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The Season Segments: 2/8

We take a look at the Flames numbers over the span of their second set of seven games to see how they’ve been playing recently.

Edmonton Oilers v Calgary Flames Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

The Numbers (5v5 SVA):

Record: 4-3-0

CF%: 49.38%

xGF%: 55.09%

xG+/- per 60: 0.47

GF%: 61.43%

SCF%: 53.18%

HDCF%: 60.71%

PP%: Was 29.4% (9th) is now 22.0% (14th)

PK%: was 80.8% (11th) is now 79.3% (18th)

On-Ice Sh%: 11.49%

On-Ice Sv%: 93.57%

Legend: (CF% = CorsiFenwick % // SCF% = Scoring Chance Ratio (SCF/SCA) // HDCF% = High Danger Chance Ratio (HDCF/HDCA) // xGF% = Expected Goals Ratio (xGF/xGA))

Despite playing their worst effort of the season to end the segment all the games leading up to it show Calgary having extremely positive results at 5v5. Geoff Wards strategy to limit high danger chances against is working despite all the hate towards how he optimizes his lineup in the eyes of the public. Every stat other than their CF% showed an increase from the performance in the first segment, including a well-deserved 6% bump in shooting percentage.

As long as the system holds, and the Flames continue to limit their high danger chances, having a world class goalie like Jacob Markstrom making all the easy saves and letting in very few flubs will help propel Calgary into a playoff spot in the tightly contested North division. To this point – and it may not seem like it – their overall play on both sides of the puck has been second best in the division trailing only Montreal. Say what you want about the coach or the effort of some players, real results are starting to be seen and they’re mostly positive.

The Lines

Tkachuk – Lindholm – Dube

Gaudreau – Monahan – Bennett

Lucic – Backlund – Mangiapane

Leivo – Froese – Nordstrom

Giordano – Andersson

Hanifin – Tanev

Valimaki - Nesterov

In the first segment we highlighted the absolute domination of the first line and how they only had one bad game, This segment? A complete 180. Dube posted an xGF% over the seven-game span of just 39.99% while Matthew Tkachuk (46.35 xGF%) and Elias Lindholm (45.11 xGF%) also faltered. They had an inflated on-ice shooting % to mask the fact that they’ve largely been buried within their own zone and only in recent days as the production has dried up have people started to take notice. They typically draw the toughest matchup assignments which can hurt, but if the guys tasked with shutting down other teams top 6 are failing, that’s not good news for your goals against.

Sam Bennett was given the opportunity to show his worth to the world and he has not disappointed. So much so it’s very unlikely in my mind that the Flames will want to trade him now that he’s got Gaudreau and Monahan playing really well. The thing is that while the offence is coming for Bennett, he’s still struggling to limit chances against defensively. He allowed an xGA/60 of 2.25 but was able to outscore his flaws having an xGF/60 of 2.53. For the third segment Bennett has been moved off this line so it will be interesting to see how his numbers fair.

The Flames “Third” line has three of their best performing players. The entire line posted xGF% & CF% numbers in the 60’s. Milan Lucic especially has played way stronger than everyone was expecting him too and is making that big contract look less like an albatross and more just like a bad itch. Mikael Backlund going down to injury right as this line was playing lights out is extremely bad luck. His xG+/- per 60 minutes was 2.24. He was straight up driving the bus to wins whenever he stepped over the boards.

While they started extremely slow, the Flames Captain and their young gun with the big shot were just finally taking off. They still had trouble in the time of possession battle, but they were limiting quality chances like the top players we knew they were. Both of them were above 0.5 in xG/60 over the span of the 7 games, and anything positive is a good thing. The third game saw Geoff Ward “demote” Razz of sorts, which was odd considering he had been playing quite strong over this stretch of games. How did he respond? Well see Analytical Analysis – G15 for that answer.

We knew the perfect Cinderella start wasn’t going to last forever, but that does NOT mean that Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev have been playing bad. On the contrary they have emerged as Calgary’s true number 1 D pair overtaking that of Giordano and Andersson. They’ve gotten more minutes and have yet to squander their opportunity. The natural chemistry between the two of them is magical to watch and I can only hope they keep this up long term. Regression eventually comes for us all however, but not today for these two studs.

