Game Takes: Avalanche 4 Flames 1

February 25th, 2023 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Is the writing on the wall?

All the teams around them seem to keep winning, the Flames keep this one step forward one step back pattern that isn’t gaining ground on any of the combatants.

Tonight in Denver the Flames give up a 2-0 lead on the Avalanche first two shots on the night and never recovered despite getting a boat load of chances and driving the play for most of the night.

With 22 games to go, and a four goal gap against three teams it just seems pretty unlikely.

The Lineup

Just one change for the Flames tonight and that’s in net with Jacob Markstrom coming back in after Dan Vladar had two straight starts; a win in Arizona and a loss in overtime in Vegas.

Up front no change; Elias Lindholm with Dillon Dube and Tyler Toffoli, Nazem Kadri with Jakob Pelletier and Jonathan Huberdeau, Mikael Backlund with Andrew Mangiapane and Blake Coleman. And finally a fourth line of Trevor Lewis with Milan Lucic and Walker Duehr.

On the blueline it’s Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson, Mackenzie Weegar with Chris Tanev and the third pair of Nikita Zadorov with Dennis Gilbert.

Line Metrics 

Dube – Lindholm – Toffoli 48.0%
Pelletier – Kadri – Huberdeau 63.9%
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman 67.9%
Lucic – Lewis – Duehr 52.7%

Hanifin – Andersson 52.9%
Weegar – Tanev 58.5%
Zadorov – Gilbert 49.2%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom -0.6
Vladar -6.1

Trend Tracker:

Lets talk playoffs …

The Flames where they sit seem to be in a battle with just one team to a certain degree; the Minnesota Wild.

The rest of the Pacific seems out of reach, and the Avalanche have too many games in hand.

The Wild are on a 97 point pace meaning the Flames would need to finish with 98 (assuming they don’t have the tie breaker) and a .696 record the rest of the way or a record like 15-6-2.

But the team has a tough schedule this week with three world beaters. If they should go 1-1-1 against Colorado, Boston and Toronto, that .696 turns into .725 or a 14-5-1 record for the final 20 games.

Clearly the time to get on a run is now. They’re running out of time.

The Start

You really can’t start a game any better than that.

Calgary pounces on the Avalanche with Nazem Kadri all amped up leading the charge and have two solid chances to score, neither of which ended in a clear shot.

Then a turnover in the Calgary zone and it’s 1-0 on one shot for the Avalanche.

A few minutes later its 2-0 on two shots.

Neither easy in nature, and Jacob Markstrom settled down and made some solid saves, but once again just not good enough to help his team to the results they need.

Pelletier Emerging

Easy thing to point out with the guy coming off back to back two point games, but it’s no flash in the pan.

You notice this guy every second shift (at least).

He makes good little plays, he makes good big plays.

He’s always driving to the net and getting into the guts of the game.

I’m starting to elevate my expectation from the bottom of middle six to the top of middle six.

He’s a player.

Not Their Season

Down 2-0 in the second period, puck comes out to Andrew Mangiapane on a rebound off a Mikael Backlund shot and he backhands it towards the empty net.

Goal right?

Yeah no … across the net and off the post and out.

Three minutes later the Avalanche on a powerplay and Nikushkin shoots the puck wide, but it it’s Rantanen in the chest and deflects into the net.

It’s not 2-1, it’s 3-0.

Game of inches and the Flames have lost by a foot this season.

Markstrom Start

Man I’ve said this at least a dozen times in the last month or so.

You don’t blame the goaltender for any individual goal, but on the whole too many pucks in the net … especially when it’s two goals on the first two shots.

The first goal is one of the most dangerous shooters in the league on a turnover.

Goal two is a screen shot with his own defenseman keeping him from getting to the puck.

Number three, as I said above likely going wide but hits an opposing player and goes in the net.

Expected goal split finishes 3.53 – 2.84 for the Flames … 4-1 final.

This season … (shakes head)

Backlund Gets Into It

Don’t you just love group think in team sports?

Mikael Backlund with a clean hit on both Nathan MacKinnon and Bowen Byrum but on the Avalanche bench he was the dirtiest player on the ice.

Backlund has always been a second half player, but this season he just continues to bring it, in what could be his best season.

Thought it was pretty unclassy at the end with Cogliano waving goodbye to Backlund. Like I said … group think, the player didn’t do a thing to deserve the even up penalty in the third.

Zadorov Rough Night


The player has come so far for his overall play in Calgary.

From a fringe NHLer to a guy challenging for a top four spot with the Flames.

But tonight … ugly.

Lost his man on Mackinnon’s goal, and then got caught puck watching on the 4th Avalanche goal. In the first he turns it over in the offensive zone sending the puck the other way in what could have been a third Avalanche goal.

Just looked lost out there tonight.

Special Teams

Edge goes to the Avalanche.

Both teams score a powerplay goal, the Avalanche on one less opportunity.

The Avalanche had the only three high danger chances with the man advantage.

Standings and Record

The loss leaves the Flames three points out of a playoff spot, trailing the Avalanche who still have three games in hand. Don’t count on that race!

They’re four points back of the Kraken with one extra game played.

Four points back of the Wild with even games played.

With Boston and Toronto on tap this is looking pretty bleak.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 29 Avalanche 22
Face Offs: Flames 51% / Avalanche 49%
Powerplay: Flames 1-5 / Avalanche 1-4

Fancy Stats

The Flames honestly broke the pattern tonight, with a huge high danger to shot attempt ratio for once. Usually they run up the attempts, the shots, and even the scoring chances, but slide on the high danger chances. Tonight they got down early and that’s score effects, but they got goalie’d to some degree. Five on five the Flames had 60% of the shot attempts with period splits of 52%/66% and 58% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 54%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 61%, with a 17-11 split.

In all situations the Flames had 63% of the shot attempts, 55% of the expected goals, and 56% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 3.53 to 2.84.

Individually the Flames were led by Dennis Gilbert posting an xGF% of 84% on the night five on five. Blake Coleman, Mikael Backlund, Andrew Mangiapane and Tyler Toffoli had solid nights. Five players under 40% on the night; Walker Duehr, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri and Jakob Pelletier … the last three after a great start to the night.

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