Game Takes: Flames 5 Avalanche 3

January 9th, 2019 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Yikes talk about a trap game. Start the car!

Flames win three of four on the road, and you just know that game coming off a trip is going to be a tough one. No problem you’ve got the tired Avalanche coming in, a struggling club that lost last night in Winnipeg despite out shooting their hosts 40-21.

Yet big problem indeed. The Avalanche out shoot the Flames by more than a 2-1 margin, but lose the game by two as the opportunist Flames, a solid night by David Rittich, and some solid collapsing down low pave the way to a 5-3 Flames win over the Colorado Avalanche.

Take it. Enjoy it. Don’t talk about it. Move on.

Line Up Changes

For the first time in a long while the Flames have a change on the blueline with Oliver Kylington taking a seat and Dalton Prout stepping in. The last two Prout encounters occurred when the Flames dressed seven defenseman (road trip through Minnesota and Dallas in December), but this is the first time since Kylington’s recall that Prout gets in ahead of a healthy defenseman.


You can’t get burned for 1/3 scoring chances and worse 1/5 high danger chances in three games on the road and not get noticed for the bad reasons. Bill Peters benched Kylington in both Boston and Chicago so this doesn’t come as a shock. It also shouldn’t come as an obituary either as sitting down a young player to watch from above and collect himself has certainly worked in the past.

Up front a change to the second line as Michael Frolik draws in on the 3M line to build a more effecient shut down line against McKinnon’s crew from Denver, while Sam Bennett slides down to the third line to play with James Neal and Mark Jankowski. Ironically this lineup is the only combination with significant minutes that I could come up with that has a positive expected goals for for all four lines.

David Rittich is in goal for the third straight game since returning from his injury, as the case for Rittich as the team’s number one continues to add strength.

Building A Shutdown Line

Interesting data behind shut down lines for the Flames this season as the coach picks Michael Frolik to step in against a top line. If you assume that Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk are 2/3 of the ideal Calgary unit it’s interesting to see how they have fared in various stats with other options.

Shot attempts against/60:

With Frolik 43.8/60
With Bennett 51.3/60
With Others 54.2/60

Edge Frolik

Scoring Chances against/60:

With Frolik 22.6/60
With Bennett 22.3/60
With Others 29.7/60

Edge Even

High Danger Chances against/60:

With Frolik 13.3/60
With Bennett 9.7/60
With Others 14.5/60

Edge Bennett

To each their own when it comes to sifting through these stats, but it’s clear Frolik and Bennett are the two best options to play with the Flames defensive conscious, and for my money Bennett seems to be the guy that has been with them for the least damage.

Actual damage? Frolik 1.97 GA/60 and Sam Bennett 2.23 GA/60, which amounts to two goals over the course of an 82 games schedule of playing with the pair.

Rittich and Shooting High

David Rittich stopped 32 of 35 shots and was a difference maker for the Flames full stop, so I’m not going to make this outing into a forensic attack on his net-minding. But the Avalanche found another short side high goal late in the game to make the final interesting.

I’m sure he’s aware of it, I’m sure they’re going to work on it, and I’m also pretty sure there’s a good dose of bounces and luck involved in getting three of those in two days but it is something to keep an eye on.

PK Strong

The Flames killed all four of the Avalanche powerplays on a night when their own man advantage group were only rewarded two opportunities themselves; a key component in the win.

Bill Peters mentioned Travis Hamonic blocking shots specifically after the game and with little doubt as the battered blueliner led all Calgary penalty killers with 5:19 of kill time, almost two minutes more than his closest teammate.

Without a gutsy stand from the PK group (led clearly by David Rittich) this game had all the makings of a stinker.

Gio Three Assists

A quick pass to Sam Bennett, an easy on across the blueline to Elias Lindholm on a second period powerplay, and then a flip shot towards the net going wide that hits Michael Frolik and goes in for the game winner. Typical night for Mark Giordano on his quest to nail down a Norris trophy in his 35th year on the planet.

He just continues to write what is becoming a great story.

Odds makers have Logon Couture snagging the final wild card spot for the Pacific team in the all star game being a local and all, but you have to hope Giordano finds a way. The guy is off the charts this season, he deserves to be there, rest be damned.

Gaudreau Keeps Rolling

Gaudreau now has 15 points in his last six games as the shifty winger continues to show his game has gone to a whole new level. Great pass to James Neal in the first period, setting up Mikael Backlund for his game opening goal, and then a powerplay assist on the Elias Lindholm goal to give him two more points tonight.

With a bounce or two he could have had a few more including the empty net attempt with Sean Monahan standing in front of the yawning cage.

Not a great night for the Flames overall, but their star player didn’t disappoint when he got the chance.


The Tampa Bay Lightning are off the charts this season; in the standings, in their record and in their goal differential. Below the almighty though you have Toronto and Calgary slogging it out for goal differential amongst the NHL’s 31 chapters.

The Flames have a two goal lead early, a two goal lead late, then a late Avalanche goal, followed by an empty netter to restore the two goal win and give the Flames a +33 on the season, two back of the Leafs and four up on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In terms of West teams they are six up on the Predators.

2014 Re-Draft

Didn’t see the whole run down, but Sportsnet had a panel discussion on re-drafting the 2014 draft and it was interesting to see that Sam Bennett finished 15th, but with two of the three voting having him 9th and still a top ten pick.

Doug Maclean had him in the second round, but both Elliott Friedman and Brian Burke placed him 9th overall.

Sam Bennett hasn’t been the 4th overall pick that everyone expected and hoped for, but that suggests he’s a long way off the bust candidate that some would portray.

Standings Implications

Pretty quiet night in the NHL with the Ducks playing the Senators and the Predators playing the Blackhawks out of town. Not the best of results with the Preds winning, and the Ducks gaining an overtime point in a loss to the Senators, but given the way the Flames played tonight I think griping about other teams might be a bit misplaced.

Calgary has a three point lead on the Predators with even games played for the conference. The Jets have three games in hand on both teams however and sit four points back of the Flames.

In the division the Flames have a two point lead and have a game in hand on the Knights. The Sharks are three points back with even games played. The next Pacific team is the Ducks who are 14 back of Calgary with a game in hand.

The Oilers? Seventeen points back with two games in hand. Good night.

Fancy Stats

You have to know this didn’t go well. The Flames were miserable in terms of shot attempts five on five all night with the Avalanche taking home 59% with period splits of 55%/67% and 55%. Yikes. In terms of scoring chances things were closer with Colorado having 56%, high danger chances were actually 5-4 for the Flames.

In all situations, the Avs had 65% of the shot attempts (more powerplays), 65% of the scoring chances and 61% of the high danger chances.

Individually, only two players had above water nights; Matthew Tkachuk with 55% and TJ Brodie with 53%. The rest of the team suffered. At the bottom of the pile was Garnet Hathaway at 17% and Elias Lindholm at 18%.

Lindholm and Giordano were on the ice for the most damage against, both going 2-8 in terms of high danger chances on the night.

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