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The good, bad, and ugly of the Calgary Flames: Games 11-15

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
24 days ago
We’re back with another edition of the good, bad, and ugly of the Calgary Flames. The Flames didn’t end up with great results from a win/loss perspective, but they actually played really well in this stretch of games.
They ended this five-game segment with a 2-2-1 record collecting five of a possible ten points. Elias Lindholm led the way in scoring both in goals (3) and points (7). Rasmus Andersson led the Flames in assist with 5.
Lets take a deeper look into some Flames topics from this segment.

The good

Play at 5 on 5 
As I mentioned in the intro, the Flames played some really good hockey of late. Unfortunately, it was just one of those stretches where the team wasn’t getting bounces, getting key saves at the right time, or scoring a big goal. That seems to be changing now with two wins in a row.
Although the results weren’t great, their process was. From Nov. 7-14, the Flames as a team ranked third in HDCF%, fourth in CF% and, sixth in xGF% in the NHL, All their underlying numbers were rock solid, minus their PDO which is their save percentage added to their shooting percentage. Both were areas where the team struggled.
The Flames are going to win a lot more games than they lose if they continue to play this way.
Nikita Zadorov
Big Z looks to have taken another step in his NHL career. This is the best hockey he has played since joining the Calgary Flames in the 2021 off-season. He has stepped up into a top four role with the injury to Chris Tanev, and he has not looked out of place.
Zadorov has simplified his game and started using his strengths of his size, long reach, and skating to become a reliable top four option for Darryl Sutter. No longer are we seeing him make reckless plays with the puck and chase down opposing forwards looking for unnecessary big hits, two areas of his game where he has got in trouble in previous years of his career. He is playing a simple, steady brand of hockey and it’s paying off for him. He’s gained the trust of Darryl Sutter as Zadorov played the most 5 on 5 minutes of any Flames defensemen in the last five games.
It’s showing in his underlying numbers too.
Nikita ZadorovCF%SCF%HDCF%xGF%
November 7th-14th60.37%55.88%55.17%54.86%
Emergence of the Adam Ruzicka-Elias Lindholm-Tyler Toffoli line
This has been a huge development for the Flames over the last five games. Elliotte Friedman reported this past Saturday on 32 Thoughts that the Flames are in the market for a scoring winger. Could they put that on hold in the short term due to the play of Adam Ruzicka?
Ruzicka has been playing on a line with Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli, and that trio has development some strong chemistry in a short amount of time. Ruzicka has some underrated skills and smarts. He does a great job along the boards winning puck battles and cycling the puck. He has also been good off the rush, as he showed in the Winnipeg game. That line works well together because you have an elite 200-foot player in Lindholm to carry the load in the defensive zone, Toffoli has a pure finisher, and Ruzicka as a smart, strong player who can do some dirty work in the O zone.
Ruzicka-Lindholm-Toffoli have been on the ice together for 34:10 at 5 on 5. Their results in that small sample size are incredible.
 CF%GF – GAxGF%HDCF%
63-28-7372.31$4-171.34%73.33%
 
GoalsAssistPoints
Elias Lindholm347
Adam Ruzicka235
Tyler Toffoli235
(Lindholm, Toffoli, Ruzicka production in the last 5 GP)

Best goals

Love the feed from Huberdeau on this Backlund goal.

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Trevor Lewis with arguably the most important goal scored in this five game segment. The GWG to break the Flames seven game losing streak.
Nice little one timer from Tyler Toffoli.

Best saves

Jacob Markstrom’s “Stack”-holm Syndrome save (credit to The Big Show on Sportsnet 960 for coming up with that name). This was one of Markstrom’s best saves as a Calgary Flame.

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Markstrom with a game saving stop against the Kings.

Biggest hits

Viktor Arvidsson took an absolute beating from Nikita Zadorov and Jonathan Huberdeau.
Brett Ritchie was all over Cole Perfetti against the Jets on Saturday.

The bad

There really wasn’t a lot to be concerned about in this segment of games. But here are a couple topics where we can nitpick.
The power play
The Flames power play during this last five game segment was not great. The PP ran at a 20% clip, but those numbers are a little inflated because of their 2-for-4 performance against the Devils.
The Flames went a combined 0/9 in games against the Bruins and Jets. The lack of power play success cost them a win in Boston. They played good enough at 5 on 5 to win that game, but just couldn’t find a way to create any offence whatsoever in their six attempts against the Bruins. You could tell that the first unit desperately missed the play making and creativity of Jonathan Huberdeau. The Flames lack a true power play quarterback or high-end puck distributor when Huberdeau is out of the lineup.
Line combinations
I was going to put the line combinations in the ugly category, but that was until every line scored a goal against the Los Angeles Kings.
Regardless of that fact, I don’t think the lines are at an optimal level right now. Each line has a fourth liner or AHL call up on it. Here are what the lines looked like against the LA Kings.
LWCRW
HuberdeauBacklundLewis
RuzickaLindholmToffoli
MangiapaneKadriLucic
ColemanDubeRitchie
Moving forward I would like to see the coaching staff load up the top three lines with more talented players. I am not a huge fan of putting Lewis, Ritchie, and Lucic on separate lines.
Here is what an ideal forward group could look like with this current group of forwards:
LWCRW
HuberdeauKadriDube
RuzickaLindholmToffoli
MangiapaneBacklundColeman
LucicLewisRitchie
In this configuration you have two lines who have proved they can dominate a game from a possession standpoint in the Backlund and Lindholm lines. You can give the Kadri line offensive zone starts and favorable matchups and try to make that be a pure offence line. And then the classic fourth line of Lucic, Lewis, and Ritchie which has worked in the past.
In an ideal world we would see Matthew Phillips get a chance with the big club, but unfortunately this organization refuses to call him up.

The ugly

There is nothing I would put in the ugly category for this edition of the GBU. Some thoughts I had for this section was the fact Matthew Phillips has not got a shot in the NHL despite being the exact type of player the Flames need in their lineup right now. I also thought about doing a write up on Kevin Rooney. But I don’t think he has been bad enough to include him in the ugly section of the article. He is a player still getting used to playing in a new system. We’ll give him a longer opportunity to show the type of player he is capable of becoming for the Flames.

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