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Analytical Analysis - G17 - Lessons In Restricting Your Own Center Depth

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The Flames shortened their bench, in an odd way, on their way to a 2-1 loss to the Oilers who had Calgary on their heels all night.

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

In 16:19 of third period action the Edmonton Oilers held the trailing Calgary Flames to no high danger chances against. A team as defensively deficient as the Edmonton Oilers was able to hold this squad to the perimeter and give them no good looks. That’s bad, if the Flames wanted to compete in the playoffs this year, they better figure out what’s intoxicating the room. Everyone is a suspect for the Flames after an offseason where they were successful in getting extreme depth and yet have stumbled out to an 8-8-1 record, and have been outplayed more often than not.

Legend: CF% = CorsiFenwick Ratio // SCF% = All situation Scoring Chance ratio // HDCF% = High Danger Chance Ratio // xGF% = Expected Goals Ratio

It’s a Team Game – CF% - 45.51%, SCF% - 39.1%, HDCF% - 44.38%, xGF% - 38.38%. They got dominated in every category by the Oilers. Offensively, defensively you name it. As a full unit they faltered and left David Rittich out to dry. The team lately has been utilizing too many weak passes in their own zone/neutral zone leading to turnovers and odd man rushes. The breakout sees two completely stationary wingers – one at the blue line and one at the red line – with no intention of skating the puck into the zone with possession. It may have won a lot of hockey games back in 1996 but in the year of 2021, it’s just going to lead to perpetual disappointment.

Corsi King – It’s a pleasure to say Matthew Tkachuk (67.24 CF%) finishes tops here for the first time since game 4. That’s a span of 13 games and that’s the longest he’s ever gone without being top 3 in CF%, let alone 1st only. 3M 2.0 was popping off positively last night with Andrew Mangiapane (60.78%) and Mikael Backlund (59.15%) – both strong play drivers themselves – getting Tkachuk back to prominence. Unfortunately, outside those 3 none of the other 3 forward lines finished on the positive side of the ratio.

Corsi Clown – I had questions about Dillon Dube (24.67%) being deployed with 13/28 as his style of play that leads him to success is different from the latter two’s. It did not work which prompted Ward to reunite the Bubble Boys only for him to eventually bench Sam Bennett (42.44%). The replacement and man who got double shifted after was Byron Froese (35.12%). Weird choice by the coach to deplete his center depth in a match as important as this, willingly, down by just 1 goal. These 2 games against the Oilers could have propelled CGY to a very easy standings position going forward but instead – even with a split – CGY will still be hunting from the outside looking in.

Taken By Chance – Juuso Valimaki had a really rough game. He allowed 6.63 scoring chances against, 2.23 high danger chances against, and didn’t have the team generate a scoring chance for while he was on the ice all night. A player like Valimaki would probably be a deadly 4th forward if the D were ever allowed to express some offensive freedom, but alas they are not.

Defence first did win the Los Angeles Kings 2 Stanley cups in 2012 and 2014. They barely got into the playoffs in 2012 – they did it as the 8th seed. These types of systems can win you games in the playoffs but getting to the playoffs isn’t guaranteed. I’m sure everyone in a significant position with the Flames is riding on a potential playoff spot to keep their jobs, but it may be too late to change direction at this point.

xGF% - Andrew Mangiapane (62.66%) has easily been the most consistent Forward on the defensive side of the puck this season. His offensive breakout has just been a bonus we should all enjoy. Mangiapane will go anywhere on the ice with the purpose of getting the puck, he has no fear of getting hit and it’s brought him great individual success. Maybe more players should watch him nightly and learn.

Game Flow –

Calgary had a decent amount of control and momentum building in the second period without being able to cash in a goal. They failed to get one by Mike Smith, fell behind 2-0, and let the Oilers shut them down in the third. Been a lot of strong third periods played against Calgary late, not allowing them to employ the tactic of their late game come from behind wins. They’re going to need to start playing well early if this is how teams are adjusting to them.

Game Score – The best score from anyone last night – on either team – was Johnny Gaudreau (1.96). JG13 logged 24:20 of total ice time, which is ridiculous, but well deserved. They did have some sustained pressure with the goalie pulled but just couldn’t get to the middle of the ice for a quality shot attempt. Josh Leivo (0.73) had a really strong game after being moved up to play with 13 & 28 in the second intermission. As much as you want to shake-up your lineup Leivo has provided consistently strong play in every aspect of the game but finishing, he should ALWAYS be in the lineup.

Shot Heatmap –

Both teams went heavy on trying to restrict in tight chances to help their goaltenders. The Oilers just got the run support. Honestly anytime you lose to the Oilers and they only scored 2 goals without getting a goal from McDavid or Draisaitl it’s an even bigger loss than you think. This team squandered a great performance from their goaltender.

In The Crease – What an absolute waste of a highlight reel save. The team in front of him really let him down tonight. The Oilers bottom 6 ran over the Flames weird – intentionally depleted – bottom 6 with regularity. BSD was only beat by High Danger chances. He did allow 2 goals while only facing 1.64 expected goals, but he did more than enough to help his team, some reciprocation would have been nice.

Today’s Specials – In Sean Monahan’s absence it was nice to see them rightfully promote Andrew Mangiapane to the big unit. Rasmus Andersson is back running the point, but he gets called off extremely early in favour of Giordano and I really don’t know why. Giordano at his point of his career is a defence first guy. Andersson/Valimaki should very easily be able to take the reins. PP2 hasn’t clicked in a while and it feels like maybe they should mix that up or worry about their terrible PP break-in execution. Like if there’s an opposing player behind you covering the bump back, maybe just skate the thing forward instead of forcing a turnover?

Player Spotlight – Mark Giordano – 5 of the last 6 games have featured the resurgence of strong play from Mark Giordano. He and Andersson have started to find their groove together and are making very positive impacts at 5v5. The trouble is the third D pair is only being deployed against bottom 6 units and Calgary’s Forwards in their bottom six haven’t been much help. The depth may be in question, but Mark Giordano playing his best hockey of the year so far is not.

Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –

1) Andrew Mangiapane

2) Matthew Tkachuk

3) Mark Giordano

The Flames continue to try and grind out of their funk with a game against the Oilers in Edmonton Feb. 20th.

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