Game Takes: Flames 5 Capitals 2

December 3rd, 2022 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Big win for the Flames … big win for Dan Vladar.

The Calgary backup in an emerging goalie controversy picked up his second straight win on the homestand as the Flames shook off the loss to Montreal on Thursday night with a 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.

The game was tight, headed to the the third period 2-1 but Calgary put it away by continuing a strong game with a solid third period.

Three point nights by both Adam Ruzicka and Mikael Backlund and a two game by Andrew Mangiapane paced the team.

They host the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night.

The Lineup

A couple of different wrinkles tonight, one that has gotten a lot of air play in Calgary the past couple of days and the other just a tweak to the bottom of the roster.

Up front it’s Elias Lindholm with Jonathan Huberdeau and Tyler Toffoli, Nazem Kadri with Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube, Mikael Backlund with Adam Ruzicka and Blake Coleman, and Kevin Rooney comes into the lineup for Brett Ritchie, centering Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis.

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

The big change is in the cage with Dan Vladar getting his fourth start in the last six games after Jacob Markstrom lost to Montreal and told the world “he sucked at hockey”.

Line Metrics 

Huberdeau – Lindholm – Toffoli 58.0%
Dube – Kadri – Mangiapane 46.4%
Ruzicka – Backlund – Coleman 46.7%
Lucic – Rooney – Lewis 69.6%

Hanifin – Andersson 46.2%
Weegar – Tanev 57.7%
Zadorov – Stone 53.0%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom -0.1
Vladar +0.8

Trend Tracker:

How many games will I have to reduce the expected goal share for both the second line of Nazem Kadri / Andrew Mangiapane / Dillon Dube, and the top defense pair of Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson. Feels like a slow crawl to 45% has been going on for weeks. Both units get tough assignments, but they have to start batting above their weight. The Kadri line looked a second first line in the first half dozen games of the season. Oops … How about some Power Play stats? Most productive powerplay player is Michael Stone at 9.63 points/60. Nazem Kadri is next at 6.33, just ahead of … Nikita Zadorov. Not what I would have thought. Jonathan Huberdeau is next. By creation Huberdeau leads with xGF60 of 10.41 suggesting he’s certainly been a little snake bit but the chances are there. He’s well out in front of the other unit one players.

Vladar’s Night

Clearly solid.

Picks up the win and turns aside 27 of 29 shots without giving up a softie at all.

Great to watch that exchange between he and Jacob Markstrom too, with the veteran doing the Lamaze breathing exercises with the young Vladar to chill him out after a rough shift.

Good to see Vladar picking up back to back wins after playing extremely well in many games in a row, but not getting the victories.

Jacob Markstrom will work it out, but I’m glad Vladar is dialed in and equally glad he’s been signed for another two years.

Reverse Retros

As a change I thought they looked pretty sharp.

I’ve always thought a third jersey with the white “C” on black jersey would be the way to go, and tonight was the first chance to see exactly that.

Really makes me think they should go Philly or Chicago and just walk out an exact black version of their current home jerseys; to me that would be third jersey apex.

But it did the trick, it was retro as hell from the 90s, but reversed with black.

Last year while I thought the jerseys were sharp there really wasn’t anything reversed on it.

Mikael Backlund On

Mikael Backlund had his fingerprints all over this game.

From early chances both five on five and shorthanded when not a lot was going on, to primary assists later when he picked up three helpers.

Another solid game for the Calgary lifer, as he works in Adam Ruzicka and doesn’t skip a beat on the shut down line.

Lots of fan push back on his contract when it was signed three years ago, but now 30% of the way into year four of a five year deal and suddenly the focus shifts from the ugly years on the backend of the deal to hoping he signs again.

He’s at 850 games, so he’ll need another year on the contract to edge past that 1,000 mark. Hope he does it.

Ruzicka Putting It Together

Adam Ruzicka was noticeable against Montreal after some sketchy play in five of his last six games.

Tonight a goal and two assists, which of course is great and continues his break out season.

But what I hope he takes from this one was the play near the end of the second period where a Capitals defenseman tried to play him down the wall, ran into him and collapsed.

It wasn’t a big hit, it was just a big body.

The kid is tall, we all knew that, but now he’s thick too, and I hope he’s starting to get a sense for what that can do for him at this level.

Big Z

Man I love me some big Z this fall/winter.

Tonight’s open ice hit was a throw back beauty. Wasn’t high on the head, wasn’t low on the knees, a perfect executed open ice hit.

Of course that wasn’t it. More board battles with rub outs, a great blocked shot, and jumping into the play as we’ve seen this year.

He’s been a revelation this year with controlling the puck with his reach and pushing up the roster. Was a bit worried about his new contract, but so far it looks like a money signing for the huge defenseman.

Kuemper Injury

First off I don’t have a problem with the Darcy Kuemper slash on Tyler Toffoli; goaltenders have to protect their turf.

But when you see the over head replay of the play a few things are pretty obvious.

  1. Kuemper was out of the blue paint
  2. Toffoli was backing towards the net out of the blue paint and didn’t know Kuemper was there
  3. It wasn’t a Toffoli slash, it was a fish for a rebound after they made contact

Hope the goalie is ok, but there was zero by way of infraction on Tyler Toffoli on that play.

Special Teams

Hey the Flames won a game while still losing the special teams battle.

The Capitals scored a powerplay goal in the first period on their first chance with the man advantage, finishing 1/4 on the night.

The Flames go 0/3 on their own chances, and didn’t generate a whole lot.

The Flames generated one high danger chance while Washington picked up four.

Standings and Record

The win is huge for the Flames with all the out of town victories for western clubs.

The Oilers, Wild, Predators and Canucks all won games, so it was key to secure the two points and keep the pace.

The Flames are a point back of the Wild for the second wild card spot having played an extra game.

Clearly the focus though is settling down their game, putting together some wins and letting the standings come to him.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 36 Capitals 29
Face Offs: Flames 44% / Capitals 56%
Powerplay: Flames 0-3 / Capitals 1-4

Fancy Stats

Through two periods this was a close hockey game, but truly it was a Calgary blow out from about ten minutes into the game to the final buzzer. Five on five the Flames had 63% of the shot attempts with period splits of 61%/74% and 55% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 64%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had  70%, with a 7-3 split.

In all situations the Flames had 59% of the shot attempts, 64% of the expected goals, and 56% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 3.47 to 1.95.

The Flames came very close to another well played game without results with a tight game into the third.

Individually the Flames were led by Adam Ruzicka, posting a xGF% of 79% on the night five on five. His linemates Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman were just behind with 77% and 76% respectively. Mackenzie Weegar and Chris Tanev were all in the 40s. Tyler Toffoli, Jonathan Huberdeau, Elias Lindholm, Rasmus Andersson and Noah Hanifin were in the 60s. Only two players were under water; Kevin Rooney and Trevor Lewis at 46%.

The Other Side …

Former Flame Garnet Hathaway put up a solid night for the Caps with 79%. Only four Caps in total were over the break even point. TJ Oshie had a rough night at 15%


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