Game takes: Hawks 5 Flames 1

January 26th, 2023 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

They just weren’t ready.

That’s pretty easy to see given the terrible start, and then myriad of break downs against a bottom feeder as they choked away a 5-1 loss at the Saddledome.

A terrible first period, some light in the second before a complete collapse. The third had Calgary pushing, but it was too little too late in a hugely disappointing hockey game on Thursday night.

If you want a cheer up, it would have to be Jakob Pelletier moving up the lineup, finding his way to the third line, then second, logging over 15 minutes when the night was done.

So there’s that.

The Lineup

A forced change for the Flames as Chris Tanev comes out, as expected with Connor Mackey jumping in to fill the spot.

So the blueline reverts back to what we saw in November when the Flame shot blocking ace was on the sidelines; the usual top pair of Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, the make shift second pair of Nikita Zadorov and Mackenzie Weegar back to his strong side, and Mackey with Michael Stone.

No changes up front, which is good if you’re looking to see Jakob Pelletier in action again.

Elias Lindholm with Dillon Dube and Tyler Toffoli, Nazem Kadri with Milan Lucic and Jonathan Huberdeau, Mikael Backlund with Andrew Mangiapane and Blake Coleman, and Trevor Lewis between Pelletier and fellow rookie Walker Duehr.

Jacob Markstrom back in the nets for the Flames.

Line Metrics 

Dube – Lindholm – Toffoli 49.8%
Huberdeau – Kadri – Lucic 51.4%
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman 68.8%
Pelletier – Lewis – Duehr 81.5%

Hanifin – Andersson 54.0%
Zadorov – Weegar 57.3%
Mackey – Stone 50.2%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +2.0
Vladar -3.0

Trend Tracker:

A bit of a drill down on Calgary strength of opposition stats …

Centers – According to Puck IQ the Flames use their center ice core pretty evenly, with all three top nine pivots seeing similar splits against elite competition (29-32% each). Michael Backlund is the lock down guy with 61.6% of Dangerous Fenwick chances going his way. Lindholm is at 52.3%, Kadri at 50.1%. Across the league Backlund is second to only Jack Hugues for centers and ahead of Patrice Bergeron.

Wingers – On the wings, Andrew Mangiapane has the biggest split of his ice time against elite competition at 33.5%, Dillon Dube is next at 32.4, Tyler Toffoli at 31.4%. Lucic and Huberdeau the most protected in the top nine. Mangiapane also leads the group in splits at 57.1%, next up Trevor Lewis and Blake Coleman. Mangiapane is 6th league wide for wingers.

Blueline – Mackenzie Weegar leads all blueliners in Calgary for his time split against the elite at 34.2%, his usual pairing mate Chris Tanev is right behind at 33.5%, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson right there as well at 33.4% and 33.0%. Then a drop to Nikita Zadorov at 23.0% and Michael Stone at only 14.1%. League wide Tanev is 8th in chance splits, Zadorov is 16th, and Weegar is 18th. Calgary has a crazy five defensemen in the league’s top 30. Really tells you the goaltending has let them down.

Terrible Start

Yuck that was a nasty start.

With back to back trap games at the Saddledome before they take a one gamer to Seattle and then an all star break, the Flames simply need the points.

Two nights ago they owned the first period but really weren’t rewarded for it, resulting in an overtime win over the lowly Jackets. Tonight they were completely out of sorts in the first period, with bobbled pucks, blown coverages, and literally zero chemistry.

The Blackhawks finally went ahead with a handful of minutes left in the period, before a late goal by Jonathan Huberdeau salvaged the stanza.

Leads to Blender

The lack of chemistry led to three lines being put in a blender by Sutter as a way of shaking things up.

The result was Lucic to the fourth line, something fans have been clamouring for for about a month and a half, Pelletier to the Backlund line, Coleman to the Kadri line.

All three lines had their moments and it was certainly interesting to see Pelletier skating with the rookie whisperer.

Huberdeau Saves the Period

Late goals can be killer for a hockey team.

The Hawks have a great road period and they’re less than a half a minute from the dressing room with a lead when a broken play leads to the stick of Jonathan Huberdeau who shreds both the lone defenseman between himself and the goalie, and then Stauber the goalie himself.

Back breaker for the Hawks, and a really good sign for Huberdeau.

Worse Second

The first five minutes of the second was all Calgary as they pushed for the go ahead goal; very much a team that looked like they’ve settled in and were ready to exercize their will against an inferior opponent.

Then yeah not so much.

What followed was a final ten minutes with the Hawks scoring three goals, two of which coming on the most unspeakable defensive breakdowns.

Pairs Out of Synch

I said it about the Columbus game, same thing tonight.

The Flames don’t stick with their game plan and try to force things far too often. As a result they bleed high danger chances against and make life miserable for their goaltenders.

In the second we saw two goals in 30 seconds where two different defense pairings made asinine decisions.

First Nikita Zadorov followed Mackenzie Weegar to the rights side of the defensive zone leaving nobody to cover the open guy who walked in all alone.

Then soon after Noah Hanifin plays it aggressively in the neutral zone with his defense partner up the ice already (Rasmus Andersson) leaving only Jonathan Huberdeau of all people back and defending Markstrom.

Chill out boys.

Pour It On In The Third

If there’s a tiny silver lining to an ugly game it was a throw everything at it third period that was at least much more fun to watch.

The Flames had 18 third period shots but couldn’t solve the Hawk rookie Stauber, and gave up the only goal on an empty netter to seal things.

Not a great night at the Saddledome.

Pelletier Promotion

Darryl Sutter likes himself some Jakob Pelletier.

Elevated from the fourth line when he got the blender going.

In the third he put the Backlund line back together resulting in the Pelletier for Lucic swap as the only changes, so he had a regular shift.

He was on the second powerplay unit all night, but with the goalie pulled he was out there with the top unit for 80 seconds.

All told 15 1/2 minutes, almost three times his first game output as he muscles his way into the Flames top nine and stays there.

Will be interesting to see where this goes from here.

Special Teams

No special teams goals tonight as four five were scored five on five and one an empty netter.

Edge in special teams goes to Chicago with three kills to the Flames one on the night.

Calgary only had one high danger chance in three chances, one with the goalie pulled.

Not a good night.

Standings and Record

Huge missed opportunity with the Oilers whiffing against the Jackets last night.

Have to hope they rebound and beat the Kraken tomorrow night to go into the break on a high.

Keeps the Flames out of a playoff spot when it comes to points percentage, and a huge missed opportunity as I said.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 35 Hawks 29
Face Offs: Flames 44% / Hawks 56%
Powerplay: Flames 0-3 / Hawks 0-1

Fancy Stats

Another somewhat typical Calgary Flames game, or at least the bad version. They out shoot and out attempt their opponents, but over pinch and commit too often creating odd man rushes and all kinds of high danger action against. It’s been a pretty common thing of late. Five on five the Flames had 59% of the shot attempts with period splits of 52%/54% and 73% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 55%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 44%, with a  11-14 split.

In all situations the Flames had 59% of the shot attempts, 52% of the expected goals, and 52% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 3.75 to 3.49.

Individually the Flames were led by Jonathan Huberdeau posting an xGF% of 66% on the night five on five. Jakob Pelletier and Nazem Kadri joined him in the 60s. Five players were under water including Dillon Dube, Milan Lucic, Trevor Lewis and Nikita Zadorov.

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