88Derek Ryan
Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA Today Sports

Flames let line matchups slip away in Game 2

In Games 1 and 2 at the Saddledome, the Calgary Flames had last change against the Colorado Avalanche and could dictate line matchups. Unfortunately, they let that advantage slip away in Game 2.

Here’s a quick rundown of how the Flames and Avalanche lined up (by forward lines) in the first two games of their first round series. Each center is listed by 5 on 5 ice time and with their Corsi For percentage against each of the other team’s centers. Matchups that they won possession-wise are bolded.

Game 1

MacKinnon Soderberg Brassard Calvert
Monahan 0:46
Backlund 14:06
Jankowski 0:03
Ryan 2:17
1 GF

Let’s be blunt here: the Avalanche weren’t all that great in Game 1. They never really wore out the Flames and they didn’t really hem them into their own end long enough to throw a monkey wrench in their matching plans. The most tinkering or on-the-fly work Jared Bednar seemed to do was swap Mikko Rantanen on (and off) the Nathan MacKinnon line.

As a result of that lack of hemming, lack of tinkering and overall flatness in Colorado’s game, the Flames seemed to run their show in Game 1 – even if their line-by-line performances weren’t terribly dominant. Calgary won their primary matchup (Backlund vs. MacKinnon), won their secondary matchup (Monahan vs. Soderberg), and their tertiary matchup (Ryan vs. Brassard) was close enough to even and resulted in the only five-on-five goal of the game.

Game 2

MacKinnon Soderberg Brassard Calvert
Monahan 3:00
1 GF
Backlund 10:07
1 GA
Jankowski 2:49
Ryan 2:55

The roles were reversed in Game 2 by most measures. The Avalanche didn’t need to make a ton of line changes, as their trios performed quite well. The Flames got into a good amount of trouble, in that Colorado’s players did well and because of some puck management challenges, the Avalanche were able to dictate the pace of the game and get the Flames away from their matchups. The Monahan line saw a decent amount of MacKinnon’s group (which they avoided in Game 1), while Backlund’s group saw a lot of everyone else.

In terms of matching priorities: the Flames lost their primary handily (Backlund vs. MacKinnon), eked out a toss-up on their secondary match-up (Monahan vs. Soderberg), and barely got much of a chance to have Ryan’s line out against the bottom six. The symptom of the other lines getting thrown into disarray a bit was seeing a bit more of the Jankowski line out against the other Colorado groups; it worked out alright, but it’s definitely not ideal because it means that the Avalanche groups are getting a bit of an easier workload.

Looking ahead

It’ll be interesting to see what adjustments Bill Peters makes to his lines heading into Game 3 in Denver, where the Avalanche will have last change. The Avalanche didn’t make many adjustments between games, they simply buckled down and played better – and used their forecheck to make the Flames make mistakes in their own zone.

Given how strong of a road team they’ve been this season, the Flames might not necessarily need to make substantial changes to their lines; they might just need to commit more fully to their system and simply play better within it. Even with control of things, there were too many situations in Game 1 and 2 where the Flames were outworked or outplayed by Colorado.

    • Alberta Ice

      Lots of drama in the playoffs all ready. Kadri and Leafs in trouble. Kucherov suspended and the Bolts having a power outage at the wrong time of year. But the big story has to be the now 3-0 Islanders. JT moves to the Leafs and Trotz goes to the Island. And the ex-Oiler Eberle is playing like he’s been unchained from his past playoff disappointments. (Why is it any ex-Oiler making the playoffs later always seem to shine? Yep, unchained indeed.) You got to love the playoff season. It never quite goes according to script. (And for those of you expecting a sweep of the Avs, let’s rather trust the Flames to get the job done by 7 games.)

      • Derzie

        What’s to love about the best regular season teams getting muscled about by sub-par players, who happen to be strong, in the silly-season where the refs put away the whistles? I see no entertainment in 2 different rule books. Not that the NHL cares, but I’ve already stopped watching because of the rise of the plugs. I’m not entertained by plugs hurting stars and keeping them from scoring.

  • Jobu

    Way too many penalty’s called in game 2. Completely disrupts the flow of the game.

