Game Takes: Flames 6 Stars 5

January 14th, 2023 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Well that was a finish.

The Flames were cruising on the road with a 6-1 second period lead on two point nights for all of Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Chris Tanev, Rasmus Andersson and Mackenzie Weegar when the wheels fell off.

The Stars scored a late second period goal, then three more in the third to make it a nail biting 6-5 victory for the Flames.

A win is a win though, and this one gives the team 6 out of a possible 8 points thus far on their mid continent road trip that takes them to Nashville on Monday night to rap things up.

It’s also points in five straight games and 11 of their last 13.

It isn’t pretty, nor was this game’s finish, but they continue to pick up points and put some space between themselves and the teams out of playoff spots.

The Lineup

Sounds like no change for today’s afternoon contest.

So look for Elias Lindholm between Dillon Dube and Tyler Toffoli, Nazem Kadri with Milan Lucic and Jonathan Huberdeau, Mikael Backlund between Andrew Mangiapane and Blake Coleman, and Adam Ruzicka with Trevor Lewis and Walker Duehr.

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

Dan Vladar stays in the net, coming off his big win against St. Louis. Not a bad plan to go with the hot hand for now, the team needs to get off the bubble in the West. Let Markstrom’s competitive fire aiming to take back his net.

Line Metrics 

Dube – Lindholm – Toffoli 53.0%
Huberdeau – Kadri – Lucic 52.0%
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman 70.8%
Duehr – Ruzicka – Lewis 45.4%

Hanifin – Andersson 53.7%
Weegar – Tanev 56.9%
Zadorov – Stone 51.6%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +0.9
Vladar +0.1

Trend Tracker:

Only two players have been on two of the top ten play driving lines this season (min of 75 minutes); Patrice Bergeron and Mikael Backlund. Let that sink in. Great third line pivot. … All three top nine lines took a step in the right direction with the last game in St. Louis. The second line is back above the 50% mark for expected goals, the Backlund line after a bit of a step back on Tuesday back over 70%. … The top two defense pairings had a similar night, the third pairing had a bit of a rough ride. … Based on Moneypuck stats, the Calgary crease is pretty air tight with both goaltenders barely positive. Not a lot to choose there.

High Sticking Rules Again

I’m just going to keep bringing this up.

The NHL needs to change it’s high sticking policy. We shouldn’t see a guy on his knees manhandling his own face trying to find blood. It’s irrelevant … it’s a bo0 boo if it clips him and draws blood but it’s still a high stick without the red liquid.

That was an ugly high stick. It wasn’t intentional but it certainly was carless and should have been four.

Two for an accident.

Four for being careless.

Five and a game for intent.

Really simple, honestly.

Jump On ‘Em Early

Quite the first shift from the league’s best line in terms of play driving!

The Backlund/Mangiapane/Coleman line jumped all over the Stars in the first shift and had a 1-0 lead just over 20 seconds into the game. Mikael Backlund with some solid work behind the net, Coleman with a retrieval and a fortunate bounce off a skate, and Mangiapane for taking said fortunate bounce and putting it behind Wedgewood.

Great way to start a hockey game.

Period Killer

The Flames were up 2-0 on the Mangiapane goal, and then a late powerplay goal by Trevor Lewis if all people, and looked to have possibly made it 3-0 when it looked like Dillon Dube slipped one under the goaltender.

But 90 seconds later it’s 2-1 when Nikita Zadorov overskated a puck creating a turnover and an eventual own goal by Rasmus Andersson.

Shame, the Flames have a text book period going and that kind of mistake can change a hockey game.

2nd Unit

Thought it was astute of Darryl Sutter to come out with the 2nd unit first on a first period powerplay chance.

They were sharper in getting it set up, and more creative once they did.

With Hanifin working with Backlund on the half wall they were breaking down the top penalty killer and creating chances in tight to score.

Dube looked close on a powerplay chance, and Mangiapane had another one.

Hopefully the top unit is taking notes.

More to Duehr?

