Yesterday morning Nathan asked who are the Calgary Flames? We still don’t know, but we got to see a really great goaltending duel that gave us all a reason to watch and have some hope that the Flames could right the ship before heading home.
Feel of the game
There’s always an uneasy ebb and flow of a Flames v. Ducks game. The Flames could be up seven-nothing and there still would be a sense of ominous doom coming that could take it all away with a single swoop. It’s a real fear and feeling that has been a prevalent theme since the inception of Calgary’s problems playing in Anaheim. That curse is over though.
The first period as a whole was a positive step forward when compared to Saturday evening’s mediocre showing versus the Kings. Despite the high-event pace, what stood out most was the Flames’ often relentless pace to press John Gibson and the rest of the Ducks into submission early. It looked promising and the sign of things to come in the rest of the game, but then came the first period.
The 0:12 needed to counter an offensive-zone entry-attempt, move up ice, and catch the Flames on their heels was not nice. In fact that ominous feeling of everything imploding around us crept in real quick. The unlikely game-tying heroics of Michael Stone, whose third game of the year – despite some gaffes here and there – gave way to a sense of optimism, even if for a moment.
There was a frenetic pace of the third that brought that stomach-curdling, I just ate a questionable burrito from a sketchy gas station feeling back into fans’ bellies by the late stages of the third. The sigh of relief, with the game being over is pause for celebration, and a bookend on this California road trip which looked to be off the rails just 24 hours prior.
The good news
Let’s spend a lot of time gushing about why Cam Talbot was great. The first being: he was rock-solid outside of Jakob Silfverberg goal. The Ducks, despite being outshot for 2/3 of the game, managed to find their way to high-danger areas more often than not. Second: The Ducks as a whole edged out the Flames 13-8 (61.9%) in high-danger chances; this includes a 7-1 beating in the third period.
This is where Talbot gave the Flames the necessary results to stay in this while tied, while down a goal, and then while maintaining a lead. The Ducks’ 1.93 expected goals-for at 5v5 backs up Talbot’s performance even more. For a first win as a Flame, there isn’t any doubt that it was well-earned and easily one of the best goaltending performances in this young 2019-20 season.
Now let’s shift gears and talk about someone you weren’t expecting: Alan Quine. A lot can be said about his brief appearances last season, his contributions at the AHL level down in Stockton, and now: his night versus the Ducks. Some wanted to see Dillon Dube called up (I’m in that camp), but Quine’s evening was a quiet yet impressive showing.
In under ten minutes of ice time, Quine led the Flames at 5v5 in ixG at 0.29 which included three individual scoring chances. Quine’s 67.74% was good for third on the Flames; again, making the most of his time on the ice.
Finally: the fourth line as a whole. This might have been one of the more enjoyable games from both Mark Jankowski and Tobias Rieder at 5v5. Along with Quine’s impact let’s look at Rieder and Jankowski’s impact:
- 0.86 xG, 74.07% CF for Rieder
- 0.86 xG, 70.00% CF for Jankowski
On the second night of a back-to-back, this line was the engine that drove this team forward at various intervals that they saw the ice. For Jankowski, whose play has been scrutinized extensively this season to Rieder’s still-longstanding goalless drought; if they can build off this then it could be a turning point for their seasons.
The really-not-so great news
Despite the excitement for the return of the MMA line, they struggled to stay above 50% in shot share outside of Mikael Backlund’s game-winner (which was great). Finishing at 49.97% CF while adjusting for score-effects, the venue, and other factors is a nice sign that they can hopefully build off of. This line in the past has had some success in dictating pace of play and being a problem to play against. There is a perfect blend of chemistry between Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk; unlocking some sort of finishing prowess that Czarnik may have would be fantastic.
Is it likely? It’s hard to say, but if Sam Bennett is out versus Washington then why not try? What’s the worst that could happen?
Finally: penalty woes. This feels like a groundhog day scenario where Glen Gulutzan is behind the bench again and the team is constantly in the penalty box. Another six minutes of shorthanded play, in a game where they desperately needed to avoid spending another 10%+ of the game in the box is less than ideal and is quickly becoming exhausting.
Please don’t mistake this as “the penalty kill is bad” as it’s far from that. Calgary has only surrendered four 4v5 goals this season despite playing 65+ minutes at 4v5. This is currently good for 9th (tied with Toronto, Arizona, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia), but there is room for improvement and that comes in counterattacking.
It brings up a philosophy problem: safe, passive play to mitigate goals-against versus the increasing trend of power-killing, where the defending team counterattacks while down a man. There is a competitive advantage here – in fact the Flames did this last season creating a league-leading 15 4v5 goals.
The safe way works for now, but the team is hard-pressed for goal creation currently. It might be time in the near future to start tapping into what they accomplished last season; even if it’s a sliver of their past results. They’re out-performing their expected goals-against results (6.81) currently. We know goals will eventually happen while shorthanded, it’s a matter of mitigating the volume of time shorthanded, offsetting it with potential shorthanded goals, and finding systemic opportunities to improve to reduce their chances-against.
Numbers of note
- 250 – the number of career points that TJ Brodie has now. When you think about Brodie from where he started, to his ascension, to his struggles, and where he is now… it’s nice to see him hit a superficial milestone like this.
- 575 days since the last time Stone scored a goal at the NHL level. You’re up next, Tobias.
- 34 visits: two wins. Yeah, well, hey maybe this win starts a several-year winning streak at the Honda Center. That doesn’t seem likely, but maybe, just maybe?
- 53.35% score-adjusted CF% at 5v5, which is again a sign of an underlying positive. The team as a whole might not be performing at the absolute-best of expectations are. The positive here being: despite the early second-period goal they dictated well-over 50% of the game (after some adjustments).
- 14:51, at 5v5 for Czarnik which is his new all-time Flames high. It’s the second time in his tenure with Calgary where Peters has given him more than 14:00 minutes at 5v5 in a game. Are we starting to see Peters warming up to the diminutive, speeding winger? Or is this because 3M was struggling early on? Tune in on Tuesday to find out.
For the love of all things that are good in life please come out swinging against the Capitals and please don’t let them score within the first 20 seconds of any period.
All cited statistics and data via Natural Stat Trick.