Game Takes: Flames 3 Canucks 1

March 24th, 2019 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

It’s well documented that the current season for the Calgary Flames has been somewhat historic. Over and over again this team has been compared to the 1989 Stanley Cup team as the team hasn’t reached these heights in the 30 years since that championship.

That 1989 team had a first round matchup with a pesky team from Vancouver, something this year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks is desperately trying to replicate. Last night the Canucks hung in the contest against their superior hosts, but couldn’t overcome the mismatch of fourth lines as Calgary fourth trio and their captain scored all three goals in a convincing 3-1 victory.

The loss keeps Vancouver well out of the playoff picture given the number of teams they’ll have to jump, as the two points that got away on Saturday likely was their last glimmer of hope.

Lineup Changes

Some injury changes altered the lineup for Saturday night as Sam Bennett went back to the sidelines; an upper body injury that the team insists isn’t serious, with James Neal coming in after missing 17 games to take his place. No changes to the first, second or fourth lines.

No changes on the blueline as Oscar Fantenberg continues to take up permanent residency on the third pairing with Rasmus Andersson.

Mike Smith started his second straight game in the nets.

Fourth Line Show

The fourth line was all the offence from forwards on the night, teaming up with Mark Giordano on all three Calgary goals to pace the Flames.

That makes three straight games where the fourth line has showed their offensive chops and made a difference for the Flames in picking up points in the standings.

Is this the best fourth line in hockey? It certainly has been lately, and it really changes the dynamic for teams facing the Flames in the playoffs if they keep up their good play. I’m not expecting them to lead the way offensively, but the trio has been money five on five.

In fact Andrew Mangiapane, for example, has only had one game in his last 22 games where he’s been on the ice for more high danger shot attempts against then for.

If a club’s fourth line is not a weakness it allows a coach to a) be less concerned with matchups when on the road but also b) give the coach more options in order to shut down opposition lines if they have more than one.

Huge advantage for the Flames going into the second season.

Mark Giordano Again

Coming into the game, Mark Giordano was one point back of that magical 70 point season mark, and then promptly picked up points on all three goals to blast right through that milestone. He now has 72 points on the season at age 35, and becomes the Flames 5th player to have a 70 point season this year, something we haven’t seen in the NHL in almost two decades.

He is now the third most productive 35+ defenseman in NHL history as he rolled by Sergei Zubov last night. Before last night’s three point game I didn’t think it possible for him to take the top spot, or even roll into second place, but now it’s somewhat possible.

With seven games to go, and assuming they don’t give him a night off (which they should), he would need eight points to tie Nick Lidstrom for 2nd at 80, and 10 points to catch Ray Bourge at 82. Bourque is either included or not depending on your views on whether the defenseman needed to be 35 to start the season or not.

Did I Mention Mangiapane?

Talk about depth scoring, Mangiapane now has points in three straight games and total of four points of that stretch, including two high slot goals in the last two games.

In the month of March he has six points in 11 games, a pace that suggests second line production.

As I said after the Ottawa game, it’s clear the player is here to stay; he’s no longer a fourth line player, but it will be interesting to see him establish himself as a middle six forward in the coming seasons. Wouldn’t be surprised to see some powerplay time at some point as well.

At very least, it gives them a good left wing option in game if there’s an injury or Matthew Tkachuk does something to earn him a long stay in the penalty box.

Season Series

That concludes a pretty wacky five game season series with the Vancouver Canucks that featured a Calgary record of 2-2-1 (Vancouver 3-2-0) despite the following stats;

Shot attempts 350-244 Calgary 59%
Shots on goal 183-123 Calgary 60%
Scoring chances 203-122 Calgary 62%
High danger chances 82-52 Calgary 61%

The Flames were the better team in all four of those categories in each and every game.

Jacob Markstrom take a bow.

Match Ups

Bill Peters didn’t have the last change, but he did what he could to get the Backlund line out against Elias Pettersson’s trio through the course of the game. Good move.

Pettersson faced that line plus the Calgary top defense pairing more than any other skaters (around 8 minutes) and got fed consistently, only enjoying 29% of the shot attempts and zero high danger shot attempts. He was effectively neutered.

Similarly, Calgary’s top line was fed a large dose of the Bo Horvat line and had trouble generating anything.

Standings Implications

The Flames now have a six point lead on the San Jose Sharks for both the Pacific Division and the Western Conference title, a spread that was one point down to the Sharks just two weeks ago. Calgary continues to win, with but one blemish in Winnipeg, and the Sharks have lost five straight games themselves.

At six points, if the Flames go 3-3-1 in their final seven games, a stretch that includes five games against non playoff teams (two apiece with the Ducks and Kings, and one with Edmonton), the Sharks would need to go 7-0-0 in order to finish ahead of Calgary. A 4-2-1 record for the Flames makes being caught impossible, and they play the Kings, Stars and Ducks at home this week before playing the Sharks in San Jose on Sunday night.

It’s looking more and more like that game may be irrelevant to the Flames. At very least the Flames will be able to clinch that night if they win the other three games at home.

If the playoffs started today the Flames would matchup against the Colorado Avalanche.

Counting Stats

Team Stats:
Shots – Calgary 31 Canucks 28
Face Offs – Canucks 64%
Special Teams – Flames 0/4 Canucks 1/2

Player Stats:
Points – Mark Giordano with 3
Plus/Minus – Giordano, TJ Brodie, Derek Ryan and Andrew Mangiapane with +3
Shots – Mikael Backlund with 4

Fancy Stats

Simply a solid road effort by a top NHL club looking to take two points and get out of Dodge. The Flames had 56% of the shot attempts with period splits of 68%/50% and 46%, as the Canucks pushed in the third period making it a one goal game for a spell. In terms of scoring chances the Flames had 63% five on five, and 67% of the high danger chances. Most impressively, the Flames only allowed four five on five high danger chances all night.

In all situations the Flames had 55% of the shot attempts, 60% of the scoring chances and 65% of the high danger chances, giving up only 6.

Individually the Flames were led by Rasmus Andersson with 70%, as the third pairing bounced back from a rough statistical night against Ottawa. Michael Frolik, Matthew Tkachuk, Fantenberg, Austin Czarnik, Mark Jankowski and Mikael Backlund all were in the 60s. The only players under water were the top line and the second defense pairing.


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