Game Takes: Oilers 2 Flames 1

December 27th, 2022 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Won’t go over well for the masses, but the Flames likely played their best 60 minute effort of the season in losing to the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Tuesday night.

They generated almost 50 shots, had high danger and expected goal metrics at 70% but ran into a hot Stuart Skinner and two goal posts in a game settle by special teams and a third period powerplay goal by Connor McDavid.

The loss moves the Flames out of a playoff spot, and ends a run of points for the Flames.

But honestly if you walk that game out consistently in the second half you likely reel in a few Pacific Division foes and grab home ice in the first round.

The Lineup

Seeing Milan Lucic in the top six almost caused a civic riot, possibly staved because of the brutal cold on Calgary streets.

Yet it worked.

I don’t think it’s a long time fit, but it may paint the picture of the type of winger Nazem Kadri needs, and/or the type of third wheel the Kadri – Jonathan Huberdeau pair require.

Up front it’s Elias Lindholm with Dillon Dube and Tyler Toffoli, Nazem Kadri with Huberdeau and Lucic, Mikael Backlund on the razor sharp possession line with Andrew Mangiapane and Blake Coleman, and then Trevor Lewis between Adam Ruzicka and Brett Ritchie.

On the blueline no change; Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson, Mackenzie Weegar with Chris Tanev, and Nikita Zadorov with Michael Stone.

In goal the big Jacob Markstrom mental reset experiment. Last chance to slay that Oiler beast before the playoffs. Shame they blew that lead in the last meeting as that had win written all over it.

Line MetricsĀ 

Lines below left as is from the previous game.

Dube – Lindholm – Toffoli 53.3%
Huberdeau – Kadri – Lucic 44.6%
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman 67.3%
Ruzicka – Lewis – Ritchie 54.8%

Hanifin – Andersson 51.8%
Weegar – Tanev 55.6%
Zadorov – Stone 51.7%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +4.7
Vladar -3.0

Trend Tracker:

On paper it looks like the Flames have finally found some trios and pairings that work. In reality it’s a very small sample size for the forward groups, and a lot of that sample size against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks … so best not to take it to the bank. … There are some good signs emerging though. The continued upward trend for the top pairing (Hanifin/Andersson) is a huge deal. Once again recent play against the Sharks/Ducks, but with a huge sample size, so they’re moving the needle against weaker opposition and improving their confidence. … Goaltending remains flat with Markstrom stopping what he should … Another plus is the removal of that second line (Dube-Kadri-Mangiapane) that scored goals, but got filled in on an nightly basis. Kadri continues to be productive with new surroundings, and so has Dube on the top line.

New Wrinkle in Game Plan?

Thought the Flames had a bit of a different look against Edmonton from what we’ve seen in recent games.

First off they were on their toes, moving their feet, which is huge against their provincial rivals.

But the tactical change seemed to be the blueline, and standing up almost like killing a penalty five on five. Sticks in lanes, bodies in front of bodies, and not allowing Edmonton to take the zone with any speed.

Created a bunch of turnovers from the Oilers and a pretty quiet start to the game compared to the normal on your heels, holding on for dear life approach.

Honestly five on five the Oilers had very little.

Might be on to something.

More Woodcroft

Calgary has always had a history of the reserved coach.

They don’t stir the pot.

Darryl Sutter can be controversial in a lot of ways, but he’s not one to insult or poke at the opposition.

The Oilers not so much with Sather, Muckler, MacTavish and now Woodcroft.

Earlier this season he told the media the Flames opening win against the Avalanche should be taken with a grain of salt because the Avalanche played the night before. Not something you see every day.

Tonight he played down the shot volume saying the Flames were the type of team that shoots pucks from center to get their shot and possession metrics up.

Now it’s no secret that Darryl Sutter likes shot volume, but in a game that had Calgary 16-6 in high danger chances he’s either trying to boost his team after getting massively outplayed or he’s more of a fan than most coaches.

Heavy Lucic

Milan Lucic is what he is.

