3 areas the Calgary Flames can expect improvement in going forward
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
1 year ago
It’s only been seven games, but the Flames are officially done their first calendar month of the 2022-23 season. At 5-2-0, it’s one of Calgary’s best starts in franchise history and the positives have far outweighed the negatives. Much is expected out of this Flames group, internally and externally, and for good reason.
For Calgary to meet those lofty goals, they’ll need, and will quite likely see, improvement in a few key areas.
The Lindholm line
The trio of Elias Lindholm, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Tyler Toffoli continue to find their way and have still yet to connect for a five-on-five goal. I have high hopes for this line and, like I wrote recently, there are plenty of reasons to keep Lindholm, Huberdeau, and Toffoli together long-term. I still very much believe that. That said, the early returns haven’t been spectacular. All advanced metrics courtesy Natural Stat Trick.
We’re seeing gradual improvement from this group and they’re coming off their most effective game yet. Led by Lindholm’s best outing of the season, Calgary’s new top line looked dangerous all night en route to a 3-2 loss against Edmonton. Despite the setback, and lack of tangible results, I thought all three players on this line had strong performances.
I know many are clamouring for change with this trio, but I’m on the other side of the conversation. I believe there’s too much talent and hockey IQ between the three to give up on them as a unit just seven games into a new season. With what I saw against the Oilers, I’m even more bullish on that take.
Hanifin and Andersson
Since the beginning of last season, only one pairing (New York’s Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller) have played more together at five-on-five than the duo of Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson. These two developed into one of the NHL’s better pairings as last season went along, but early this year Hanifin and Andersson have struggled somewhat, at least by their high standards.
“I’m not super happy about my five-on-five play so far,” Andersson admitted earlier this week. “Honestly I feel like I spend too much time in the d-zone. It’s one of those things, you know, just kill the play a little bit quicker and get it to the forwards and try to play in the o-zone. But it feels like we’re in the d-zone for X amount of seconds and then you’ve gotta go change.”
Andersson knows how much he and Hanifin are capable of and they started showing us that last season. Much like the top line, I’d be surprised if this duo doesn’t round into similar form as the season goes along. Let’s also not forget Hanifin has been battling something early on, too.
First off, I don’t believe Markstrom was to blame for Saturday’s game getting away from the Flames. Markstrom made the right call in trying to cut off a rim behind his net and had the expectation of puck support if it got by him. When that support wasn’t there, and when the puck ended up on Connor McDavid’s stick, the end result looks like a Markstrom “soft goal.” I see it as bad luck for him, not a bad goal, but I know many don’t share the same opinion.
I won’t deny Markstrom has allowed more uncharacteristic goals against in his six starts this season than we’re used to, but my belief in him as a high-end number one remains unshaken. At 4-1-0 with a 0.903 SV%, Markstrom seems to be rounding into form. His last two performances against Pittsburgh and Edmonton have been encouraging and look like steps forward.
And, for those waiting for more Dan Vladar appearances, they’re coming. Calgary’s schedule gets a whole lot busier starting Tuesday night.
Recent articles from Pat Steinberg