After an overly positive first 7 games the rookie struggles started to come for the Flames Juuso Valimaki. He was just slightly out possessed, and he was allowing the worst quality attempts against of all the Flames 6 regular defenders. Nikita Nesterov was still treading above water before his scratch, but we’ll not judge that replacement until such time Connor Mackey plays enough games to compare the two. As for Valimaki I’m glad the team hasn’t pulled him from the lineup. Young guys are going to go through rough patches as they learn and Valimaki WILL find another gear in his game as time goes on.

Positivity

The goals started to come for Andrew Mangiapane as predicted. He’s been a sparkplug on every single line he’s been put with this season and has really become the teams swiss army knife. He just never quits and is always in a relentless pursuit of the puck. What sets him apart from others is his ability to also think the game and anticipate the direction the opposition wants to push the puck and then he applies immediate pressure in the neutral zone.

Johnny Gaudreau has been on a goal scoring tear like he’s never seen in his professional career. Two breakaway goals where he didn’t go 5 hole help a tonne. Johnny looks like the dominant speedster like he was back in 18-19 and we’ve seen him take complete control of offensive zone shifts before. Expect his strong play to continue in home matches as his line gets heavy offensive zone usage, but also expect a bit of regression – most likely which will come on the road as the opposition can match up properly against him.

Jacob Markstrom time. I didn’t comment on a single players on-ice save percentage so far because every single one of them is in a ridiculous stratosphere. He is stopping everything at 5v5 and as long as the Flames continue to limit odd man rushes, I really don’t see why it would stop. He’s humongous, fast, agile and has the vision of an old man through his living room window that can see the neighbourhood ruffians messing up his lawn. He is stopping everything and it’s a treat to watch.

Negativity

We already outlined the Flames top line, which most likely will get going again in segment three as Mangiapane was added to 19-28 while Dube was put with 17-93 to reunite the Flames Bubble Boys from this past playoffs. I, however, would like to discuss the consistent scratching of Josh Leivo.

He’s got better possession rates, better quality chance rates, better scoring chance rates, and an all-around better play than every single Calgary Flame on the 4th line. I get using Froese as a C, and using Nordstrom as a PK guy, but there’s no conceivable reason to scratch Leivo for Simon/Rinaldo/Robinson on any given night. Brad Treliving struck depth gold with this guy and it’s time the Flames coaching staff woke up to that realization. Leivo is the only one on the team with an on-ice save % below 95% that also has an on-ice shooting % below 10 (7.52 sh% // 88.29 sv%). Put him back in the lineup and the quality of the Flames 4th line becomes astronomically better.

The Next Segment

Game 1: Monday February 15th @ Vancouver, 8PM MST (4-3 Flames OT Win)

Game 2: Wednesday February 17th Vs. Vancouver, 8PM MST (SN1, SNP)

Game 3: Friday February 19th Vs. Edmonton, 7PM MST (SN1, SNE, SNO, SNW, TVAS, ESPN+)

Game 4: Saturday February 20th @ Edmonton, 8PM MST (CBC, SN, NHLN)

Game 5: Monday February 22nd @ Toronto, 5PM MST (TVAS, TSN4, SNW)

Game 6: Wednesday February 24th @ Toronto, 5PM MST (SN, TVAS)

Game 7: Thursday February 25th @ Ottawa, 5PM MST (TSN5, RDS2, SNW)

The Scotia North battles on in the next segment. Calgary will look finish up their 4-game set against Vancouver, beat the crap out of each other on back-to-back Battle of Alberta’s before hitting the road to get revenge against Muzzin and the Leafs. They End the segment with their first matchup of the season against the Ottawa Senators.

Records against Scotia North Teams so Far:

Van: 4-1-0

Edm: 1-0-0

Wpg: 2-2-1

Tor: 0-2-0

Ott: 0-0-0

Mtl:1-1-0

Should you have any questions at all please direct them to @Flash_33 on twitter or in the comments section on the Matchsticks & Gasoline FB page.

(Statistics from various sources such as Evolving-Hockey.com, Naturalstattrick.com, Hockeyviz.com, & NHL.com)