Game Takes: Flames 5 Canucks 4 (OT)

March 31st, 2023 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Man a lot of shocking things went down in Vancouver on Friday night.

The Flames won in overtime, that’s pretty rare as they beat the Canucks 5-4 in a crucial, must win game. But they also managed their first come from behind (trailing after two periods) victory on the season.

Jacob Markstrom gave up four goals on 12 shots through two periods before shutting the door and playing a huge role in the victory.

Tyler Toffoli was the man in overtime and scored two on the night as he continued his career season.

And Mikael Backlund, likely the team’s best player this season, bounced back from a brutal first period turnover leading to the Canuck’s first goal, and another over pinch in the second to set up two late goals including the game winner.

The Jets win, but the Flames hold serve.

The Lineup

No change at all after the Flames beat the Kings on Wednesday.

So it’s Elias Lindholm with Andrew Mangiapane and Tyler Toffoli, Mikael Backlund with Jonathan Huberdeau and Blake Coleman, Nazem Kadri with Nick Ritchie and Dillon Dube, and Trevor Lewis between Milan Lucic and Walker Duehr.

On the blueline Chris Tanev remains out. Michael Stone is back and ready but they go with the current status quot of Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson, Nikita Zadorov with Mackenzie Weegar and Dennis Gilbert on the third pairing with Troy Stecher.

Markstrom, in goal.

Line Metrics Coming In

Mangiapane – Lindholm – Toffoli 67.2%
Huberdeau – Backlund – Coleman 51.5%
Ritchie – Kadri – Dube 41.6%
Lucic – Lewis – Duehr 57.8%

Hanifin – Andersson 52.7%
Zadorov – Weegar 58.9%
Gilbert – Stecher 60.9%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom -3.0
Vladar -7.4

Trend Tracker:

We’ve now seen almost 150 minutes of Mikael Backlund with Jonathan Huberdeau and Blake Coleman. The trio is above water, but it continues to be a line that is well back of Backlund’s other combinations this season. That’s concerning.

They have a xGF% of 53.7% together.

Backlund and Coleman without Huberdeau this season are at 62.9%. Heck Huberdeau without Backlund and Coleman comes in higher at 55.0%.

Together they sputter. With the Kadri line getting filled in and Backlund reduced, it may be time to mix things up up front. Leave the fourth line alone, and the 1st line seems to be fine.

Stecher Utilization

Try Stecher has played to pretty positive reviews this month since coming over from the Coyotes in a deadline deal.

But careful not to jump on a bandwagon that has some suspicious numbers driving it.

Stecher has been shielded from top opposition like almost no other this season.

The Flames give almost a third of their top four defenseman’s ice time to elite competition, then a drop off of Nikita Zadorov, who’s had to move up the roster, then another drop off for the rest of the crew.

But Troy Stecher is at Connor Mackey levels with only 8.9% of his ice time against elite skaters. Michael Stone was at 14.2%, and Dennis Gilbert at 17.1% as a comparison.

Backlund Turnover


You could just see the inexperience of a center covering for a defenseman with the puck coming back off a bank.

Backlund takes the puck and tries to beat the guy coming at him, but turns it over to Conner Garland who picks up the loose puck and beats Jacob Markstrom on a breakaway.

Tough way to cough up an early lead in a must win game.

Solid First

I didn’t like the Flames first two minutes, but then they settled down and really took it to Vancouver.

They had the zone time, but didn’t really generate the most dangerous of looks making it pretty easy for Thatcher Demko.

Played well, likely deserved better, but not enough to solve a goaltender that is never out of position.

High danger in the first was 5-2 for Calgary, 4 of them coming with the man advantage.

Only one high danger chance five on five the whole period.

Huberdeau Call

Just a terrible call in giving Huberdeau a penalty shot.

Or at least in comparison to things that are called.

Maybe a bit of a stick involved, but the majority of the disruption was caused by Huberdeau trying some silly fancy leg splitting thing and not a foul by a Canuck player.

He didn’t score anyway, but I would have been pissed as a Vancouver fan if he did.

