Game Takes: Predators 4 Flames 2

November 22nd, 2023 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

The Flames recipe of late has been to get down early but then rage back and pick up points.

Tonight they got the first part right ….

Not so much the latter half of the recipe as the Flames fall 4-2 to the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night.

The loss moves their road trip to 1-1-0 with tough games this weekend in Dallas and Colorado.

Additionally it moves the back to two games under .500 and puts to a halt a bit of that momentum that they’ve built up in going 5-1-2 in the last eight. Starting the first ten of the season with just two wins doesn’t afford them a lot of room.

The Lineup

Three changes for tonight’s game; one expected, one pretty minor, and another that caused a bit of a stir.

Conor Zary scratched? What? Not to worry, it wasn’t a healthy scratch, but more a maintenance day. The forward didn’t see much ice in the third period in Seattle and won’t play tonight. In his place Adam Ruzicka back into the lineup, looking for a bounce back after a rough game against the Islanders.

So it’s Elias Lindholm with Andrew Mangiapane and Yegor Sharangovich. No change to the second line; Mikael Backlund with Jonathan Huberdeau and Blake Coleman, a new third line with Nazem Kadri with Dillon Dube and Martin Pospisil and then a tweak to the fourth line Adam Ruzicka between with AJ Greer and Walker Duehr.

On the blueline its Mackenzie Weegar with Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin with Chris Tanev, and Nikita Zadorov with Dennis Gilbert, the second change.

And finally a change in goal with Jabob Markstrom back in the nets.

Line Metrics Coming In

Mangiapane – Lindholm – Sharangovich 50%
Huberdeau – Backlund – Coleman 45.7%
Dube – Kadri – Pospisil 63.0% (5 min)
Greer – Ruzicka – Duehr 18.8% (6 min)

Weegar – Andersson 51.8%
Hanifin – Tanev 62.3%
Zadorov – Gilbert 31.6%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +3.4
Vladar -5.7
Wolf -1.1

Trend Tracker

The Backlund Effect.

It’s a thing. Or at least the Backlund/Coleman effect is a thing in recent seasons.

This year the Flames have six offensive lines that have played 30 or minutes and have an expected goal total of 55% or better. Mikael Backlund and Blake Coleman are on three of them.

We’ve seen the recent results with Jonathan Huberdeau and it’s very unlikely a coincidence that the Flames highest paid player has found his game to some degree. Less time in his own zone, more time on the attack, more touches, more confidence … better results.

Last year there was a lot less line scrambling, so the Backlund/Coleman duo had a regular winger in Andrew Mangiapane. That line had almost 400 minutes together and an expected goal split of 67.8%.

That was the league’s number one line in play driving for any lines that played more than 200 minutes.

When Backlund was signed five years ago many thought his contract would be an albatross. It wasn’t.

Blake Coleman may be paid a million too much per season for his offensive contributions, but he’s money for getting it done on the ice.

Have a problem on your roster? Send them in.

Markstrom’s Start

Really the only guy that showed up tonight.

Or at least showed up with their “A” game.

He gave up a tough one when he missed a puck off the back boards in the first period, but then kept his team in it through the second, keeping it close for the third period.

In the third the Flames provide even less support for their goaltender as the Predators add two more, neither Markstrom’s fault. He even stopped a penalty shot that was simultaneously called at the same time as a Flames minor.

Overall the Predators have 3.93 expected goals so he breaks it even.

Dube’s 300th Game

Eventful milestone game for Dillon Dube, as the Calgary skater suited up for game 300 in his career tonight.

In the first period he’s robbed on a rebound chance with the puck sliding through Saros, but wide of the net.

In the second he gets crunched into the boards and then crosschecked just below the net, leaving the ice hobbled without a stick.

On his career he has 57 goals, 69 assists for 126 points.

Nashville Flu?

That’s about as sloppy a game as we’ve seen from the Flames in recent weeks.

Lots of failed takes on passes, bobbles, fans, and turnovers as they helped Nashville create offence and zone time through their mistakes.

It was team wide for the most part with almost everyone having a tough night with the puck.

Nashville can be a fun town, and so perhaps some tired eyes.

Sharangovich the Shooter

The kid can shoot the puck!

We knew that of course coming in, and we’ve seen in lately in shoot outs, but now that he’s settled down; he was jittery as hell in the first half dozen games of the season, he’s starting to get the cannon off five on five and in traffic.

Makes you wonder if they should build one of the two powerplays around his shot.

It’s the other side of the zone from the Ovechkin bomb but could be affective.

Nikita Making Amends

We’ve heard about the turmoil in the Flames dressing room of late surrounding Nikita Zadorov.

Early in the season he tossed his teammates from last season under the bus, saying they didn’t all buy in. This season he talked about not everyone bringing their best. Last week he requested a trade through his agent.

