Game Takes: Leafs 4 Flames 3

January 18th, 2024 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

The Flames have beat some good teams lately, but often with some asterisks.

The Knights were missing key players for example, and certainly the Wild as they hit their skid were without a lot of key players.

Tonight they ran into a team that was relatively healthy and firing on all cylinders as the Flames were bested by the Maple Leafs 4-3 on Thursday night on the strength of an Austin Matthews hat trick.

The loss breaks a Flames win streak of four games ,and sets up a very important game on Saturday against the Oilers.

The Lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau back in the lineup after missing the Coyotes game with the Flu. No other changes to the roster.

Elias Lindholm with Jonathan Huberdeau and Yegor Sharangovich, Mikael Backlund with Andrew Mangiapane and Blake Coleman, Nazem Kadri between Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil, and on the fourth line Adam Ruzicka between AJ Greer and Dube.

On the blueline Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev, Mackenzie Weegar with Rasmus Andersson and Nick DeSimone with Jordan Oesterle.

Dan Vladar with the start tonight in goal after we learned of Jacob Markstrom’s “minor” injury incurred in practice yesterday.

Line Metrics Coming In

Huberdeau – Lindholm – Sharangovich 41.2%
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman 55.8%
Zary – Kadri – Pospisil 58.1%
Greer – Ruzicka – Dube 42.6%

Hanifin – Tanev 53.0%
Weegar – Andersson 46.8%
DeSimone – Oesterle 40.0%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +13.4
Vladar -7.4
Wolf -5.2

Trend Tracker

I’m always interested in expected goals vs actual goals.

Great goaltenders can beat the expected target. Great offensive players can finish to a degree that they exceed their expected goal totals. But for most of the circuit, a wide diversity between actual and expected means luck, either good or bad.

Jonathan Huberdeau’s insane bad luck has finally rectified as he’s diminished gap between actual expected from just over 11 to just under 2 since Christmas.

So who are the most and least lucky Flames both offensively and defensively at just past the half way point of the season?

Luckiest offensively : Connor Zary. Zary is +10.5 in goals scored above expected. He has some offensive skill so it will be interesting to see this number year over year, but right now he may be getting some bounces. In the mix; Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin and Nazem Kadri all between 6 and 8.

Unluckiest offensively : Mikael Backlund at -3.95. This could be on the player, as Mikael Backlund has never been an elite finisher. In the mix Matt Coronato, AJ Greer and Illya Solovyov.

Luckiest defensively : Martin Pospisil at +5.8. Pospisil has been on the ice for eight 5 on 5 goals against, but should have been for 13.8 by NHL metrics. Blake Coleman is next at 5.5.

Unluckiest defensively : Not even close … Yegor Sharangovich. Sharangovich should have been on the ice for 24.9 goals against, but instead had his +/- take a beating for 37 goals against, sitting at a -12.2. That’s crazy. Next closest on the team is Elias Lindholm at -4.4.

Vladar Start

I thought Daniel Vladar was solid tonight for the Flames.

The Leafs had over four goals in expected results and Vladar gave up four so he gets a check mark.

Overall I thought he was key when the Flames were down 4-2 and 4-3 in making key saves and keeping his team in it.

No problem with Vladar’s game tonight, and of late.

Yegor Again

When a heater gets extended you start wondering if it’s a star in the making.

Yegor Sharangovich just keeps scoring goals.

Tonight a great tip for his 19th of the season.

I liked the trade even while assuming Tyler Toffoli was going to have a great season in New Jersey; I just didn’t want a 32 year old signed long term with the existing Huberdeau and Kadri contracts.

Sharangovich close to Toffoli was a win.

Sharangovich outscoring Toffoli is a landslide.

Game Flow

Entertaining first period for the two Canadian clubs. Calgary the better team with better chances through the first 20 minutes. The Flames open the scoring when Jonathan Huberdeau gets the puck to the point for Rasmus Andersson, his shot deflected in by Yegor Sharangovich. The Flames double their lead on a powerplay when a great pass from Elias Lindholm to Nazem Kadri is fanned, but the weak shot going wide goes off of Mark Giordano’s skate and in. The Leafs cut the lead in half when Austin Matthews pounces on a loose puck and roofs it. Flames up 2-1, better team ahead.

