Game Takes: Flames 5 Islanders 2

February 10th, 2024 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Who honestly could have predicted this?

The Flames win their last game before the all star game in a listless Saturday night game against the Blackhawks where they were embarrassingly carried by their goaltender.

So not a lot of folks had a three game win streak in the North East with the same crew minus Elias Lindholm taking to the ice.

But that’s exactly what we’ve seen, as the Flames continued their pattern of jumping on teams early and then relying on Jacob Markstrom to take victories home in a 5-2 win on Long Island this afternoon.

With the win the Flames reeled in another West team, the Predators, and remain a point back of the Blues with St. Louis having two games in hand.

Today the heavy lifting from Mackenzie Weegar who notched his first ever NHL hat trick.

The Lineup

Two games and two wins with this roster … and no trades yesterday, so no changes for today’s afternoon tilt against the Islanders.

So the new normal has Yegor Sharangovich between Jonathan Huberdeau and Adrei Kuzmenko, Nazem Kadri with Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil and Mikael Backlund with Andrew Mangiapane and Blake Coleman and finally a fourth line with Kevin Rooney centering Jakob Pelletier and Walker Duehr.

On the blueline it’s the usual top two pairings; Noah Hanifin with Chris Tanev and Mackenzie Weegar with Rasmus Andersson and a second straight game for the new third pairing with Oliver Kylington lining up with waiver claim Brayden Pachal.

Jacob Markstrom starts in goal.

Line Metrics Coming In

Huberdeau – Sharangovich – Kuzmenko 82.4%
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman 57.5%
Zary – Kadri – Pospisil 56.4%
Pelletier – Rooney – Duehr 46.7%

Hanifin – Tanev 53.5%
Weegar – Andersson 47.9%
Kylington – Pachal 35.7%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +14.6
Vladar -6.7
Wolf -5.2

Trend Tracker

Jacob Markstrom’s run has really been remarkable, and no longer a small sample size phenomenon.

At 14.6 goals saved above expected he’s now 3rd league wide behind only Connor Hellebuyck and Thatcher Demko. Hard not to see the player as a finalist again for the Vezina Trophy which would make two of the last three years, and 50% of the seasons in Calgary to date.

Top Line …

Sample size has doubled! We’re no longer talking 10 minutes but 20.

If you ignore sample size and look at the Flames forward trios this season with 10 or more minutes together they are clearly in 1st with a eye popping 82.4%.

Who comes close?

Mangiapane – Lindholm – Dube : Only played 19 minutes together but posted 72.7%
Greer – Lindholm – Sharangovich : Odd combination, 15 minutes and 71.4%
Sharangovich – Lindholm – Coronato : There’s Lindholm gain, 11 minutes and 66.7%
Sharangovich – Lindholm – Zary : 15 minutes and 63.6%.

So short time frame or not, this trio is off to a hell of a start.

Islander Non Goal

Have you ever seen a more confused play calling team in your history of watching NHL hockey on television?

At first I get it … puck slung around the boards and then suddenly it’s in.

First they couldn’t find a replay that showed anything, but then they were super slow in putting together what happened, not getting it right until after another commercial break.

Once you saw the puck come in later and from the middle of the ice they should have been looking for why the puck didn’t go into the zone on the shoot in, but instead were just lost; Millen especially.


Jacob Markstrom’s Start

Quite the game for Jacob Markstrom again.

Unbeatable through 40 minutes propelling the Flames to a three goal lead, then gives up two in the third, the second largely fueled by his attempt to score on the empty net himself.

Honestly I don’t blame him. Every goal wants a goal in their career and the Flames had a three goal lead.

On the night an expected 3.32 Islander goals, but he only gave up two.

His counting stats show 35 saves on 37 shots and a .946 save percentage.

No phasing this guy lately.

Two Way Yegor

A lot of talk since the Flames made that blockbuster trade with Vancouver about the newcomer Kuzmenko, and his connection with Jonathan Huberdeau, and rightly so.

But another emerging story is the three game sample size of Yegor Sharangovich centering the top line, and doing a solid job of providing the defensive conscious and transitional component for the line.

In the three games five on five the line hasn’t given up a single goal, and Sharangovich has an expected goals against of 0.88 / 60.

Impressive start.

