.
You can win a game with good play from your 4th line, but you shouldn’t lose games because of them. The coaching staff keeps trying to roll 4 lines this season and that’s been a very big weakness of this team. The 4th line is consistently being put in situations where they’re struggling to succeed, and the organization is over-assessing their talent level.
Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –
1) Matthew Tkachuk
2) Noah Hanifin
3) Chris Tanev
The Flames will stay in Montreal to continue their road trip, spending lots of time in their hotel rooms alone and hopefully thinking about what they did here tonight.
(Stats compiled from Naturalstattrick.com // Game Score from Hockeystatcards.com)