While the Flames have been looking for depth scoring all year, it finally came through in a big win Thursday night over New Jersey. A good start to the game was hampered by an early Devils goal from Jack Hughes off a great stretch pass by Taylor Hall. The Flames answered though, with a beautiful goal by Derek Ryan off a great play on the rush that finished with a slick move in front of the goalie. Nikita Gusev made it two to one for the Devils soon after, but it was all Flames from there. Two powerplay goals from the second unit, and a pair of goals from Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau sealed the game for the home side.
5v5 Player Stats
- Ryan had the highest CF% at 72% in 11:36 of ice time.
- Monahan had the lowest CF% at 33.33% in 12:18 of ice time.
- Ryan was on the ice for a team high six HDCF with only one against.
- Hall led the team in CF% with 62.50% in 12:40 of ice time.
- Travis Zajac had the lowest CF% on the team with 31.25% in 9:31 of ice time.
- P.K. Subban was on the ice for a team high seven HDCA with only two HDCA.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Thoughts on the Game
This game was a welcome sight for the Flames. The team has struggled mightily to produce secondary scoring this season, and on a night when the big guns struggled to sustain possession, the bottom six of the forward group really did their part. The Ryan, Sam Bennett, Alan Quine line posted excellent possession numbers with a CF% of 66.67%. Most importantly was the goal by Ryan. The Flames have had a number of games where their bottom six has posted strong possession numbers, but it has almost never led to actual goals. It was good to see this line get rewarded for some strong play lately, and even better for some depth players to make a big play.
Speaking of secondary scoring, the Flames’ second powerplay unit has been awful for most of last season and early this year. Mikael Backlund specifically has been one of the leagues most unproductive powerplay contributors. However, on a night of rare secondary scoring the second unit scored twice, the first of which was scored by Backlund. It was a lucky bounce for certain, but Backlund has really struggled offensively this season (he had scored only five points on the season going into the New Jersey game). With two points last night hopefully Backlund can find some more sustained success in the points column.
Speaking of sustained success and the second unit, Noah Hanifin had a fantastic game. He had three points including the other goal on the second unit. Playing alongside a new defense partner in Rasmus Andersson, the pairing was solid yet unremarkable at five on five, with a CF% of 56.3%. However again this night was about players making big plays and finishing the puck, and Hanifin did both. At four on four he made a great rush around the back of the Devils net and a slick pass in front of the net to Sean Monahan who buried it. Then on the power play he had a quick wrister from the point that got all the way through and beat the Devils goalie. It was great to see him shoot the puck more, and get rewarded for his efforts.
Aside from the strong play of the depth forwards, it was a strange night for the top line. They were horrible from a possession standpoint at even strength, with a CF% of just 33.3%. However they also showed the value of having high end talent, scoring twice in the game. Monahan’s goal gave him points in back to back games and was a bounce he has not gotten early in the season. On Gaudreau’s goal, Monahan forwarded the puck on the wing to Gaudreau, who then burst around his defenseman and finished the breakaway on the backhand. Many Flames fans have been frustrated with Gaudreau’s play, in particular is unwillingness to shoot and his tendency to settle for sharp angles. His line was not dominant in this one, but he made a game breaking play, got to the goal, and let his skill shine.
The last important development from the game was the new defensive pairings for the Flames. The third pairing of T.J. Brodie and Michael Stone was average statistically, with a 45.0% CF in just over 11 minutes of ice time. As mentioned, Hanifin and Andersson were above average slightly at even strength, but their play was aided by some excellent individual efforts, as well as their play on the man advantage. Finally, Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic had the best CF% at 59.3% over 13 minutes of ice.
This configuration gives Calgary a more traditional one, two, three in terms of pairings, with Giordano and Hamonic providing the obvious shut down pair. Calgary will love to see Hanifin and Andersson continue to contribute offense as well, and look to get as much productivity as possible out of the third unit. If it is permanent, and especially given the Flames situation at left handed defense with Oliver Kylington, Juuso Valimaki eventually, and recently called-up Brandon Davidson, Brodie could find himself in the middle of trade talks going forward.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the Beautiful
Good: The Flames got depth scoring, with Ryan and Backlund starting to get on track offensively.
Bad: The first line got caved in possession wise, and the third pairing was mediocre as well.
Beautiful: With his father watching in the stands, Gaudreau buried a beautiful breakaway goal to make up for an otherwise underwhelming game.
Opponent: St. Louis Blues
Standings: 1st place in the Central.
Season Series: 0-0-0
Photo by: Gerry Thomas