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The good, bad and ugly of the Calgary Flames: Games 21-25

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Photo credit:© Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
1 month ago
We are back with another edition of the good, bad and ugly of the Calgary Flames. This edition is going over games 21-25. The Flames went 3-2 with wins against the Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals, and Arizona Coyotes. And losses to The Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens.
This was a good stretch of hockey for the club. They should have gone 4-1 but couldn’t find a way to score more than one goal against the Canadiens.
All stats are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick

The good

The Flames’ defensive game

Calgary Flames fans should be very pleased with where their defensive game is at right now. I know that their offensive struggles are getting a lot of the headlines right now, but we should give them credit for shoring up the defensive part of their game. The team is playing the type of defensive hockey that could win them multiple playoff rounds. That’s how good they’ve been.
Here is where the Flames rank league wide in defensive metrics since Nov. 26:
Games PlayedCorsi Against/60Goals Against/60xGoals Against/60Scoring Chances Against/60High Danger Scoring Chances Against/60
548.8 (4th)2.2 (5th)2.65 (5th)25.6 (5th)8.8 (2nd)
They’ve been a top 5 team in the NHL at suppressing scoring chances in their latest five games. Get used to the style of hockey they’re currently playing. It may not be the most exciting brand of hockey being played in the NHL, but it’s the style that is necessary for this team to be successful. The Flames need to be giving up 1-2 goals against as this roster does not currently have the offensive firepower to outscore any defensive deficiencies.

Dan Vladar

The Flames back up goaltender has come in and given the Flames quality minutes that were desperately needed. Jacob Markstrom has struggled this season and has admitted it himself by saying he “sucks at hockey right now”.
Vladar has stepped up in a time where the Flames desperately needed to secure points and get back in the playoff picture. Since Nov. 22 among 35 NHL goalies who’ve played at least 180 minutes, Vladar ranks first in high danger save percentage (0.946%), fourth in save percentage (.935%), fourth in goals against average (1.97), and fifth in goals saved above average (5.07). He has been phenomenal in this stretch of games.
Vladar deserves to get the bulk of the starts over the next two or three weeks while Jacob Markstrom finds his game in practice.  If Markstrom can’t return to the form he was at last season, then give Vladar the net for a long stretch of games. It doesn’t matter who the “starter” is. The starter should be the goalie who gives the Flames the best chance to win on a given night. If that’s Markstrom, then great. If it’s Vladar, that’s also great. We can’t let egos, salaries, or contracts get in the way of winning hockey games.

Adam Ruzicka and Mikael Backlund

Backlund and Ruzicka have been the two best forwards for the Flames in the last five game stretch. That shouldn’t surprise anyone as Backlund always seems to find a way to be the most consistent forward on the team while elevating his linemates.
Points (All Situations)CF% (5 on 5)HDCF% (5 on 5)xGF% (5 on 5)
Backlund4 (3rd)62.30% (3rd)72.00% (2nd)66.58% (1st)
Ruzicka5 (2nd)61.17% (4th)62.50% (6th)60.67% (5th)
Ruzicka-Backlund-Coleman has turned into a reliable, possession driving monster of a line which is great news for the Flames. It’s a group that is big, fast, competitive, and responsible in their own end. Darryl Sutter can throw that line out against any competition and feel comfortable doing so. Now they just need to figure out what to do with the other three lines.
A couple other “goods” I want to shout out are the play of Chris Tanev and MacKenzie Weegar. They have stepped up and become the Flames best defensive pairing on the team. They have been dominate during this stretch of hockey. And finally, a quick shout out to Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane who have stepped their game up immensely. Those two are critical part of the Flames offence. They have to be scoring and generating chances if the Flames want to have success this season.

Best goals

Wait… Phillips still hasn’t been recalled?

