Flames 3, Flyers 1 post game embers: a step in the right direction

A 3-1 scoreline isn’t really worth getting excited about, but the Flames felt like a more complete, more rounded team in their win against the Flyers. Considering how rough the early season has been, we’ll take it.

Feel of the game 

Certainly not their most exciting game, and definitely not their cleanest, but the Flames bucked the early trend of this season and actually showed up to play. They seemingly took the lessons of their road trip to heart, finding the scoresheet early and keeping the pressure on, though they weren’t as opportunistic with their chances. There were moments where the Flyers seized the initiative (one lengthy shift in the second period stands out), but the Flames never really lost control of the game. That’s what we love to see.

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Although they weren’t totally cohesive as a team, the disparity between the best players and the worst players on the roster didn’t seem as pronounced as it was in earlier games. All forward lines finished with a CF% over 50%, and three of the four finished over 60%. I don’t think the Flames were at their most dominant last night, but they at least made steps towards being more than a one line team.

The good news

Let’s start by celebrating the obvious big news, the first goal of the bottom six this season, and of course it came from Andrew Mangiapane. The only regular member of the bottom six who has stood out in a mostly positive way, Mangiapane’s first of the season has been in the making since the season began. We can only hope that this is a jumping off point rather than a blip on the radar. The Flames are definitely hoping so, too.

Usually the phrase “outshined by Brian Elliott” can be read as a punchline, but David Rittich can feel no shame in that being true tonight (stick taps to Elliott for keeping the Flyers in it, though jeers because I’m still a bit bitter). He made his saves when he needed to and stymied the Flyers’ best chances at tying the game. The major Rittich highlight for me was obviouslt him trying to score an empty netter. The audacity is outstanding, and I’m hoping he finally gets to do it some game.

The bad news 

Discipline remains an issue for the Flames. NHL reffing is what it is, but the Flames are currently the third most penalized team in the league, which is going to bite them in the rear soon enough. They didn’t let the Flyers capitalize on the power play, though the Flyers’ lone goal came from a delayed penalty caused by scrambly defensive zone play. Their penalties seem to be a mix of laziness, covering for defensive mistakes, and referees being referees. You can’t do much about the last part, but they could stand to improve in the other two.

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The Flames held significant edges in almost all possession categories at 5v5 -61.84 CF%, 66.07 FF%, and 68.09 SF%- but they lost the high danger scoring chances, going 28.57% in that category. They only generated two (2) HDSC in 47 minutes of 5v5 hockey. Philly’s been a pretty stingy defensive team thus far, but c’mon. Two? Before last night, the Flames ranked 20th in the league at HDSCF/60, which is not excusable in the slightest considering the number of offensive weapons the team has. This team could be so much more dangerous, and even have the opportunities to do so. They aren’t, and it’s really holding them back.

Mikael Backlund’s brief injury absence was scary. Less of that, please.

Numbers of note 

88.89%- Mark Jankowski’s 5v5 CF%, the leader on the team. He had a nice bounce back game after his disastrous night in Vegas and a healthy scratch in San Jose. I don’t think his brief fill-in spot on the 3M is indicative of much, but he at least seemed up for the challenge.

45.38%- TJ Brodie’s 5v5 CF%, the lowest on the team, but the only Flames below 50%.

9:16- Mangiapane’s 5v5 ice time. I’d like to see that go up.

6:37- Sam Bennett’s in the same category, second lowest on the team next to Austin Czarnik. He seems to be in the doghouse, though I think that’s fair after some pretty sketchy play early this season. Maybe he’s due for one of his classic hot streaks.

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60%- Milan Lucic’s faceoff percentage for the season, second on the team behind Monahan. He won the draw that led to the Mangiapane goal, so maybe he’s actually a centre. Why not, let’s have some fun with it.

800- games in which Michael Frolik has played. Great night for the much criticized winger.

Final thought

Last night’s game was a bit more of a performance in line with the expectations for the Flames. A bit of fine tuning, and they’re not that far away from the team they were last season.

The question will be if they can maintain the positive direction. The schedule isn’t making it easy, with the team zipping from the East to the West to the East to play four games in the next six days. On paper, the Flames are better than most of their upcoming opponents, but it’s something that needs to be seen to be believed.