Mark it as one of their most complete efforts of the season – even if it was against Ottawa. Although it’s hard to speak ill of a team that just one game previously handed the Flames a 6-1 stinker of a loss. The Flames got positive contributions from the majority of their roster minus the fourth forward line. There are still 3 upcoming games against Ottawa in the next week so this effort needs to be constantly replicated.
It’s a Team Game – CF% - 64.38%, SCF% - 61.39%, HDCF% - 46.03%, xGF% - 59.54%. The key difference in the Flames when comparing to the previous two weeks was their adjustments to their defensive zone breakout. They incorporated an East-West NZ pass – this option forces the opposition defence not to cheat. When always skating the puck north south it’s easier for opposing NHL defence to read the play and constantly be in your way. The other adjustment that came from that simple pass was more openings to walk into the offensive zone with possession. Now that the defence couldn’t cheat players like Johnny Gaudreau or Andrew Mangiapane could carry the puck across the line and maintain possession in hopes of finding openings off the rush. It resulted in two very quick strike goals from Valimaki and Backlund and helped propel the Flames to a great night overall.
Corsi King – Sam Bennett (74.95%) has really potential to be a useful 3rd line piece. He’s not a top 6 forward, he’s been given ample opportunity to prove that this year – with some positive metrics but little tangible results – which tell me he’s better suited playing up the middle on the third line. 12 guys were over 60% and in total 15 finished over 50%. Would I say this is the best game they’ve played all year? No… but it’s close to top 5.
Corsi Clown – Buddy Robinson (30.78%) should not be getting opportunities over prospects that you actually hope to develop. I’m not going to discuss another terrible night from Nordstrom (39.90%) because we know why he’s in the lineup every night. Glenn Gawdin (34.47%) has to be thrilled he’s played a week in the NHL but the team could stand to at least give him Leivo to try and help him succeed.
Taken By Chance – Chris Tanev (82.04 SCF% // 39.41 HDCF%) only allowed high danger chances against him. If the puck was on the perimeter the Senators got nothing against him, but they did find some holes to get some quality looks. This is the one statistic the Flames could have seriously improved upon. 3M 2.0 had the best high danger ratio at 67.54% - shared by all three forwards.
xGF% - Nikita Nesterov (70.31%) has shown through his work he’s a capable bottom pairing defender in the league. I’m waiting on him to score an absolute bomb of a slapshot still. Andrew Mangiapane (69.73%) and Mikael Backlund (69.73%) finished tied for 2nd. Players with strong metrics In other areas that faltered here were Milan Lucic (43.38%), Sean Monahan (43.51%), and Dillon Dube (44.98%)
Game Flow –
Now this is exactly how a game flow chart should look when a good team plays the last place team. Seize control early, seize it by a fair amount, then play steady defensively responsible hockey the rest of the way through. All we can ask for as fans is another repeat performance to this same magnitude. We know they can do it now, there’s no excuse to not bring it again.
Game Score – Mikael Backlund (4.97) had a monster game with buddy Andrew Mangiapane (4.21) following close behind. 6 players were classified with a breakout performance including the above two, Matthew Tkachuk (3.26), Johnny Gaudreau (3.05), Juuso Valimaki (2.01), and Nikita Nesterov (1.76). Again a very positive game from the Flames top 9 forwards, more so the top 6.
Shot Heatmap –
Mark Giordano loooooves shots from the left point, but can he keep em down please. Hanifin was a bit more active from that area then he usually is as well. The Flames after establishing possession want to drive down the middle of the ice, but they found way better offensive success off the rush than after they had set up in the zone.
In The Crease – While it was a 5v5 shutout for David Rittich he sure did struggle on the PK. The first Batherson goal was a rocket but that might still be one Dave wants back. If your goalie gives you strong 5v5 play every game there’s no reason to not win. 1.44 expected goals against – 7 high danger chances stopped – and 2 more points to try and keep the flailing playoff hopes alive.
Today’s Specials – That Sean Monahan PP goal was beautiful and came right when the team needed it. Too many times this team has allowed the opposition to take control of a game on the powerplay so coming out and getting that one extra goal to extend the lead to 3 was beyond huge.
Player Spotlight – Joakim Nordstrom – If you’re brought in solely for your penalty killing prowess, I would expect you to be able to help kill the powerplays. 2 of the goals against came while he was on the ice. If this team is going to hold players accountable after bad performances than its Nordstroms turn to feel a bit of heat. His atrocious 5v5 play is enough on any given night to remove him from the lineup alone so if his PK ability starts to fall out of top 20 in the league he should be eating popcorn.
Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –
1) Mikael Backlund
2) Andrew Mangiapane
3) Sam Bennett
The Flames continue their long road swing with the 3rd match of the series against the Sens going Monday at 5pm MST.
(Stats compiled from Naturalstattrick.com // Game Score from Hockeystatcards.com)