Game Takes: Devils 3 Flames 2

November 8th, 2022 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Another game, another loss.

The system seems to be back in line though, as the Flames for the second straight night seemed to carry the majority of the play and likely deserved better, but like we’ve seen in most now 5 of the 6 games in the skid, they took the lead but failed to hold it.

Calgary ties it up in the third on a Tyler Toffoli powerplay goal, but then gives up the winner to Devil captain Nico Hischier and just like that the Flames are 0-1-1 on this three game road trip.

Next up the trip closer in Boston on Thursday night.

The Lineup

And more chaos for the Flames.

Now Jonathan Huberdeau is now out with what looks like a sore arm from last night’s contest in Queens. Adam Ruzicka comes into fill his spot. On the blueline Connor Mackey comes out for Dennis Gilbert as Chris Tanev isn’t ready.

With the change Darryl Sutter went full blender on his forward lines.

Elias Lindholm with Adam Ruzicka and Tyler Toffoli, Nazem Kadri with Dillon Dube and Blake Coleman, Mikael Backlund with Andrew Mangiapane and Trevor Lewis and the only line staying together; Kevin Rooney with Milan Lucic and Brett Ritchie.

On the blueline no change to the recent top four; Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson, Nikita Zadorov with Mackenzie Weegar, and then a new third pairing with Dennis Gilbert and Mark DeSimone.

The other surprise is the goaltender, with Jacob Markstrom getting the start in back to back games.

Line Metrics 

The lines below are recent and not for tonight, as the top three forward lines wouldn’t have any history and therefore nothing to present.

Huberdeau – Lindholm – Toffoli 53.9%
Mangiapane – Kadri – Dube 48.4%
Coleman – Backlund – Lewis 54.9%
Lucic – Rooney – Ritchie 47.6%

Hanifin – Andersson 49.4%
Zadorov – Weegar 63.4%
Mackey – DeSimone 15.1%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +2.9
Vladar -3.6

Trend Tracker:

Just can’t get over that Mackey / DeSimone expected goal number. Very curious for underlying stats. Defensively on a per 60 basis they’ve been one of the best pairs on the season (very very limited minutes), but they generated literally nothing offensively so the split looks awful. … Despite the loss last night the 1st and 4th lines, and 1st and 2nd pairings all took a step back to respectable with xGF% splits. … The Zadorov / Weegar pairing continues to dominate. Suggests a keep them together scenario but with Weegar on the right side the Flames would be short a left pairing defender. If you call Andersson, Weegar and Tanev your right side and spread it out that leaves Tanev with Mackey, which might work I guess. … Markstrom took a step back in goals saved above average last night against the Islanders; he was +4.5

Changes to the Forwards

Hopefully Jonathan Huberdeau isn’t out long, regardless of his slow start he’s an important cog for the Flames this season as their soon to be highest paid player. But with his exit two players had noticeable bumps in their roles with the team.

The obvious one; Adam Ruzicka is getting a huge opportunity to play with skill. He has to convert to the wing, but he’s not being plugged into a fourth line role.

Additionally, Blake Coleman moved up to play with Nazem Kadri and out of a strictly checking role.

So how did they fare?

Ruzicka was the team’s 2nd best possession player, picked up an assist, and was noticeably more engaged. Huge step forward for the young player that had fourth line spurts last year that looked very good at the NHL level.

Blake Coleman was his usual feisty self and a did a good job on the second line. Took a silly penalty that led to the Devil’s second goal however.

Back to Back Shot Suppression

Not sure you see it once a season to be honest, but in back to back nights?

Looking for good starts the Flames held the opposition to zero shots in the first 12 minutes against the Islanders on Monday night, and then the first 11 minutes against New Jersey tonight.

I’ll have to look into this, but it really improves your chances of a good start if you go over half a period to start a game without giving up a shot on goal.

Will get back to you.

Flames Owly Off the Hop

Not sure if it’s a grumpy team that has lost five in a row, four of which after blowing leads relatively late, or a game plan but the Calgary Flames came out hostile in Jersey tonight.

With the Devils being young and quick it wasn’t a bad strategy to make life miserable and maybe make them question their need to fully compete and pay the price.

Today’s NHL is a speed game, but if you can get in the heads of a young opponent, maybe you make them take the scenic route for pucks for the rest of the night.

Goal Reviews

I know personally when I’m at a game and I see a replay of a Flames goal that’s a foot offside at least I don’t lose my shit and boo the officials. Has always seemed like it’s advertising that a fan has no idea what’s going on.

Enough of the judgement …

Two Devil goals called back. The first on a clear cut offside, the second on a clear cut kicking motion.

When the kicked goal was called a good goal I almost lost it thinking of how I’d compare it to the Coleman goal in last year’s playoffs. Luckily though that was the call on the ice only and the actual review turned it over.

Odd game … Flames out shoot the Devils badly through two periods, but are down 2-1 with what could have been a 4-1 score without some intervention.

Sustaining the System

Not the result the team wanted, but for the second straight game the Flames show huge steps in tightening up defensively.

The Flames are starting to find that identity that served them extremely well through 82 regular season games and one round of the playoffs last year.

The results aren’t there, but if you keep tipping the scales to this degree, a pretty good run in certainly on tap.

Toffoli Game Breaker?

What a difference for Tyler Toffoli this year.

He’ll never be confused with Pavel Bure, but his leg speed seems NHL average-ish, but more than that he seems better on the puck and a guy that keeps plays going rather than having them die on his stick.

He’s honestly become a guy I look to see with the puck in big minutes because he makes things happen.

Markstrom’s Game

Not great overall.

I hate blaming goalies for tough shots, but bottom line he has to have that Nico Hischier goal in the third period.

Great pass by Dougie Hamilton and it was a partial break, but you need to come up with that unscreened shot to secure the tie and get things to overtime.

No chance on the other goals in my mind.

Special Teams

Something we haven’t seen this year … a Flames win in special teams but a loss in the game.

Calgary goes 2/4 on the powerplay and kills 4/5 of the Devil’s chances to take the edge when not playing five on five.

The Devils score the game’s only two five on five goals for the win.

Standings and Record

The Flames are now a fully fledged .500 hockey team with a 5-5-2 record on the season, sporting a six game losing streak that has them garner two points.

Still enough to hold down a playoff spot though, as they have the second wild card spot with essentially Chicago and Minnesota.

When you sort by win % the Flames are 8th as well.

Literally no room for error going forward.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 35 Devils 20
Face Offs: Flames 49% / Devils 51%
Powerplay: Flames 2-4 / Devils 1-5

Fancy Stats

That’s clearly the second game in back to back nights where the Flames probably deserved better. The Flames jumped on the Devils early, and maintained pressure pretty much through the game. I thought Jersey had the better of the second period, but Calgary answered in the third and were unfortunate to come away without any points. Five on five the Flames had 55% of the shot attempts with period splits of 68%/52% and 48% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 63%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 54%, with a 7-6 split.

In all situations the Flames had 56% of the shot attempts, 63% of the expected goals, and 60% of the high danger splits.

Individually the Flames were led by Noah Hanifin with an xGF% of 83% five on five on the night. The only other player in the 80s was Adam Ruzicka with an impressive 81%. Elias Lindholm, Brett Ritchie, Nick DeSimone and Trevor Lewis were in the 70s. Kevin Rooney and Milan Lucic were at the back of the bus with numbers sub 40%.

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