Game Takes: Habs 2 Flames 1

December 1st, 2022 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

What can you say?

The Flames completely dominated the hockey game, but couldn’t convert on the abundant stash of chances and with that fell to the Montreal Canadiens by a 2-1 score on Thursday night, despite out shooting and out chancing Montreal drastically.

The Sean Monahan home coming had a good result for the former Flame with two assists, including one just 13 seconds into the game. The Saddledome crowd gave Calgary’s #23 a 40 second standing ovation and didn’t boo the player once.

Next up the Flames host the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.

The Lineup

Only one change for tonight’s game and that’s in goal with Jacob Markstrom getting the start after Dan Vladar has started three of the last four games including the win over Florida on Tuesday night.

So up front it’s Elias Lindholm with Jonathan Huberdeau and Tyler Toffoli, Nazem Kadri with Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund with Adam Ruzicka and Blake Coleman, and a fourth line of Trevor Lewis with Milan Lucic and Brett Ritchie.

No change on the blueline as well; Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson, Mackenzie Weegar with Chris Tanev, and Nikita Zadorov with Michael Stone.

Markstrom as I said in the nets.

Line Metrics 

Huberdeau – Lindholm – Toffoli 57.1%
Dube – Kadri – Mangiapane 46.8%
Ruzicka – Backlund – Coleman 23.0%
Lucic – Lewis – Ritchie 46.6%

Hanifin – Andersson 46.1%
Weegar – Tanev 55.9%
Zadorov – Stone 51.4%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +0.1
Vladar +0.8

Trend Tracker:

Not a good first night for the third line against Florida, as the the Backlund line posted a 23% night against the Panthers. Backlund always figures it out no matter who he plays with, but does Adam Ruzicka come out of the lineup next if he’s part of another off line? Ruzicka has been at or under 50% in expected goal splits for five of the last six games. He’s been 36.4% in that span. That won’t keep him in the lineup. … Top pairing continues to drift lower when it comes expected splits, now at 46.1%. Wonder if we see that broken up some time soon.

Monahan’s Return

Honestly didn’t think a returning player would affect me the way that Sean Monahan press conference did today.

I’m no spring chicken, I’ve seen a lot of players leave and come back, but that may be the most emotional return I’ve ever seen in 42 years of Flames hockey in Calgary.

The guy just cares.

He always cared, and damned if it doesn’t make me want to see the guy sign back in Calgary next season in a shorter term lesser role.

And what a start! Ends up on a loose puck partial break just a handful of seconds into the game. Markstrom comes out and takes out Monahan’s chance but the rebound is put in the net and Monahan gets an assist. Later he added another on the powerplay winner.

For the record … zero booing of puck touches by Monahan.

Markstrom Jeering?

First off … what the hell with the jeering from the crowd after a routine save from center just after the opening Montreal goal?


Even if you thought that goal was completely on Markstrom you don’t do that to a core piece of the roster, when a guy is struggling to some degree. I remember when Yankee fans turned on A-Rod fans talked other fans out of booing him at home games so they wouldn’t make it worse.

Personally that goal was one part a good tip and jump into a seam by Monahan, and missed assignments from the defense more than Markstrom making a mistake. He took away the breakaway but the puck bounced straight to a Montreal player to finish the play.

The player deserves better than that for a Vezina runner up season last year. Not a good look.

Markstrom vs Anderson

The Montreal game winner wasn’t on Jacob Markstrom, it was a great shot from Cole Caufield.

But I didn’t love the set up for that powerplay.

Markstrom didn’t need to put his stick on Josh Anderson creating the Andrew Mangiapane reaction that put Montreal on the powerplay.

Honestly though not sure I love anything in that play.

Silly tip by Anderson after the whistle.

Silly slash by Markstrom.

Silly drop the gloves challenge by Anderson.

And kind of a dumb reaction from Mangiapane.

Shame that created the game winner.

Solid First Period

Despite the goal 13 seconds in, I thought the Flames had a solid first period against Montreal tonight.

Outshot them 12-6, and had the period’s only high danger chances with a 4-0 mark.

Didn’t get it done on the scoreboard, but certainly not over looking the Canadiens with that first period effort.

Good Ruzicka Back!

In the stats above I pointed out that Adam Ruzicka has struggled in his last six games.

So of course he has a very noticeable night and completely jells with his new linemates.

Big body, going to open ice with hands; a recipe for making a difference.

Tonight he was unlucky to not hit the scoresheet with the chances he put up; including a goal post in the second period.

Sutter Shortens the Bench

Darryl Sutter has certainly taken some criticism this season for not playing his best players enough.

Tonight that wouldn’t be the case.

Milan Lucic only had 7 minutes of ice time, Trevor Lewis and Brett Ritchie closer to 4 as the bench boss went with the three top lines that seemed to have some flow on the evening.

Didn’t work, but a good sign to see the veteran not using players that aren’t getting it done.

Special Teams

Once again the difference.

The Flames got the better of the Florida Panthers on the special teams, but tonight back to what we’ve seen in most of the last ten games … special teams letting them down.

The Canadiens score the game winner on the powerplay to go 1/3 on the night, and the Flames go 0/4 on their chances.

Not good enough.

Standings and Record

The loss pushes the Flames back out of the playoff picture.

The Flames are a point out of the playoffs, trailing Minnesota who beat the Oilers tonight, though the Wild have a game in hand.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 46 Habs 19
Face Offs: Flames 46% / Habs 54%
Powerplay: Flames 0-4 / Habs 1-3

Fancy Stats

This one wasn’t close by any measure. The Flames may have had a rough first 13 seconds, but then took it to the Habs the rest of the way and likely deserved the victory. Stolen game by Jake Allen. Five on five the Flames had 65% of the shot attempts with period splits of 70%/58% and 66% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 66%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had  78%, with a 14-4 split.

In all situations the Flames had 69% of the shot attempts, 70% of the expected goals, and 76% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 4.27 to 1.82.

In this case, very clearly, the wrong team won. You walk that game out 20 times and you win 19 of them.

Individually the Flames were led by Michael Stone, posting a xGF% of 75% on the night five on five. Adam Ruzicka, Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman, Tyler Toffoli, Mackenzie Weegar, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nikita Zadorov all had 70+% nights. At the bottom of the pile, fourth line wingers Nick Ritchie and Trevor Lewis at tallies under 10%.

The Other Side …

Only one Montreal player on the positive side of things; David Savard at 51.5%. Sean Monahan was 2nd though!

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