The Flames left fans with very few questions about bouncing back after a big loss in Vancouver. A very physical game from the Calgary side as they pushed around the Minnesota Wild seemingly at will. Respect was gained for Kirill Kaprizov as he took the brunt of the attack and never faltered for the Wild – eventually tallying a goal late in the third period. Despite all of that the thoughts post-game all turned to that of Oliver Kylington who took a scary fall into the end boards after a scurfuffle with Ryan Hartman – head coach Darryl Sutter said the player was fine in his post-game presser.
CF% – 67.39%, SCF% – 63.57%, HDCF% – 63.2%, xGF% – 63.69%
It’s a Team Game – An entire group effort against a team as strong as the Wild is quite impressive. Calgary’s become the class of the Pacific division at the 50-game mark and have the inside edge to finish first in the division. I’m with Bieksa – let’s see them try and duke out 7 games against Vegas first – but the hype around Calgary is growing league wide. They do the little things right, dominate the neutral zone of the ice, and do the old reliable when it’s needed – pucks in deep.
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Corsi King – I may get chastised because the fans want to dislike him so much but Brett Ritchie (73.65 CF%) was very noticeable in a positive sense out there tonight. A couple of times in the first period I thought he was playing well enough to maybe grab his first goal of the season, but alas it did not surface. 5v5 ice time leader Nikita Zadorov (72.20%) got rewarded pre-Kylington scare with some PP2 time. Sutter has always liked two defencemen on late power plays in the third period, especially if the Flames have a lead. I’m sure Zadorov himself appreciated the sentiment.
Corsi Clown – Nobody even came close to losing this match-up tonight. Heck only one forward line had trouble in quality share amongst the entire team.
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Taken By Chance – Tyler Toffoli (52.13 SCF% // 0 HDCF%) with a big 3-point night. The Flames third line was the only one not to get a high danger chance in this one – again I emphasize just at 5v5. We only discuss special teams in “Today’s Specials”. Rasmus Andersson (58.51% // 58.59%) was able to hit Toffoli with a cross seam pass right on his tape to find the goal, but because of shot location and distance it was classified as a medium danger chance. Johnny Gaudreau (87.62% // 100%) and Elias Lindholm (86.02% // 100%) both avoided seeing a high-danger chance against.
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xGF% – Mikael Backlund (75.24 xGF%) does not get enough love for what he does every night for this team. The phrase people always use is “If Mikael Backlund is your third line center you’re in good shape” – but the Flames seem to be doing just fine with him as their second line center. Maybe they upgrade or adjustment should be looked at for their third line to try and get Toffoli some more 5v5 run support. Milan Lucic (42.58%) can still play solid defence, but his offence has gone cold – The Flames could really use a Ružička or Dubé resurgence down the stretch.
Game Flow –
Calgary took it to them quick and early. The Wild may have got that deflection goal early but that was about the entirety of what they could create on offence in the first period. After that first goal it was all Calgary, Minnesota couldn’t even get through the neutral zone without the puck. They rebounded to play better in the second, but you can not fall asleep at the wheel against the Flames. Minnesota slacked for a bit at the end of the third and Calgary made them pay.
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Game Score – Three-point nights for Matthew Tkachuk (3.51 game // 1.69 average) and Tyler Toffoli (2.94 // 0.50) see them at the top of the table. Other notable game score performances from Elias Lindholm (2.61 // 1.47), Johnny Gaudreau (2.07 // 1.745), Rasmus Andersson (2.01 // 1.00). Only the Flames fourth line and Jacob Markstrom finished with a negative game score – more on Markstrom right away here.
Shot Heatmap –
It wasn’t as heavy a slot attack as some of the Flames other dominant games (against CBJ for instance), but it shouldn’t be because the Wild are a top 10 team in the league. They may be slumping now but that’s where i have them – extremely dangerous with good structure and a solid mobile defence. Calgary certainly pushed them to their limits so the instant re-match will be interesting to watch. With the amount of after whistle scrums don’t be shocked if the next game features a few good tussles.
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In The Crease – Everything was going swimmingly and then Nick Bjugstad found all sorts of space behind Markstrom. That was swiftly followed by the Wild’s most dangerous player using his shot to score from an area not many should score from. That made the game 5-3 and because I know how skilled the Wild are I had to readjust to the edge of my seat. Bjugstad’s was considered high danger, Freddie Gaudreau and Kaprizov’s were marked as medium danger. 1.37 expected goals against with 3 5v5 goals for a 0.824 5v5 SV%. Now all those numbers are (not so) nice, but the W is what mattered in the end.
Today’s Specials – The other thing Toffoli adds to the top unit besides his scoring shot is the way he holds his stick. This allows Lindholm to shift to the middle and gives Calgary some more one-time options on the power play. Toffoli’s nifty pass to Lindholm in the middle before the Tkachuk power play marker shows why he’s on that unit instead of number 23. Last note for special teams: great to have the penalty kill return to form.
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Player Spotlight – Erik Gudbranson – Gudbranson got some love on the Hockey Night intermission and I’m with the panellists in agreeing it was deserved. Around 3 reviews ago we mentioned the offensive zone starts Gudbranson and Zadorov were getting but mentioned that putting players in position to succeed is never a bad thing. Gudbranson’s intermission interview himself about being grateful for Calgary to give him another chance shows that even 50 games into the season he doesn’t feel like he’s done resettling himself into the league. His charts aren’t going to show him being some flashy stud – heck some might still not flatter him – but he’s playing the best hockey he’s ever played in his career and if he continues to do that he will grow even more as a player.
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Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –
1) Matthew Tkachuk
2) Tyler Toffoli
3) Andrew Mangiapane (Guy was such a fun pest tonight, and he got a geno)
This was too good not to include:
The Flames play the Wild again in Minnesota on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. MT.
(Stats compiled from Naturalstattrick.com // Game Score from Hockeystatcards.com)

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