I honestly thought that line would get filled in but they’ve spent more time in the opposition zone than their own, and haven’t given up when they have been pinned.

Game Flow

The Flames started this one on their heels somewhat, but did a good job of keeping the puck to the outside and avoided any real damage (or scoring chances) against. The Flames go up when Mackenzie goes end to end and beats Varlamov with a wrister (I think it went off the Islander’s defenseman’s stick). From there Calgary took over for the middle section of the period with the Islanders looking really flat. Things grind to a halt midway through the period when the Islanders score a goal that was clearly off side. From there not a whole lot going on in a pretty low event period. Flames lead 1-0 after one.

The second period starts how the first period ends … low event hockey. Not a whole lot going on. The Flames get a powerplay when Pospisil draws a penalty driving the net. The Flames make use of it, with Jonathan Huberdeau converting a rebound off a Sharangovich one timer, 2-0 Flames. Calgary right back on the Islanders after the goal with two dominant shifts split by an icing call. Islanders continue to sleep walk and the fourth line takes advantage when Jakob Pelletier finds Walker Duehr in the high slot. Duehr fans but the puck slides to Weegar who one times it for his second of the afternoon. Flames up 3-0 after two.

Pretty much all Islanders in a wild third period that had a bit of everything. Much like the game in Jersey, the Flames relied too much on their goaltender to steer a game home and could have paid for it. The Islanders score their first midway through the period on a seeing eye shot. Calgary looks to put it away on a Blake Coleman empty netter, but then Markstrom takes two attempts at the empty net (don’t blame him) resulting in a scramble and another Islander goal. Calgary finally ices it when Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau combine to set up Weegar for the hat trick goal into the empty net. Flames win 5-2.

Odds and Sods

Loved that back and forth skill display between Andrei Kuzmenko and Oliver Kylington in the first period transitioning across the Islanders line. It didn’t amount to a scoring chance but was a great example of the skill upgrade we are seeing with the lineup changes of late. …Love Jakob Pelletier’s head on a swivel puck moving on that fourth line. Any injury or a sustained or slump should see him in the top nine. Finding teammates open for chances all over the place when that lines gets it deep. … Hard to get a puck past Jacob Markstrom these days. The Flames were full marks for their play today, but an energetic team that doesn’t take a shift off backed up by an elite goaltender is a handful. … Another two point game from Jonathan Huberdeau as he continues to be a point per game player plus in the calendar year of 2024. We’ve been waiting for this a long time. Finally here? Hopefully his confidence solidifies and it’s here to stay.

Special Teams

Flames picture perfect on special teams today scoring on their only chance and blanking the Islanders on their only opportunity.

Not special teams, but they also outscored the Islanders 2-1 with the Islanders playing 6 on 6 in the last 5 minutes of the game.

Additionally, nice to see the officials let the two teams play.

Standings and Record

The Flames came a Blues victory in Buffalo away from being in a playoff spot after today’s win in New York.

The Blues win though keeps them a point up with two games in hand.

The Flames leap frog the Predators in points, though Nashville has a game in hand … the two teams are tied in win percentage.

Down to one team to pass for an improbable season finish.

The Blues win moving their pace to 91.8 points meaning 93 to get in for the Flames. That will require a 18-10-2 record to finish, which is a .633 win percentage.

Wasn’t long ago that Calgary had to finish over .700 to make the mark.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 24 Islanders 37
Face Offs: Flames 50% / Islanders 50%
Powerplay: Flames 1-1 / Islanders 0-1

Fancy Stats

Much like the game in New Jersey, the Flames sit on a lead in the third period, rely way too much on their goaltender, and as a result finish well behind in every play driving stat. Five on five the Flames had 46% of the shot attempts with period splits of 62%/53% and 17% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 42%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 23%, with a 3-10 split.

In all situations the Flames had 45% of the shot attempts, 55% of the expected goals, and 28% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 4.00 to 3.32.

Individually the Flames were led by new Flame Brayden Pachal posting a xGF% of 64% five on five. He along with Oliver Kylington had their first two games together underwater, but had a strong game today. Mikael Backlund and Yegor Sharangovich both in the 60s as well. Five players with rough nights (under 20%); Martin Pospisil, Connor Zary, Nazem Kadri (whole 2nd line), Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin.

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