What a run the Calgary Flames are on right now. Their third quarter of the season officially came to a close on Friday night with a strange overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres. That said, don’t let that disappointing loss distract from the fact the Flames just had their best quarter of the season. Our third quarter grades will take into consideration the 20 games the Flames played between February 2 and March 18.
Over the 20 game stretch, the Flames went an incredible 15–3–2 including an eight-game winning streak to start the third quarter. Their 15 wins were the most among any team in league over that stretch. They finished the third quarter sitting firmly in first in the Pacific Division, as well as second in the Western Conference.
They also made some great moves during the quarter, picking up Tyler Toffoli, Calle Jarnkrok and Ryan Carpenter to solidify their forward depth. Brad Treliving certainly earned an A+ grade this quarter.
Once again their underlying numbers were among the best in the league this quarter. They ranked second for CF%, and third for both xGF%, and HDCF%. They were also the only team in the NHL to rank top three in each metric in the quarter.
How do these rankings work?
A reminder that these rankings are based on a model that evaluates 5v5 play. In order to grade players, we will be using the TWC Player Offensive Evaluation Tool (POET).
The model operates similarly to the power rankings model we update on a weekly basis. The player model takes specific on-ice statistics including CF% at various danger levels, xGF%; individual statistics including goals, assists, offensive contributions, and penalty differentials; and includes an adjustment for time on ice, PDO, and offensive zone starts.
Each player’s statistics are put through the model and combined to produce an overall TWCScore. These scores are then compared to the rest of the league to determine what letter grade they fall into. If their TWC score is above 0 on their player cards then they are above average compared to all other players of the same position (forwards or defencemen).
It is important to note that the model is based on player performance at 5v5. This is not meant to diminish the efforts of the Flames work on special teams, but to be more representative of a players form against equal opposition. Only players with over 100 minutes at 5v5 were given grades. All numbers are courtesy of naturalstattrick.com. Let’s see who ranks where on the Flames squad.
Q1: A-, Q2: A-
The centre on the Flames’ lethal top line, Elias Lindholm had a tremendous quarter offensively. His underlying numbers continue to lag behind his linemates, but his goal scoring was off the charts this quarter.
As mentioned Lindholm’s underlying numbers weren’t as solid as his two wingers. His CF% ranked sixth on the team, his xGF% ranked fourth, and his HDCF% ranked fifth. That said he did rank first for xGF/60 at 3.41.
His offensive numbers are where Lindholm shined. Everything he touched this quarter found the back of the net. He led all Flames with 10 goals at even strength, while his 15 points tied for first on the team. His ixG 5.39 was unsurprisingly also first on the team. Lindholm had by far his best quarter of the season over the last 20 games.
Q1: A+, Q2: A+
The Johnny Gaudreau for Hart campaign is in full effect—as it should be. Gaudreau once again had a tremendous quarter for the Flames as their key offensive player. His point production at even strength continued to be among the very best in the entire NHL.
In the third quarter Gaudreau finished fourth for CF%, third for xGF%, and first for HDCF% among all Flames forwards. Even more impressive is his strong defensive play as he finished fifth among Flames forwards in the quarter with an xGA/60 of 2.17.
His 15 points at even strength was tied for first on the team with his two linemates. His ten assists were second on the team, while his eight primary assists led the team. He also finished second on the team with 73 iCF in the quarter. Through three quarters of the season, Gaudreau is on pace for a career-best 106 points.
Q1: A+, Q2: A+
Tkachuk finished third among Flames forwards for CF%, first for xGF%, and fourth for HDCF% in the third quarter. He also finished third for CF/60, and second for xGF/60. Defensively his CA/60 and xGA/60 both ranked fourth.
Offensively, his 15 points at even strength were tied for first on the team, while his seven primary assists ranked second and his 11 assists overall ranked first. His iHDCF of 24 ranked tied for first on the team, while his ixG of 4.7 ranked second. Other than Gaudreau, Tkachuk is the only Flames forward to earn a grade of A+ in all three quarters.
Q1: A+, Q2: B
While the debate rages on between Tkachuk and Lindholm as the team’s best two-way forwards, Andrew Mangiapane would like a word. His underlying defensive numbers in the third quarter were elite.
Mangiapane led all Flames forwards for CF%, ranked fifth for xGF%, and sixth for HDCF%. He also finished first for CF/60. Defensively he finished second among forwards for CA/60 and xGA/60.
In terms of offensive production, Mangiapane’s 13 points at even strength were fourth among forwards, and his eight goals ranked second behind only Lindholm. He continued to shoot the lights out with a 25% shooting percentage at even strength. Mangiapane continued to be one of the Flames’ most important players this quarter.
Q1: B+, Q2: A
Blake Coleman continued to play solid hockey in the third quarter of the season after a slow start early on. Along with Backlund, he’s formed an elite shutdown duo for the Flames.
Coleman ranked fifth for CF%, sixth for xGF%, and third for HDCF% behind only Backlund and Gaudreau. Defensively he was solid, sitting fifth for CA/60 and third for xGA/60.
