ALN_24_Boxscore

It was a dreadful evening in Calgary. The Flames put forth a dismal effort against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, losing 4-1. After Roman Polak‘s opening goal was deflected in by an unfortunate bounce off Travis Hamonic, it was all Leafs. Toronto beat Calgary in most statistical categories and dictated play for the duration of the game. Only being able to muster 20 shots on Frederik Andersen, the Flames’ offense was stifled and never had a chance to get going. A screened Michael Stone shot was the only one that fooled him, but it was too little too late. Mike Smith had a good game in the losing effort, stopping 26 of 29 shots. Neither team was able to capitalize on the man advantage, but it was costly turnovers that tilted the ice in this match. With only a handful of legitimate scoring chances, there wasn’t much to love about the performance last night.

Statistical Breakdown

Team Stats

All Situations 5v5 SVA 5v5
CF 45.1% 48.0%  43.0%
SCF 42.9%  45.4%  40.3%
HDCF 50%%  58.3%  52.3%

5v5 Player Stats

  • As usual, the 3M line paced the team’s possession stats, with the three of the highest CF% at 5v5 ranging from 58.9%-62.9%.
  • Micheal Ferland posted the highest team CF% at 65.2%.
  • The fourth line of Matt Stajan, Cutris Lazar, and Freddie Hamilton posted dreadful CF% at 20%, 18.8%, and 15.4% respectively. They were also buried in defensive zone starts, posting OZS% of 25%, 0%, and 25% respectively.
  • On the polar opposite spectrum, the Leafs fourth line posted the three highest CF% on their team. Dominic Moore, William Nylander, and Matt Martin were all above 70%.
  • Toronto only had five players who posted a OZS% of more than 50% in comparison to the Flames who had 12.
  • The Flames held Auston Matthews to zero shot on goal for the first time in his career, while he posted a 46.4% CF with 25% OZS.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Player of the Game

Smith gets the nod. His numbers don’t look overly appetizing (3GA, .897SV%), but this game could have gotten out of hand in the first and second periods had it not been for Smith. He continues to battle night in and night out, and it’s a shame he hasn’t received better support from his teammates. With his first game against his former team coming this week, expect an even more motivated Smith to be in net.

Thoughts on the Game

John: This one really stings. It’s tough to explain being a Flames fan in Toronto in general, but the day after being embarrassed by the hometown team? Don’t even get me started. Keep me in your thoughts today as I weather the Leafs nation storm.

What an abysmal effort from Calgary last night. After 24 games this season, this was unequivocally their worst outing. Sure there may be some positives to take from this game, but as a whole this should be a wake-up call for a team that is not guaranteed a spot in the playoffs at this point.

Some may look to the absence of Kris Versteeg and Jaromir Jagr as determinants for the muted effort last night, which is a valid argument. Both occupy spots on the first and second power play units respectively, and play key roles on them. Versteeg acts as a point man, normally controlling the puck to give Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau time and space to make plays. Take that out of the equation and those guys are required to control the puck more, which you could easily see last night. You can’t fault Mark Jankowski for the PP’s poor performance, as this was his introduction to first unit reps. Versteeg, while demoted to the fourth line, still provides some offensive upside on the ice in comparison to his replacements.

Jagr, on the other hand, was the big body in front of the net that helped with screens, as well as the odd assist. He also was the glue that kept Sam Bennett and Jankowski going on the third line, which has been better as of late. They haven’t scored in their past few outings, but have gained valuable chemistry and looked to be turning a corner.

What is interesting to note, is that if you think missing these two players was the reason for the poor outing, what will happen next season? Jagr and Versteeg are both UFAs and at this point I don’t expect them to be remaining with the team. With the lines switching around, it appears that Stajan, Hamilton, and Lazar are the current replacements. Stajan also looks to be on the way out, and Hamilton and Lazar haven’t been impressive. So who should the Flames be inserting into the lineup instead? Look to Stockton. There are a handful of players who would be able to play the same role as what you are getting out of Hamilton and Lazar. Keep in mind, Hamilton already cleared waivers and has until December 3rd to be sent down. Lazar also doesn’t seem like a player who would be claimed off of waivers, but it’s tough to gamble with him. It would be a very smart move to reunite Jankowski and Andrew Mangiapane, with Bennett, to spark an affordable and dangerous line.

There needs to be an injection of inspired play to the bottom six at the moment. Look at the opposition from last game, they have their three stars in Matthews, Nylander, and Mitch Marner all playing on separate lines. All four of their lines had a scoring chance, and all looked dangerous at one point or another. The Flames didn’t even look like they really wanted to ice the third and fourth lines, which will be an issue down the stretch. There are changes that could be made and the clock is ticking.

Karim: I’m not gonna lie here, I was bored for most of that game. The Flames had zero jump, generated almost no sustained offense, and played what was probably their worst game since opening night. They couldn’t retain the puck in the offensive zone, couldn’t make passes, and seemed to be perpetually chasing the puck in the defensive zone. This was definitely a night to forget, and the Flames are supremely lucky that their chance for redemption comes tomorrow against a bad Arizona team.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives from last night, largely because there were so many, but let’s try and find some positives. As mentioned earlier, Matthews was held to zero shots on goal for the first time in his young NHL career. He had a negative Corsi differential being matched against the Monahan or Mikael Backlund line for the duration of the game, and the Flames really seemed to shut down the Leafs’ superstar. This is at least encouraging; the Flames top-six is able to match up against one of the best lines in hockey and come out on top.

And with that, we move back into the negatives. The biggest and most obvious reason the Flames lost last night was the bottom-six. I understand that Versteeg and Jagr did not dress, the latter withdrawing close to puck drop, but this cannot go on. The Leafs’ bottom-six downright dominated the Jankowski and Stajan lines last night, and they were the sole reason the Flames didn’t stand a chance. Bennett definitely wasn’t the best center at the beginning of the year, but Jankowski hasn’t been much better since being called up. With bottom-six injuries, the Flames need to recall Mangiapane and shake up the lines.

Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland

Bennett- Backlund – Frolik

Mangiapane – Jankowski – Tkachuk

Lazar- Hamilton – Brouwer

It’s tough for me to justify breaking up the top-six in any way because of how great they’ve been, but the Flames need a spark. Bennett has a proven track record of success with Backlund and Michael Frolik, and Matthew Tkachuk is good enough to kickstart that third line.

Moving Forward

What needs to be fixed? That broken record.

The bottom-six needs to be better. Even if they aren’t filling the score sheet, they need to be more responsible in the defensive zone and grind out more offensive zone shifts. They receive more than their fair share of offensive zone starts and need to start doing something with them. If the Flames want to win, it starts there.

What needs to continue? The Penalty Kill. 

After a truly horrendous start in which the Flames’ penalty kill was ranked 31st in the league, it’s actually been significantly better as of late. Successful special teams are incredibly important in today’s NHL. If the Flames can continue their PK improvement, they should find themselves in fewer situations where they have to dig themselves out of early holes.

Next Game

ALN_24_NextGame.jpg

Calgary continues their four game home-stand against the Coyotes on Thursday. The Coyotes have been better in the last few weeks and won’t be an easy out for Calgary. The Coyotes are still one of the worst teams in the league and  these are must win games. Smith would love to earn a win against his former club, so hopefully the Flames will provide more run support on Thursday than they did last night.

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