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Analytical Analysis - G20 - Empty Net Goals Are Important Too

The fact the Flames even had the opportunity to get an ENG was - for the zillionth time this season - thanks to their goaltender.

NHL: FEB 24 Flames at Maple Leafs Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Well that was a rollercoaster. From a 1-0 lead with under 4 min to play to a 2-1 overtime loss the Flames were truly lucky to escape with a point. The majority of the vocal fanbase on twitter is about done with moral victories, but for myself I’ll gladly have them get any points at all. If the team wants to improve, they’re going to have to adjust their breakout significantly. The talent on this team is evident, and it’s masking the problems that would be occurring if lesser quality players were being employed.

It’s a Team Game – CF% - 41.8%, SCF% - 44.73%, HDCF% - 36.48%, xGF% - 40.08%. The Flames got hemmed in their own zone – especially late in the game – as the Leafs skated circles around them trying to get a goal. William Nylander eventually found the net at 6v5 after Lindholm hit the post on an empty net that would have all but sealed Calgary’s victory. While it stings to lose a W when a 2-0 lead was ½ an inch to the left Calgary.

Corsi King – Chris Tanev (60.94 CF%) and Noah Hanifin (58.34%) managed to tread above water with the very sheltered Glenn Gawdin (51.52%) and Josh Leivo (51.52%). The coaching staff is showing no current trust in their 4th line deployment and when 13/23 are already getting sheltered by being sent out almost exclusively in the offensive zone it dries up the ice time of your 4th line.

Corsi Clown – Rasmus Andersson (24.23 CF%) was getting sunk in his own zone with partner Mark Giordano (33.78%). Juuso Valimaki (24.64%) has also really struggled a lot recently, although he’s having a different D partner every second game. Valimaki, Kylington (36.70%), and Andersson are all really gifted skaters that could help breaking out of the zone with possession – they just aren’t allowed to utilize their true talents right now.

Taken by Chance – Three Flames skaters actually were able to stand out with decent nights in terms of possession and scoring chances. Tanev (63.50 SCF% // 74.20 HDCF%), Hanifin (67.00% // 65.73%), & Johnny Gaudreau (52.61% // 60.60%) all were on the positive side of most metrics, unfortunately it was just them. Hanifin and Tanev were the most successful on breakouts while the Gaudreau line got offensively utilized in terms of zone starts.

xGF% - Rasmus Andersson had a season low (and maaaay be a career low) 8.87%. For clarification that means that when Rasmus Andersson was deployed last night the opposition was 91% more likely to score on the Flames than the Flames were to score on the Leafs. It’s hard guarding star players all the time, but this was a big time L for the top D pair as they couldn’t do anything right with the puck (if they could even get it).

Game Flow –

The Flames were able to keep momentum pretty static in the first despite the 3 penalties taken. The Leafs came out in the second and really started pressing Calgary’s breakout and forcing turnovers. This led to the Leafs having multiple shifts with extended possession in Calgary’s end.

Game Score – Nobody was classified with a breakout performance in this one, however we have a new season low for Rasmus Andersson (-2.47). I don’t want to say anything negative about him because I don’t believe he’s been given the freedom to play the way he knows how to. In fact, the majority of the team is still trying to constantly adjust to a new way of playing hockey.

Shot Heatmap –

Calgary at least did a decent job of getting to the middle, but not well enough on the shot types to properly test Hutchinson. The Leafs goaltender last night is notorious for having terrible rebound control and yet the point shots continued to be above the waist, something he could grab or knock into the corner with his blocker. If you’re going to play a fringe NHL level goaltender at least do the scouting report on his weaknesses first.

In The Crease – David Rittich did not allow a goal against at 5v5. That’s one of the best performances you could have hoped for from your backup goalie. He was rode hard against Toronto the last two games – he faced 2.08 expected goals against at 5v5 Wednesday – and it doesn’t look like he’s going to get a rest soon. At least when Markstrom finally gets healthy again the coaching staff shouldn’t have to worry about riding one goalie, with two competent ones you can ride a tandem timeshare the rest of the way.

Today’s Specials – I am honestly flabbergasted the Flames haven’t surrendered a PP goal to Toronto in 12 straight chances. The Leafs employ the Flames same powerplay – from breakout to offensive set up – so Calgary’s quite familiar with it. When CGY faced the Canucks for 4 games Vancouver was able to limit CGY’s break-ins with an aggressive stand at the blue line mixed with a pesky forechecking forward. It seems the special teams coach noticed that because in the game on Wednesday the team changed up their PK tactics to mirror what VAN did to them. Smart on the coach to do that, it was very effective.

Player Spotlight – Josh Leivo – While I am certainly glad Josh Leivo is back in the lineup it really still feels like the coaching staff dislikes him. He would be a perfect complement to Tkachuk/Lindholm while giving Mangiapane the opportunity to bring some defensive stability to Gaudreau/Monahan. Based on recent play Milan Lucic has been less effective than he had been earlier in the year and a demotion to the 4th line could re-spark what he had found.

Tkachuk – Lindholm – Leivo

Gaudreau – Monahan – Mangiapane

Bennett – Backlund – Dube

Lucic – Gawdin – Nordstrom

These are what would seem to be the optimal lines from my perspective, but the coaching staff seems extremely reluctant to give Leivo another opportunity – despite the fact that all his underlying numbers are terrific. If they’re going to continue this North-South hockey strategy they could at least look at ways to optimize their lineup using some data instead of randomly scrambling the lines every 5 periods.

Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –

1) David Rittich

2) Chris Tanev

3) Johnny Gaudreau

The Flames are right back in action against the young Sens on Thursday.

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