Offensively, Coleman continued to see decent production, posting 11 even strength points which was good for fifth among Flames forwards. His four goals at even strength ranked tied for fourth on the team. Coleman had a great quarter alongside Backlund as the two have developed great chemistry. Now just get them away from Trevor Lewis.
Q1: B, Q2: B
After a slow start to the season, Mikael Backlund has turned back the clock in the third quarter as he’s once again putting up elite defensive numbers for the Flames in a primary shutdown role.
Backlund’s underlying numbers were exceptional this quarter as he ranked second for CF%, xGF% and HDCF% among Flames forwards. Defensively his CA/60 ranked first, as did his xGA/60 and HDCA/60.
Backlund finished sixth among Flames forwards with eight points at even strength, with his five primary assists ranking third. He also produced the third most shots at even strength on the team with 40, but shot just 5%.
If there’s anyone that deserves Selke consideration on the Flames, it’s probably Backlund as he was tremendous this quarter at preventing shots and goals against.
Q1: N/A, Q2: N/A
Rookie Adam Ruzicka finally earned a full-time role on the Flames this quarter, and was quite impressive to boot. Unfortunately with the Flames deadline acquisitions, he’s recently been bumped out of the lineup.
Ruzicka finished eighth among Flames forwards for CF%, 10th for xGF%, and last for HDCF%. Perhaps his most impressive feat is finishing third for CA/60 behind only Backlund and Mangiapane, showcasing his strong two-way game for a rookie.
Ruzicka put up a decent five points at even strength, good for eighth among forwards. His three goals at even strength ranked sixth among Flames forwards. He did however finish dead last for both even strength shots and iCF.
In his first full quarter in the lineup Ruzicka provided the Flames with some solid play at centre in the bottom-six—something they were sorely lacking.
Q1: A-, Q2: C+
Dillon Dube was better this quarter than in the second quarter, but his play has still been disappointing. His numbers were average, and he was even a healthy scratch for three games. He did however recently receive a promotion to the team’s second line alongside Backlund and Tkachuk last game, so perhaps his fourth quarter will be his best if this keeps up.
Dube finished second last among Flames forwards for CF%, and seventh for xGF% and HDCF%. His CF/60 ranked 10th, while his CA/60 ranked second last. All said, some very pedestrian numbers.
Dube posted five points at even strength this quarter, good for seventh on the team among forwards. His two goals at even strength were tied for third last. He also managed just the 10th most even strength shots and iCF among Flames forwards in the quarter.
Q1: N/A, Q2: N/A
In the Flames’ biggest in-season trade ever under Brad Treliving, the team picked up Tyler Toffoli this quarter. Toffoli’s grade should be taken with a grain of salt however. He only played 16 of 20 games in the quarter, and spent a good chunk of that time with two boat anchors on his line.
Toffoli finished seventh for CF%, eighth for xGF%, and ninth for HDCF%. Not the best numbers, but again it’s worth noting that Toffoli spent a good chunk of the quarter playing alongside two of the Flames worst forwards in Sean Monahan and Milan Lucic.
Offensively, Toffoli produced three goals and four points at even strength, albeit in four less games than the rest of the Flames forward lineup. Despite playing in fewer games, he still finished sixth for even strength shots on the team with 33. Toffoli has been about as perfect a fit as one would have hoped through his first 16 games with the team, and his numbers will only go up from here.
Q1: F, Q2: D
Why was Trevor Lewis playing anywhere but the fourth line? No one knows but Sutter. Lewis graded out as the worst and second worst forward in the first two quarters, and he finds himself sitting in the same spot in the third quarter.
Lewis finished dead last on the team among forwards for CF%, ninth for xGF%, and 10th for HDCF%. He also ranked last for CF/60 on the team. Even worse, the supposed defensive specialist also finished eighth for CA/60. He at least finished a respectable sixth for xGA/60.
Lewis posted three points at even strength, good for 10th on the team. He was one of only two forwards to not score a single goal at even strength in the quarter. Lewis continues to be a replacement level player for the Flames.
Q1: B, Q2: C+
Milan Lucic continues to be what we expect, a capable but massively overpaid fourth line forward. After a great first quarter, Lucics’ play has fallen off in each subsequent quarter.
He finished the quarter ninth among Flames forwards for CF%, but last for xGF%, and second last for HDCF%. His xGF/60 also ranked last among Flames forwards.
Offensively Lucic didn’t do much of anything. He produced three points at even strength, which ranked 10th among Flames forwards. His one even strength goal ranked second last on the team. His 15 shots at even strength also ranked second last. He’s still better than James Neal though.
Q1: D+, Q2: B
Any hope of Sean Monahan finding his game again, at least with the Flames, should be extinguished after the third quarter he just had. After grading out as the team’s worst forward in the first quarter, Monahan found his stride a bit in the second quarter of the season. Unfortunately he fell off a cliff in the third quarter.
Monahan finished ninth on the team among forwards for CF% and HDCF%, and second last for xGF%. He also finished dead last for CA/60 and xGA/60, although to his credit he ranked seventh for CF/60.
