What a roller coaster of emotions. Just when it looked the Calgary Flames may never score another goal on Dominik Hasek… or rather Jake Oettinger, Johnny Gaudreau scored one of the biggest goals in Flames playoff history.
It certainly wasn’t as easy as most had expected, as the Flames had to absolutely grind their way to a 4–3 series win against an experienced and gritty Dallas Stars team. To say the Stars made the series an absolute defensive slog of a series would be an understatement. Across seven games, the two teams produced just 29 goals. It wasn’t for a lack of trying though as the Flames forced Oettinger to make the third most saves in a playoff series in NHL history.
It was up and down series for most of the Flames squad, so let’s look at how each player grades out across the seven games.
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).
For the playoffs, players are only evaluated per series. The report cards therefore only compare each Flames skater to other Flames and Stars, and not players on other teams.
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. All numbers are courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com. Let’s see who ranks where on the Flames squad.
I don’t want to hear anyone talk about how Johnny Gaudreau isn’t a playoff performer ever again. Gaudreau put the Flames offence on his back this series and was dominant every stretch of the way. His TWCScore was the highest among any forward from either team in this series.
Gaudreau’s 64.36 xGF% was third among all Flames forwards, behind only Brett Ritchie and Trevor Lewis who played way fewer minutes. Gaudreau’s 20 5v5 shots were the most on the team, as was his 2.54 ixG.
Unsurprisingly he also led the Flames in 5v5 points with five and assists with four, all of which were primary. Most importantly, his one 5v5 goal of the series was the Game 7 overtime winner.
After a slow start to the series, Mikael Backlund turned back the clock and put in an absolute clutch performance as the team’s second line and matchup centre. He was incredible down the stretch.
Backlund’s 47.8 CA/60 was fourth best among Flames forwards, trailing only the fourth line who played much less than him and had way easier matchups. He also posted three points at 5v5 which tied for third among Flames forwards.
Backlund’s play—especially once reunited with Andrew Mangiapane and Blake Coleman—was crucial in the Flames’ series win.
Elias Lindholm opened the scoring for the Flames in this series, and was decent the rest of the way even if the chances didn’t come as the series went on.
Lindholm ranked tied for third for points with three. He struggled to generate many individual shot attempts or chances but his grade is floated by his team-leading two goals at 5v5. It was just that kind of series offensively for the Flames. He also had the rebound assist on the series clinching goal so that counts for something.
Like most of the Flames offence, Andrew Mangiapane had a slow start to this series but he was able to contribute at the end and overall played some solid hockey.
Mangiapane’s CF/60 of 82.52 ranked second on the team among forwards. In terms of offensive production he wasn’t able to muster up much, registering just one goal and one assist in the series.
That said, the one goal he did score was one of the biggest of the series as it ended up being the game-winner in Game 5.
This is why the Flames acquired Trevor Lewis in the offseason. The veteran forward played his best hockey as a Flame as he was a big contributor at both ends of the ice all series.
Lewis finished second among forwards for CF%, xGF%, and first for HDCF%. He also finished third for CA/60 and second for xGA/60.
Lewis only managed one point at 5v5, a goal in Game 3. Regardless he was incredibly dependable for the Flames this series and had an empty-netter to boot.
This series wasn’t Matthew Tkachuk’s finest, as he seemed to disappear for a good chunk of the series. That said he showed up when it mattered most in Game 7.
Tkachuk’s underlying numbers were average across the board in this one, at least compared to his teammates. Offensively though he finished the series with the second most points on the team at 5v5 with four, the biggest of which was the game-tying goal in Game 7 coming on a highlight-reel snipe.
If there’s anything that can get Tkachuk, going it’s a Battle of Alberta.
Tyler Toffoli has struggled in a big way recently, but he was finally able to break through and score a huge goal for the Flames in Game 7.
Toffoli’s xGF/60 of 3.43 ranked fourth on the team among forwards. His 14 shots at 5v5 ranked third, as did his ixG of 1.66. Toffoli generated lots of chances and the Flames are certainly glad he finally broke the streak of bad luck with the Flames first goal in Game 7. Perhaps that opens the floodgates for Toffoli in Round 2.
Milan Lucic didn’t really do much this series, but he had some solid underlying numbers playing on the team’s gritty fourth line.
Lucic finished fourth among forwards for CF%, and third for HDCF%. He also finished third for CA/60. He only registered one assist at 5v5, but overall had a solid series considering the role he plays. He also threw some classic Lucic hits and was no doubt a big veteran presence on the bench.
Blake Coleman was probably one of the most unlucky Flames this series, as he produced a solid amount of chances but just couldn’t buy even a single goal which hurt his grade.
Coleman led the Flames in CF/60 and was second for 5v5 shots with 19 and ixG at 1.69. His iCF of 36 ranked first.
Unfortunately, Oettinger robbed him every time and he finished the series with just one secondary assist at 5v5 and no goals. Expect that bad luck to end soon and the points to come.
