Game Takes: Wild 5 Flames 2

December 5th, 2023 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

That was ugly.

The Flames completely mailed it in for the first 25 minutes of the game, chasing Dan Vladar and pretty much giving the game away in a 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

Dustin Wolf came in to mop up much to the delight of the Saddledome crowd, setting up an interesting decision for the Carolina game on Thursday.

For the Flames they drop to two games under .500 and in need of a turnaround forthwith.

The Lineup

With the Flames losing to the Canucks, losing their number goaltender in practice, and Ryan Huska’s recent third period benchings it’s not surprising to see some change for tonight’s Flames game.

Up front Walker Duehr comes in for Martin Pospisil. That creates change to two of the four lines. No change with Elias Lindholm between Andrew Mangiapane and Yegor Sharangovich, Mikael Backlund between Jonathan Huberdeau and Blake Coleman. A new third line with Nazem Kadri between Connor Zary and Dillon Dube, and a new fourth line of Adam Ruzicka between AJ Greer and Walker Duehr.

On the blueline Greg Gilbert comes out, and Illya Solovyov potentially starting his permanent (?) NHL career coming in. No change to the top two pairings with Mackenzie Weegar and Rasmus Andersson together as well as Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev. Solovyov joins Jordan Oesterle.

With Jacob Markstrom hurt, Dan Vladar starts in goal, Dustin Wolf backs him up.

Line Metrics Coming In

Mangiapane – Lindholm – Sharangovich 44.1%
Huberdeau – Backlund – Coleman 46.8%
Zary – Kadri – Dube 100% (4 min)
Greer – Ruzicka – Duehr 22.2%

Weegar – Andersson 48.1%
Hanifin – Tanev 58.7%
Solovyov – Oesterle NA

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +2.2
Vladar -3.3
Wolf -1.1

Trend Tracker

Sure looks like Ryan Huska wants a team that pushes the play, at least if you look at who was scratched for tonight’s game as an indication.

Dennis Gilbert is the worst skater over the last 5 games with an expected goals split of 40.17%. Martin Pospisil is the 2nd worst forward behind Adam Ruzicka at 47.23% (Ruzicka at 44.86%). With a desire to get Walker Duehr back in the lineup, Pospisil the target as the worst forward.

Additionally it was suggested that Pospisil might be dinged up, contributing to a blip in his play.

Either way a night watching from above won’t likely hurt him.

For comparison the top five skaters in the last 5 games are Noah Hanifin, AJ Greer, Mikael Backlund and Chris Tanev; Greer standing out for getting extra ice time when the bench shortens.

As I said … it sure looks like Huska likes play driving.

First Goal Again

Lots of talk on the site these days about Jacob Markstrom giving up both the first goal of the game and often the first shot. Is that a goalie issue or a team issue? Tonight it seemed to lend itself to the team issue as Dan Vladar gave up his first shot on goal early in the first.

Not his fault though, Illya Solovyov got walked.

That’s three straight games where Vladar has given up the first goal of the game as well. Flames not ready?

Vladar Start

More good than bad honestly.

The Flames were just terrible in front of so despite the .813 save percentage in his 21.5 minutes I don’t see it as even half his fault.

All the skaters in front of him pretty much mailed it in for the first 25 minutes of the game, with the card house finally coming down with two goals in the first minute and a half of the second, ending his night.

Expected goal splits don’t look kind as well for the backup goaltender.

Solovyov Game Three

Hard for a young player to look good in a game where pretty much everyone in the same jersey was terrible.

So he was bad, at least early … but not stand out bad if that’s such a thing.

But that move in the third off the face off to secure his first NHL point on the Zary goal? Changes the night completely for him.

He’s a stay at home guy and not expected to produce so guessing it’s the play in his own zone that will keep him up tonight. At least the last half of the game was much better than the first half.

If I’m evaluating the kid as a coach I burn the tape and move on.

See how he does when the team shows up.

Huberdeau’s Second Period

It’s not a huge sample size and it didn’t amount to a lot in the end, but to me that second period was the first sustained showing of elite skill from Jonathan Huberdeau.

Maybe that first period reverse hit and the second period scrum got him into it … Iginla was always a guy that played better if he got punched in the mouth.

A great display of soft hands making more than just the spinning backhand, he moved the puck deftly and set up teammates about five times in the period. Should have had a few points.

Man I hope that’s a sign that the demons in his head are quieting down.

Wolf in Relief

Did I hear howling after some saves?

