Game Takes: Flames 4 Predators 2

November 7th, 2023 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

The Flames were the better team from coast to coast in this one, but to find the win they had to rebound from their own first period sloppiness.

Some bad first period reads lead to a 2-0 Nashville lead after a period despite the visitors getting outshot 17-6 in the first period, but the Flames stuck with it and came all the way back with four unanswered goals.

Jacob Markstrom was strong after the two goal first period, and the side story was a shortened bench and Jonathan Huberdeau benched for the entirety of the third period.

The Flames have now won two in a row, and head out East to play the Leafs on Friday night.

The Lineup

Lineup changes are a day to day thing in Calgary. Happens pretty much every game. Two suspensions, injuries, and a whole boat load of lack of performance have given Ryan Huska the need to constantly tinker with his lineup.

The Andrew Mangiapane suspension is the latest event that has altered two of the four forward lines despite winning a game finally in Seattle. Up front the top line has Andrew Mangiapane out and Dillon Dube in along with Elias Lindholm and Johnathan Huberdeau, no change to the second line with Nazem Kadri with Yegor Sharangovich and Connor Zary, the third line in tact with Mikael Backlund between Martin Pospisil and Blake Coleman, and then a new fourth line with Adam Ruzicka back between AJ Greer and Walker Duehr.

On the blueline its Mackenzie Weegar with Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin with Chris Tanev, and Nikita Zadorov with Nick DeSimone.

Jacob Markstrom gets the start in goal.

Line Metrics Coming In

Huberdeau – Lindholm – Dube 18.7%
Pospisil – Backlund – Coleman 77.9%
Sharangovich – Kadri – Zary 61.8%
Greer – Ruzicka – Duehr 28.5% (5 min)

Weegar – Andersson 50.0%
Hanifin – Tanev 72.7%
Zadorov – DeSimone 61.5%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +1.0
Vladar -4.0

Trend Tracker:

So some new lines and with it some new historical expected goal splits … and a brutal top line of Jonathan Huberdeau / Elias Lindholm and Dillon Dube at 18.7%.

That’s terrible.

Dillon Dube is off to a rough start this season where defensively he’s struggled like we’ve seen in the past, but now the offence has dried up as well.

How much of that is deployment and finding the right fit, and is this top line really the way to go?

Elias Lindholm is at 16.1% playing with Dillon Dube, and 52.8% without, a drop off of 36.7%.

Jonathan Huberdeau is 33.2% with Dillon Dube and 51.0% without a drop off of 17.8%.

Maybe that’s sample size, or maybe that’s not a good idea for a scoring line?

Only three players have had a sizeable add when playing with Dube compared to their time without; Matt Coronato is at 92.2% with Dube, but that’s only 9 minutes of ice time. Adam Ruzicka and Nazem Kadri are the other two, but we haven’t see that line together since the first two games of the team’s first road trip. But that’s 40+ minutes of sample size.

Why not move Zary up to the top line, Sharngovich back to play with Greer and Duehr and fix a few problems in one swoop?

Markstrom’s Start

It’s just the season right?

A total of six shots on goal against in the first period but two of the first five go in and you get a deficit and a goalie with terrible stats, but were either his fault?

He more than makes up for it in the second when he kept the Flames in it making several blue chip saves to keep the game 2-0, giving Calgary the opportunity to score late and make it an interesting third.

Third comes along and the Flames give up next to nothing.

Once again not a solid stat line, but the bend don’t break goaltending effort played a huge role in the comeback.

Kadri Rolling

What a difference in Nazem Kadri in the last handful of games, or specifically three since Connor Zary came up from the Wranglers.

Which isn’t to say he’s being carried by the rookie, as the veteran center is playing some of his best hockey in a Calgary sweater in the last week; using his teammates more, driving the net, and being much more creative than we’ve seen for most of his tenure in Calgary.

Could certainly suggest chemistry and perhaps not work ethic could be the culprit in his struggles.

Good to see the Flames finally have a line going with Sharangovich the other man in the trio.

An empty net goal, an assist, +2 and 8 shots on goal.

Huberdeau Sat

Have to assume Huberdeau’s absence on the ice in the third period was a benching.

Ryan Huska greatly reduced his bench for the third period however, dropping three forwards from the mix; Jonathan Huberdeau, Walker Duehr and AJ Greer … none of them saw the ice in the third.

He rolled nine forwards and give him credit it worked as the Flames scored three third period goals for the win.

Have to admit I love the going with the nine that are going look, we don’t see it enough in pro hockey and certainly not in Calgary.

Kids Alright Again

First off Martin Pospisil.

Honestly, I continue to be pleasantly surprised. I knew he had jam, don’t think I knew how big he was, very sure I didn’t know how well he skated.

He’s a legitimate bottom six NHLer at this point. He moves the puck well, gets in on the forecheck and doesn’t look to be lost in his own end.

Now Connor Zary …

Still only three games, but at this point you have to think the team (and certainly it’s fans) see Zary not as a former first rounder and a prospect, but a legitimate piece going forward for this franchise.

He sees the ice well, has great edges and hands, and has a wily offensive sense that not a lot of his teammates share.