Best saves

Biggest hits

Best karaoke partner

Best of Matthew Tkachuk being Matthew Tkachuk

Best vocabulary

The best reason to stay in your crease

Biggest lie

The bad

This faceoff by Elias Lindholm

Jonathan Huberdeau

This is a case where the numbers and the eye test tell me two different stories. The numbers would tell us that Huberdeau might have been the Flames best forward in games 21-25. In those games he led the Flames in points with 6, was first in HDCF%, and was third in xGF%. A lot of the numbers would indicate that he was really good.
But my eyes are telling me a different story. I am seeing a player who is struggling with the puck right now. He still does not seem comfortable playing with his new linemates and playing under Sutter’s system. Huberdeau is turning the puck over a lot, forcing plays, not playing with pace while carrying the puck. He lacks the dynamic element of his game that we’ve seen from him in the last 3-4 seasons in Florida. We have yet to see him consistently show off his tremendous vision and offensive instincts. During this stretch he also led the Flames in minor penalties and giveaways.
The good news is that even though he is struggling, he still put up some good numbers for the Flames. Just imagine what he’ll do once he gets his game together.
I am certainly not giving up on this player. It takes some new players more time to get adjusted to their new coach, teammates, and surroundings. Let’s give Huberdeau some more time to figure things out. Because when he does, watch out. He’s going to be great.

The fourth line

Calgary’s fourth line is by far the weakest part of this roster. That may sound like a standard statement about any hockey team. But this fourth line has been particularly bad.
The Flames have played great hockey as a team over the last five games. They’ve been regularly outshooting and out chancing their opponents, except when the fourth line is on the ice.
GPxGF%CF%HDCF%Points
Milan Lucic537.12% (17th)46.48% (16th)45.45% (13th)0
Trevor Lewis537.12% (17th)44.12% (17th)40.00% (15th)1
Brett Ritchie329.76% (19th)38.46% (19th)16.67% (18th)1
Kevin Rooney243.98% (16th)53.85% (10th)0% (19th)0
(Stat and team ranking among 19 skaters)
It’s time to give the bottom end of the Flames forward group a new look. This is not working. They should start by taking Rooney and Lucic out of the Flames lineup for a while. The Flames need to add more speed and skill to this group to prevent it from getting caved in at 5 on 5.

The ugly

The Flames reluctance to call up players from the AHL

 
This is upsetting almost every Flames fan I talk to or interact with on Twitter. Everyone except the decision makers within the Flames organization, want to see young players get a chance to prove themselves at the NHL level. Just like we have seen with Adam Ruzicka.
The Calgary Wranglers have no shortage of forwards who could slot into the Flames lineup and potentially make them a deeper, more dangerous team.
Players like Matthew Phillips and Jakob Pelletier could help the top nine. Radim Zahorna or Walker Duehr could undoubtedly help the fourth line.
We’ve seen a young player come into the Flames lineup and make a huge difference already in Adam Ruzicka. What is the harm in giving the players mentioned above an opportunity to succeed in the NHL?
If those players don’t get an opportunity, the Flames will once again trade draft picks and prospects to acquire veteran NHL players at the trade deadline like they have in years past.
Here is a list of the trade deadline depth acquisitions made by Brad Treliving as GM:
Calgary ReceivesOther Team Receives
Michael Stone2017 3rd Rd Pick, 2018 5th Rd Pick
Curtis Lazar2017 2nd Rd Pick
Nick Shore2019 7th Rd Pick
Oscar Fantenberg2020 4th Rd Pick
Derek Forbort2021 4th Rd Pick
Erik Gustafsson2020 3rd Rd Pick
Calle Jarnkrok2022 2nd Rd Pick, 2023 3rd Rd Pick, 2024 7th Rd Pick
Ryan Carpenter2024 5th Rd Pick
(Trade data from Cap Friendly)
That is a ton of draft capital being shipped out the door for a whole lot of nothing in return. The only player out of this group to have made any impact on the Flames whatsoever is Stone.
Please, Brad Treliving, Darryl Sutter and the rest of Flames management team, please give some players from the Wranglers an opportunity to show what they have at the NHL level before trading precious draft capital (precious for this organization because they have traded 25 more draft picks then they’ve acquired since Treliving took over the team) for washed up, veteran players that will make no impact on the NHL team. WE’RE BEGGING YOU!!
That does it for today’s GBU. We’d love to hear what was your good, bad and ugly for the Flames in the comments section.

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