Dillon Dube may not have put up many points over the seven games, but like Coleman, he was one of the Flames’ more effective depth players when it came to producing chances.
Dube finished the series fifth among Flames forwards for xGF% and HDCF%. He also finished fifth with 1.38 ixG.
Unfortunately he was unable to register a single point at 5v5 in the series. If he keeps playing like he did though, he’ll be on the scoresheet soon.
Calle Jarnkrok may never score a goal for the Flames at this rate. That said, he had some decent impacts for the Flames in a depth role.
Jarnkrok’s xGA/60 ranked third among Flames forwards, while his HDCA/60 ranked first. What tanks his grade is the fact he didn’t register a single 5v5 point in the series and had just eight shots at 5v5. His play wasn’t terrible this series, he just wasn’t able to generate much of anything on offence.
Brett Ritchie had some decent possession numbers, and nothing else. He also only played in four of the seven games in the series.
Given his small sample size, he ranked first among Flames forwards for CF%, xGF%, and second for HDCF%. He played just 36 minutes at 5v5 in the series which obviously had a big impact on his overall numbers.
He posted a grand total of zero points and four shots at even strength. He wasn’t a liability though and threw some nice hits at least.
No, Michael Stone’s player card is not upside down. Not only was he solid whenever in the lineup, he also stepped up in a massive way in Game 7 with Chris Tanev out.
Stone led all Flames defencemen with a ridiculous 72.66 CF%, as well as leading for xGF% and CA/60. It’s worth noting he only played in four games, but regardless his numbers are eye-popping.
What’s even more impressive is the fact he led the blueline for 5v5 points with three despite playing in just four of seven games.
Oliver Kylington’s breakout year continued as he was one of the team’s best blueliners in the first NHL playoff action of his career.
Kylington finished second among Flames defencemen for CF%, CF/60 and CA/60. Among defenders who played in all seven games, he ranked first in all three.
Kylington was only able to post one assist at 5v5, but his ixG did rank second. Whether it’s with Tanev or Stone in Round 2 as his defensive partner, Kylington is a crucial piece of the Flames blueline.
Noah Hanifin has become a full on work horse for the Flames as he logged a series-leading 115:48 minutes at 5v5 in the series.
Hanifin’s big contribution in this series came in the form of the sheer amount of volume he put on net. He registered 19 shots at 5v5 which ranked tied for second among all Flames. His 39 iCF was also first, as was his 1.51 ixG. No other Flames defender had an ixG over 0.60.
Unfortunately that all translated to just one assist but if it weren’t for some absurd goaltending by Oettinger, he would’ve had the series winner.
Nikita Zadorov was simply made for Darryl Sutter playoff hockey. The giant Russian was a force all series physically, including a couple bone-crushing hits.
He finished second for xGF% and HDCF% among Flames defencemen. He also ranked second for xGA/60. All this while playing the second most 5v5 minutes on the Flames blueline.
Zadorov even added two secondary assists to rank second behind Stone for points by defencemen.
Erik Gudbranson continues to play the best hockey of his career under Sutter as he was a reliable shutdown defender for the Flames in the first round.
Gudbranson ranked first for HDCF% and xGA/60 among Flames defencemen. Unsurprisingly, he did nothing offensively, posting no points. That said he did register 18 shots at even strength, including eight in the Game 7 onslaught.
Rasmus Andersson wasn’t terrible in this series, but he also wasn’t great either and he certainly struggled a bit at times.
He did rank third for HDCF% among Flames blueliners, and second for xGF/60. Outside of that he was near the bottom for most metrics.
He also contributed just one point, a secondary assist, at 5v5 in the series. His 10 even strength shots were more than only Zadorov and Chris Tanev among Flames defencemen. His biggest contribution offensively was easily the 5v3 power play goal in Game 4.
Chris Tanev looked really average in this series, which isn’t something we’ve said very much during his tenure with the Flames. To make matters worse, he left Game 6 with an injury and didn’t play in Game 7.
Tanev’s numbers across the board were very pedestrian. He ranked last for HDCF%, fifth for CF%, and sixth for xGF%. He also put up no points and just five shots at 5v5.
With Tanev’s status still unclear, the Flames hope the dependable veteran can get healthy and back to the form that made him a key piece on the team’s blueline.
Thank goodness that’s over
I’ll be the first to say, thank goodness the Flames no longer have to play the Stars. This series was an absolute grind to watch as the Stars made the Flames work for every single goal, contributing to one of the more boring first round series offensively, yet one of the most thrilling overall with every game essentially feeling like a drawn-out overtime.
The Flames’ offence finally started to come along as the series went on, and if it weren’t for one of the greatest single series performances of all time by Oettinger, the team would’ve had nearly double the goals. Considering the Flames will now be moving on to play the Oilers, I think it’s fair to expect a lot more offence and excitement in the second round than the first.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire