Game Takes: Flames 4 Panthers 3

January 12th, 2019 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

The Flames just keep on winning.

In the past two weeks they haven’t iced a single classic, sixty minute, coast to coast, work of art type game that would leave a city or hockey culture talking. They win, but they do so in a madly inconsistent fashion.

Tonight at the Saddledome the struggling Florida Panthers were spotted a two goal lead 21 minutes into the game before the Flames got serious about their craft and took the game back, scoring four straight goals including an empty netter before the Panthers made it close with a wrap around goal in the final minute.

It’s coming … last night’s effort was closer to 45 minutes, but they still have some work to do.

Line Up Changes

A game that the analytics community simply needed the Flames to win.

All truculence with minimal skill scratched, all skill with limited size and hostility dressed. With the possible switch out of injured Juuso Valimaki for Oliver Kylington, the Flames roster from David Rittich in net through the defense pairings and up to the forwards features the best spreadsheet team Calgary cab possibly dress.

Andrew Mangiapane in for Garnet Hathaway, and Oliver Kylington in for Dalton Prout gave Bill Peters four lines of offensive players to mix and match going into the game and of course during the game when he saw some guys going and others sputtering in their roles.

To start the game Peters elevated Austin Czarnik to the second line, a move I’m guessing was aimed more at getting away from a super smurf fourth line of Czarnik, Derek Ryan and Andrew Mangiapane than a demotion of Michael Frolik to the fourth line.

David Rittich started his fourth straight game since his injury.

The Peters Swap

After a slow start, Bill Peters didn’t waste much time putting Frolik back up with the 3M line, a move that created all three goals wiping out a 2-0 deficit and giving the Flames the win.

Is this the optimal look for the team? I’m not sure who’s in our out on the fourth line matters as much, but to see the third line hopping with Neal/Jankowski and Bennett at the same time as the second line found their “3M-ness” in the game was a welcome sight in a game that had the first line disappear.

That may be the first time this season I’ve felt like the team had three lines that could damage when they came over the boards.

60 Minutes?

I wouldn’t say so, no.

The Flames have been winning games of late despite playing some of their most inconsistent hockey of the season. A spotty start in Detroit and Philadelphia resulted in the need for late game push to find the two points. A good start in Chicago but a terrible second resulted in a tie game with Calgary dominating in the third.

Tonight an iffy start again as the Flames gave up the only goal in the first and another early in the second before waking up and taking the game over the rest of the way.

Hopefully a home stand and some practices will get this group dialled in and ready for the post all star game push to the trade deadline and beyond. They have the skill to get things done, but they shouldn’t rely on said skill to bale them out on a routine basis.

Oh Roberto

For a good chunk of the game it looked like a little history could have been made at the Saddledome, not the kind of history a Calgary fan would like, but history nonetheless.

If Roberto Luongo had hung on against the Flames last night he would have moved into a tie with Grant Fuhr for most victories against the Calgary Flames franchise in team history.

At his age, and potentially diminishing skill level you’d have to think that was his last chance at the record. He may see Calgary in another start, but even so he’s getting less and less likely to pull off wins the season is going.

Quite a ride though, including a good chunk of games where he was the pulse of the Vancouver Canucks in a rivalry with the Flames.

Delay of Game Penalty

Wonder when this rule changed? Or I guess I wonder when the way they called this rule changed?

It used to be a penalty to freeze the play when the puck was behind the goal line behind the net or beside and just behind the line. A goalie could always come out and freeze the puck to avoid a breakaway. The nuance was always that you couldn’t freeze the puck without pressure from the opposition.

Last night a pretty clear break for the Panthers and David Rittich freezes the puck and it’s an instant two minute minor.

Had to laugh later in the game when he covered another one and then slid back into his crease carefully.

Another Review

Hey I got another one right!

When Mark Giordano scored in the second period to tie the score I hesitated as I could see Florida players including Luongo pointing at something off to the right of the net. Standing just right of the net was a grinning Matthew Tkachuk heading to celebrate the goal.

The review showed some contact as Tkachuk moved from Luongo’s right to left, but he was clear at least a second before Giordano let the shot fly. Given the Rittich non call in overtime against Dallas earlier this year I was guessing the goal would stand.

Luckily it did.

Gio Scores After Snub

Speaking of the goal, it was nice to see Giordano score a big goal the game after his all star snub.

Glad to hear it’s an annoyance for Giordano’s teammates as they are legitimately pissed at their captain not getting his dues given the season he’s having, but at his age there is certainly a silver lining in getting eight days off and recharging his batteries for hopefully a good long extended season.

Statistically it does seem kind of foolish to have a point a game defenseman at any age miss an all star game, but when you see what they were doing with the home city it was somewhat inevitable.

Rittich vs Kiprusoff

Eric Francis wrote an article highlighting a comparison between the Flames legend Mikka Kiprusoff and current upstart David Rittich. He stops short of directly comparing the players as Rittich needs some serious short and long term resume to even get into the discussion.

As a thought though I looked up some of Kiprusoff’s records and was amused to see some of his seasons had some advanced stats attached to them that were not in discussion at the time. During the 2005-06 season Kiprusoff had a goals saved above average (GSAA) of +41.63. 41.63! That’s literally over half a goal a game that the quality and quantity of shots he faced suggested he should have given up. That’s incredible. This year’s leader, Fredrik Andersson is sitting at 14.36 through just over half a season.

Standings Implications

A pretty quiet night on the out of town scoreboard, and with that only two teams factored into the Flames standings takeaway from the win over Florida.

The Ducks lost to the Penguins, pushing their losing streak to nine games and falling a full 16 points behind the Flames with a game in hand. The Jets beat the Red Wings to keep pace with the Flames at the top of the conference. The Flames lead the Sharks by three points with even games played, The Jets are four points back but have two games in hand, Nashville and Vegas are both tied with Winnipeg, the Knights having played one more game than Calgary, and Nashville even up.

In the Division it’s three points on the Sharks and four points on the Knights. The gap to the Ducks is the gap to the next playoff team not in the big three, as the chasm between teams competing for division playoff spots and potential wild car births continue to grow.

Fancy Stats

The Flames may have been out shot in the first period, but the underlying numbers suggest their start wasn’t quite as bad as you’d think. Calgary’s first period featured 55% of the shot attempts, 58% of the scoring chances and 57% of the high danger chances as they were sloppy and turned the puck over too often, but didn’t surrender the kitchen sink defensively.

Overall in the game the Flames finished with 66% of the shot attempts on period splits of 55% / 76% and 62% and secured 67% of the scoring chances and 76% of the high danger chances. A good sign is the fact the club surrendered only four high danger chances against all night; three in the first, none in the second and one in the third.

In all situations the Flames had 61% of the shot attempts, 59% of the scoring chances and 63% of the high danger chances, and the lion’s share of the Panther’s impact came on their powerplays.

Individually, as you’d expect, it was a good night for the Flames as well. Mark Giordano led the way with a staggering 87% mark on the strength of a 26-4 split, a staggering number for an individual player. Travis Hamonic, Michael Frolik, James Neal, Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski, Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund were also in the 70s and carrying the mail. Only two players were under the 50/50 mark, and they were Andrew Mangiapane and Austin Czarnik at 40%.



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