Wednesday: St. Louis Blues @ STL
Exactly a year ago, Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik met a new linemate named Matthew Tkachuk. After a full season’s worth of playing time together, 3M came to St. Louis with intentions of showing why they’ve been the best line in the league. What better way to celebrate this than to have Backlund scoring both the Flames’ goals, with Tkachuk picking up two assists and Frolik with one. Unfortunately this wasn’t enough as the Flames fell 5-2 to the Blues. Alexander Steen, recently back from a broken hand, racked up a goal and three assists.
Flames Player of the Game
Scoring both goals for the Flames, the player of the game goes to Backlund. Though he didn’t dominate possession like he normally does (see below), he did put up points in this one with his offensive touch on full display.
Bill: For a Flames team rolling into St. Louis after a highly charged comeback win against the Nashville Predators and play the way they did, I thought they put up a reasonable effort. For the most part, this was a fairly even tilt. The Flames barely won the 5v5 battle, putting up a CF% of 52%. Not only were they taking shots but they created better offense when they were at even strength. The Flames had 20 scoring chances for to the Blues’ 18. They also had a HDCF% of 54.6%. Any team that puts up numbers like these could easily walk away with two points, but the Flames once again victims of an atrocious penalty kill.
With all the improvements they’ve made to be more disciplined as of late, it seemed fitting that their penalty kill completely unraveled, giving up another pair of powerplay goals for the second straight game. For more information on the work the Flames need to do on their penalty kill, Mike Pfeil (@mikeFAIL) has put together an excellent penalty kill tracking project and the results so far have been nothing short of fascinating.
The Flames are definitely taking steps in the right direction, and if they can continue to be the better team at 5v5, they’ll soon become a force to be reckoned with.
John: It was tough to see Eddie Lack not get the win tonight. He struggled hard last year in Carolina and on joining the Flames, had to wait until game #10 of the season to show he was worth the acquisition cost. Guys like Lack and Curtis Lazar are players who always have that positive attitude whenever they are around the media and simply instill a sense of hope in the fans. We wish that all of the Flames players succeed at some point, but the ones who cause us to say “wow what a nice guy,” we definitely hope their success comes in abundance. People that look at the score and say that a 5-2 game is on Eddie Lack would be wildly misinformed. Yes, his stat line was 24/28, with a 0.857SV%, but this start should actually be a huge confidence boost moving forward. Let’s look at the goals he allowed shall we?
Goal #1 – Lack started the first period off with a few solid stops, but Travis Hamonic gave Lack no help when it was needed. Instead, he gifted the Blues with an atrocious giveaway. Two passes later this was the result. Beating Lack far side, and in between Hamonic, this was a goal you’d like to have back. But since his teammates put him in a tough position, we aren’t faulting him.
Goal #2 – Let’s be clear, the Flames’ penalty kill is not at an adequate level at the moment, so that’s instantly taken into affect. When you have a goalie who hasn’t started in over 6 months, you can’t be taking stupid penalties. After nearly getting beaten off the initial start (thank you goal post), Jaden Schwartz finds the loose puck and buries it. Seeing as Michael Stone decided to stand there motionless for what seems like an eternity, and completely forget his man behind him, we can’t blame Lack for that one.
Goal #3 – On ANOTHER Blues power play, Alex Pietrangelo walks right in and beats a completely screened Lack. With Mark Giordano moving out to try to block the lane, he leaves Alex Steen free to block Eddie’s vision, as we see Lack struggling to find a line of sight. Tough to stop a puck you can’t see.
Goal #4 – After Gio is taken out by a *questionable* dump in, Paul Stastny is able to walk in and beat Lack far side once again. This one as a well placed shot. This one essentially sealed the game, and would have been huge to stop if Lack could have had it.
While you obviously can’t let in four goals and expect to win the game, even Eddie himself admitted that down the stretch he improved. It wasn’t enough to “put it in the win column”, but I would be extremely fine putting him in the net again sometime soon. Mike Smith has been out of this world, but he can’t play every game. Especially if the Flames want to make a deep run this spring, they need to be saving some of those starts. I was pleased with Eddie’s performance last night, the rest of the team not so much. Plus the man is just an all-star in general.
Karim: I was surprised to see the Blues at the top of the standings after a few games in, but watching them play last night was eye opening. They are a big, fast, skilled team with depth in all positions (except maybe in net). Their zone entries were magnificent, their top-6 rivals the best in the NHL, and the way Pietrangelo is playing reminds me of his days in junior where he was an offensive force every night. The Blues’ strength up front is clearly evidenced by the possession numbers posted by the 3M line – particularly Backlund who we often take for granted as one of the best two-way centers in the game. With 27% zone starts he finished the game with 40% Corsi for; respectable for his usage but considering this is Backlund we’re talking about it isn’t even close to the dominant defensive play we’re used to seeing. He actually finished with the second worst Corsi for on the team, slightly ahead of Micheal Ferland who finished with 39%. It was interesting to see the 3M line struggle to handle the Blues’ offense, while at the same time accounting for 100% of the Flames’ offense in the game. Though one of the goals was solely due to Allen misplaying the puck, it was a good night for the line offensively. Other interesting usage stats to note: Sam Bennett started exactly zero shifts in the defensive zone, and his line centered by Mark Jankowski had a pretty good night. Bennett finished with 56% and Jankowski with 60% Corsi for. Troy Brouwer was surprisingly second on the team with 67%.
Once again, Calgary was the better team at 5on5 generating more even strength scoring chances (20-18) and high danger scoring chances (6-5). The Flames even cleaned up their discipline a little bit, only giving the Blues three powerplay opportunities in the contest. Unfortunately, they went 2/3 and the Flames were never able to recover. Glen Gulutzan stressed the importance of special teams in his post game presser, this time citing stronger pressure on zone entries as an area of weakness instead of the discipline narrative we’ve heard lately. The Flames still have a lot of areas to clean up but it does seem like they’re figuring it out. Jankowski looks like a real player and we should expect to see him in the lineup for a long, long time.
Game data courtesy:
Friday: Dallas Stars @ CGY