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Calgary Flames hold on against Avalanche to win season opener: Beyond the Boxscore

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Stevenson
3 months ago
An electric start to the season for the Calgary Flames, winning their first season opening game since 2009. Calgary came out and put the peddle down on a Colorado Avalanche team that played in Denver the night before. It was a good thing the Flames put the pressure on while their opponent was sluggish because when they found their legs, they were able to hem the Flames in their own zone. Regardless Calgary did enough to bump their slump and get their coach – Darryl Sutter – his 700th regular season coaching victory.
No single game sample size can be used to ever make overarching judgments on any player – but it is useful to see how everyone stacked up against their opposition.
CF% – 53.96%, SCF% – 60.52%, HDCF% – 54.7%, xGF% – 60.09%
It’s a Team Game – The Avs owned the third period with an xGF% of 84.49% – Calgary was fortunate to cash in on the early power play goals. After watching the power play falter all preseason it’s good to see it come in clutch for a victory. The defending champs really know how to play when they turn their game up to a higher level – Calgary can use that third period as motivation going into Edmonton on Saturday to be stronger structurally and – absolutely necessary – more disciplined.
Corsi King – Dillon Dubé (70.33 CF%) rolled his impressive preseason showing into a solid first game. That shorthanded wrister was a called shot all the way despite being on an odd man rush with Andrew Mangiapane (64.73%). The Flames had most of their players finish positively in terms of chances. Corsi in itself is just an overall chance metric – just because the other team shot the puck more doesn’t mean you were on the bad side of quality chances. A random shot from the boards is still counted here the same as a breakaway shot. This is why all these statistics – combined with the necessity of watching – are imperative for proper evaluation.
Corsi Clown – Jonathan Huberdeau (37.80 CF%) and company were down at the bottom of this – and I want to immediately clarify it doesn’t mean they played bad at all. It just means the other team was able to get possession, but when we get to the scoring chance ratios – especially the high danger opportunities – we’ll see all these players below 50% here were just fine. You’d like your top line players in Elias Lindholm (44.70%) and Tyler Toffoli (37.91%) to get more shot attempts then their opponents, but as the coach said there is more work to be done.
Under Pressure –
Those little coloured bars right up the middle of the graphic mean power plays – so it’s natural to see spikes in shot pressure in the direction of whichever team has the power play. The spikes you see when there isn’t a power play in effect – now that’s the real impressive stuff. That means some extended 5v5 pressure with a lot of shots. Major concern in this one is the absolute fading out of any Flames pressure in the third period.
Taken By Chance – Dillon Dubé (75.41 SCF% // 100 HDCF%) was the only player not to see a high danger chance against at 5v5 – impressive considering he was playing every shift against a significant level of skilled competition. Linemates Andrew Mangiapane (70.30% // 79.17%) and Nazem Kadri (74.76% // 79.17%) also had great games – as it usually plays out. Noah Hanifin (49.31% // 65.22%) and Rasmus Andersson (49.31% // 65.22%) are great examples of finishing under 50% in Corsi but doing the defensive job necessary in their own zone. 5 players saw 3 high danger chances go against them – Mikael Backlund (52.60% // 22.24%), Blake Coleman (52.84% // 22.24%), and Trevor Lewis (57.10% // 22.24%) were the forwards. One game sample size but I can already hear everyone screaming to get a more skilled player next to 11 and 20.
xG Breakdown –
Obvious note that doesn’t need stated – Elias Lindholm is very good at hockey. 0.86 total expected goals from Huberdeau’s linemates – something I’m gonna be very interested in tracking all year. When you have an elite passer like him it’s fascinating to see how close he can get his linemates to scoring.
xGF% – This is where I would like to bring back Jonathan Huberdeau (51.45 xGF%). He was last in corsi yet finished with a positive ratio in terms of accumulative quality of chances. Yes, you want the line to be better in terms of possession, but this early into a brand-new tenure you take the victories where they come. Not every line finds instant chemistry like Kadri (75.81%), Dubé (77.58%), and Mangiapane (77.93%). There are still some passing issues noticeable in transition, but its occurring less and less each outing. The top two defenceman here tonight were MacKenzie Weegar (75.04%) and Chris Tanev (68.12%).
Game Flow –
The tale of two games – a flaming ascent and an avalanche back towards level… I’m not apologizing for that.
Game Score –
Shot Heatmap –
Two things we needed to see after the preseason – more defence around the front of the net and a more significant effort at getting chances from the slot. Check yes for both. There will be games this year where Calgary defends well enough the other team can’t even sniff the crease – that will almost assuredly never happen against a team as talented and as well coached as the Avs. Once the top line finds ways to get more sustained pressure and not just rush chances the red area in front of Calgary’s attacking section will be more prominent.
In The Crease – A winning start to Jacob Markstrom’s season he was solid in many aspects tonight. The first 4v4 goal the player needs to be handled by the defenceman, here at BTB we do not blame power play goals against on the goaltender unless they are doing some weird Mike Smith level stuff, and you try stopping Nathan Mackinnon with a full head of steam. 5v5 Markstrom saw 19 shots – 6 high danger – 1.13 expected goals against with just the 1 high danger goal against. All that adds up to a 0.947 5v5 SV%.
Today’s Specials – I just want to use the start of this to compliment Dubé on not giving up after the linesman almost foiled his 2-on-1 with Mangiapane shorthanded. Not enough good things can be said about the way he played. Kudos to the power play for finding their groove – it turned out essential to getting the 2 points. Toffoli’s goal was a slick little bit of quick passing, and Huberdeau’s dish to Lindholm after drawing in all the eyes of everyone on the ice was just nasty. Finding power play goals against quality teams helps so, so much over the span of the whole season.
Player Spotlight – MacKenzie Weegar – Of all the new editions none shone more tonight than the lone change to the defensive core. Weegar was physical, involved, and impactful in every area in a positive manner. The block and subsequent immediate tracking down of the puck before stretching that tape-to-tape pass to Andersson for his goal was top level stuff. All eyes were immediately on Huberdeau after the loss of two star wingers – it’s only natural – but getting Weegar was always an absolute steal. Florida had no business giving him up let alone including him in that insane return package. The real beneficiary is the fans in Calgary who get to watch him work his butt off in the Flaming C for the next 9 seasons.
The Goals –
Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –
1) Dillon Dubé
2) MacKenzie Weegar
3) Andrew Mangiapane
The Flames next game is Saturday at 8 p.m. MT against the Edmonton Oilers – broadcast on the season premiere of Hockey Night in Canada.
Current record: 1-0-0
(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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