Game Takes: Canucks 4 Flames 3

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

You have to hand it to the Vancouver Canucks, they walked out a pretty solid road game and came away with a 4-3 victory in Calgary on Saturday night.

The Flames, minus Nikita Zadorov, certainly felt the absence as their third pairing was heavily sheltered and got filled in based on metrics.

Calgary loses their first game on this six game homestand and look to get back on the winning side on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild.

They sit 9th in the West both in points and win percentage.

The Lineup

The Flames seem to be set up front of late with all four lines creating a bigger sample size of success (or lack thereof) on their recent road trip.

So it’s not expected we’ll see much change tonight. Look for Elias Lindholm with Andrew Mangiapane and Yegor Sharangovich, Mikael Backlund with Jonathan Huberdeau and Blake Coleman, Nazem Kadri with Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil and a fourth line of Adam Ruzicka between with AJ Greer and Dillon Dube.

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

Jabob Markstrom was to get the start for the Flames, but a late arriving illness required Dan Vladar to start with EBUG Dusty Nickel backing him up.

Line Metrics Coming In

Mangiapane – Lindholm – Sharangovich 50.0%
Huberdeau – Backlund – Coleman 44.7%
Zary – Kadri – Pospisil 60.4%
Greer – Ruzicka – Dube 52.5%

Weegar – Andersson 47.9%
Hanifin – Tanev 58.8%
Gilbert – Oesterle 24.0%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +2.1
Vladar -3.3
Wolf -1.1

Trend Tracker

The Calgary Flames played a solid game against the Dallas Stars. They didn’t give up much, and thru strong play and leaning on their top four defesemen (read sheltering) they didn’t expose their new third pairing.

I wouldn’t expect that to continue unless we see some growth from some young players.

The Gilbert-Oesterle pair certainly got it done against Dallas with a 50% expected goal split between them. But on the season they’re at 24.0% and a huge hole in the Flames roster.

The recall of Solovyov is likely the path back to balance if the young player can exceed say Jordan Oesterle on the roster and provide a touch of what Nikita Zadorov brought to the table.

Very likely it’s a step backwards for the team for the rest of the season, and an exposed underbelly for opposing coaches to plan a game strategy around.

Markstrom’s Start

Another one of those games where save percentage doesn’t really tell the story.

Jacob Markstrom has an expected goals against of 3.96 on the night but only gives up three in a 4-3 loss.

The Flames were solid five on five, but gave up a lot short handed and especially with the Flames down two men in the second period.

Kept the team in the game through two periods.

Zadorov Return

It was tough to predict how the Saddledome crowd would react to Nikita Zadorov in a Canuck’s jersey.

He wasn’t here all that long.

But he was very popular for how he approached the city and the media.

But he requested a trade.

And he did it publicly.

So yeah … he was boo’d pretty much throughout the hockey game.

Should Zary Be On PP1?

Not sure who you’d take off I guess out of the four forwards (Lindholm, Kadri, Huberdeau and Sharangovich), but does anyone in Calgary have more consistent hands than Connor Zary these days?

His play on that first period 2nd unit powerplay was off the charts. First he skates the puck around and completely sets it up. Then he retrieves an errant pass and uses his body to shield a Canuck  (Lafferty) to keep the puck in before sliding it to Weegar ending up in Backlund’s powerplay goal.

Didn’t get a point but was everything on that play.

Lindholm Struggled Early But Finds It Late!

Nothing wrong with the overall play, his expected goal splits etc were fine on the night, but with the puck offensively, Elias Lindholm had a rough night early.



Passes that just missed.

Just not a great game from Calgary’s number one center.

Then he gets paired with Nazem Kadri on a loaded up line and scores two late goals to completely rewrite his script.

I guess that’s why the games are 60 minutes.

Can You Say Sheltered?

The third pairing got caught out on the Canucks’ first goal, and then rarely hit the ice again after that.

Tough night for the top two pairings.

Jordan Oesterle especially was very sheltered with just five minutes of ice time through two periods and just over eight minutes in the game as a total.

The team recalled Illya Solovyov yesterday, and you’d think the plan is to get him into the lineup in Zadorov’s place.

Can’t happen soon enough.

Game Flow

Calgary just terrible to start the hockey game. Just skating in sand and they pay for it when the Canucks get their talent on the ice and hem in the new Flame’s third pairing. Calgary finds their footing and starts taking it to Vancouver but can’t solve Demko. Vancouver gets up 2-0 on a breakdown before Calgary makes it close with a late powerplay goal.

Calgary dodges a two man advantage bullet in the second period with the Canucks moving the puck around well, but not finding the net. Thank Markstrom and some red iron for that. Flames never really establish a five on five presence after killing off the penalties, and give up a late one just after another Calgary penalty expires; 3-1 Vancouver after two periods.

Flames have very little going in the third period as the time just ticked by with the team down two goals and not getting a whole lot done. A goal with five minutes left gets the Flames to within one and makes it interesting. The Canucks put it away with an empty net goal … or do they? Calgary with the goalie pulled and a powerplay score to make it close again, and pretty near pull it off in the last 45 seconds but can’t find the game tying goal.

Odds and Sods

Have to say I like the Calgary black jerseys more than the Wrangler black jerseys. The bottom of the jersey is just more simple and classic. … Anyone else see Brad McCrimmon when you see Mackenzie Weegar on the ice. I mean very different players, but that thick 6′ tall defenseman look is undeniable. …  Another night with Yegor Sharangovich handling the puck confidently. Noticeable especially on the powerplay with a lot of tight office touches that kept plays alive. He belongs on the powerplay. … Don’t you wonder about how players feel about players when you see hits like the ones from AJ Greer and Blake Coleman on Nikita Zadorov? Finishing their check is part of both of their games, but you never know. … Have to hand it for Vancouver. For a team that had a lot going for them in the “luck” department to start the season, they played a really solid road game. Kept the Flames away from it for the most part. … Man was that a lucky empty net goal. Happens for every team through a season or two, but that was one against. … The “Bowman Bench” tonight seemed to swallow up Martin Posposial, AJ Greer and Andrew Mangiapane. Just love how Huska finds his top nine.

Special Teams

The Flames win a special teams battle!

Part of the win was getting away with that two man advantage in the second period; that could have gone very poorly.

But Calgary scores a powerplay goal in the first, then another late in the third to make it close. Two Flames goals, and the Canucks are blanked on four chances.

Flames win the special teams battle.

Standings and Record

The Flames are still the West’s 9th best team both in points and in win percentage as the Flames remain in the battle despite falling a game below .500 once again.

They are two points back of the Blues and three points back of the Coyotes with both teams having a game in hand on the Flames.

There are ten teams behind them in the overall standings, and they’re tied with Montreal so not in a top ten pick position as it stands.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 22 Canucks 23
Face Offs: Flames 48% / Canucks 52%
Powerplay: Flames 2-5 / Canucks 0-4

Fancy Stats

Vancouver played a really solid road game, generating enough to create offence and preventing well enough to keep the Flames off the mark when they pushed the play. Five on five the Flames had 49% of the shot attempts with period splits of  48%/46% and 55% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 45%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 44%, with a 8-10 split.

In all situations the Flames had 54% of the shot attempts, 42% of the expected goals, and 48% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 2.92 to 3.96.

Individually the Flames were led by Jonathan Huberdeau posting a xGF% of 76% on the night five on five. He was joined in the 70s by Blake Coleman. Mikael Backlund was in the 60s. The only other player above 50% was Noah Hanifin. Jordan Oesterle was at the bottom with a big fat zero, Dennis Gilbert with 8%.

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