A guy moving into his mid 30’s who’s lost a step that really isn’t a top six player in any stretch of the imagination.

But the best version of the guy now is the heavy hitting version, which I think tonight was present for two reasons. One, it’s against Edmonton and a rivalry game. But additionally he’s had an expanded role of late and with that probably a bunch more emotion and confidence.

Sure he did a few spinarounds that resulted in little, but they felt in on the forecheck.

Markstrom’s Game

The Flames were better five on five, so Jacob Markstrom wasn’t forced to do a whole lot for long stretches.

But when the Oilers walked out their league best powerplay he had to be amazing, keeping the Oilers and specifically Leon Draisaitl at bay with two second period one timers from his office.

As I said above, such a crucial game to get that monkey off his back, especially with this being the last meeting of the regular season between the two teams.

So gets the loss but can’t say he was the problem, some will make a case of the loss, but I didn’t see a goalie with the other team in his head in that encounter.

Huberdeau Noticeable

Thought Jonathan Huberdeau had another solid game for Calgary … and maybe the most consistently dangerous night he’s had in a Calgary uniform.

No points, but he had a few chances to score himself, set up his teammates often and turned over a lot of pucks by playing the body or chasing down sticks.

He’s been productive of late of course, but tonight he looked more like that potential game breaker.

Hopefully he and Nazem Kadri continue to gain chemistry, but I’m also noticing he’s getting more familiar with Calgary defensemen and their pinch and join the play tendencies.

Thought he tied the game up when he found both Tyler Toffoli and Mikael Backlund open late in the game with the Flames pressing.

Andersson Continues to Chug

The guy just continues to improve.

When he hits a plateau he just finds another one.

The points have been coming all season, but his defensive work with partner Noah Hanifin has improved greatly in the past few weeks, making him a more complete player.

Tonight he plays almost 4 minutes more than any other player on his team and was huge in transitioning the puck and keeping shifts going through pinches and skating the puck around the horn.

Becoming an elite defenseman.

Officials Tonight

Thought Andrew Mangiapane was an idiot on the game winner, and had no problem with the holding call.

He took his hand off his stick and grabbed Darnel Nurse twice before hitting him into the boards. You do it once and you’re asking for it but might get away with it. Do it twice? You’re going off.

The Oilers first powerplay came off a too many men on the ice call and they had to call that.

My only issue is the non call on Tyler Toffoli getting picked with four minutes to go and the Flames dumping the puck in. How, when you just called a penalty that created the go ahead goal do you not call the obvious interference (pick) penalty to give the other team a chance?

Seemed like an odd non call to me given the circumstances.

Special Teams

The story tonight I guess.

One team gets three opportunities and scores once, the other gets one chance and comes up empty.

The difference in a one goal game.

Standings and Record

Big game in the standings.

The Flames lose and drop out of a playoff spot and lose the season series to the Oilers.

Honestly the Flames were the clear cut better team in all three of them.

The Flames have 39 points in 36 games and sit a point back of the Oilers with a game tomorrow night in Seattle.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 47 Oilers 22
Face Offs: Flames 53% / Oilers 47%
Powerplay: Flames 0-1 / Oilers 1-3

Fancy Stats

One of those games that had everything you’d want from your team but the two points. Dominated five on five to a huge extent in shot volume (this is the way), but also scoring chances, high danger chances and expected goals. This wasn’t a shoot from the perimeter and hope for the best night at all. Five on five the Flames had 75% of the shot attempts with period splits of 70%/70% and 83% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 78%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 73%, with a 16-6 split. Honestly might have been the most dominant 60 minute effort by the Flames this season.

In all situations the Flames had 74% of the shot attempts, 68% of the expected goals, and 67% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 4.53 to 2.14.

Individually the Flames were led by Adam Ruzicka posting an xGF% of 88.7% on the night five on five. Tyler Toffoli, Mikael Backlund, Michael Stone and Nikita Zadorov were all in the 80s as well. Many many players in the 70, in fact the two lowest players on the possession totem poll were Nazem Kadri and Brett Ritchie at 69.2%.



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