Offensively Monahan was dreadful. He finished last on the team for points at even strength with just two. Along with Lewis, the two were the only regular Flames forwards without an even strength goal in the quarter.
Monahan is a complete shell of his former self, as he was demoted full-time to a fourth line role this quarter. We are more than likely witnessing the final couple months of Monahan’s Flames career at this point.
Q1: B-, Q2: B
Rasmus Andersson just continues to get better this season. After a solid first half, his third quarter was by far his best of the season and probably the best hockey he’s played since the 2019-20 season.
Andersson ranked fourth among Flames defencemen for CF%, xGF%, and HDCF% in the quarter. His CF/60 ranked third as did his xGF/60. He also logged the most even strength minutes among all players on the Flames.
Andersson’s nine points at even strength were second among Flames defencemen, while his eight assists tied for first. His five primary assists from the blueline was tops on the team. These are even strength grades, however it’s worth noting that Andersson had 16 points total this quarter, a number that tied for fifth in the NHL among defencemen.
Q1: B+, Q2: A-
Usually Chris Tanev gets unfairly dinged in these grades due to the type of game he plays, but in the third quarter his offence took off in a big way.
Tanev actually finished last among Flames defencemen for CF%, but ranked second for xGF% and first for HDCF%. His CA/60 also ranked last while his xGA/60 ranked second last, however his xGF/60 ranked first, as did his HDCF/60. A typical defensive expert, Tanev broke his own trend and was better at generating chances this quarter than suppressing them.
On offence, Tanev came out of nowhere to lead the Flames blueline. He put up 10 points at even strength, which ranked first among Flames defenders. His eight assists were tied for first, while his two goals ranked second. Fun fact, his 10 even strength points this quarter were only two less than his entire point total in 56 games last season.
Q1: C, Q2: B
Erik Gudbranson’s season has been the definition of steady improvement. He’s gotten better each quarter so far and has gone from grading as the team’s worst defenceman in the first two quarters, to the third best this quarter.
His underlying numbers were all over the place. Gudbranson ranked second among Flames defencemen for CF%, but last for both xGF% and HDCF%. His CA/60 however ranked second, and his xGA/60 ranked third. That said, his xGF/60 ranked last. Pretty much what you’d expect from a purely shutdown third-pairing defenceman.
Offensively, Gudbranson chipped in with seven points at even strength, good for third among all Flames defenders. His four even strength goals ranked first, and were only one behind the rest of the Flames defence combined.
Gudbranson is playing the best hockey of his career right now, something no one expected this far into the season.
Q1: B+/Q2: A
Noah Hanifin continues to have a quietly great season for the Flames. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but he was once again reliable and effective this quarter.
Hanifin ranked third on the Flames’ blueline for CF%, first for xGF%, and second for HDCF%. He also ranked second for CF/60. Defensively he ranked second for xGA/60, and third for CA/60.
His offensive production is what lowers his grade here. Hanifin put up five points at even strength which tied for last among Flames defencemen. His four assists were tied for second last. That said he led all blueliners with 43 shots and 83 iCF at even strength. With some better luck his point totals would’ve been a lot better.
Q1: A+, Q2: B+
After a tremendous start to the season, Oliver Kylington has seen his play decline over the last two quarters. That said, he’s clearly dealing with some lingering injuries which is affecting his play.
Kylington ranked second last for CF%, xGF%, but third for HDCF%. His CF/60 ranked second last, as did his CA/60. His xGA/60 ranked dead last, but on a more positive note his xGF/60 ranked second. It was a mixed bag for Kylington this quarter.
On offence he struggled, with just five points at even strength which tied for Hanifin for worst on the team among defencemen. As well, his four assists were second worst. He also produced the second least amount of even strength shots from the blueline, with just 27.
Q1: B-, Q2: A-
After finishing as the team’s highest graded defenceman in the second quarter, Nikita Zadorov finishes as the lowest graded defenceman this quarter. That said, as a strictly shutdown defenceman, his grade will naturally be lower for an offensive report card and he was still very solid this quarter.
Zadorov actually finished tops among all Flames defencemen for CF%, third for xGF%, and fifth for HDCF%. He also ranked first for CF/60, and CA/60 and xGA/60. His xGF/60 however ranked second last. All said, a borderline elite quarter defensively for Zadorov.
His offence is the reason his grade is so low. Zadorov’s six points ranked fourth among Flames defenceman, but he was the only regular on the blueline to not score a single goal at even strength in the quarter. As well, five of his six points were secondary assists.
A great spot to be in
The Flames league-best third quarter has put them in a great spot as we enter the final quarter of the season and the stretch drive before the playoffs. The team is now sitting in prime position to finish first in their division and second in the Western Conference.
With some great deadline pickups, a league-best win total, and some elite play from the team’s top players, the third quarter of this season was probably the Flames best quarter of a season in years.
With another strong quarter to close out the season, the Flames will be set for one of their best regular seasons in franchise history. The team is rolling right now under Sutter and looks like a legitimate cup contender for the first time since 2018–19.