Game Takes: Islanders 5 Flames 4 (SO)

November 18th, 2023 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Entertaining loss.

That’s pretty much what most of the city is looking for right?

The Flames get down 3-1 and 4-3 but tie it up twice and force overtime before falling to the New York Islanders in a shootout on Saturday night at the Saddledome.

The single point gives them three out of a possible four points on a brief two game homestand and a 4-1-2 record for 10  points in their last seven games overall.

The Flames got more action from their rookie forwards with Martin Pospisil scoring a goal and Connor Zary adding two assists in the defeat.

The Flames now hit the road again for four games starting on Monday night in Seattle.

The Lineup

The Flames went with the same lineup against Vancouver that they had vs Montreal, but then swapped two players midway through that game and didn’t look back. Look for that switch to hold for the game tonight.

So look for Elias Lindholm with Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund with Jonathan Huberdeau and Blake Coleman, Nazem Kadri with Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil and Adam Ruzicka with Yegor Sharangovich and AJ Greer.

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

Jacob Markstrom, who’s on a roll gets his third straight start for the Flames.

Line Metrics Coming In

Dube – Lindholm – Mangiapane 73.1%
Huberdeau – Backlund – Coleman 50.9%
Zary – Kadri – Pospisil 66.4%
Sharangovich – Ruzicka – Greer 78.0%

Weegar – Andersson 51.3%
Hanifin – Tanev 54.3%
Zadorov – DeSimone 67.1%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +2.9
Vladar -4.9
Wolf -1.1

Trend Tracker

It’s always interesting when how a team plays doesn’t lineup with the actual results on the ice.

We see it overall, as with Vancouver this year … off to a heater in shooting percentage and save percentage when stats like expected goal splits are well under 50%.

All season the Flames have had a top five penalty kill.

They likely don’t deserve it.

Coming into tonight’s game the Flames sit 5th in their kill rate at 86.8%, but when you dig down it’s pretty clear that’s all on Jacob Markstrom and not on an effective penalty killing unit.

In expected goals against per 60 shorthanded the Flames are ranked 30th at 10.24. In actual goals against they rank 7th with 4.88, a difference of 5.5 goals.

The Flames have the 8th worst high danger chances against per 60 shorthanded.

The team’s shorthanded save percentage is ranked 4th at .921.

Looking at skaters, the three best penalty killers in terms of expected goals against per 60 are Noah Hanifin, Dillon Dube and Blake Coleman. The three worst are Nikita Zadorov, Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund; the latter two the forwards with the most ice time short and lining up against PP1 of the opposition nightly.

Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane haven’t been on the ice for a goal against down a man all season, a time total approaching 15 minutes.

Markstrom’s Start

Another one of those games we’ve seen this season where the stats don’t tell the whole story.

Markstrom through two periods had three goals against, one he’d likely love to have back, and a .875 save percentage.

He gives up another in the third for four against, not the night most goaltenders are looking for.

But then he plays a huge role in the Flames tying the game up as he stops the Islanders on a half dozen occasions with the game 4-3 or the game would have been long over.

Need to Talk About Pospisil Again

I wonder if scouts have a category for players that look “good” at the level they’re playing at, but are projected to be better when they reach a higher level with more structure, more skill, and less mistakes?

Because we see it all the time.

Player in the USHL or the CHL, moves the AHL, but then his production and impact levels up when he reaches the highest level.

I’m certainly not suggesting that Martin Pospisil is a 80 point player (his current points per game), but I also must admit that I didn’t see him as anything but a 13th forward at the NHL level and he’s clearly proving (small sample size) to be more than that.

He has size. He has speed. And he has decent hands.

Tonight another goal on a great play around an Islander defenseman.

It’s early but it’s no fluke.

No Wonder …

No wonder the Flames are winning and have found their game in the last two weeks when you consider the line that’s carrying the mail.

You have a roster with 12 forwards. In that group you earmark nine of them to be top three lines and three more to be the fourth line. You mix, you match, but you likely go with most of the original top nine in every permutation you land on.

Then you bring up two guys from the AHL, put them with one of your top two centers and create an impactful offensive line.

The result? Trickle down.

Now your other two lines are better, the fourth line has two guys that can play and the team is deeper than when they started the season.