I definitely saw a kid in a Wolf jersey with a blasty mask.

But how did he play? Well enough.

Didn’t have a chance on a second period powerplay tip by Boldy. Didn’t have a chance on a third period goal when Nazem Kadri took him out of the play so he couldn’t make the save.

However …

That’s another game where the Flames had to shelter the third pairing.

No doubt that will take a toll on the top two pairings. What they really need is someone to take the reigns and carry the bottom pair, but I’m not sure they have the horse to do it.

Nikita Zadorov for all his faults could get the job done most nights.

The Gilbert / Oesterle pair was a mess.

Tonight the hope was for Solovyov to be the anchor, but he struggled.

Moving Zadorov just may be the turning point in deciding the direction of this franchise.

Game Flow

What a brutal first period for the Calgary Flames. They had nothing. The Wild pretty much controlled the entire period and if not for Dan Vladar the Flames would have been down by more than one. The Flames had a chance or two themselves, but were badly outplayed both in shots on goal and in underlying stats. Yikes, that’s not good.

Wouldn’t have thought the second period could be worse than the first period, but the Flames basically said “hold my beer” in the first five minutes of the second period. They got their starter, Dan Vladar pulled for their work, and then gave up a two on one and later a breakaway on Dustin Wolf. The Flames get a goal to at least hit the scoreboard, but trail by three after two.

The Flames finally show up in the game and run up a 9-1 edge in shots to start the third period, scoring their second goal and making it interesting. Then the Wild put it away when Chris Tanev turns it over creating a scramble with Nazem Kadri sliding into Wolf and making it impossible for him to make the save. That was pretty much it!

Odds and Sods

I’m a little surprised that it’s Dennis Gilbert coming out for Illya Solovyov tonight and not Jordan Oesterle. Gilbert’s numbers, as I stated above, are worse than Oesterle but the latter was much more sheltered in the last two games. Guessing it doesn’t last. I’d like to see DeSimone get a look with Solovyov on the third pair as well. … The Flames defensemen were just getting walked in the first period. Solovyov on the first chance, they all took turns getting turnstiled. Defensemen flat footed, forwards turning pucks over. Not a good recipe. … Love that reverse hit by Jonathan Huberdeau at the end of the first period. He’s a big dude and it certainly can be part of his game as he looks to reinvent himself somewhat. … A great indicator of how epically terrible that first period was? A total of nine skaters had expected goal splits under 10% in the first period. …  Have to wonder what the Dan Vladar pull will do to the goalie breakdown for the next week to ten days. The back to back on the calendar was always likely to be split, but I thought there was a chance that they might ride Vladar until then, now maybe not? Vladar pulled and Wolf good in relief will likely get Wolf the start on Thursday as well I’d think. If he does well in that one you never know. … Rick Ball can be a very fun man. When Kelly Hrudey said “that’s only happened a billion times” for a play in the second Wall chimed in with “that’s a rough estimate”. …

Special Teams

The Wild powerplay looked very very good, pretty much hemming the Flames in their own zone, Calgary luckily to escape with only the one powerplay goal against.

The one was all it took though.

Calgary zero for three on their chances so the Wild take the special teams battle.

Standings and Record

The loss moves the Flames down to two games under .500 after a run that got them back to .500 on Thursday last week.

The Wild pass the Flames in terms of win percentage making the Flames the third best team out of the playoffs (not a good thing) and sliding a bit.

Meanwhile the Coyotes and Blues continue to build pushing that target back in the direction of the 90+ points you’d expect.

They’ll need a string of wins, and soon.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 30 Wild 29
Face Offs: Flames 59% / Wild 41%
Powerplay: Flames 1-3 / Wild 0-3

Fancy Stats

No smoke and mirrors in this one. A decisive win with less than decisive underlying stats to support it as the Wild roll over the Flames relatively easily. Score effects turning things around after it was 3-0 Minnesota. Five on five the Flames had 56% of the shot attempts with period splits of  32%/59% and 79% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 60%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 63%, with a 10-6 split.

In all situations the Flames had 52% of the shot attempts, 45% of the expected goals, and 44% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 2.74 to 3.35.

Individually the Flames were led by Blake Coleman posting a xGF% of 87% on the night five on five. He was joined in the 80s by linemate Mikael Backlund. Walker Duehr, Jordan Oesterle, Illya Solovyov and Mackenzie Weegar were in the 70s. Chris Tanev was in the 20s, Nazem Kadri and Dillon Dube in the 30s.

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