Not sure I’d go as far as Greg Millen in suggesting Walker Duehr is a young Zach Hyman, but I guess everyone needs goals!

For me though, it does appear there is more there than just an AHL call up or a tweener.

He has good size, good speed, and decent enough hands to do more with the puck than we usually see out of fourth line players.

Additionally, he’s made some really good reads from the F3 spot to cover pinching defensemen, something that will endure him to his head coach.

He may not head back down.

Kadri Goal

Pretty sure that was offside.

But when you can’t see a replay that proves it’s offside you have to go with the original call on the ice, and that was a goal.

That may be the best way to set up a rule, as I’m not sure I’d be happy with say 5 people voting on what they think happened if they couldn’t actually see it. Seems ripe with controversy to me.

This one went the Flame’s way.

Dube Creating

I’ve been saying this for weeks now, but an emerging play creating force on the Flames is Dillon Dube.

The Flames have a lot of guys that can work the puck up the ice and get it deep. They’re good on the cycle, well coached, and disciplined in how to create offence once the puck is behind the defense.

They don’t however, have many players that create offence off the rush or through hands.

Mikael Backlund has always been one of them, there’s a reason he was the bump back guy on powerplay two all of last year (something they’re not using this season).

But the guy really emerging is Dillon Dube.

Again tonight he took the puck out of his own zone and then used his boots to go wide to create offence out of thin air.

Good sign.

Vladar Start

Well …

Solid early for sure as he backstopped his club to a 6-1 lead with a minute to go in the second period.

Then the dam burst with the Stars scoring four straight goals to make it a nail biter.

In my opinion, no real stinkers against, as there was a tipped goal, one with no coverage in front of the net, another where he kicked the net off the post … the only one I’d say is sort of on him was the Miller goal to make it 6-5.

Statistically this was a 3-2 game though by expected goals, so a 6-5 finish certainly doesn’t suggest goaltending classic.

Wild Third


The Flames had a very good first period, an even better second period, and then a great start to the third.

Then everything began to unravel.

They settled down somewhat from the Pavelski goal seven minutes into the period, but when he scored again just under 13 minutes in things got pretty tense.

The Stars took over the rest of the period and the Flames were somewhat lucky to get out with two regulation points.

Padded their one goal game stat though!

Special Teams

Big day for special teams for Calgary but with an asterisk.

Sure it was a two goal night, but when Trevor Lewis is scoring a powerplay goal you know it wasn’t highlight reel material as the veteran picked up a Mackenzie Weegar rebound cleaning up the end of a powerplay.

The penalty killing unit was stout on two Star chances though, and Lindholm’s second period powerplay goal was certainly more powerplay-ish.

Bottom line two for the good guys and none against.

Standings and Record

Another big two points for the Flames as they once again leap frog the Oilers and into the first wild card spot with 51 points (to the Oilers 49) with even games played.

They are now only three points back of Seattle though the Kraken have three games in hand, and five points back of the Kings with Calgary having a game in hand.

Just as importantly they are starting to get a tiny bit of breathing room. The four teams out of the playoffs and behind the two Alberta wildcard teams are all on losing streaks creating a bit of a bulge in points percentage.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 36 Stars 34
Face Offs: Flames 51% / Stars 49%
Powerplay: Flames 2-5 / Stars 0-2

Fancy Stats

One of those nights where the underlying stats completely support what you saw on the ice; a good start to the game for the Flames but then a big lead and score effects turns it on a dime as the Stars dominate the last half of the game and come close to pulling it out. Five on five the Flames had 51% of the shot attempts with period splits of 60%/51% and 41% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 50%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 50%, with a  6-6 split.

In all situations the Flames had 53% of the shot attempts, 58% of the expected goals, and 44% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 3.07 to 2.25.

Individually the Flames were led by Trevor Lewis and Walker Duehr, both posting an xGF% of 77% on the night five on five. Adam Ruzicka was next up at 69%, Chris Tanev, Mackenzie Weegar, and Nikita Zadorov also had good nights. Jonathan Huberdeau, Milan Lucic and Andrew Mangiapane were in the 30s.

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