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Beyond the Boxscore: the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche play one heck of a hockey game

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Stevenson
8 months ago
That was the most entertaining hockey game of the season. No, it wasn’t the 10-8 goalfest from last weekend but it was two real good teams duking it out with each other. Both teams showed one another they were ready for some playoff like hockey and were not going to back down from anyone. There were times Flames players had control, and times when it was all Avalanche. The final result (a 4-3 Flames overtime win over Colorado) was just an absolute treat for spectators from both sides – don’t worry, we’re doing this again next weekend too.
CF% – 52.72%, SCF% – 45.41%, HDCF% – 46.15%, xGF% – 54.81%
It’s a Team Game – As about an even a match-up as one may see all year. The Avs had the majority of the scoring chances and high danger chances (by a slim margin) and Calgary did better in overall possession and had higher quality opportunities. Play tilted back and forth all night with Calgary taking better individual numbers in the first and third while Colorado took over the second. You have got to beat good teams if you want to win the Stanley Cup and if this turned into a conference final match-up the world would be treated to something special.
Corsi King – Trevor Lewis (73.66 CF%) has had some extra pep in his step the last two weeks. He’s been the defence first PK specialist they wanted all year and now he seems to be speeding up as the season narrows up. Erik Gudbranson (65.60%) and his partner Nikita Zadorov (58.54%) had yet another strong impactful game. Darryl Sutter last season took statistical whipping boy Michael Stone and turned him into a good everyday player – he’s done the same with Zad-branson. Make no mistake the Jack Adams front runner is behind the Flames bench.
Corsi Clown – Remember: when Calgary is on the road the other team gets to dictate the match-ups in terms of player personnel. Colorado has some good defensive players in their lineup, and it seems the Mikael Backlund (45.11%) line with Blake Coleman (38.51%) and Andrew Mangiapane (37.34%) were the ones that got buried when the Avs had extended possession. Where it counts though – the goal column – the trio surrendered no genos.
Taken By Chance – Nobody was able to accumulate a hefty amount of high danger chances, but nobody gave up a ton either. No single player really faltered in their defensive assignments tonight. It’s natural to expect players as talented as Mackinnon, Rantanen, and Makar to get at least some quality opportunities. The Flames fourth line surrendered no high danger opportunities – welcome back to the lineup Dillon Dubé (62.30 SCF% // 100 HDCF%). Oliver Kylington (49.10% // 62.32%) finished tops amongst the defenceman in terms of ratios.
xGF% – Dillon Dubé (86.96%) and Brett Ritchie (82.05%) both kept their games simple and found success because of it. Having 29 in the lineup can add so much speed and that’s needed against the Avalanche. Milan Lucic (56.49%) not only got off to a strong start he got in one hell of a fight with Kurtis MacDermid. It ended respectfully after going for over 40 seconds long – just added to the entertainment value of the game.
Game Flow –
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That nice little arch in the second shows that Colorado was able to snag momentum back for the Avalanche. Calgary then decided to come out for the third period absolutely flying and tiring the Avs players out for the remainder of the game. Calgary was able to dictate and control flow for the most of the third and then Elias Lindholm sent Rantanen back to the gym before feeding Johnny Hockey for a breakaway OT clincher. Beauty.
Game Score – There is a delay at the time of writing but I’m not going to leave this section blank again. No let’s talk about Johnny Gaudreau and his merry band of goal scorers. The Flames top line did not shy away from the daunting task of trying to snag a win in Colorado. The Avalanche were 20-3-2 on home ice coming into this game so being able to beat them in any fashion was difficult, Calgary stuck to their gameplan and came away with the 2 points. 3 points for each of the top line – Matthew Tkachuk particularly was sharp on his passes from the boards tonight. More on that beast of a centre later.
Shot Heatmap –
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I’m not concerned with anything major from this game. The Avalanche are a power of this league and Calgary went punch for punch and came away with the decision. Did some people have some slip-ups: yes. Did your goaltender bail you out when they happened: yes. The Avalanche putting Francouz in did worry me because he has some Shesterkin level numbers in backup duty when it comes to saving medium danger opportunities. Check Moneypuck.com and their goalie tables if you don’t believe me – and the only goal that beat him was the OT breakaway. Every goalies subject to high danger goals but when you surrender as little as these two teams do it makes many nights easier for the goalers.
In The Crease – I don’t get to talk about Dan Vladar (8-3-1 record now) because he doesn’t start too often but got the call on a Saturday night primetime game and didn’t disappoint. He was a bit erratic at times, but you can tell and visibly see some of his habits changing – specifically in regards to him playing the puck. There were times he was about to go play it from behind the net but stopped himself midtracks and went back to the net. Jordan Sigalet and Jason LaBarbera are doing quality work with the young man. 1.79 expected goals against at 5v5 with one high danger and one medium danger chance getting by him.
Today’s Specials – I don’t usually discuss 4-on-4 here but when Nathan MacKinnon got the puck and started charging at full speed up the ice, I was worried – when I saw he blew by Gudbranson and Zadorov at the same time I was expecting a goal. I know they came over the boards while Calgary had possession in the offensive zone – something they’ve been doing all year as the coach helps them find success – but the Avalanche players speed was immediately too much for the both of them with the extra space on the ice available. Both Flames D players played well, just that one play really stood out to me as an “oh, that shouldn’t happen again” moment.
Player Spotlight – Elias Lindholm – There’s some anti-Lindholm Selke talk out there and people are using RAPM charts to justify it – putting them next to Tkachuk’s for context. Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Tkachuk doesn’t have an impact that high if Lindholm isn’t doing the majority of the support work and always being in a good position to engage on the boards or take away low-to-high passing lanes from in tight. Without Elias Lindholm that whole line sees their numbers take a hit. Lindholm also gets dinged at 5v5 numbers every time he ends a PK on the ice, while also being fed exclusively defensive zone starts. 58 points in 54 games and most likely going to break 30 goals this year. Put some respect on the man’s name. (Yes, I know the Selke is still Bergeron’s to lose – and he should still win it but Lindholm deserves votes.)
Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –  
1) Elias Lindholm
2) Johnny Gaudreau
3) Erik Gudbranson
The Flames play again on Monday as a new Battle of Alberta just shows up after that entertaining masterpiece. It’ll be a 7:30 p.m. MT start time.
 (Stats compiled from Naturalstattrick.com // Game Score from Hockeystatcards.com)
 

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