F3! F3!

The Flames have really changed their offence with the chip back to the point and the high forward dropping into the middle between to the two point men.

Creating all kinds of offence.

The puck coming back to the point has a certain pressure point, and creating that F3 option as a relief valve has caught recent opposing teams on their heels as they see the play staying on the wall.

Good wrinkle.

Has made the Flames more dangerous.

Game Flow

Pretty even first period between the two expansion cousins. The Flames open the scoring on a great play by the team’s top line when Nazem Kadri leads Martin Pospisil with an off the boards pass that sends the rookie in for a 1-0 lead. The Islanders tie it when the Flames third pairing gets trapped on a turnover creating a slot chance for Flasching, a goal that Markstrom likely would love to have  back. Solid 20, both teams in it and pushing.

Calgary likely the better team in the first, but that certainly wasn’t the case in the first half of the second as they got away from their game, turned over pucks and gave the Islanders opportunities. The Islanders scored back to back goals, their first on a powerplay (Markstrom no chance) and their second on a Rasmus Andersson turnover. The Flames got back in it and made the third period more interesting with a late goal by Blake Coleman on a great set up by Nick DeSimone.

Mixed bag third period for the Flames. The good was coming from behind twice. The bad relying way too much on their goaltender to keep them in it. Mackenzie Weegar ties it at three on a great pass from Connor Zary. The Islanders go ahead again when Brock Nelson picks up a rebound, then the Islanders have chance after chance but Markstrom keeps the game close. Calgary ties it on a Sharangovich tip on a Noah Hanifin point shot sending the game to overtime.

The Flames dominate the overtime but can’t solve Sorokin with numerous chances.

Odds and Sods

So why isn’t Jacob Markstrom wearing his dark kit that usually go with the Blasty jersey? Two nights ago against Vancouver and again tonight vs the Islanders it’s the Blasty jersey, Blasty pants, Blasty mask, but white gloves and white pads. … Yikes tough turnover from Rasmus Andersson in the second with the Flames down 2-1. Moving the puck quickly has been a Flames directive of late, but that shows you what can happen when you lean in too hard on that notion … Powerplay stats have always been goals/chances. Tonight one of those examples of how that stat can get skewed with overlapping penalties. The Flames were 0-3 through two periods but with less than three minutes of total powerplay time. … That’s another two point night for Connor Zary, moving him back to a point per game in eight NHL contests. He made a great chip to Nazem Kadri on the Pospisil goal, and then a solid feed to the point to Weegar on Weegar’s goal. Samle size, sample size, sample size, but the kid continues to look like part of the solution going forward in the top six. … Both struggling henchman Elias Lindholm and Jonathan Huberdeau followed up multi point games against Vancouver with single points tonight. You take it. Huberdeau especially was noticeable again tonight and seems to be gaining confidence.

Special Teams

Islanders win the special teams battle, something we’ve seen of late in Calgary games with the Flames coming up on the low side of things.

New York goes 1/3 with the man advantage, Calgary 0/3 with their chances.

Neither team created much of anything up a man, the Islanders able to make the most out of nothing.

Standings and Record

The Flames get a point and are now 4-1-2 in the last seven.

I’ll move away from overall standings now as they continue to move out of the NHL basement.

Calgary is now three points out of a playoff spot with even games played against both wildcard teams; Anaheim and Arizona.

American Thanksgiving is just six days away, Calgary still on the outside looking in, but making up ground quickly.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 39 Islanders 33
Face Offs: Flames 44% / Islanders 56%
Powerplay: Flames 0-3 / Islanders 1-3

Fancy Stats

Very evenly played game, which is supported by the underlying stats. Five on five the Flames had 56% of the shot attempts with period splits of 48%/70% and 56% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 50%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 55%, with a 16-13 split.

In all situations the Flames had 55% of the shot attempts, 46% of the expected goals, and 53% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 3.37 to 4.00.

Individually the Flames were led by Martin Pospisil posting a xGF% of 75% on the night five on five. Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev were in the 60s. Six players were under water led by Adam Ruzicka with a miserable night at 8%. Nikita Zadarov and AJ Greer were both in the 20s, Andrew Mangiapane, Yegor Sharangovich and Nick DeSimone in the 30s.

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