Games Takes: Canucks 4 Flames 3

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

It’s been a pretty crazy season.

The Flames have gone from well back in the West to lead the conference into the all star break and yet still as we near mid February. But one of the oddest things on the campaign is how the Vancouver Canucks have managed to beat the Flames in three of four contests, the third tonight in a 4-3 shoot out victory on Hockey Night in Canada, despite being out played badly in all four games.

In the three losses this season the Flames have out shot the Canucks by a 115-75 margin (61%), running up a high danger margin of 58-34 (63%) numbers that suggest the season series should or could have been 3-1 Calgary or even 4-0.

Nothing new to Vancouver though, as the Canucks have been a bottom five team all year in most underlying metrics.

Line Up Changes

Not a whole lot of change, yet the lineup was an interesting one to watch this morning at the morning skate due to the controversy or at least attempted controversy around the pulling of David Rittich after six shots in the San Jose loss on Thursday night. Nothing to see here, as David Rittich gets the start as expected.

The one change was Oliver Kylington back into the lineup and Dalton Prout back to the sidelines; the forward lines go as per usual.


Whenever you see an issue with fans and media firmly planted on both sides you know the issue isn’t as simple as you may think yourself from your vantage point. Eric Francis and many fans were livid with Bill Peters for pulling Rittich, some suggesting it isn’t the way to handle a young goaltender that’s working his way into a starting role.

Bill Peters of course, is famous for his belittling of Eddie Lack in Carolina two seasons ago when the coach suggested his goalie was the worst goaltender in the league.

Personally I saw it as more of a team wake up move, and not a statement to Rittich. My only issue with it was the enormity of the game, and the worry of not having your better goaltender in the net to keep things close as the Flames valiantly tried to come back.

I honestly thought he’d be back to start the second.

Ironically tonight he gives up two shots on his first nine shots, but of course doesn’t get the yank.

Jake Virtanen

I know in these Western Canadian rivalries I’m supposed to hate every Canuck, and specifically the ones that play like punks like Jake Virtanen. But honestly you have to love the guy. He looked like a first round bust for a few years, has found his game this season, and brings a bit of that Matthew Tkachuk element to the game that you either love in your jersey or hate in the opposition.

His helmet grab on Mikael Backlund in a scrum and his over the top but clean hit on Gaudreau are exactly what we need to keep in this game. Fires things up.

He’s still like Sam Bennett in that he’s trying to find himself and move back up the roster, but he’s a player and not a wasted pick by Vancouver.

Second Period Dominance

How do you post a period like the second tonight and not put the game away? 20-5 in shots, 26-8 in shot attempts, and 17-7 in scoring chances but the period ends in a trade off of goals at once apiece.

Can’t blame them overall, as Calgary has been one of the better finishing teams in the league when it comes to converting chances; the Flames are ranked third overall in high danger chance conversion five on five, but tonight they really missed a chance to put this thing away.

Johnny Breakaway

Johnny Gaudreau has done a lot in the off seasons to better his game, something you see  in his strength on his skates and the increased torque to his shot this year.

So you just have to know he’s going to spend a lot of time downing skittles and then working on his breakaway moves this summer, something that could easily add a dozen goals to his season total with a slight increase in effectiveness. Tonight he’s sprung with 9 seconds left in the first period but fires it directly into Markstrom’s stick for an easy turnaway.

The guy has had a good 15 or so breakaways this year, scoring on just one if memory serves.

Hanifin Stands Up

Always interesting to see who stands up when a star player gets a rough ride, and it was Noah Hanifin that went after Jake Virtanen in the first period when he abruptly planted Johnny Gaudreau on the ice with a hard but clean hit.

At 22 and relatively new to the team it’s a pretty clear sign of a player’s assimilation into a locker room when his first instinct is to answer to or defend an action against one of his new team’s better players.

A lot of talk about Elias Linholm, but Hanifin has been a great addition as well.

Dominant Third Line

So that’s what it looks like to have four lines rolling?

Finding chemistry in the bottom six has been difficult all season, but it looks like Bill Peters may have finally found a third line combination that is worth keeping together. The 3M line didn’t have their best night, generally posting some of the team’s worst possession numbers, but the third line of Mark Jankowski/Sam Bennett and James Neal led the way in driving play and creating chances in the Vancouver zone.

Bennett scored a goal, James Neal added an assist giving him eight points in his last 15 games and Jankowski showed his inner Jagr down low winning board battles and keeping cycles alive.

Standings Implications

Some good … some bad.

The Jets and Predators lost tonight, so the Flames actually gain a point against both Central teams; that gives the Flames a three point lead on the Jets (even games) and four points on the Predators (Calgary has two games in hand).

The Sharks walked to a win in Edmonton though, so they move to within one point of the Flames for both the division and the conference; clearly the more pressing matter. Calgary does have a game in hand though. The Knights lost again tonight to Columbus, they’re now eight points back with the Flames having two games in hand.

Counting Stats

Shots: 47-25 Calgary
Special Teams: Vancouver 0/5, Calgary 0/5
Face Offs: Calgary 52%

Points:  Many with one
Shots: Gaudreau 7
+/-: Many with +1
Save%: Rittich .880

Fancy Stats

Pretty much all Calgary as described above. The Flames had 59% of the five on five shot attempts with period splits of 41%/77% and 61%. In terms of scoring chances the Flames had 61%, and high danger chances fell 59% to the Flames.

In all situations Calgary had 58% of the shot attempts, 59% of the scoring chances and 61% of the high danger chances. Yeah they lost.

Individually, the Flames were led by their top pairing who were dominant with Mark Giordano posting 79% and TJ Brodie right there with 74%. Rasmus Andersson was also in the 70s with 73%, Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm were all in the high 60s. The only skaters under water was the second pairing as Travis Hamonic and Noah Hanifin both finished with roughly 36% on the night.

All content is property of and cannot be used without expressed, written consent from this site.