Game Takes: Flames 5 Panthers 1

January 18th, 2022 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

The Flames likely deserved a better fate than the 6-2 loss they suffered in Florida two weeks ago.

The Panthers likely deserved a better fate than the equivalent four goal loss (5-1) they they endured in Calgary tonight.

That’s the game and something often overlooked by those looking in as the Flames were lauded as much improved, bounce back heroes tonight despite needing their goaltender to have a solid night, and having a better than average game in finishing.

Certainly not suggesting the team didn’t deserve to win, but often teams play well and come up short, and then have a game where things go well despite having a hiccup or two in their game.

Tonight evened the recent balance.

The Lineup

Lots of change in how the Flames are expected roll out against the Panthers tonight, and honestly maybe the best top nine we’ve seen all year given what they have at their disposal.

No change to the top line of course; with Elias Lindholm centering Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau. But from there it appears Sutter is relying less on rolling four lines, and trying to concentrate some offence into the first three lines. The expected goal splits of all of the first three lines come in at two to one; warning on sample size in some cases.

So look for Mikael Backlund to center Andrew Mangiapane and Blake Coleman, a line that features three play drivers that can take to the ice against any opposition. The third line has Sean Monahan centering Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube. Lucic and Dube have always found a way to play well together, and this gives Sean Monahan someone to play with; something he hasn’t seen much this year. The fourth line is constructed of well … the rest, with Brad Richardson centering Trevor Lewis and Brett Ritchie. Have to think that fourth line doesn’t get more than eight minutes.

The defense pairings have no change despite two of the pairings being called out for not working well together. Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington with Chris Tanev, and Nikita Zadorov with Erik Gudbranson.

In goal Jacob Markstrom, who has had his expected goals above average number drop, now sitting 13th in the NHL for starters with 15 or more appearances.

Line MetricsĀ 

Gaudreau – Lindholm – Tkachuk 62.7%
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman 64.0%
Lucic – Monahan – Dube 66.7%
Lewis – Richardson – Ritchie NA

Hanifin – Andersson 55.4%
Kylington – Tanev 56.4%
Zadorov – Gudbranson 56.7%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +6.8

The Return of Bennett

Sam Bennett has always been a controversial player in Calgary.

He was debated when he played here almost on a game to game basis. Is he getting a good enough opportunity? Does he do enough when he gets an opportunity? The player has limited hockey sense. The organization is to blame for not developing him properly.

Now he returns with the Florida Panthers with a pretty serious cache of success and the debate hasn’t abated.

Personally I was always in the middle on Bennett. I don’t think he was put in a position to succeed enough, but had to admit that when he was put in a good position he just didn’t get the job done.

Ultimately you have to make the most of your opportunities and the player didn’t in Calgary.

I like Sam Bennett though, glad he’s doing well in FLA.

Decent Start for the Flames

I say decent and not great despite the two goal lead, because if not for a solid period by Jacob Markstrom things could have gone differently.

The Flames were out shot despite having two of the three first period powerplays and pretty much run off the road in every underlying stat. A great powerplay goal by Rasmus Andersson; cashing on his own rebound, and a Blake Coleman goal that Spencer Knight would love to have back gave the Flames the lead however.

They couldn’t walk that game out for the next forty and come away with a victory, however.

Better Details In The Second

Much better second period for the Flames in my opinion, as they kept the Panthers to the outside and were much better on their details.

As expected Sam Bennett scores against his old team midway through the second, but Sean Monahan gets it back with a tip on a powerplay to restore the team’s two goal lead.

Once again Florida dangerous though when they did get possession, edging the Flames in high danger chances.

Gudbranson Goes Warrior Mode

He’s a third pairing guy, and with that … at least in my mind, he’s under less scrutiny. He gets the sheltered five on five shifts, and doesn’t play as much as the top two pairings.

It’s a real bonus though when a fourth line guy or a third pairing player can contribute on special teams (lets face it I mean penalty kill), and that’s exactly what we saw again tonight from Gudbranson.

Four blocked shots, with at least two of those on what looked like emerging scoring chances.

The guy has been money for the Flames on a one year deal despite myself and well the rest of Calgary thinking the signing was insane.

What Did Mangiapane Do?

Have to wonder don’t you?

He has Jonathan Huberdeau go after him in the first period, Carter Verhaege in the second, and then Aaron Ekblad in the third.

Clearly got under their skin.

Not knew if you’re paying attention as Mangiapane is just under Matthew Tkachuk for disrupting a game, but clearly in this one he must have done something that hit a nerve on the Panther bench.

Monahan With the Deuce

Man is that great to see.

Honestly in a game with the Flames getting three goals from forwards not on their first line it’s a huge sign.

But for Monahan getting a powerplay and an even strength goal is huge in a season where the deuce brings him to just five. Hopefully a sign of things to come in the second half (which we’re not even at yet).

The two goals gives him 18 points in 35 games and on pace for 42 on the season.

Is that a great season? Not at all, but it’s certainly above the fourth line level that he’s been labeled.

Gaudreau Four Points!

What a crazy night for Johnny Gaudreau.

Four assists, hit by a puck in the skate by Rasmus Andersson, lit up by teammate Noah Hanifin … pretty much everything less a fight.

He set up both Sean Monahan goals, was a first assist on the incredible Matthew Tkachuk reach back mid air deflection goal, and added another assist on Andersson’s first period powerplay goal.

The guy gets the idea of the contract season. He’ll get paid, and he deserves too.

Flames Loaded Up

With Darryl Sutter loading up his top nine I was wondering to what degree he’d roll four lines with a weaker fourth line bringing up the caboose.

As expected he dialed them back with the Richardson-Lewis-Ritchie line playing only eight minutes on the night.

The Flames are thin up front, it’s a good sign to see them build a top nine that can compete, and tonight I thought all three trios had their moments driving play.

Special Teams

The Flames easily walk the special teams battle tonight going 2/3 on the powerplay while killing all three Florida powerplays.

Special teams have struggled in recent weeks, but tonight it was a key driving force in securing the two points against the league’s toughest team.

Standings and Record

The win moves the Flames to 18-11-6 on the season good for 42 points in 35 games.

The 42 points have them two points out of a playoff spot as they chase San Jose who has played five more games. In the Pacific they trail the Sharks, the Ducks by three points with six games in hand, and the Kings by three points with four games in hand.

The Flames are still the sixth best team in the West in points percentage at .600, tied with 5th place Vegas.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 29 / Panthers 31
Face Offs: Flames 62% / Panthers 38%
Powerplay: Flames 2-3 / Panthers 0-3

Fancy Stats

The game was much closer than a 5-1 score would dictate as the Panthers are a tough out, and they proved it through 60 tonight. Five on five the Flames had 49% of the shot attempts with period splits of 42%/61% and 42% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 44%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 56%, with a 10-8 split.

In all situations the Flames had 46% of the shot attempts, 43% of the expected goals, and 50% of the high danger splits.

Individually, the Flames were led by six different players with a 59% split of five on five shot attempts on the night, a list that included; Noah Hanifin, Andrew Mangiapane, Blake Coleman, Erik Gudbranson, and Johnny Gaudreau. Other guys in the high 50s included Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Nikita Zadorov and Matthew Tkachuk. The fourth line, and the second pairing got pumped with Lewis, Richardson, Ritchie, Tanev and Kylington all finishing under 40%.

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