He’s a difference maker in the top six, and he may have seen the last of the AHL.

Game Flow

Two sloppy plays and two goals against for the Flames in a period where they pretty much dominated. Honestly not unlike the Oilers last night in Vancouver, right? First the fourth line gets caught chasing with all three forwards at the blueline when a puck gets flipped toward the net, hits DeSimone and then a Predator and into the net. Later in the period both Mackenzie Weegar and Rasmus Andersson get caught with Predators behind them, Andersson making the ill advised choice to stop and play a bouncing puck and it’s 2-0. Calgary has 17 shots on goal but can’t get one by Jussi Saros.

The second period was much more evenly played with the game going back and forth. Jacob Markstrom has to stand tall early as the Predators get a few chances in the first handful of minutes. Calgary pushes back and continue to test Saros, who clearly has their number. When Calgary did get good chances the puck was often bobbled fizzling out a few chances. Calgary finally gets on the board when a lumbering rush by Zadorov results in a great pass by the big defenseman to Dillon Dube who one times it through Saros’ pads. Flames with the only goal, shots 10-9 Calgary.

The Flames shorten their bench and go throat in the third period, out shooting the Predators 8-1 in a time period that had them score two goals, erase the deficit and set up the win. First Noah Hanifin takes a pass in the slot and beats Saros high after a prolonged pressure shift. Then Blake Coleman gets the go ahead goal on a solid pass from Kadri in the neutral zone to complete the game flip. The Flames never give up on the pressure giving Nashville very little the rest of the way. One of their best efforts on the season, and their third straight.

Odds and Sods

Chris Tanev blocks a shot on the first shift on a broken play two on one right off the hop. Had me thinking man this guy would be a huge addition to a team with a deep playoff aspiration, really hope he doesn’t get hurt. His next shift he loses and edge and sends himself into the boards behind the Flames net. He was ok, but man that might be a guy they should move before mid January and not wait until March 8th. …. Adam Ruzicka was way out of position on the Predators opening goal. Whether you’re playing a pass off defense in zone format or straight positional zone defense the center shouldn’t go out to the point when the two wingers are already out there. May not have made a difference if he stayed down low to support the blueliners, but he was out of position regardless. … Two shifts later he did the exact same thing, making me wonder if it was part of the coaching plan, but then looking at the other three centers that wasn’t the case. … Huska seemed to solve it by moving him back to the wing with Lindholm and Huberdeau. … A lot of talk about Zary and Pospisil, but another guy really coming on is Yegor Sharangovich. Way more confidence and good touches all over the ice. He’s also finding open ice and looking to get that elite shot off. … Eric Francis suggested in the first intermission that the next eight games are critical for the Flames leading up to US Thanksgiving, and that the five games after that are brutal. The eight games are Nashville tonight, in Toronto, in Ottawa and in Montreal. Then home to Vancouver and the Islanders. Then two more road games in Seattle and Nashville. That isn’t an easy stretch at all, but if you had to guess what would constitute a good stretch in those eight games? Six wins? Would have to think so, as five would only build back two games towards the .500 record. … Was absolutely floored that the Calgary broadcast crew didn’t notice Jonathan Huberdeau was missing in the third until six minutes left in the period. Perhaps that’s a setup joke on how Huberdeau is playing, but nonetheless surprising, especially when he clearly wasn’t in his spot for the period’s opening face off. He was on the bench, and not hurt. Do with that what you will. If I was to guess it was taking a 150 second shift in the second period on a powerplay.

Special Teams

Razor thin margin between the two teams on special teams tonight.

Neither team score a goal, but the Predators kill off three chances while the Flames kill off both of Nashville’s looks.

Digging deeper you’d see neither team generated a whole lot up a man.

Standings and Record

Once again I’m going to stick with the overall standings and ignore the division and the conference.

The Flames leap frogged the Chicago Blackhawks and now have the 29th best win percentage in the league at .375, Pittsburgh and Ottawa are in their sites.

If you sort by points they’re in 27th spot.

They are four points up on the Oilers with Edmonton having a game in hand.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 39 Predators 19
Face Offs: Flames 55% / Predators 45%
Powerplay: Flames 0-3 / Predators 0-2

Fancy Stats

The Flames were dominant for most of the hockey game, massively out playing the Predators in the first and third, and keeping it even up in the middle frame. The underlying stats completely backed that up both in shot volume and in quality. Five on five the Flames had 67% of the shot attempts with period splits of 76%/55% and 65% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 65%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 64%, with a 14-8 split.

In all situations the Flames had 65% of the shot attempts, 68% of the expected goals, and 64% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 4.07 to 1.91.

Individually the Flames were led by Jonathan Huberdeau (ironically) with a xGF% of 83% on the night five on five. He was joined in the 80s by Connor Zary and Nazem Kadri at 81%. Four players were in the 70s including Yegor Sharangovich, Mikael Backlund, Nick DeSimone and Noah Hanifin. Only four players were under water on the night, Adam Ruzicka with a miserable night at 13%, and three others in the 40s; Walker Duehr, Dillon Dube and AJ Greer.

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