Game Takes: Caps 5 Flames 2

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

In a lot of ways the Flames were better tonight against the Washington Capitals than they were in their last two games; both wins on home ice.

But they didn’t have the finish, and for Dustin Wolf they didn’t get the bounces as the Capitals skate away with a 5-2 win on Saddledome ice on Monday night.

The loss puts the Flames within a whisker of being “out of the playoffs” on a pace projection, as they are down the final strike for games left to catch the Knights if the Knights finish the season on their current win percentage.

The Lineup

No change up front, and one small change on the blueline.

Up front it’s Yegor Sharangovich between Dryden Hunt and Kuzmenko, Mikael Backlund with Andrew Mangiapane and Blake Coleman, Nazem Kadri with Jonathan Huberdeau and Martin Pospisil and Kevin Rooney with Greer and Matt Coronato. Walker Duehr and Jakob Pelletier come out.

On the blueline it’s the same six from the Vegas game; Oliver Kylington with Rasmus Andersson, Mackenzie Weegar with Daniil Miromanov, and Joel Hanley in for Nikita Okhotiuk with Brayden Pascal.

Duston Wolf gets his third straight start in goal.

Line Metrics Coming In

Hunt – Sharangovich – Kuzmenko 33.3%
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman 56.0%
Huberdeau – Kadri – Pospisil 58.7%
Greer – Rooney – Coronato NA

Kylington – Andersson 45.0%
Weegar – Miromanov 53.7%
Hanley – Pachal 54.9%

Goals Saved + Avg
Markstrom +16.1
Vladar -12.7
Wolf -6.7

Trend Tracker

Dustin Wolf is coming on.

Saddled with an goals saved above average of close to -10.0 last week, he’s put in 7 straight periods of solid hockey and has moved that number into the mid 6s with both starts resulting in less goals against than expected.

For the less fancy stats, he has evened his record on the season at 3-3-1 and his save percentage is back to the .900 mark (on the nose).

It will take time to level his numbers, as currently he’s ranked third of the Calgary goalies in both high and medium danger save percentage in all situations.

He is #1 on the team in low danger save percentage.

I don’t think a goaltenders ascent is ever linear, but he’s certainly had a good week.

Flames Culture

We will see what a full season of not being good does to a hockey team, but the first returns after a natural settling down period have been very strong.

Post trade deadline the Flames beat Tampa, but then lay three eggs in a row and look very much like a team that has cashed in.

Since then though they’ve had the work boots on every day.

They’re not outplaying teams, but they’re showing up.

That’s a very good first step.

Wolf’s Start

One of those games.

The Caps had some bounces around the Flames net … a golf shot, a puck off Rasmus Andersson, so overall I wouldn’t call it a bad Wolf night or that he looked small.

At the end of the day though it’s 2.72 in expected goals and he gave up four.

Counting stats have 28 saves on 32 shots for an .875 night.

But he has Ovechkin with two against him, part of the record books!

Game Flow

Sloppy opening to this one with both teams getting hemmed in often, but also both teams having offences that couldn’t turn zone time into any real scoring chances. The game remains scoreless through the first half of the period with very few shots and even fewer scoring chances. Calgary likely the better team in the second half of the period, but it’s the Caps that find the 1-0 lead with Strome completing a solid cross ice pass to beat Wolf over the glove hand.

Second period is pretty much a continuation of the first with the two teams slogging away but not creating much. The Caps go up 2-0 when Alex Ovechkin gets lost behind the Flames defense and tips in a pass for his 20th of the season, just as a powerplay expired. Wolf no chance on that one. A half dozen minutes later Ovechkin is back on another powerplay and rifles one from his office beating Wolf high short side (may have hit Andersson), and this one was pretty much sewn up. The Flames get on the board when Matt Coronato does a good job rushing the puck and then delaying for Pachal, whose shot is tipped in by Kevin Rooney. Flames back in the game. But not for long … Lapierre with a golf shot beats Wolf and it’s 4-1 Washington after two.

The Caps come out in the third playing a careful game with a three goal lead. Taking no chances and getting pucks deep, and winding down the clock. Flames breakthrough though, off a face off, with Mackenzie Weegar stepping into one on a collision (pick?) making it 4-2. Washington now hanging on a bit as Calgary starts to pour it on. Calgary with a late powerplay but they don’t get a shot on goal and the game winds down with Washington still up two. Calgary pulls the goalie with just under three minutes to play and the Caps put it away with an empty net goal.

Odds and Sods

Thought Andrei Kuzmenko had a lot of jump tonight. Noticeable in his touches and creating with his puck skills and skating. He’s a difference maker when he’s on. … Dustin Wolf is certainly the best puck handling goaltender in the Flames stable, and I don’t think it’s all that close. He has puck skills and hand eye, something that will serve him well. … Why even review a play on the intent to blow the whistle angle if you’re just going to say no goal despite the video showing the puck in before the whistle blew? Seems pointless to me. … Thought Millen was hard on Pachal tonight for his two penalties. The first was tying up Ovechkin near the net on a rebound (a good penalty), and I wasn’t sure the second one was even a penalty (could have been late). … I think the reviewed Calgary goal was concluded to be a goal because the goalie stick was out of the crease and past the blue paint making contact with Grier. If the stick is in the paint I don’t think it makes contact with the Calgary player. … Is Ovechkin going to get there? 51 back now, so lets say 5 more this season creating the need for two more 23 goal seasons. Not sure that possible, and not sure he’s back for three more years. … Can’t help but think that I wish Huberdeau would be more like Kadri and Kadri more like Huberdeau; that is the passer shoot more, and the shooter pass more. That’s true for Miromanov as well. He needs to shoot the puck when he gets a birth in the high slot. Passing it off too often. …

Special Teams

Capitals walk away with the special teams battle tonight.

They go 2/3 on the powerplay and score another just after the failed opportunity expired. The Flames with the same number of chances but come up empty.

Huge part of the game.

Standings and Record

Only two games tonight, so not a lot of change in the west playoff picture.

The Flames lose so they are still eight points back but now the Knights have a game in hand.

It’s been over for a while, but now nearly over by projection (can’t lose in regulation again).

Soon it will be over by being mathematically eliminated.

Counting Stats

Shots: Flames 36 Capitals 33
Face Offs: Flames 49% / Capitals 51%
Powerplay: Flames 0-3 / Capitals 2-3

Fancy Stats

This one was won on special teams. The Flames were the better team five on five on all metrics, but couldn’t score enough to offset the hole they dug shorthanded. Five on five the Flames had 53% of the shot attempts with period splits of 57%/53% and 48% respectively. In terms of five on five expected goals, the Flames had 66%, and for high danger scoring chances the Flames had 55%, with a 11-9 split.

In all situations the Flames had 55% of the shot attempts, 58% of the expected goals, and 58% of the high danger splits. The all situations expected goal totals came out at 3.72 to 2.72.

Individually the Flames were led by Jonathan Huberdeau posting a xGF% of 84% five on five. Nazem Kadri joined him in the 80s. Martin Pospisil, Brayden Pachal and Mackenzie Weegar were all in the 70s. Only two players under the 50% mark; Dryden Hunt and Andrei Kuzmenko.

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