Forcing the Issue

First period Backlund tries to force things at the line and turns it over.

In the second they get the game tied at 3-3 and then a terrible pinch creates a two on one and their down again.

This while dominating the second period, after out playing the Canucks in the first.

The Flames were up 13-5 in high danger chances through 40 but down a goal.

The season in a nutshell.

Good Time for Comeback #1

They go all season without winning game when down after two periods.

Then in game 76, when they absolutely needed it they found a way and secured the two points.

Great to see Mikael Backlund involved who was on the wrong side of two Vancouver goals.

And who other than Tyler Toffoli to put it away …

So Wrong About Toffoli

Honestly I thought the guy was a slow shooter, a second line guy that wasn’t going to be a big impact player in Calgary.

He started well in Calgary last year, then petered out before having good underlying numbers in the playoffs, but not a lot of production.

This year he’s been a true top line sniper.

He’s good with the puck, he wins board battles, he keeps plays alive and he can just flat out score. Twice tonight he’s in on Thatcher Demko, and twice he beats him easily.

Great player.

Great trade.

Markstrom’s Night

So many stories within the story.

He gave up four goals on 12 shots through two periods. That’s bad.

Then he stones a Canuck with a great chance to keep the Flames in it early in the third, and then went stone cold in overtime to give the Flames a chance to win the game on Toffoli’s winner.

Expected goals says 4-2 Flames win, so a 5-4 overtime game is yet another example of the Calgary goaltender not making the same number of big stops as the opposing goaltender (Demko robbed a few Flames on the night).

But overall, in a Grant Fuhr legend kind of way, he closed the door when they needed him to not give up another.

Odds and Sods

Darryl Sutter changed up his lines midway through the second period, and then benched the fourth line altogether and went with three lines for the last five minutes of the stanza. … Just can’t understand this season long issue from the Flames in not letting the game come to them. Ill timed pinches, playing too aggressive in sensitive areas of the ice. It’s burned them all season. They’ve had the team play to be a playoff team, but not the mental strength to carry it out. … Nothing funnier than a three on two with Jonathan Huberdeau and Nikita Zadorov as neither of them want to shoot. You take it, no back to you, no I insist. … Find the Canucks whining about the Petterson high stick kind of odd. He swung his stick at the puck and hit Duehr in the face. That’s a penalty … all day. … With Michael Stone back are we thinking he should play? The legend of Michael Stone has always been overstated to me, and personally I think Dennis Gilbert is the better player.

Special Teams

The Flames get it done late.

With an 0/5 night late in the third and the Canucks scoring on one of their two chances it looked like a rough night for special teams; especially when you add in a failed penalty shot.

But then the author of the missed penalty shot, Jonathan Huberdeau, scores a tight angle bank shot to tie the game up and set up the winner.

Statistically the Canucks get the nod for the night, but the timing of the late goal goes to Calgary.

Standings and Record

Pretty much no change.

The Jets win, the Flames win, the Predators didn’t play.

The estimated 5-1-1 to get a playoff spot is now 4-1-1 … though Winnipeg winning likely makes the record needed closer to 5-1-0.

Given they were down, pretty great night on the whole.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 41 Canucks 20
Face Offs: Flames 46% / Canucks 54%
Powerplay: Flames 1-6 / Canucks 1-2

Fancy Stats

There have been numerous games this season with shot volume, but a lack of quality. Tonight wasn’t one of them as the Flames pretty much dominated buzzer to buzzer, but were in a tight game because of some outlandish breakdowns. Five on five the Flames had 68% of the shot attempts with period splits of 58%/68% and 77% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 61%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 59%, with a 10-7 split.

In all situations the Flames had 69% of the shot attempts, 66% of the expected goals, and 66% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 4.05 to 2.07.

Individually the Flames were led by Mackenzie Weegar, posting an xGF% of 91% on the night five on five. Six players were in the 70s including; Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli, Andrew Mangiapane, Nikita Zadorov, Nick Ritchie and Noah Hanifin. Only six players under water, with Milan Lucic at the bottom with 25%.

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