All of that has led to the big Russian being somewhat on the outs in the dressing room.

Tonight though, a step back towards the campfire with a second period fight defending Martin Pospisil.

Lots of players went out of their way to give the big defender a stick tap for stepping up.

Nashville’s Third Goal

Very little doubt that Mackenzie Weegar got a stick on the puck after the “hand pass” from Forsberg, so on that you can’t really argue.

But doesn’t the whole thing reek of a goal that just shouldn’t be?

Forsberg basically closes his hand on the puck and throws it over the net to himself and then gets rewarded with a goal form Carrier.

Not sure the hand was closed on the puck for long enough to be a penalty, but the spirit of the rule certainly doesn’t allow for lofting the puck to yourself.

Game Flow

Flames had some ceremony legs to start the game with the Predators hemming the Lindholm line in the Calgary zone for the game’s first 90 seconds. The Flames get an early powerplay, but a Jonathan Huberdeau turnover leads to a Nashville 3 on 2 and an empty net goal. Calgary oddly enough gains some momentum from their failed powerplay and go to work, Noah Hanifin sneaking in from the point to tie the game on a pass from Andrew Mangiapane. The Predators go back ahead when Markstrom bobbles a puck off the end boards heading to the front of his net, Ryan O’Reilly happy to pounce on the opportunity and score. Nazem Kadri hits a post soon after, and the Flames have a few energy shifts with some chances.

Nashville the better team to start the second as they take it to Calgary, but can’t solve Markstrom to extend their lead. Some rough stuff in the second with two fights, the first Dennis Gilbert and the second Nikita Zadorov coming to the rescue of Martin Pospisil. The Flames manage to quiet things down, but never really get on the attack themselves. Period ticks by without many scoring chances for the visitors. No scoring in the second period.

A quiet start to the third, much like the final ten minutes of the second with out a whole lot going on. As the period started to tick on though the Flames activate their defense and create more zone pressure and with it some chances. The Predators put it away with the controversial Carrier goal on a puck toss. They add another on a late powerplay and that’s that.

Odds and Sods

Quite a delay in getting this one going with a ceremony for for former Flames asst GM, and Nashville legend David Poile. You never complain about seeing a great guy honoured, but put almost 20 minutes on the actual clock. … Bad ice? Late night? The Flames had no fewer than a half dozen occurences of fanning on the puck in the first period. Hanifin, Weegar, Gilbert, Dube, Duehr all took turns whiffing on the puck. … Speaking of Duehr, man is his confidence shot. He can’t take a pass, he’s no longer skating with authority. Just a shadow of the player we saw last season. … The Calgary powerplay is just struggling. They can’t get enter the zone or get set up and with that they just kill two minutes of clock time, if they’re lucky (the first opportunity gave up a short handed goal). … Nothing against Connor Zary but the Nazem Kadri line seemed to roll along with out him in this line; Calgary’s most effective line on the night. Kadri with a post, and a few goal mouth scrambles that came up empty or all three skaters probably have points. … Mackenzie Weegar is a thick thick hockey player. He’s not 6’4″ 240 but he has such a strong center of balance that he constantly brings the impact hits that look like they hurt.

Special Teams

How bad was Calgary’s powerplay tonight?

Through two periods with almost five minutes of powerplay time the Flames generated 0.05 in expected goals. That’s 1/20th of a goal. So 20 powerplay like the two and half we saw and the odds would be with them that they’d score.

Their third period chance created some momentum, but still a pretty meek powerplay on the night overall.

So with that not a surprise that the Predators win the special teams battle with a 1/5 night on their powerplay.

Standings and Record

The loss moves the Flames back to .447 in win percentage, and remain two points out of a playoff spot for the time being.

By win percentage the Flames are the 11th best team in the West.

The Oilers lose again in regulation and remain six points back of the Flames with a .306 win percentage.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 26 Predators 45
Face Offs: Flames 53% / Predators 47%
Powerplay: Flames 0-4 / Predators 1-5

Fancy Stats

The Predators were just the better team tonight. The shot clock was more out of balance than the rest of the underlying stats, but the Predators were on top of all of them nonetheless. Five on five the Flames had 44% of the shot attempts with period splits of 56%/35% and 33% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 46%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 47%, with a 8-9 split.

In all situations the Flames had 40% of the shot attempts, 43% of the expected goals, and 46% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 2.9 to 3.93.

Individually the Flames were led by Dennis Gilbert posting a xGF% of 75% on the night five on five. Not a bad night when you work in the fight in the first period! Nikita Zadorov, Nazem Kadri and Andrew Mangiapane were all in the 60s. Walker Duehr with a miserable night at 13%, joined by Rasmus Andersson in the teens.

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