Game Takes: Flames 6 Kings 5

November 14th, 2022 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

The Flames were due.

31st spot in PDO in the November was pretty much the story coming in for a team that has had the league’s toughest schedule, some key injuries and some very unsustainable poor numbers.

Tonight the flood gates opened up on one side of the ledger with the Flames scoring six goals on 29 shots; five of them five on five, but they still gave up five for a nightly PDO of 1.09.

Goals from six different players, and some slump busters for Jonathan Huberdeau and Andrew Mangiapane.

That gives the Flames two straight wins as they head out on the road for a six game road trip, starting in Tampa on Thursday night.

The Lineup

You ready for this? Lots and lots of change.

With Jonathan Huberdeau coming back it looks like Darryl Sutter is doing the “ease him back in” treatment, by lining Huberdeau up with Mikael Backlund and Trevor Lewis. I won’t call it a third line, because with Huberdeau and Backlund it just isn’t. The top line stays in tact for the fourth straight game with Elias Lindholm between Adam Ruzicka and Tyler Toffoli. A new middle six line with an elevated Milan Lucic playing with Nazem Kadri and Andrew Mangiapane. And finally with Kevin Rooney a healthy scratch, Dillon Dube centers another line with Blake Coleman and Brett Ritchie.

I count two top nine forwards on all four lines. That’s balance.

On the blueline no change to the top pairing of Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson. The other top four pairing is put back together with Mackenzie Weegar moving to the left side again, with Chris Tanev. And finally Nikita Zadorov back to pairing number three with Mark DeSimone.

Jacob Markstrom, coming off a great outing against Winnipeg, gets the start again.

Line MetricsĀ 

Ruzicka – Lindholm – Toffoli 80.7%
Lucic – Kadri – Mangiapane 47.7%
Huberdeau – Backlund – Lewis 69.5%
Coleman – Dube – Ritchie NA

Hanifin – Andersson 52.0%
Weegar – Tanev 54.5%
Zadorov – DeSimoneĀ  28.7%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +2.8
Vladar -2.3

Trend Tracker:

Three of the four lines (if not four) and one of the three pairings have to be taken with a large granule of salt due to the sample size. … The Ruzicka flanked top line, however, has produced solid numbers in three straight games since getting put together for the game in Jersey. Given how the team has struggled to find forward lines with flow, that’s huge. … The Hanifin/Andersson pairing continues to find their footing and put forward positive splits in the last few games, righting what was a bad trend. … Markstrom with a solid game against Winnipeg moves his goals saved above average positive, after a slide in previous starts (Islanders and Devils).

Getting Some Scorers Off the Snide

Hard to win hockey games when your offensive players haven’t found their offence.

The Flames have had big season starts from Nazem Kadri and Mikael Backlund, and some surprise offence from Brett Ritchie and Trevor Lewis, but getting guys like Jonathan Huberdeau and Andrew Mangiapane on the scoresheet is huge to stringing together some wins.

Tonight both guys scored in the first period five on five, ending some skids and hopefully springboarding some confidence.

Markstrom Fights the Puck Early

Flames get out of the first period with a 4-2 lead, but their goaltender wasn’t feeling it.

He had no chance on the first goal, but his bobbles in and around the King’s first goal, and his being late to the post on the King’s second didn’t suggest a lot of confidence.

The Flames gave him some run support though, so he was able to find it and settle down but it was still an odd game for the goaltender; average in numbers but big in the end with the crucial save, and the big win.

Chalk it up to more stranger things from the Flames first quarter.

Kadri Using Linemates

I haven’t watched a huge amount of Nazem Kadri over the years so I don’t know if it’s just an adjustment period, or if it’s part of his schtick.

But he isn’t a forward that uses his linemates very well, at least in his time in Calgary.

He likes to take the puck himself, which is absolutely fine, we’ve seen that on pretty much all of his goals, but with that you have to be careful to pick the right linemates for him.

I know when I coached minor hockey, I’d always play a defensively minded forward and a rebound guy with a player like that. Was more efficient. The last thing you want to do is play a guy like that with an on the rush or cycle down low player. They don’t get the puck back.

Ruzicka Getting Comfortable

Don’t look now but Adam Ruzicka is starting to get comfortable.

