Look, no matter what team you are if you give Connor McDavid enough power plays it’s going to burn you. Two power play goals and one empty net goal for McDavid – nothing at 5v5. While you can’t count it as an actual win maybe we could call it a sentimental win. Those aren’t as nice, but from them we can see a lot of things that were executed well. The Flames had the majority of the 5v5 momentum, the just couldn’t get out of their own way.
CF% – 60.34%, SCF% – 66.91%, HDCF% – 59.01%, xGF% – 59.33%
It’s a Team Game – Since the puck dropped the Flames pushed the Oilers at 5v5 taking advantage of their weak coverage low in the offensive zone. They showed a tendency to funnel the puck towards the high danger zone in front of the net. They controlled the flow well but kept taking penalties with over-aggressive protection techniques. Most nights they have a skilled enough PK to bail them out, but it was unwise to give McDavid enough opportunities to create a hole for Calgary to climb out of early.
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Corsi King – Oliver Kylington in his two minutes of ice time had 100% CF%, I didn’t see him do anything wrong, but you may as well have scratched him rather than subject him to the mental game of dressing and then never seeing the ice. Of those that actually played the pairing of Erik Gudbranson (81.28%) and Juuso Valimaki (74.37%) were dominant. Did I think I’d say that about Gudbranson in game one? No. Did he deserve it? Yes, he did. Some moments I disliked, like a random pass to the point on a sustained attack when there was nobody there, but way more good than bad on Saturday.
Corsi Clown – Milan Lucic (39.93%) had a rough night all around. Trevor Lewis (47.25%) was closer to the median but ultimately was short. Only four Flames were below the 50% line, featuring the two aforementioned players with Nikita Zadorov (43.45%) and Chris Tanev (41.81%) – now that the regular season games count, I’m worried about Zadorov’s transition game paired with Tanev, we need more time to get a full hold of the situation as constructed.
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Taken By Chance – Erik Gudbranson (100 SCF% // 100 HDCF%) no scoring chances against tonight. Valimaki (88.20% // 100%) as his partner worked well. We never really saw Valimaki work with Guddy in the preseason but game one was a spectacular showing, albeit in lower TOI than the other two pairs. I loved the effort from Matthew Tkachuk (72.85% // 75.46%) tonight who put up a team high six high danger chances tonight. A strong start being effective at creating stuff around the net.
xGF% – From Glenn Gawdin (52.02 xGF%) to Dillon Dube (79.42%) the forwards really brought it tonight. Sean Monahan (75.46%), Johnny Gaudreau (69.58%), and Elias Lindholm (66.67%) all brought it tonight. Andrew Mangiapane (71.94%) with the beautiful play to stop the rebound with his foot before potting the lead-off backhand goal also brought it too.
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Game Flow –
From the midway point on (when the penalties ended) the Flames took control and tried to dig themselves out of the early deficit. They got to within one before Puljujarvi ripped a heavy shot to retain the 2-goal lead. Oilers questionable defence is still evident, and unfortunately the Oilers power play stole another one.
Game Score – Gudbranson (2.46) and Valimaki (2.38) running away as the best Flames structurally. It was nice to see Glenn Gawdin (0.04) float some water in his first game of the year. He had a nice shot opportunity off a quick pass in the zone too, it’s good to see him play in the role he earned game one.
Shot Heatmap –
Flames clearly did a better job of shooting from the middle of the ice. The vacancy of chances from the high slot is a compliment to the defensive play of the Flames forwards. You don’t get a heatmap against you like that without a strong backcheck.
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In The Crease – Just two goals at 5v5 against on 20 shots. Markstrom was okay at 5v5 – I’d probably want the Puljujarvi goal back from the distance it came from. Derek Ryan’s crash and bang bounce goal is hardly one to pinpoint on the goalie. I’ll never blame the tendys for power play goals either – unless they take the penalty themselves. 1.31 expected goals against with one high danger chance and one low danger chance finding their way past the pads.
Today’s Specials – The power play had chances tonight, but ultimately fell short of creating a goal. When you’re up against an opposing power play that has a possibility to set a record for finishing % each year then you’re going to need some executions. One thing not counted in the stats to which I noticed was how many rushes the Oilers got back on the PK. They were aggressive and challenged the perimeter hard, the Flames never had time to really set up.
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Player Spotlight – Noah Hanifin – This could be his year to breakout huge. He’s got his own D-pair with an adequate partner and no Norris winner in his way. He had solid numbers all the way around tonight, didn’t get scored at 5v5 and pushed play towards the Oilers end. He’s on my radar in a big way this season.
Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –
1) Andrew Mangiapane
2) Elias Lindholm
3) Erik Gudbranson 
(Stats compiled from Naturalstattrick.com // Game Score from Hockeystatcards.com)