Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And after 15 years, Calgary Flames hockey under Darryl Sutter passed out of all knowledge. Until, when chance came, it ensnared another group of fans. It came to the 2021 group. And there it consumed us.
That was a Sutter game I’ve watched many a time, years ago: tight-checking and smothering. The word ‘boring’ is going around as a descriptor of the Darryl Sutter Flames but let me tell you, there is certainly nothing boring for those of us cheering for the good guys in red. If boring means having the puck all night and keeping Connor McDavid at bay, give me boring all night long.

Game flow

All the talk heading into last night’s tilt was of the Battle of Alberta unless you were Darryl Sutter. The new bench boss was clear he was much more focused on his club’s performance than the opposition.
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CGY
5v5
EDM
41
Shot Attempts
41
20
Scoring Chances
20
10
High Danger Chances
8
49.55%
Expected Goal Share
50.45%
(5v5 Data from Natural Stat Trick)
Period one was tight-checking and the Flames certainly made it difficult for the Oilers to get their high-powered offence firing as they didn’t surrender a single high danger scoring chance in the first frame. Sutter has the notoriously slow-starting Flames starting on time. It was a low event period but set the table for a strong second.
(Scoring Chances from MoneyPuck)
Thank god Oliver Kylington returned to the game after that nasty collision. The slow-motion replay was nightmare fuel and it would be a massive bummer for 58 to run into injuries of that variety right when he’s starting to get some playing time and finding his game.
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Let’s hope Jujhar Kharia is alright, as well as that slow-motion replay was also nightmare fuel.
The game opened up in the second frame. The Flames tallies were driven by some solid and smothering play in the neutral zone, aggressive forechecking, and a Mike Smith adventure.
The best way to defend Connor McDavid? Turn him around before he hits the redline and put one into the Oilers net. Aggressive and smart read by Lindholm on the Dube goal.
The D is finally active in transition! Hallelujah! Rushing the puck up the ice and carving up the neutral ice, Oliver Kylington’s zone entry created a four-man attack that left Elias Lindholm wide open for the snipe.
After some spotty defensive coverage allowed the Oilers to get within one, it was time for the Wandering Adventures of Michael Smith. Listen, I’m more of a Smith apologist than most Flames fans (he was great in 17-18!) but nothing, literally nothing, boiled my blood more than his extracurricular activity outside the crease (Jarome Iginla jersey retirement anyone?). So, to be on the receiving end of a Smith wander is always a treat.
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Actually, a really heads-up play from both Mangiapane and Lucic on the goal. That line was very solid all night.
3-1 lead, Darryl Sutter behind the bench, time to shut things down! Hold up. Again, things were pretty wide open in the second and the Oilers were able to create five high danger scoring chances. They continued to press creating three high danger chances to the Flames zero. You can only keep 29 and 97 contained for so long.
 
(MoneyPuck)
Again, the best remedy for the McDavid problem? Create offence against him. Tanev and Hanifin’s strengths as a pairing were on full display on the game-winner: just when you think McDavid is going to walk around the d and score a goal we’ll have to see for 15 more years, Tanev calmly and expertly corrals him to the corner. 55 smacks the puck out of danger heads up ice and joins the rush to create an odd-man advantage where he buries a great feed from Mangiapane. 4-3 Flames.
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It’s games like these where I remember and am grateful we have Markstrom between the pipes. I almost had a heart attack on the final Oilers’ rush but 25 was up to the task.
It was nice to see the Flames have some killer instinct and finish this game off. We’ve seen the opposite far too often over the last season and a half. Playing tight games and winning them is important for this group. Not to gush over Sutter too much, but compare the outcome of this game to the previous meeting of these two clubs. The Flames were not able to reel in the two points and let a good performance slip away. The opposite happened last night.
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3-0 for Darryl Sutter.

Hanifin and Tanev

We can all agree they are the top paring now right? They controlled the quality shot share and Hanifin in particular is turning into a rover in all three zones.
Pair
xGF%
CF%
Hanifin-Tanev
77.30%
50.00%
Giordano-Andersson
29.20%
40.00%
Valimaki-Kylington
47.30%
61.10%
(5v5 Data from MoneyPuck)
The same cannot be said for the Gio-Andersson duo. They look out of sync in the defensive zone. Andersson, in particular, is having a hard go. To me, he has been one of the few skaters struggling to adjust to the high pace game instilled by Sutter. Although, he was struggling prior to the coaching change as well.

Upfront

Excellent work from the Lindholm group last night. Tactically, that’s exactly what this team needs from them. All three skaters on the Backlund unit are playing a cohesive brand of hockey right now. I didn’t think Lucic would last long with those two but he has been solid. And, let’s be real, Andrew Mangiapane is this club’s best 5v5 skater right now. The kid was born to play Sutter hockey.
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Line
xGF%
CF%
Tkachuk-Lindholm-Dube
80.70%
57.10%
Gaudreau-Monahan-Ritchie
44.50%
52.40%
Lucic-Backlund-Mangiapane
69.50%
54.50%
Leivo-Bennett-Ryan
27.20%
46.20%
Gaudreau struggled last night. He was visibly frustrated as well. Several times you could see him slamming his stick in frustration. His unit wasn’t terrible but they did get hemmed in their own zone multiple times. I like Ritchie’s game but if the club is hell-bent on keeping 23 and 13 together they really need a winger who can suppress shots and help them get the puck out of the d-zone. Perhaps it’s a discussion for a later date but I sure would like to see them toy with separating Monahan from Gaudreau. 13 is still your offensive weapon and you need him going.
(5v5 Data from MoneyPuck)

Keeping McDavid in check

Yeah, he wasn’t kept off the score sheet entirely but the Flames group did a nice job managing the nuclear threat. Again, the best way to keep 97 at bay? Make him play defence. The Lindholm and Backlund units were able to that last night and held EDM97 to a single high danger chance and scored twice while he was on the ice.
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That ‘power’ play

Ugh, that man advantage is killing the Flames right now. It’s so one-dimensional and so limited in terms of options. They either force the short pass to the slot, blast it from downtown at the point, or Lindholm floats his wrister from the high right circle. It’s such a non-threat right now.
I like the idea of giving Hanifin a run there. The Rasmus Andersson experiment hasn’t really been fruitful. Get some puck movement and seam passes going, though. Was there a single royal road pass on the powerplay? It’s so stifled and needs an adjustment.

Top Performer: Elias Lindholm

A textbook performance from 28 last night. He had a goal, a primary helper, and the Flames controlled the quality shot share with him on the ice (80.52 xGF%).
I can’t wait for round 2.
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