Game Takes: Flames 6 Bolts 3

January 21st, 2023 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

As a fanbase we usually fret when we see an afternoon game on the schedule. The stress level is heightened when the game is at home, and at a fever pitch when it’s against a seasoned upper echelon club like the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Add in the Flames coming out with terrible starts in their last two games, and it looked like a recipe for an absolute face plant at the Saddledome this afternoon.

Yeah maybe not …

The Flames jumped all over the Lightning in the first period, scored the go ahead goal, and then fought back from some second period adversity (fell down 2-1 on two quick goals, one an own goal) to past the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3 on Saturday afternoon.

The game was closer than the final score looked due to the visitors getting six powerplay opportunities, and the Flames finding the net with two empty net goals to make the finish a laugher.

The Flames snap a two game losing streak, and host Johnny Gaudreau and the Jackets on Monday night.

The Lineup

Some change!

The Flames look to be inserting top prospect Jakob Pelletier into the lineup this afternoon for his first NHL game. He’ll suite up on the fourth line and replace Adam Ruzicka.

So look for 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 a new look fourth line of Trevor Lewis between rookies Pelletier and Walker Duehr.

On the blueline look for Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson, Mackenzie Weegar with Chris Tanev, and finally Nikita Zadorov with Michael Stone.

Line Metrics 

Dube – Lindholm – Toffoli 49.8%
Huberdeau – Kadri – Lucic 50.9%
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman 69.0%
Pelletier – Lewis – Duehr NA

Hanifin – Andersson 53.5%
Weegar – Tanev 56.1%
Zadorov – Stone 50.7%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +2.0
Vladar -2.8

Trend Tracker:

With so much talk in the city about Milan Lucic’s presence on the second line, a bigger, more pressing reason to change up the forward lines may be at hand with the slide of the top line of Elias Lindholm, Dillon Dube and Tyler Toffoli. They’ve been taking on water for over a week now. Take Elias Lindholm for example; in his last six games he has one monster contest in St. Louis but four games where he (his line) got absolutely filled in with xGF% marks of 37%, 30%, 27% and 8%. You can’t have a top line struggling like that. … Jacob Markstrom gave up three first period goals but held the Avalanche the rest of the way ending the game with a slight deficit, which is seen in his reduction from +2.8 to +2.0 on the season.

Blocker Punch

Milan Lucic might have gotten away with bumping into a goaltender.

I’m old, so if you compared that to 80s hockey it was nothing, but in today’s NHL you don’t usually see a goaltender “checked” without a call.

Additionally, being a minor hockey coach for years I’m prone to react to a blocker punch, something that was an automatic suspension in Calgary minor hockey.

I guess it’s not at the NHL level.

Pelletier’s Night

You know what? Not bad at all.

With a penalty filled affair he didn’t get a whole lot of ice time, but he clearly belonged when he hit the ice.

He got under the Lightning skin on a first period backcheck, lit up Namestikov when the Russian was hell bent on delivering and not receiving a hit in the corner, and took a rebound and almost scored on his first NHL shot.

Almost more importantly, no major defensive gaffs and he finished the night at 90% in xGF% with a 3-0 edge in high danger chances.

Can honestly say he contributed to a more aggressive puck moving fourth line.

The Vladar Start

There’s a classic example of why save percentage alone doesn’t suffice when evaluating a goaltender’s night.

Someone looking at the box score would see another .875 Calgary Flames goaltending performance and write it off as Tampa staying close because the Calgary stopper whiffed on a few.

Just wasn’t the case.

Stamkos with a one timer.

An own goal.

Then a screened empty net rebound are the only three he gave up on a night when the Flames didn’t give up much by way of shots, but some ten bell chances for Vladar to face.

On the night the expected goals against was 3.19, he only gave up three.

Good Start

Honestly couldn’t roll out a better first period effort for the Flames.

They were on their toes, moving their feet … all the cliches we use to describe hockey teams that are ready off the hop to take it to their opposition.

A little bit unfortunate to only be up a goal given the first 20 they rolled out.

Now bottle that!

Calgary Penalty Kill

Honestly the difference in the game.

Five on five the Flames were clearly the better team, but their usual lack of finish and a good start from Vasilevsky kept the game closer than it should have been.

But Calgary’s penalty kill kept it that way.

The Lightning had six chances on the powerplay but only managed three high danger chances in a dozen minutes and generated only 0.17 in expected goals.

That is lights out penalty killing.

The Flames are now up to 5th in penalty killing league wide, only a hair back of the Dallas Stars for 4th spot.

Star Turn for Andersson

Maybe the big Swedish defenseman on the other side it brought it out of him!

But another huge night for Rasmus Andersson, as he ran his record to 13-0 when he scores a goal and added two assists today.

Led the game in ice time with almost 28 minutes (and it wasn’t even close), and a 71.5% xGF night to boot.

Top pairing defenseman doing top pairing things.

Weegar Hunt

Quite the first period for former Panther Mackenzie Weegar; a player that makes no bones about the fact that he doesn’t like the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Early on he goes off for a high stick on Kucherov, that on replay looked like it was a body check leading to Kucherov high sticking himself in the face.

Later in the period Kucherov trips Andrew Mangiapane, and in disgust cross checks Weegar, which results in Zach Bogosian skating in and dropping the gloves.

Odd choice by the big burly defender given that Weegar, other than maybe flapping his gums, had done nothing to Kucherov, but was on the receiving end of an uncalled cross check.

Special Team

Won the Flames the game in my mind.

A perfect 6/6 killing penalties, and scoring a first period powerplay goal themselves when Nazem Kadri tipped in a Tyler Toffoli offering to make it 1-0 Flames.

Clear victory for the Flames non five on five groups.

Standings and Record

The win gives the Flames a record of 22-16-6 for 53 points in 47 games for .564 as a points percentage.

By points that puts them in the second wild card spot two points back of the Oilers for the 1st wildcard spot.

By points percentage that puts them in 9th spot, on the outside looking in.

Most importantly it snaps a two game losing streak without points, and resets them on a positive with Gaudreau coming in on Monday night.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 41 Lightning 24
Face Offs: Flames 35% / Lightning 65%
Powerplay: Flames 1-4 / Lightning 0-6

Fancy Stats

This was a blow out, disguised as a nail biter that ended a blow out. The Flames were the better team in all three periods five on five, and ran up solid totals in all the underlying metrics but … finish. Five on five the Flames had 66% of the shot attempts with period splits of 75%/65% and 55% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 69%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 81%, with a  13-3 split.

In all situations the Flames had 58% of the shot attempts, 65% of the expected goals, and 68% of the high danger splits; while giving up an additional eight minutes of powerplay time. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 5.93 to 3.19, with the Flames needing some empty netters to even the score with the expected number.

Individually the Flames were led by Jakob Pelletier and Walker Duehr, with the rookies both posting an xGF% of 90% on the night five on five. Trevor Lewis and Mackenzie Weegar were both in the 80s, Elias Lindholm, Dillon Dube, Chris Tanev, Blake Coleman and Rasmus Andersson were in the 70s. No players were under water five on five.

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