Friday: Dallas Stars vs CGY
The Calgary Flames should have easily handled a tired Dallas Stars team. Yet they could not put together a win in front of the home crowd, falling to 1-4 in the Saddledome. Hopefully they start getting wins at home because last night was the first game of a seven game homestand. The Flames seemed to have the life sucked out of them as the game went on, being a couple of penalties called against them for soft plays while the Stars had free reign to accumulate infractions with little repercussion. Regardless of the fate handed to them from the men in stripess, the Flames’ penalty kill inexcusably fell victim to two goals against for the third straight game. That was all that was needed for the Stars to pick up the win on the second leg of their Albertan back-to-back. The lone goal for the Flames came on behalf of a lethal Johnny Gaudreau wrist shot, his first 5v5 goal of the 2017-18 campaign.
Flames Player of the Game
One player deserving of vindication is Travis Hamonic. In a baffling slashing call against him mere seconds after he was interfered with, Hamonic found himself sitting in the penalty box as he watched Esa Lindell score the tying goal on the resulting powerplay.
Though he was not the best Flames player on the ice yesterday, Hamonic held his ground and ended the night with 51% CF at 5v5, and was second on the team with time on ice, just behind his defensive partner TJ Brodie.
Bill: That was a hard game to watch. It was terribly mundane and the first 30 minutes was far from spectacular. It wasn’t until Gaudreau scored before there was any ounce of emotion. However, whatever glee Gaudreau’s goal might have bestowed on the Flames was quickly dissipated by that ridiculous penalty call on Hamonic.
It’s one thing for the Flames let the chances of winning a game slip away by their own lack of discipline, it’s another to push back against the unstoppable force in the NHL known as refereeing. It was extremely frustrating to see Hamonic and Matt Stajan being sent to the box while Kris Versteeg gets whacked in the head by a stick at centre ice with no punishment the Stars.
Unruly officiating aside, Glen Gulutzan effectively gave the Stars home ice advantage with his line matchups. Tanner Glass saw more ice time than Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski. That alone made Ken Hitchcock’s job that much easier. It was a disservice to Bennett’s line to keep them on the bench for as much as Gulutzan did, as Troy Brouwer and Glass were in no way more deserving of ice time. Also, see below:
As per Natural Stat Trick, the Stars had six HDCF events at 5v5. Brouwer was on the ice for four of those (Stajan and Glass were on the ice for three). The fourth line arguably gave the Stars the momentum they needed coming off a heated loss to the Edmonton Oilers the previous night.
Though the line matching was a definite gaffe on Gulutzan’s part, Jaromir Jagr‘s return on Sunday will guarantee a better lineup. At least for the top nine. How the fourth line will fare is entirely contingent on who the Flames decide to send to Stockton. Last nights’s weird player usage suggests that Jankowski might be departing given how little ice time he was given. The Flames can make for easy paperwork and send him down, likely making the roster worse off, or they can use this as an opportunity to tweak their lineup moving forward. The decision will be made soon enough, so for now, keep your fingers crossed that they don’t err on the side of poor judgment.
John: I echo pretty much all of Bill’s thoughts, from the listless first half, the asinine penalty calls, and of course the troubling player usage by Glen Gulutzan. These questionable decisions are reflected in the analytics from last nights contest. According to Hockey Stats, the “third” line of Bennett, Jankowski, and Versteeg had some of the most confusing combined stats to further this point. As Bill mentioned, this line played a total of 9:06, 7:53, and 10:51 in the game under all all situations. Had Versteeg not played on the two power plays the Flames had, these would have been the lowest three ice times for the team. That being said, the trio all sported a ZS% of 66.67-71.43% at 5v5, second most to the top line of Gaudreau, Monahan, and Ferland. This means for the limited time that they were iced, they were given an extremely favorable situation compared to other lines. How did they respond to this opportunity? By sporting the lowest CF% at 5v5 out of the forward group (37.5-43.75%). From a possession standpoint, even when given a favorable offensive zone start, this line was unable to capitalize and eventually lost possession (noted by the sub 50% CF%). This almost gives GG a pass on the limited ice time as they were unable to sustain any offensive zone pressure.
On the flip side, his deployment of the “fourth” line makes literally no sense. While Glass, Brouwer, and Stajan all displayed a CF% greater than 50% at 5v5, their ZS% was truly deplorable. With percentages of 12.5, 16.67, and 16.67, respectively, the fourth line was on a completely different level of defensive zone starts. Whether you think these players are defensively sound or not (I’m leading to the latter), when you have home ice advantage and you choose to deploy your fourth continuously in your own zone – chances are things won’t go your way. On the opposite site, To see the 3M line hover around a CF% and ZS% of 50% at 5v5 makes you question GG even more. It could mean that due to lack of scoring, GG is relying on them to produce offence more now compared to having them dominate the opposing team’s top lines. To play your top defensive player under the wrong circumstances is not the smartest of decisions by GG. With the next six games at home, I expect him fully to rebound and start deploying the smartest match ups. Since technically that is what home ice is for.
Karim: The beauty of having three people on the TWC team is that when one of us misses a game the others can easily fill the void with excellent analysis. Though I missed last night’s contest, it seems like it was quite the stinker. Why Gulutzan thought playing Glass more than Bennett last night is beyond me, and it really looks like he squandered his matchup advantage by deploying the wrong units and the wrong time throughout the night. No Flames players on waivers today signals the end of Jankowski’s stint in Calgary for the time being if Jagr does in fact return for Sunday’s match against Washington. Weird things are happening right now and I don’t like it.
Game data courtesy:
Sunday: Washinton Capitals @ CGY