Game Takes: Kings 5 Flames 3

February 13th, 2020 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Do playoff bound hockey teams have listless first periods in Los Angeles?

I’m sure they do.

The season is 82 games long and it’s next to impossible to be perfect when it comes to consistency, and preparedness on an every second night basis.

However dropping three of four meetings to the worst team in the West is certainly a sign that something’s wrong in Denmark, which is where the Flames find themselves after losing 5-3 in Los Angeles last night.

That’s five big points given away this year, and by looking at the standings they could easily be the five the matter the most.

Line Up Changes

Just one change tonight as ex-KHLer Alexander Yelesin comes in for Brandon Davidson on the third pairing, in conjunction with Oliver Kylington. That leaves the new normal pairs of Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson and TJ Brodie with Michael Stone as the mainstays.

Up front no changes from the win over the Sharks with Sean Monahan lining up between Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund between Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane, Derek Ryan between Milan “resurgence” Lucic and Dillon Dube, and finally Mark Jankowski between Zach Rinaldo and Tobias Rieder. That means Sam Bennett is either still not 100% or being healthy scratched.

David Rittich gets the start in goal; his third straight start after winning back to back games to start the road trip.

Litmus Test

The term 60 minute effort gets over used in my estimation. I think media and fans misunderstand the difference between a team not working hard, and being outplayed by the opposition; they’re not synonymous. Having said that it’s not a stretch to suggest the Flames haven’t had many back to back “complete” games this season, but that was pretty much the case on both Saturday and Monday nights on this road trip.

So it was somewhat perfect to see the Kings come up on the schedule to see if the team can prove out this new found consistency since the team has had two of its weakest efforts against Los Angeles this season.

So the first period tonight was far from inspiring wasn’t it?

The plan against L.A. this year seems to be to come out assuming success and get their teeth kicked in. A chance to prove that they club has finally found some consistency was clearly missed.

Lucic Answers Bell Again

Have to imagine the media and fan reaction to Milan Lucic’s invisible spin against the Oilers in recent meetings put a bur in his saddle.

I was almost convinced his back condition was worsening and with it his career in jeopardy in the not too distant future.

Yet his recent slate of games suggest he’s as fine as he’s going to get, and it was literally motivation or a lack of focus … or perhaps too much familiarity with Edmonton that was getting in the way.

Since then he’s fought against San Jose twice, put some points on the board, used the body liberally, and last night dropped the gloves again with large Human Kurtis MacDermid in the third period.

Pretty even bout with what looked like a pretty good blow by Lucic.

This guy is the version the team needs on a nightly basis. He makes an impact.

What Were They Thinking?

Hockey is a game of mistakes, they happen.

But the litany of judgement gaffs in the second period that led to the Kings second goal in 39 seconds – and a broken stick from a furious David Rittich – was next level.

First you have Noah Hanifin pinching in to extend the play, a good move that was relatively successful. But why didn’t he peel out and head back to his position afterward?

Then with a defenseman inside the blueline, why didn’t any of Mark Jankowski, Zach Rinaldo or Tobias Rieder recognize the situation and roll out as the high guy?

And then most inexplicably, why did Hanifin’s defense partner Rasmus Andersson, with Hanifin deep, and no forward support high, hold the line himself on the opposite side giving the finishing touches to a 2-0 breakaway.


Gaudreau Starting to Roll?

Is Johnny Gaudreau starting to get his swagger back?

He looks more creative, the puck is on his stick more often and for longer durations, and the production is certainly starting to make an occurrence.

His two assists last night now give him eight points in his last eight games as he enjoys his most productive stint on the season.

Looking back on his season … he had a decent start with .867 points per game in October, had a miserable November at .571, and then has slowly been rebounding since with .769 in December, .900 in January and now 1.17 in the first half of February.

Last season Gaudreau finished the season at 1.207 points per game and put up 99 points.

Counting Stats

Team Stats:
Shots – Flames 38 Kings 33
Face Offs – Flames 41%
Special Teams – Flames 0/3 Kings 0/1

Player Stats:

Points – The Flames were led by Elias Lindholm with two goals and Johnny Gaudreau with two assists.
Plus/Minus – Gaudreau, Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk were all +1 on the night, as the team’s only plus players.
Shots – Mikael Backlund led the way with seven shots on goal.

Fancy Stats

The underlying numbers certainly suggest a team not playing with a level of desperation as the Kings had 55% of the five on five shot attempts with period splits of 61%/50% and 55%. A team ready to play doesn’t generate less than 40% of shot attempts. In terms of high danger chances the Kings had a 12-11 edge on the night, and Calgary had a measly 43.7% xGF% on the night.

In all situations the Flames had 49% of the shot attempts (two additional powerplays including a five on three), 53% of the high danger chances and an expected goal split of 47.8%.

The Flames had only five players at 50% or above on the night led by Andrew Mangiapane at 58.6%. Newcomer Alexander Yelesin was next at 55.6%, followed by Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk and Rasmus Andersson. At the other end of the spectrum Mark Jankowski, Tobias Rieder, Michael Stone and Zac Rinaldo had rough nights, all under 40%.


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