Game Takes: Leafs 2 Flames 1

March 2nd, 2023 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Heading out on the road with the season on the line a week and a half ago the Flames had an “easy” game against the Coyotes, and then four tough games heading up to the trade deadline with Vegas, Colorado, Boston and Toronto. They likely needed six points to make themselves buyers at the deadline.

They got two.

Tonight wasn’t the Boston game, they hung in there but the right team won as the Leafs edged the Flames 2-1 on Thursday night.

Tomorrow at 1pm Calgary time the deadline closes, and it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the Flames do.

They likely needed 30 points in the final 21 games. They now need 30 points in the final 20.

You do the math … unlikely.

The Lineup

Pretty much no change again … especially with Jacob Markstrom finishing the last game despite not starting.

On the blueline no change; Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson, Mackenzie Weegar with Chris Tanev, and Nikita Zadorov with Dennis Gilbert.

Up front recent status quo; 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 Trevor Lewis with Milan Lucic and Walker Duehr.

Line Metrics 

Dube – Lindholm – Toffoli 50.0%
Pelletier – Kadri – Huberdeau 61.4%
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman 69.1%
Lucic – Lewis – Duehr 49.3%

Hanifin – Andersson 53.2%
Weegar – Tanev 58.2%
Zadorov – Gilbert 65.4%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom -0.7
Vladar -7.8

Trend Tracker:

Not sure the Flames have had four lines and three pairings with better underlying numbers as a set all season. Not doing them all much good! Two lines above 60%, the other two at 50%. All three pairings at 53%+ and a third pair with 65% with sheltered minutes. And that’s not just shot volume as expected goals takes the quality of chances into account as well.

The last game against Boston was an interesting spin for both Calgary goaltenders. Dan Vladar got the start and got pulled after the first with 2 goals on 5 shots, knocking his GSAA according to Moneypuck down to -7.8. Markstrom came in in relief and faired well improving his GSAA to -0.7 from -1.7.


Quite the shorthanded effort in the first period.

First Mikael Backlund undresses Michael Nylander and goes to his forehand (patented move), but was beaten by Woll. Then he grabs the rebound and puts it off the outside of the post. Close.

Moments later a screw up at the blueline by Gustafsson playing his first game for the Leafs and Blake Coleman is sprung on a breakaway and doesn’t miss, beating Woll under the blocker.

Deadline Day

Looks like they may sit things out.

And I get it.

Fans want activity, but honestly I’m just glad to date we haven’t seen any assets moved for rentals in a fruitless attempt to make the playoffs. If they go on a great rip and make it I’m all for it, but the odds just aren’t there to expend assets.

When it comes to selling, to me it make sense; why not get a jump on a year from now’s busy summer. At the same time I also get the idea of wanting to win in the window they’re in, and thinking they’re unlikely to find similar players this summer.

Still though … cap space and an extra first is a good way to start an off season!

Pelletier Shooting

Love that Jakob Pelletier shot on that first period two on two with Nazem Kadri.

Far too often the youngun will dish out of respect, and far too often the puck gets turned over.

Both defending Leafs were in the passing lane, so he moved the puck to his inside foot on his forehand and let it fly.

Didn’t go in, but I like the thought process.

Markstrom Continuing Good Play

Regardless of where the rest of the Flames season goes, it’s uber important to get Jacob Markstrom right for next season.

Since having a baby this week he came in in relief against Boston and was solid, and carried that play into tonight’s game against Toronto.

Two goals against vs an expected tally of 3.5, and probably the first time we’ve seen a Calgary goaltender out play the opponent’s goaltender in well over a month.

He was great tonight, one of his best starts this season.

Obvious Offside

Was pretty much obvious live, you didn’t really need a replay.

So when it wasn’t called and the Flames set up on the powerplay I almost had an opinion the puck was going in and a review was likely to bring it back.

Surprised it took as long as it did to reverse.

It was a broken play of sorts, but still a little odd that the linesman missed it.

Backlund Line

Fun to watch that Backlund line go to work against top opposition; they’re just unfazed.

Tonight more of the same … all three players with 55-58% xGF% nights and multiple shifts where they pinned the Leafs in and caused havoc.

The only player with similar expected goals on the night when on the ice was Mackenzie Weegar.

Elite line.

Gilbert Taking On Water

We haven’t see much of this yet, but tonight Dennis Gilbert looked a little over his head.

He’s done a great job exceeding everyone’s expectations and climbing over the depth chart to end up at the sixth spot. His game is quiet and his numbers solid.

But tonight he was chasing more than we’ve seen him. Part of that is the opposition; the Leafs have deadly offensive players, but a learning point for the not young young defenseman.

Brodie and Gio

Kind of cool to see TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano on the ice together at the Saddledome; one of the best defense pairings in Flames history.

They don’t play as a pairing, but there were a couple of instances tonight where they were both out at the same time.

Always found TJ Brodie an interesting hockey player for how he exceled playing on his off side. Could see the ice with that board spin creating options across the ice. A very similar player to Mackenzie Weegar … Brodie the better skater and Weegar more physical. Both solid players that excel in the transition.

Brodie’s version of the off side seems more natural to me though. Weegar gets stuck having to make a lot of backhand plays compared to Brodie who spins his way on to his forehand but with his body turned towards his own end.

Is it me or does he look bigger? Must be the beard.

Odds and Sods

Sure don’t notice Ryan O’Reilly all that much. In all fairness he’s coming off a long term injury and adjusting to a new team and linemates. … Good interview with John Hamm in the second intermission speaking of Ryan O’Reilly. He’s in town working on Fargo. Mentioned he’s living in a nice neighborhood, wonder where that is? Didn’t sound very hotel or downtown-ish. … Funny how colour guys (girls) have trademark saying that they just can’t get away form. I’m sure if thousands of people listed to me for three hours I’d have some too. Cassie Cambell had the “if you will” trailer on comments. Kelly Hrudey has “100%”. Tonight I counted four “100%” in the hockey game. Pretty much par for the course. … How does Tyler Toffoli not get a penalty for bear hugging Michael Nylander in front of the Leaf’s net in the third period? Gimme no?

Special Teams

Both teams go zero for two on the night, in a game where they let them play; something I’m always a fan of.

Ironically both teams ended up flat in terms of high danger chances with the man advantage. The Flames generated two but gave up two. The Leafs generated three and gave up three.

Leafs with better expected goal splits up a man so we will give them the edge.

Standings and Record

Another tough night on the out of town scoreboard.

The Kraken win in overtime, the Predators won despite all their selling, and the Wild are up going into the third period.

So yeah getting zero points from a Calgary standpoint is a tough one.

The Jets aren’t playing so that’s the target … still five points back but the Jets have a game in hand.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 26 Leafs 34
Face Offs: Flames 44% / Leafs  56%
Powerplay: Flames 0-2 / Leafs  0-2

Fancy Stats

This one was a squeaker between the two teams. The Flames had an edge in overall five on five play, the Leafs the edge with special teams so it’s not a shock to see a tight one goal game yet again. Five on five the Flames had 54% of the shot attempts with period splits of 50%/58% and 53% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 51%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 56%, with a 9-7 split.

In all situations the Flames had 51% of the shot attempts, 48% of the expected goals, and 54% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 3.27 to 3.51.

Individually the Flames were led by Mackenzie Weegar posting an xGF% of 75.9% on the night five on five. Other players in the 70s included Milan Lucic and Rasmus Andersson. Trevor Lewis and Walker Duehr were in the 60s. Six players with numbers under 50% (basically 30%) including; Nazem Kadri, Jakob Pelletier, Jonathan Huberdeau, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Dennis Gilbert.

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