Beyond the Boxscore: Flames can’t play catch-up against Sabres

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Stevenson
1 year ago
The Calgary Flames came out flat and the young Buffalo Sabres made them pay to the tune of a 6-3 loss on Thursday night. The lines were put in a blender for the first time – not unsurprising considering the major roster overturn this off-season. Always interesting to get looks at new line combinations to see if anything pops, if not you can always go back to what worked the first three games. I thought Calgary did keep pushing back all game, not going out without a proper fight, but ultimately just one too many defensive gaffs were enough.
CF% – 44.29%, SCF% – 44.88%, HDCF% – 40.64%, xGF% – 42.76%
It’s a Team Game – The expected goals weren’t crazy one-sided seeing as the Flames did get their fair share of quality chances. Many coming in the third period when they were the significantly better squad trying to crawl back into it.  The score was certainly reflective of the Flames play in the first two periods which saw the Sabres get plenty of high-quality looks. Missing a top 4 defenceman isn’t easy but it showed up as a bit of a chemistry issue for Calgary on Thursday night. Just not quite all on the same page every single shift yet – really a non-issue for a squad that is more than capable of bouncing back as soon as Saturday. If the losses stark stacking in a row that’s when real concern should arise.
Corsi King – Mikael Backlund (72.56 CF%) led the Flames in the loss with an 18-6 advantage in shot attempts at 5v5. Reminder Corsi is all the attempts whether they hit the net, hit the post, are blocked/deflected, or even ones that miss. Considering his 12 minutes of ice time in a 6-3 loss an 18-6 advantage is significantly good. Linemates to start the game Blake Coleman (69.54%) and Trevor Lewis (71.83%) also showed well. The only defenceman over 50% was Michael Stone (69.43%).
Corsi Clown – The fourth line ended up getting buried in the defensive zone for long shifts and it happened multiple times. Brett Ritchie (13.91 CF%), Milan Lucic (15.61%), and Kevin Rooney (18.43%) struggled on zone exits. Elias Lindholm (18.69%) had a performance I was not used to seeing from him. All in all the majority of the team struggled and couldn’t correct the track until the third period. The Flames did the right thing and scored first – but just collapsed for awhile after the Sabres goals.
Under Pressure –
The lack of pressure in the second period while being down 4-1 isn’t my favourite thing to watch. It would be much preferable if that never happens again. The start of the third period was great to see though. Whatever happened in the dressing room at 2nd intermission kept the team competitive – a welcome sight for the fans that stayed in the building till the end.
Taken By Chance – Despite the result six players did not see a high danger chance go against them. Leading the way with over 4 high danger chances is Michael Stone (74.06 SCF% // 100 HDCF%). Jonathan Huberdeau (47.93% // 100%), Tyler Toffoli (60.79% // 100%), Blake Coleman (76.12% // 100%), Trevor Lewis (81.35% // 100%), and Mikael Backlund (84.77% // 100%) round out that group. We’ll get into the group of three that saw over 5 high danger chances against, with two goals against at 5v5, next.
xG Breakdown –
First time this season Calgary was out expected – in a game i really thought they were going to dominate. Credit to the Sabres who played well and caught Calgary slacking.
xGF% – Brett Ritchie (4.65 xGF%), Milan Lucic (5.29%), and Kevin Rooney (5.83%) had a rough game. The hard part was seeing Lindholm (13.71%) struggle. The centre of the ice on the rush was wide open for the Sabres in the first 40 minutes. The defensive reads by some of the rearguards had me scratching my head too. Only Michael Stone (74.90%) finished above 50%. Nazem Kadri (62.18%) finished with good metrics again – the most consistent Flame skater to start the year. I selfishly want Kadri-Mangiapane-Dubé back together – they work really well together. Pinder called them the Buzzsaw line on Barn Burner this week – I second that motion.
Game Flow –
Not by any means a complete blowout. The third periods efforts really salvaged the whole performance that the second period tried to disrupt.
Game Score –
Shot Heatmap –
We now have an example of what not to do again – mainly that giant blue section right in front of the Flames net. Doesn’t make it easy on your goaltenders that’s for sure. Oh yeah this is just 5v5 too… like i said what not to do.
In The Crease – Any game that saw 4 goals go by at 5v5 is not a good night. One was low danger, one was medium danger and two were high danger. This was not a strong outing but everything either goalie faced came from the middle of the ice. The Sabres made a strong effort to shoot from the slot and Calgary failed to defend it well enough. 2.49 expected goals against at 5v5 and 4 against – we move on.
Today’s Specials – One power play was it for Calgary – and the Sabres scored on it. The penalty kill was working until Alex Tuch made a great toe drag around Mangiapane with Nikita Zadorov in the box. Not an A grade night for the Flames special teams – but it certainly didn’t lose them this game.
Player Spotlight – Andrew Mangiapane – A slick looking goal and another night where he never gives up on the puck. The hustle this man employs when he’s on the forecheck is what I wish every player on the team had. He gives defenders as little time as possible with the puck and is a direct cause of countless turnovers. Like bees chasing down a threat to their hive Mangiapane is always tracking down the puck.
The Goals –
Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –
1) Mikael Backlund
2) Trevor Lewis
3) Michael Stone
The Flames next match is on Saturday night at 8 p.m. MT against the Carolina Hurricanes.
(Stats compiled from Naturalstattrick.com // Game Score from Hockeystatcards.com // xG and Under Pressure charts from HockeyViz.com // Game Flow and Shot Heatmap from NaturalStatTrick.com)

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