Chapter one of the Battle of Alberta is in the books and instead of fights we got goals. The team started off still stuck in their pre-game naps but quickly woke up after finding themselves down by a goal. That’s weird to say since they scored less than a minute in, but the man with one of the best wrist rockets on the squad rip homed a long-range snipe. It was the first strike on a long night for Mikko Koskinen.
It’s a Team Game – CF%: 50.02, SCF%: 55.01, HDCF%: 58.43, XGF%: 57.59%. The numbers were inflated by a strong 2nd period after yet another slow start to the game. The story has tended to be the same whether or not they start strong or slow they always end up down by a goal or two. The pushback by the team was a strong positive side, I didn’t have that much faith after seeing the lineups before hand but the 4th line was sheltered and got limited minutes.
Corsi King – He had a strong game on the boxscore and an even strong game on the fancystats. Mikael Backlund (67.20%) and his line of Andrew Mangiapane (64.64%) and Milan Lucic (61.89%) were constantly able to outmatch their competition. Backlund finding his mid-season form combined with the excellence of Andrew Mangiapne is an excellent combo. Especially props to Milan Lucic, who consistently gets the brunt of heat from the Flames fanbase (myself included – Sorry Looch), for starting to post a streak of games that show he is still an NHL player. (A bottom 6 low event player, but still a player)
Corsi Clown – The 4th line tended to get caved, but with only 5 mins of 5v5 ice time from them they don’t get the “win” in this category. Johnny Gaudreau (37.00%) actually finished bottom amongst significant players. I get the idea of showcasing Sam Bennett (37.33%) next to JG13 and Sean Monahan (37.26%), but it shackles your most dynamic offence creating forward – No not Mony. Hopefully they continue to defy the numbers and post actual goals but if this is the kind of game their playing it could hinder results fast.
Taken By Chance – The trio of Lucic, Mangiapane, Backlund (SCF% 71.25%) were tops in regular scoring chances while Matthew Tkachuk, Mark Giordano, and Dillon Dube all posted a HDCF% of 100%. Mark Giordano’s best defensive game of the season which is a positive. It’s worth noting that Juuso Valimaki and Nikita Nesterov had a lack of high danger chances created. They kept things close to 50% for all situations but the Flames failed to create a high danger chance while those two were over the boards.
xGF% - 3M 3.0 (Milan, Mikael, Mangiapane) led the way here as well, with all of them posting over 77% ratios. I may call them 3M 3.0, but without Tkachuk a 3M line of any kind feels a little empty. You know who had another strong game, Chris Tanev (58.20%) whose strong play has literally seen the Flames blueline the strongest it’s been in years. Despite scoring 2 goals the 13-23-93 line were constantly out chanced in quality. Sam Bennett literally drags that line down to below replacement level success. “BuT hE sCoReD a GoAl” yeah and he was also out there for 2 goals against as well. Most nights will see more pucks end up in the back of their own net then they create as a trio.
Game Flow –
First period hole, clearly dug. Second period pressure came about.3 minutes in and they whole team never let off the gas after. The Oilers have actually a few good pieces on their back end like Bouchard and early season returns on Lagesson are positive, but as a whole unit the Flames should be able to pressure them like this every time they play.
Game Score – Mikael Backlund (3.89) shot well above his average game score of 0.74. According to Dom L’s system that’s classified as a “breakout performance”. The other 4 that got breakout classification were: Milan Lucic (3.32), Andrew Mangiapane (3.22), Mark Giordano (2.71), and Dillon Dube (2.42).
Shot Heatmap –
The Flames have had some bad sh% luck so to see them get those two long range goals feels just right. The even more positive news is that the Flames are in line to get a few more of them after getting hardly any 5v5 distance goals through 10 games. I spoke about the Jets “mini-series” and how the Flames were poised to score some goals (in the pre-game predictions column), While i was right about it happening eventually i was just wrong about which game it would take place in. They’re still primed to score some more, especially Mr. Andrew Mangiapane.
In The Crease – Markstrom was exactly what he needed to be. That first period specifically could have been a whole lot worse had he not been making crucial saves. In years past the Flames would have crawled out of a period where they played like that down by 3 goals or more. He didn’t allow any low danger or medium danger chances and got the win. Not every game is going to be a glorious 2-0 shutout in Montreal and these 2 points the Flames grabbed were just as important as the 2-0, if not more (based on opponent and standings)
Today’s Specials – All I’ve got to say here is that the Dube celebration and how much the boys enjoyed it speaks volumes to what Milan Lucic and Zac Rinaldo bring to the dressing room. Now I’m a statistics/eye test man myself and personally would rather have Rhino as a “player satisfaction coach” like Brain McGratten. The days of just having enforcers are over but that doesn’t mean they need to not be in the dressing room. As for Looch, see the bottom of “Corsi King”.
Player Spotlight – Geoff Ward/Josh Leivo – He’s not a player, but his decisions affect players ice time and I need to talk about it. I get that you want to add a bit of grease when going into a firefight with the Oilers. Zac Rinaldo coming in? I knew that was going to happen the moment they re-signed him. The decision to take Josh Leivo out of the lineup after literally being a net positive in every game despite his struggles to put the puck in the back of their net? Absolutely ridiculous. I get that Ward loves Nordstrom’s penalty killing and Leivo can’t play center, but scratching an impact player like that to play the 4th line guys less than 5 minutes at 5v5? Geoff, c’mon.
Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –
1) Mikael Backlund
2) Andrew Mangiapane
3) Mark Giordano
The Flames continue their season tonight with another tilt against the Winnipeg Jets in what will certainly be Pierre Luc Dubois’ debut.
(Stats compiled from Naturalstattrick.com // Game Score from Hockeystatcards.com)