Game Takes: Hawks 4 Flames 3

April 4th, 2023 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Bubble teams lost to crap teams all the time.

Heck good teams lose to bad teams all the time.

The Flames though, have lost all three games to the Chicago Blackhawks this season. In a freaky season where every game is a one goal game, and they can’t win in overtime, you’d better beat the league doormats.

They haven’t.

Tonight they fight back from down 2-1 after one with a solid second period, but then completely come out flat in the third.

Cost them the game.

Could cost them the season.

The Lineup

One expected huge change … Chris Tanev back in the fold.

And that change is more than Chris Tanev – Michael Stone as an equation. Tanev back improves all of the other defensemen because of slotting, as Noah Hanifin is better with Chris Tanev, Rasmus Andersson is better with Mackenzie Weegar, and Troy Stecher should have a better time of it with Nikita Zadorov. Zadorov with the only downgrade in situation.

Up front no change as we see 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 finally Trevor Lewis with Milan Lucic and Walker Duehr.

Jacob Markstrom gets the start and hopes to rebound from a tough start on Sunday night.

Line Metrics Coming In

Mangiapane – Lindholm – Toffoli 67.0%
Huberdeau – Backlund – Coleman 52.4%
Ritchie – Kadri – Dube 42.7%
Lucic – Lewis – Duehr 57.8%

Hanifin – Tanev 66.6%
Weegar – Andersson 62.6%
Zadorov – Stecher 42.1%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom -6.0
Vladar -8.4

Trend Tracker:

Both goaltenders took steps back on expected goal rates in the Duck’s victory; Markstom -1.0 and Vladar -1.2. What a season between the pipes … simply amazing we are still charting a playoff spot in early April.

Having Chris Tanev back is huge. The Flames are back to a top four with two 63%+ pairings. To put that in perspective that gives the Flames the 1st (Hanifin-Tanev) and 7th (Weegar – Andersson) ranked duos in the league. The top five is rounded out by Bahl-Severson (Jersey), Ekholm-Bouchard (Edmonton), Slavin-Burns (Carolina) and Lindholm – Clifton (Boston).

Mackenzie Weegar also has a share of spots 24 and 27!

Duehr Confidence

Funny to see Walker Duehr both calling for the puck more often, and then doing it on his own given his linemates. Huge boost of confidence in the player.

As he starts to skate the puck in and out of traffic and tossing it to the point he’s almost single handedly making the fourth line viable.

Additionally, Milan Lucic still has some skill left in breaking out the puck and finding the open guy, something that seems very well designed for Duehr.

I’d like to see Jakob Pelletier again, but I’m assuming we won’t.

At least Duehr has made the fourth line serviceable.

Another Rough Start

Once again it’s not like they were bad.

But which team needs the game? Honestly couldn’t tell.

Jacob Markstrom needs to stop that first one, which was a carbon copy of the first goal the Ducks scored on Sunday night.

He didn’t have much of a chance on the second one.

At least Tyler Toffoli bailed them out to keep it somewhat close.

What the Hell is Nazem Kadri Doing?

I’ve been hard on the guy.

But nothing I saw in that nasty shift was being a puck hog or not having vision.

He could be joining Jonathan Huberdeau and Jacob Markstrom in the nuking-yourself-by-trying-to-hard club.

Or was he not focused? Too nonchalant? First he turns the puck over at the blueline on a weak play. Then scoots into his own zone to retrieve it and listlessly turns it over again.

Just like that Calgary trails after one.

Does he get benched?

Much Better Second Period

The Flames push for most of the second period, out shoot the Hawks 18-4 and tie the game on a great three way passing play by Jonathan Huberdeau, Blake Coleman and Noah Hanifin with the goal.

The Flames gave up next to nothing in the first 15 minutes, then had a bit of a lapse for four before a strong final minute.

At that point you’re thinking, do that again and it’s a regulation win.

Or …

They could come out flat as a pancake, let the Hawks end a 12 minute shot drought with two quick goals putting them in a heap of trouble.

Yeah that’s the way to go.

The middle ten minutes of the period was a process of overcoming the shock of the first five minutes leaving very little time to come back.

Calgary gets it to within one goal but that’s that.

Season isn’t over … but in trouble.

Huberdeau Coming

I honestly had pretty much given up on the guy finding another gear this season, but maybe he’s going to prove me wrong.

He was solid in Vancouver (penalty shot aside), decent against Anaheim, and I thought one of the team’s better players tonight.

Great assist in the second period, but he was finding the late guy, with deft passes throughout the game and easily could have had a three point night.

Would be great if he was a point per game player again for the Flames.

Zadorov With a Rough Night

Easy to pick on Kadri for that first period sequence, but Nikita Zadorov was almost as guilty on that play (and on a few others) of being way to casual in picking up men in front of his own net.

I know the team plays man to man but he was literally watching the Hawks put in their second and third goals of the night without getting involved.

Guy is fun to watch, but always an adventure.

Markstrom Start

Man it’s the season isn’t it?

Hard to fault him for the second, third or fourth goal, but they just need more saves on that type of play.

Calgary out shoots the Hawks 36-23 on the night.

Expected goals say 3.9 for the Flames and 2.55 for the Hawks.

Yet another loss against a weaker team.

Rasmus On Wanting It

Honestly the guy has become the Flames best interview; he’s the anti-Monahan.

He said something I’ve been saying in game stories for weeks. They keep pushing for that play instead of letting the game come to them. It’s patently obvious in so many of these games.

They want to fix the game, the season, the situation, the scoreboard.

Just play the game and let the better possession game wear it down.

Odds and Sods

Quite a few little turnovers beyond the Kadri offence, but against a team that likely isn’t skilled enough to convert. Have to think a better team would have buried a few more of those chances. … Anyone else cringe when Chris Tanev thought it best to do an airborne open ice hit in the first period? Yikes, don’t do that. … Say it again, just an unbelievably brutal start to the third period. I get the even up first, they had the solid second, but then to come out tied and pretty much given your season away? I think we’re all shaking our heads. … Maybe I’m developing a bias, but didn’t like Nazem Kadri’s comments about his turnover. Blaming it on crappy ice wasn’t the most “own it” moment I’ve ever seen.

Special Teams

Not a special teams night at all.

The Flames get one chance and don’t score … the Hawks go without a powerplay.

So winner Chicago for the perfect penalty killing.

Standings and Record

The Flames can win tomorrow night and have the same number of points as the Winnipeg Jets.

With that the season isn’t over, but man did the loss tonight put them in a needing lots of help position.

It will take a very sketchy Winnipeg Jet finish to the season to pull this one out.

The loss tonight doesn’t make tomorrow night irrelevant at all, but it takes some air out of the tires.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 36 Hawks 23
Face Offs: Flames 47% / Hawks 53%
Powerplay: Flames 0-1 / Hawks 0-0

Fancy Stats

The tale of the season. Have the puck more than the opponent, but break down too often creating blue chip chances against that are near miss and with that come up short. Just amazing to see the same script play out again. Five on five the Flames had 64% of the shot attempts with period splits of 58%/74% and 59% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 61%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 60%, with a 12-8 split.

In all situations the Flames had 65% of the shot attempts, 61% of the expected goals, and 65% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 3.90 to 2.55.

Individually the Flames were led by Blake Coleman once again, posting an xGF% of 78% on the night five on five. He was joined a hair back at that level by Mikael Backlund. Dillon Dube, Nick Ritchie, and Nazem Kadri were all in the 70s as well. Only two players under water; Walker Duehr and Trevor Lewis.

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