    Looks like the refs are letting the players play in every series except this one. Jobu wonders why…

  • Pizanno

    I think that first line is in BP’s head. They’re playing to shut down that line, and are on their heels the whole game. Why not attack with one of the best offenses in the league? They can win games 9-6, 9-4, 7-whatever. Use your weapons! Don’t just play to plug theirs!

  • Justthateasy

    Bennett is being wasted on line 3 with those two slugs. Janko on the PK should be about his limit. Neal had better start proving himself again.
    Lindy can throw his weight around so play him on that third line and play Bennett on the first line.
    I don’t know what you do with Brody.
    3rd pairing for sure and power play I guess.

  • Justthateasy

    This bush NHL refereeing needs to take a look at replays. Debrusk should have been tossed for the knee on knee on Kadri. It’s another case of nipping this crap in the bud so it does not escalate.
    I am no Leafs fan but refereeing should be top drawer at this level.

    • Puck Head

      The NHL should ref games like soccer – come out hard and let the players know that BS won’t be tolerated. After a couple calls the players get the message and can focus their attention to playing hockey. Pretty simple tactic that works.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I saw that differently. To me Kadri tried to sell it to get a penalty, the refs didn’t bite. Kadri’s cross check to the face should take him out of the playoffs. If Crosby can get a season ending concussion from incidental contact this recklessness can end a career.

      • Justthateasy

        I agree that was a horrible suspendable cross-check to the head but just because the referees didn’t bite does not mean it should not have been penalized. This would have been nipped it in the bud.
        Debrusk’s skates were far apart and he was looking for trouble. The knee on knee is one of hockey’s dirtiest hits, right up there with headshots.

  • buts

    We look slow and with Neil in the lineup we are. TJ is playing like softy Hamilton last year and if doesn’t want to get physical move him to the bottom pair or bench him. Memo….. it’s the friggin playoffs TJ! Here’s what BP should do. Move TJ to the bottom pair or bench him and move Anderson up, bench Neil and insert Czarnik for some speed.

  • Brian McGrattan's Salute

    I wonder if BP will go with the lines he used in the second half of last game


    Or if he will return to the standard lineup? The 3m line has been our best (or second best line, after DAG) this last half of the season and game 1, so I would be hesitant to split them up.

    Does Czar get in?

    Will be interesting to see playoff coaching decisions from here on out.

    • Speed Kills

      I’ve tried to be positive in regards to Neal… But after last night, I’d be curious to see what kind of damage on the forecheck Prout could do in place of Neal?(yes I know it seems crazy) Could it be any worse than what Neal is bringing either offensively or defensibly? We need a big strong forward…. Well we don’t have one so why not just improvise and try with what we have available.
      Prout-Janko- Lind
      On to the best of 5…

        • Speed Kills

          I actually/originally suggested Dube/Czarnik in an earlier post-game…(or a black ace from Stockton?) But Prout has the Biggest/Heaviest Body to go out and punish the Avalanche players Physically without taking away from our D-core, of course just having speed and a forecheck would help… But man I’d like to see some flattened Avalanche players against the boards in their end. No one is afraid of Dube or Czarnik.

      • Luter 1

        BP played Prout on forward for a while at a year end game, I would suggest he would be a heck of a lot better on the forecheck than Neal and maybe he could change the physical attitude some of the Avalanche D have had on our smaller forwards. Even if we get by the Avs we will have a much tougher time with the teams to follow as far as toughness. Right now our small forwards are being somewhat intimidated by a not so tough Avs team.

        • Spider you muda&@#ker

          Man desperate times if Prout is the answer to our problems. I think the team will be fine your gonna lose in the playoffs its just the way it is. If the flames played there best game and lost then I would be worried but they didnt so I think they can win this series

  • Zesty14

    Puck battles. We lost so many puck battles last game. To many half hearted checking 1on1 and no commitment to coming out with the puck. Then we had 3, 4v5 PKs with one of our guys with no stick! 3 effing times! 5v5 hemmed in our own end for over 1:40 how many times! With none putting any puck pressure on them. Brodie off the PP please! Neal needs to throw his weight around. BP was just dealing with what his team effort was giving him and was forced to not have ideal matchups and line shuffling. Thanks Smith and Bennett keep battling.

    • Kevin R

      Bingo! Saw that myself. & then in overtime on that PP, we had great chances & we missed the net 4 f***ing times in a row.
      Then they come down & score. FFS!!!

        • Cheeky

          Problem with PP is starting with our entry. No wonder Avs had breakaway with Brodie give away. Brodie has skills to take it in but he always drop back passes, Avs know this. He gets to blue line and instead of skating across line and setting up he drops back – wtf?
          Second is we don’t clog up in front of net, goalie always sees puck. If Neal is to have a role, stand in front of goalie blocking his view, nothing more, nothing less…

    • Luter 1

      Whoever trashed you is watching through rose color glasses. Simply not playoff caliber effort and play. Even first game, not the intensity I was expecting. Pick it up boys – Neal, Brodie, Frolik, and surprisingly Jankowski all look like they are skating in mud. Shake it up BP, Neal out please!

      • Joel Ottos Jock

        Neal is playing fine. Monahan is the worst forward out there. When your top center is playing like that..good luck. I’d like to see BP move Bennett to the top line center the way he is playing

        • Zesty14

          If being 0 impact in the game is fine then neal is doing great. But Monahan who scored the go a head goal is the worst player…. Then I’m glad you have no influence in any actual flames decision making. I would hate to see your tire fire of ideas actually come to fruition.

        • Luter 1

          Please explain to me Jock Itch, what in the hell Neal brings to the table. His playoffs are looking much like his regular season which was horrid and he completely deflates any line he ends up on. You can’t tell me we don’t have somebody that brings more energy and speed waiting in the press box. If we don’t then are depth is not as deep as we claim. Call me crazy but give Mang way more icetime and bring in Prout on the 4th line and do nothing but hit and set the tone. We do not look like we are matching their physicality.

          • Joel Ottos Jock

            Jock itch eh, very original. Bringing Prout into the line up is a terrible idea. He is too slow, terrible with the puck, and is a liability on the ice. Just watch all of his games this year. Yes Monahan scored a goal, but he is not doing the little things a top center needs to do especially in a playoff series. He has been the weakest Flame on the top line. Even Gaudreau is back tracking and making checks. The Flames line up needs a shake up, and Bill Peter’s needs to do some better line match ups. A guy like Lazar would be fantastic to play in game 3. Neal hasnt been bad, but playing with Janko is not going to help him. The Flames are not matching physical play, they are not tough enough and do not have anyone cut from that cloth outside of Bennett and Hathaway up front. The gaping holes are glaring that were not filled at the deadline.

          • Albertabeef

            @JOJ ya was waiting for your “Lazar is our savior” comments lol. As I read all these comments I think to myself “wouldn’t all these people feels silly if it’s the only game we lost this round?”. You’d think we were down by 2-0 or 3- the way people are freaking out. However if we are making a push, we will need way more production from PG-13, and our D corps.

    • Justthateasy

      Neal had better be sitting next game. Or it will be too late. Jankowski should sit too but maybe as PK value. Bring in somebody willing to skate and hit. Bizarre would be the man. All these guys in waiting are raring to go.

  • Alberta Ice

    Did anyone think the Av’s were going to lay down and quit after game one? Nope. Give them full marks for knowing they needed game 2. Now the Flames need to know they have to win at least one in Colorado over the next two. Bottom line: They will need to raise their game as a team. GFG.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I am not sure that I buy that the 3M line can’t play the the minutes needed to keep up with the Avs top line. Even if McK is a conditioned freak of nature his linemates are no better conditioned than the 3M line. Neutralizing McK’s speed will be one of the keys to the series. This is simple as clogging up the neutral zone the other key is not being consumed by the Avs top line and make them worry about our top players.

    Neal does not have a role in this series so he can sit in favour of energy and speed like Dube. Big bodies like Neal and Janko only offer value if they play big otherwise bring in smaller speedy driven players that play big.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Just a thought. Maybe we can neutralize the speed of the top line by finishing off our checks…pretty tough to reach top speed when your face is. Pushed up against the glass. I am expecting that Bennett and Tkachuk drag their linemates into the battle.

  • Vinnsanity0412

    I thought that Peter’s in game adjustments worked well. Benny joined the top line and Lindholm joined 3M, Frolik dropped down. 3M was getting schooled by MacKinnon’s line (maybe because he was on the ice for 30 minutes (!) and once the changes were made, the top line finally got some chances, and the 2M and Benny line could actually get the puck out. Regardless of the final goal, I thought moving Andersson up with Gio was the correct thing to do. Someone please explain to me how with the bump back, if it’s not there why do players try to force it? Improvise a little. If the pass isn’t there that means there is a 4 on 3 available to enter the zone. Sound familiar #7? Jeesh.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      The only thing I can think of is that if Brodie does not bump it back and enters the zone, Johnny and another forward are behind the play and are not options once in the zone. That is the only reason I can think but to be honest only Brodie gets to the offensive blueline and still bumps it back. I am surprised that it doesn’t backfire more often.

  • Toma41

    Brodie, Jankowski and Monahan have all shown close to zero on the [email protected]$t meter. Brodie screws up and then sulks the rest of the game. Janko just squints his eyes after every play. I was really hoping he would take it up a notch for the playoffs. Neil taught him well. Monahan is Monahan. When he scores, he is noticable. When he doesnt score, he is useless. Unlike Mackinnon who controls the game whenever he is on the ice. Lindholm has scored 2 goals in his last 24 games. Atleast he throwns some hits and is good defensively. Flames need more from all of these players.

    • Captain Ron

      McKinnon is a superstar that everyone has to deal with. The only player we have like that is Johnny. He can control the game at times too but he is smaller and falls short on some of the things McKinnon can do. Guys like him are going to score from time to time and there is not much we can do but try to limit the damage. That said it is a team game and the Av’s can be beat regardless. What we really need is for our other top players to show up and make a difference. Calling on Monahan, Lindholm, Neal and a few others to bring it a little more and score on their chances. The series is 1-1 and we have seen their best game where it took OT to beat us. Our best game is yet to come so lets see what happens when we are firing on all cylinders and they have to deal with our big boys. Smith is the only player on top of his game right now. The best is yet to come from the the Flames. No reason to panic even if we lose tonight in a close one.

  • everton fc

    We lost in OT – and we should have won, if Brodie doesn’t make the gaff to tie it up. Let’s keep things in perspective here.

    The Ads were one of the hottest teams in the league, down the stretch. They coached a good game the other evening. They took our #1 line out of the game. Our third line is weak, with Neal. He is useless to us, if he can’t score.

    I thought Hamonic/Hanifin looked good. I thought Bennett was engaged. And the 4th line, as always, came to play every shift. Smith is in a zone. Gio looked engaged. Andersson looked like a seasoned vet. Backlund and Tkachuk, to my eyes, “engaged”. Again, a lot of good things happened, as well.

    I can’t see the Ads scoring much, this series, even though they do have a lot of balance in their lineup, offencively. That’s our advantage. We also have to get under their collective skin – get them to take penalties. The only changes Id make is getting Bennett more ice time. Maybe w/Tkachuk and Backlund, maybe with Gaudreau and Monahan, which would slide a slumping Lindholm into Frolik’s spot. Make our 3rd line Frolik-Jankowski-Neal, or make the 3rd line Mangiapane-Ryan-Hathaway, and lessen the minutes of Frolik-Jankowski-Neal. But I don’t see many changes coming. The only other change could be going with Gio/Andersson as the 1/2, and Fantenberg/Brodie as 5/6. Other than that, roll with those who got you here – and note, Neal didn’t do much this season to get us where we are. In fact, I’ll argue, down the stretch, Czarnik added more on RW, than Neal, because Neal didn’t play, and we saw what Czarnik’s speed to do, offensively. Czarnik basically matched Neal’s numbers this season, in nine fewer games. Dube’s speed should also be considered, as a possible change in the lineup. We need to do what they Avs did to us – play physical on both he forecheck, and the back check. We are the better team. We are the better road team. We are the better scoring team. We are the better defencive team. And we are not easily rattled, under Peters.