Beyond the Boxscore: Performances by Backlund, Wolf highlight Calgary Flames win over Montreal Canadiens

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Stevenson
3 months ago
Not every win a team earns over the season is a pretty one – Saturday evening against Montreal falls under that category. That was not to say it wasn’t entertaining. The Calgary Flames used their power play and some slick passing from a resurgent Jonathan Huberdeau to overcome a pretty strong and consistent wave of pressure by the Canadiens. Dustin Wolf had to stay strong again in another consecutive quality performance for them to achieve the outcome, but that makes it 2 in a row for Calgary getting some real positive contributions up and down the lineup.
CF% – 41.65%, SCF% – 34.83%, HDCF% – 39.89%, xGF% – 38.81%
Playoff Odds: 8.4% (Moneypuck.com)
Lottery Odds: 2.5% to move 10 spots (Without getting 1st, Tankathon.com)
It’s a Team Game – The Montreal Canadiens really were the better of the two teams at 5v5, constantly finding more chances than the Flames were able to generate. Times came when the Flames bottom line members got stuck for over a minute defending – only for their goaltender to bail them out. Calgary still did the number one thing I like to see them do in getting the majority of their chances from right in front of the crease, the amount to which they were able to get was limited. Shoutout to Michael Matheson on the other team – I thought he really stood out on the back end.
Corsi King – Of course most of the team being on the downside of the shot attempt ratio doesn’t apply to every single player. Blake Coleman scrapes by as the percentage leader over the overall raw chance leader in Nazem Kadri (51.15%). My girlfriend asked me as the game was going on who I thought the best player on the Flames was right now – I had to ask her to clarify in the moment or potential. When she specified in the moment, I debated Huberdeau (47.39%) and Weegar (42.64%) before telling her Kadri. Now – as I type this – I’m completely realizing the answer is actually Markstrom, so we’ll just pretend she asked for the best skater. Nazem Kadri overcame a really rough start to fire this team back into playing in competitive hockey games. They were 3-9-1 to start the season when he was struggling, they are 30-20-4 since. Seriously the last loss of that bad stretch was Connor Zary’s first game – the catalyst to Kadri’s resurgence, but even now with Zary out Kadri’s drive has stayed.
Under Pressure –
Taken By Chance – There were quite a few high danger culprits tonight, but the pairing of Weegar (37.50 SCF% // 32.98 HDCF%) and Miromanov (37.58% // 36.04%) had the most against at over 7. The part that matters most was them being involved in two of the goals scored and only 1 against, but the overall body of work in the Montreal game wasn’t their best. In fact it really is the first game where Miromanov has struggled in this regard. Then he shows his offensive lethality by saucing the puck to Weegar before going directly to where the rebound landed for his own goal. Do I wish to see some better gap control and some more responsibility in getting the first pass out of the zone? Yes, I do. Do I also want him to skate around like he does in the attacking zone creating chances? All day, every day.
xG Breakdown –
xGF% – After his best game as a Flame Matt Coronato (7.28%) gets fourth line duty with a guy coming fresh off a broken ankle. Not a fan of that – he earned a better look with some better linemates than Kuzmenko (31.77%) who the coach didn’t play in the last 6 minutes anyways. Every time he gets isolated on that fourth line it leads to struggles, they really need to put him in better spots to succeed and understand he has the best potential of every other skater In your system. Stop messing around with his development and let him learn to find offence at the NHL level with a better space creator than Kevin Rooney (35.11%). His time in the AHL is proof enough he has a top level scoring touch, seeing them not prioritize maximizing that skillset is frustrating.
Game Flow –
Game Score –
Shot Heatmap –
In The Crease – So we start with consecutive appearances and Wolf shows he can play a big game – now he gets the second consecutive start for the first time and he backs his play up again. I was trying to think of one word to describe how Wolf looks while tending the goal and “athletic” stood out above the crowd. He can bend, challenge, slide, and react with incredible speed and processing ability. His lateral movements are so strong they can shoot him out of his crease, but usually only when necessary. Occasionally I see the odd crazy pass that reminds me of a roaming goaltender, but it’s also 10 games into his career. One more game early in the week before a long break off – no doubt he needs to start that one and be allowed to try and keep his momentum going.
Player Spotlight – Jonathan Huberdeau – FlamesNation comment section I hear you: yes I should have praised Huberdeau more after the game against the Golden Knights he was indeed fantastic, but I really wanted that BTB to focus in on the youth succeeding. Tonight, I’ll give him his dues and praise him some more because that pass to Pospisil was some vintage, Florida days Huberdeau. Primeau had no chance after a great track down and then a between the legs pass into space where it was the easiest goal Pospisil will ever score with a goaltender in the net. Whatever happened to him New Year’s Eve must have been magical because in 2024 he has 5 goals and 23 assists for 28 points in 31 games, that’s 68% of his production on the season.
Another shout-out tonight as Mikael Backlund becoming just the 11th Flame in history to reach 200 goals. For over a decade now he has been one of the top defensive centres in the league with top notch penalty killing and a steady amount of support offence. He countlessly gives to the community and the Flames Foundation and deserves any praise he gets. There were online critiques about his captaincy, and I just don’t see how the team playing this hard for a guy that constantly brings his game night-in-night-out is deserving of it. He’s not the number 1C the Flames have been searching for, but he’s a coveted piece that is more of a glue than people think.
The Goals –
Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –
1) Dustin Wolf
2) Martin Pospisil
3) Mikael Backlund
(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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