All Toronto to start the second period as they hem the Flames in and do a number on their hosts. They tie the game on a 4 on 3 powerplay when Austin Matthews scores his second of the game on a one timer in his wheel house. They go ahead again on another powerplay with Mitch Marner doing the honours on a great pass from Willian Nylander. The Flames with a mid period push back, but they can’t solve Martin Jones. Toronto doubles their lead when Austin Matthews, out against the Flames third pairing again, scores his third of the game; 4-2 Toronto. Calgary doesn’t give up though and cuts the lead in half in the last 150 seconds when Andrew Mangiapane puts the puck off both boots and into the Toronto cage.

Calgary pushing in the third period to tie the game. They think they have it tied when Connor Zary gets his own rebound and beats Jones, but its’ called back on a glove pass that was missed earlier in the play. Leafs keep it simple as the Flames push, but Calgary can’t generate that additional chance to tie things up. Leafs win.

Odds and Sods

I always wonder when ex teammates run each other if it’s for fun, or if it points to something under the surface from their time together in Calgary. That first period hit by Rasmus Andersson on Mark Giordano certainly stood out for me. Mutual respect and a competitive nature or an old wound that still needs healing? … Man what a pass from Huberdeau to Lindholm in the first period. Often you see things at the game or on TV that you wish the player saw (open guy), that pass was the opposite; had no idea Lindholm was even there. … A lot to digest on that Andrew Mangiapane goal review. He kicked it with his left skate, but it hit his right skate before traveling across the crease. Is that a kick? Then it hits a Leaf stick, and maybe Backlund’s stick and then over the goal line. Probably the right call. … The review on the Zary goal wasn’t delayed to see if Coleman touched the puck with his glove; that was obvious. It was delayed because they wanted to determine if the puck then went off John Tavares stick before it hit Mikael Backlund’s stick. If it was Tavares then good goal. … What are you thinking in you’re Liligren on that gloved puck? That’s going to get called every time. … Can’t believe those two dudes with the split McDonald jerseys (Leafs on one side / Flames on the other) did that much work and then messed up the numbering. You don’t have one jersey with 9 on both sleeves and the other with 7. Clearly both Leaf sleeves get 7 and both Flames sleeves get 9. Come on now. … Scary injury for Martin Pospisil as his skates collided with Austin Matthews early in the game, sending the Flames skater down. He didn’t return. … The Flames third pairing got worked by Toronto skill tonight.

Special Teams

Both teams score a powerplay goal, but Calgary on three chances and Leafs really on just one … so the Leafs get the edge in the special teams battle tonight.

The Flames have been winning this battle regularly of late, but tonight they don’t and as you’d expect that leads to a loss.

Standings and Record

The loss keeps the Flames two points out of a playoff spot, but now the Predators have a game in hand.

Additionally the Flames get passed in terms of win percentage by the Coyotes, meaning there are once again two teams to pass. That is if the Coyotes don’t lose in Vancouver tonight, and they’re trailing after two.

Still in it though and needing a big win on Saturday night.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 26 Leafs 33
Face Offs: Flames 46% / Leafs 54%
Powerplay: Flames 1-3 / Leafs 1-2

Fancy Stats

The Leafs were the better team overall on the night, something we’ve seen of late from the Flames; outplayed by a touch but their goaltender the better of the two stoppers on the night. Five on five the Flames had 49% of the shot attempts with period splits of 58%/50% and 36% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 44%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 46%, with a 11-13 split.

In all situations the Flames had 48% of the shot attempts, 38% of the expected goals, and 44% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 2.71 to 4.48. The right team won.

Individually the Flames were led by Dillon Dube in only five minutes of ice time posting a xGF% of 78% five on five. Martin Pospisil with limited minutes was second. Nazem Kadri, Andrew Mangiapane and Noah Hanifin were the only other players above the break even point. Nick DeSimone at the bottom of the pile with 13% on the night. AJ Greer and Jordan Oesterle were in the 20s.

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