We saw it last year in the middle stint when he instantly added some street cred to the fourth line by slowing things down, getting pucks to the point, and helping to create a little offence.

Coming into camp we heard comments from Sutter about how Ruzicka had a good summer, added some size, strength and conditioning and with that you hoped for a pop.

A quiet camp had him make the team due to waiver issues and then sit and wait; which was deserved given his lack of jump to make the team.

Now a different player.

And I’m not just talking goals and assists, young players start making good touches all over the ice when they arrive and we’re seeing that pretty much every shift tonight against the Kings.

King’s Contracts

For their run there was no better grouping of core pieces than the what we saw with the LA Kings.

The center in Anze Kopitar, the defenseman in Drew Doughty and the goaltender in Johnathan Quick. But times goes by and it really appeared that all three were winding down with big ticket contracts that would crush the Kings.

But now here we are with both Kopitar and Quick sitting with only one more year left on their contracts after this season. Doughty has some tenure left, but after surgery he’s back to a best at age 32.

Aging well.

Dube Up the Middle

Thought Dillon Dube was pretty solid in a fourth line role, but playing up the middle.

Seems like his game may be more suited to the middle of the ice in how he moves his boots and reads the play coming late as a center does on a break out.

Not sure I want the guy on the fourth line though, and with the three centers ahead of him, that’s pretty much his destiny if he stays up the middle.

Guessing we see a return to the top nine for all of the eight clear cut top nine guys, and maybe just maybe Ruzicka rounds it out and Lewis centers the fourth line.

Time will tell.

Lineup Heat

Have to chuckle.

All day Darryl Sutter seemed to take a beating from local media and social media for his balanced four lines and placement of muckers with scorers on pretty much every trio.

So what happens?

All four lines score a first period five on five goal. All four! For a challenged team offensively of late.

Having said all that the raised eye brows were warranted. It wasn’t a modern look NHL roster with the talent available.

But there’s probably some method to the madness; getting Huberdeau back into the grind, a message for Dillon Dube and Blake Coleman, and perhaps showing the others that effort will be rewarded in Milan Lucic.

Funny start nonetheless.

Other Guys Rolling

Tyler Toffoli and Elias Lindholm both put up three points tonight, as 2/3 of the top line continue to hum … Toffoli pretty much all season and Lindholm certainly coming on.

With some of the other players getting in gear and the team getting some bounces that’s key.

Nazem Kadri also had two helpers for the Flames.

Special Teams

Hey the Flames scored a powerplay goal!

Both teams go 1/2 on the powerplay making the special teams battle pretty much square.

Digging deeper it’s 8-6 in shots by the Kings and 1-1 in high danger chances.

Kings take special teams by a nose.

Standings and Record

The Flames are back above .500 with a 7-6-2 record and a share of the final playoff spot in the West.

The Flames are two points back of the Edmonton Oilers with a game in hand, who hold down the first wild card spot. They are two points back of the Kraken with a game in hand for 3rd spot in the Pacific.

In terms of points percentage, the Flames are still in 8th spot.

Skid halted, streak started.

Team building moment right?

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 29 Kings 29
Face Offs: Flames 49% / Kings 51%
Powerplay: Flames 1-2 / Kings 1-2

Fancy Stats

Kind of a funny game to track when it comes to the details. The Flames were money in most metrics but it’s a 6-5 game which suggests bleeding chances. They weren’t. But then you want to blame Jacob Markstrom, but he had some tough luck and then made a great save to preserve the win. Will be interesting to see if Sutter digs into this one. Five on five the Flames had 56% of the shot attempts with period splits of 48%/59% and 65% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 68%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 82%, with a 18-4 split. That’s a blow out disguised as a close win.

In all situations the Flames had 51% of the shot attempts, 58% of the expected goals, and 73% of the high danger splits.

Johnathan Quick was really, really good.

Individually the Flames were led by Chris Tanev with an incredible xGF% of 96% five on five on the night. Three players were above the 80% mark including Mackenzie Weeger, Blake Coleman, Brett Ritchie and Jonathan Huberdeau. Dillon Dube and Mikael Backlund were in the 70s. Only two players were under water; Noah Hanifin and Nick DeSimone.

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