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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA Today Sports

Flames 6, Canucks 2: Mackey notches first goal in finale thrashing

The Calgary Flames’ season is over.

Matthew Tkachuk scored twice on Wednesday afternoon as his Flames team concluded its season with a 6-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

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Dillon Dube, Andrew Mangiapane, Brett Ritchie, and Connor Mackey also tallied in the belated finale to the NHL’s regular season. Mere hours after the final horn sounded at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Boston Bruins took a 2-1 series lead over the Washington Capitals at TD Garden.

In Calgary, Matthew Phillips’ NHL debut was undoubtedly the biggest story of the day. The diminutive winger led the Stockton Heat in scoring this past season as a 22-year-old for the majority of its duration.

Now 23, Phillips earned his opportunity and made the most of it. He finished the game with a healthy 14:19 of total ice-time—including 1:53 on the power play—and fired a pair of shots against Canucks goalie Braden Holtby.

Phillips posted an impressive 76.70 on-ice expected goals percentage at even strength (per Natural Stat Trick) and ranked fifth on the Flames with 0.22 individual expected goals. He looked fast and confident, connecting on multiple difficult passes with apparent ease.

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In short: Phillips did everything but score. Even so, he came within a couple inches of doing just that.

So, so close. Phillips has very quick hands but, sometimes, nerves will prevail. Odds are, we’ll see a different outcome the next time he gets an opportunity of that calibre.

Speaking of the kids: Mackey’s goal was the first of his NHL career and his fourth as a professional. The 24-year-old rearguard led all Heat defensemen with 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 27 games this year; in his six games with the Flames, he’s played decent hockey while also displaying an unexpected truculent streak.

Mackey put forth his best performance as a Flame in Wednesday’s game, logging 19:41 in all situations and finishing fifth on the team with an 80.36 on-ice expected goals percentage at even strength. His 4:37 of shorthanded TOI led the team.

While Phillips and Ruzicka were held off the scoresheet, some of the Flames’ other depth options contributed season-best offensive figures. Both Derek Ryan and Brett Ritchie had three-point afternoons, with the latter firing Calgary’s fourth goal of the game past Holtby.

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Ritchie had a fine game, with the Flames controlling 68.74% of the expected goals during his five-on-five shifts. Still, following Wednesday’s game, Evolving-Hockey assessed Ritchie as having the 10th-worst goals above replacement (GAR) figure—minus-5.4—in the entire NHL this season.

The Flames may choose to re-sign Ritchie to help meet the exposure requirements for the upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft. Among each team’s pool of exposed players, two forwards signed for 2021–22 with at least 27 games of experience in 2020–21 or 54 games between the previous two seasons must be exposed.

Assuming Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Sean Monahan, Dillon Dube, and Mikael Backlund are the seven Flames forwards protected, only Milan Lucic would count to help satisfy these exposure requirements. UFAs Josh Leivo, Joakim Nordstrom, Derek Ryan, and Ritchie would each count as the second “qualifying” forward, if retained.

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Since Darryl Sutter’s return behind the Flames’ bench on Mar. 11, Ritchie has averaged 11:12 per night at even strength. For comparison’s sake, Leivo has averaged 10:15; Ryan, 9:51; Nordstrom, 9:13.

The main difference? Ritchie seldom played on either special team. Nordstrom averaged 2:16 of shorthanded ice-time, with Ryan typically receiving 1:45; Leivo typically spent around half a minute on the power play in each game. Ritchie averaged 10 seconds per game on both special teams, combined.

Ritchie threw 97 hits in 32 games this season, ranking behind only Milan Lucic and Matthew Tkachuk among Flames players. Tkachuk scored twice on Wednesday, extending his season-ending goal streak to five games.

Entering the final year of his three-year contract extension in 2021–22, Tkachuk will be eligible for another new deal on July 28. His 43 points placed him third on the Flames, with Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm also finishing on the figurative podium.

The Flames ultimately finished fifth in the North Division with 55 points in 56 games. Their 26-27-3 record situated them just four points back of the playoff-bound Montreal Canadiens, which finished fourth in the division despite winning two fewer games.


The Three Gould Stars

It’s a play on my last name, see.

These “Gould Stars” will be used to recognize Flames players who were noticeable—for reasons both good and bad—in the game being discussed. This is not a list of the three best players.

  • Gould Star One: If that was Derek Ryan‘s last game as a Flame, he certainly went out with a bang. With three assists—two of them primary—Ryan upped his production to 13 points in 43 games this season. The rock-solid 34-year-old depth centre will become an unrestricted free agent on Jul. 28.
  • Gould Star Two: Mikael Backlund had a goal called back for being offside but still assisted on Mangiapane’s 3-0 goal. The Swedish centre failed to reach double digits in the “goals” column for the first time since 2012–13 but still posted 32 points in 54 games.
  • Gould Star Three: Dillon Dube scored a slick goal and assisted on Ritchie’s tally to bump him up to 11 in both major offensive categories. He subsequently left the game after an awkward collision with Travis Hamonic; Sutter later stated Dube’s absence was related to concussion protocol.