The Flames weren’t perfect, it certainly wasn’t pretty, and they just had to make things a little harder on themselves by allowing the game to get to extra time…but it was a marked improvement from Saturday night. Baby steps.
They showed some resilience following some penalty trouble early and fought their way back into the game. Following the listless beatdown a game prior, a little bit of fight and battle is exactly what we needed to see.
The Canucks took advantage of their power play chances and after that, the Flames took over at 5v5 for the most part.
The turning point was a relentless shift of physical dominance by the reunited 17-93-29 trio that climaxed with a high slot snipe from Milan Lucic. (Lucic is right on Mr. James Neal’s tail in terms of points since the trade…not that we’re keeping track or anything).
The Bennett, Lucic, Dube trio reminded us why and how they were so effective in the return to play in the summer of 2020: winning puck battles, owning the boards, effective pursuit of pucks, and an ultimate wearing down of the opposition in the ozone. Excellent work from Lucic and company to catalyze the comeback. I dunno about you folks but when Mikael Backlund returns I wouldn’t mind seeing this group staying together for a little while.
A great read and feed by Rasmus Andersson led to an Elias Lindholm snipe to tie things up. Andersson easily put together his strongest performance of the season alongside Connor Mackey. He was active in the offensive zone, defending zone entries, and sound in his own zone (60.36 xGF% for Rasmus at 5v5 as per Natural Stat Trick).
As with the Lindholm goal it was nice to see the Flames generating some chances in transition and off the rush. We know how dangerous this group can be in terms of quick strike offence and creating chances in transition. More of that please.
Now, everyone will say how flukey the Dube goal was. However, do we recall the the back to back games at the Dome where literally every single goal scored by both the Canucks and Leafs bounced in off of Flames skaters? This is the gods making things right. Nate Schmidt pulling his best Steve Smith impression is creating harmony in the universe. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.
Props to Dube and Lucic for the forecheck pressure. Don’t forget why that line was so effective in the playoffs together: all three are very effective and strong pressure forecheckers. Dube’s pressure does influence Schmidt’s decision making and Lucic swarms as well. It wasn’t 100 percent luck. As they say, you have to create your own bounces.
The Flames just HAD to let this one slip away in regulation, however. It would not be a Calgary Flames game if they didn’t make things interesting, after all. Why must there always be a problem?
But, as he has so many times before in extra time, Johnny Gaudreau came through. Again, not how you draw it up, not perfect, but you walked out of Rogers Arena with a win and have gone four for five against the Canucks this season.
A pretty solid performance all around as the Flames controlled much of the play and quality shot share throughout the evening.
Line up notes
I’ve long been an advocate for moving Mangiapane to the top trio. His consistent play driving and defensive game seems much more suited for the responsibility and usage Ward has been assigning the Lindholm group. Despite this seeming like a wonderful idea on paper, both Tkachuk and Mangiapane were a bit sluggish at 5v5.
The top offensive unit was cooking offensively. Gaudreau, Monahan, and Simon combined for five of the Flames 10 high danger chances at 5v5.
The aforementioned Rasmus Andersson and Connor Mackey pairing worked well. Despite some (questionable) penalty trouble, I thought Mackey really settled in playing his second NHL game and Rasmus was strong in all three zones.
Giordano and Valimaki didn’t see great results however.
I didn’t mind the Valimaki look on PP1 but honestly I think I’d rather see 55 given a chance to patrol the point there if Andersson or Giordano are given other duties.
A small pet peeve and annoyance: why sit Josh Leivo while Buddy Robinson rides pine all night? Leivo, despite having zero shooting luck, has been a positive force at even strength and, in my opinion, is a nice PP2 option. Please play him. Please.
(ES SVA Data from Evolving Hockey)
Johnny was buzzing. Not only did he snipe the game winner he registered six shot attempts, four shots, and four high danger scoring chances.
Gaudreau is getting behind the opposition defence quite a lot this season. It seems he has a breakaway almost every other shift right now. His rush goal scoring was key in his 36 goal break out season back in 2018-19. It’s a trend that I like to see and it’s making him ever dangerous.
Goldilocks Three Stars
GREAT: Johnny Gaudreau/Rasmus Andersson. I had to give both guys credit here. I’ve already expanded on 13’s performance above and Andersson is finding his footing. He’s looking like the top end defender we know he is. 2 primary assists, 60.36 xGF%
JUST RIGHT: Elias Lindholm. Lindholm was feisty and came ready to play. Game tying goal, 59.04 xGF%
NOT SO GREAT: Matthew Tkachuk. I thought most everyone was ok tonight, so I’m not looking to single Matt out but his game has been lacklustre of late and he struggled a bit 5v5.