Photo credit:© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
The good, bad, and ugly of the Calgary Flames: Games 31-35
1 year ago
Happy holidays, Flames fans!
We are back with another edition of the good, bad, and ugly of Calgary Flames hockey. In this edition we will be diving into games 31-35.
This segment of games featured some good and bad hockey. The Flames played a clunker of a game against the St Louis Blues losing 5-2. It was one of, if not the most boring game of the season.
But the Flames made up for it by going 3-0-1 on a four game California road trip which got them back in a playoff spot before their three day Christmas break.
Lets take a look at the good, bad, and ugly of those games.
They beat who they needed to beat
You have to give the Flames credit for taking care of business down in California. They crushed the Sharks in back to back games 5-2 and 7-3. Took LA and Anaheim to overtime with their only victory coming against the Ducks. Beating teams that are worse than you is incredibly important if you want to make the playoffs in a top three position in the Pacific Division.
The Flames have already lost games to Columbus, Montreal, and Vancouver. They could not afford to lose against really bad teams like the Sharks and Ducks. Especially because they are going to be fighting tooth and nail to get a playoff spot.
Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman are back
You have to praise Darryl Sutter for putting the line of Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, and Blake Coleman together once again. They were one of the most dominate lines in the NHL last season, and so far, they are continuing to do the same.
During this five-game stretch, Mangiapane, Backlund and Coleman lead all Flames forwards in CF%, xGF%, SCF%, and HDCF%. Every major underlying number, they lead the forward group in. You can see why when watching them. They play the majority of their shifts in the offensive zone. They are the best forechecking line on the team. And they always seem to be in the right spots defensively. They are a treat to watch and hopefully will stick as a line for the foreseeable future.
(Backlund, Mangiapane, Coleman results and ranking among Flames forwards in games 31-35)
The pairing of Rasmus Andersson and Noah Hanifin
The top pairing has struggled at times this season. There is no denying that. But we are starting to see Andersson and Hanifin get their game back to the level it was last regular season. They have dominated play in their last five game segment. They are moving the puck up the ice better. Playing with more pace to their game. And have provided some offense to a team that needs more production from their blueline.
The numbers would prove that. Hanifin and Andersson played 81:25 together at 5 on 5. In those minutes they outscored their opponents 8-2. Without Hanifin and Andersson on the ice, the Flames were outscored 7-6.
Andersson in particular is becoming a huge player for the Flames. He scored the overtime winner against the Ducks to secure a massive second point. Andersson now leads the Flames with four game winning goals.
Best being your own worst enemy
I want to start by saying that I am not a Sutter hater by any stretch. He is the best coach the Flames have had since the late 1980s. I have a hard time criticizing someone with his hockey knowledge and winning pedigree.
Having said that, his deployment of three players in particular have been questionable. Those being Adam Ruzicka, Milan Lucic and Matthew Phillips.
Ruzicka has been relegated to the Flames fourth line with a mix of Trevor Lewis, Brett Ritchie and Radim Zahorna. This is not the place to slot Ruzicka in the lineup if you are looking to get the most out of him. He needs to play in the top nine to have success. And he was having a lot of success when in that role. As of Dec. 15, he was leading the Flames in points per game.
That leads us to Lucic.
Lucic is a fourth line player who should be in and out of the lineup at this point of his career. And that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with that.
But Sutter has had him playing in the top six on a line with Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau. This simply is not a fit. Lucic has played in 86 games in 2022. In those 86 games he has scored 4 goals, 14 assists, and has a shooting percentage of 4.44%.
357 forwards have played at least 600 minutes in all situations in 2022. Among those 357 forwards, Lucic ranks 356th in goals per 60, 266th in assists per 60, and 295th in individual expected goals. He is also 42nd in giveaways per 60 (the players in front of him are all top six forwards who have the puck on their stick a lot more than Lucic).
I point all this out not to talk poorly of Lucic. He is a great leader in the locker room, and plays his role on the fourth line well. Instead I point out these numbers to show that he is not a fit in the top six.
Finally, there is Phillips. He did not get a chance to show if he can play at the NHL level. He played in two games against the Leafs and Canadiens. In those two games he played 12:22 at 5 on 5 and 5:40 on the power play. That is not enough time for him to prove that he can play in the NHL. He will never get a fair shake under Sutter and that is something we will have to accept as Flames fans.
I don’t remember the last time the Flames got booed off the ice by a Saddledome crowd. But it happened on Dec. 16 against the St Louis Blues after a tough to watch, 5-2 loss.
This is ugly because Flames fans who attend games are incredibly supportive. They always show up, cheer loud, and respect the effort the team puts in, no matter where they may be in the standings. But that changed after an uninspiring performance by the hometown team.
This should be concerning for the Flames organization. Brad Treliving has pushed all his chips into the middle of the table for the next two seasons. Because of that, Flames fans expectations have risen, and so far the team has not met them. The Flames should worry that if they don’t turn this season around and start winning more games, and playing entertaining hockey, that they are going to upset their fans to the point where apathy kicks in. The team has been mediocre forever and the fans are getting sick and tired of it.
That does it for this edition of the good, bad, and ugly. Let us know what your good, bad, and ugly was of this latest five game segment in the comments section!
Recent articles from Robert Munnich