The Calgary Flames need to keep Blake Coleman, Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane together

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
6 months ago
The Calgary Flames’ record of 2-6-1 over the first nine games certainly wasn’t what many were expecting, with the influx of new blood on and behind the bench and a new captain to lead the way. The chances that they’re generating in the offensive zone (when they’ve been able to enter the zone and maintain possession) haven’t been bad by any means, but they have been unsuccessful when it comes to putting the puck in the back of the net. The big-name and big-contract players aren’t performing up to snuff once again, Rasmus Andersson missed four games due to a suspension, and it seems like Jacob Markstrom, despite putting up some fantastic numbers in most every game, can’t avoid giving up a soft goal here or there that can kill any momentum the Flames generate.
It’s a frustrating time to be a Flames fan, and it doesn’t take watching much of the team’s games to see that. However, even though the vibes remain toward the bottom of the barrel, there’s one line of forwards, in particular, that, so far, have been excellent when it comes to generating high-danger scoring chances and capitalizing on them as well.
Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Blake Coleman
Those are the three players who have been strong contributors on both ends of the ice thus far for a struggling Flames team. When head coach Ryan Huska needs something to start going in their favour, he puts those three players on the ice, and it’s not a surprise why.
As of the writing of this article (Oct. 30), the Flames have played nine games, and that combination has been nothing but fantastic. Per Evolving-Hockey, in the eight games that their line has been together, they sit second in 5v5 expected goals for percentage (xGF%) in the entire NHL (minimum 40 minutes TOI). They also are the league leaders in Fenwick for percentage (FF%)–the percentage of unblocked shot attempts generated over the total unblocked shot attempts when they’re on the ice–at almost 70%, which is a crazy high total.
Not only has their offence been strong, generating the second-highest 5v5 expected goals for per 60 (xGF/60) in the league at 4.81, but their defence has been strong too, with the 10th-lowest expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60) among their NHL counterparts.
Now, I know I just threw lots of numbers at you, so why not supplement that with some video clips? Here are a few that represent exactly what this line is all about.
First, a short clip that ends with a great chance in front against the New York Rangers:
Next, a strong defensive play in the neutral zone, a strong zone entry by Mangiapane, a good shot and puck retrieval on the rebound, and a goal for Coleman:
Finally, another strong puck battle won below the goal line and a continuous fight for the puck in front of the net that results in a Mangiapane goal:
Of course, these are just three clips to help prove the point that not only are the Flames getting some solid shot production from this line, but they’re also getting high-danger shot production and tangible results from this line as well.
Coleman, Backlund, and Mangiapane have been a source of consistency in a world of inconsistency for the Flames so far this season. Even though the other lines have had trouble figuring things out (save for the fourth line of A.J. Greer, Yegor Sharangovich, and Walker Duehr, who have had their moments), that hasn’t stunted the performance of those three forwards. They consistently play well-structured defense, all of them are more than capable of transitioning the puck with speed, and they’re all exceptional at winning the puck back after they’ve lost it.
If there’s one thing that the coaching staff shouldn’t do at this critical juncture, it’s separate those three from each other unless absolutely necessary.

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