The Calgary Flames have gotten off to an extremely hot and scorching start (pun intended). Having the Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Vegas Golden Knights, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, and Pittsburgh Penguins for your first six games is a tough way to begin a season.
Five out of those six teams project to be playoff teams by most projection models. Oddly enough, the one Flames’ loss has come against the team that wasn’t expected to be a playoff team, but the Sabres have started out strong and surprised a ton of people. Not enough good things can be said about Rasmus Dahlin. They’ve since gone on to lose two more, both by giving up third period leads to the Oilers and Seattle Kraken.
Calgary Flames post-game graphics
If you don’t already know, I make a post-game graphic after every Flames game on my Twitter. These graphics display some deeper 5v5 metrics for each line/pairing, such as Corsi for (CF%), xxpected goals for (xGF%), and offensive zone starts (OZS%). For goaltenders, I also include goals saved above expected (GSAx). I also include ice time for each player, as well as team 5v5 metrics for a general consensus of a teams performance.
A big start to the Flames season, defeating the defending Stanley Cup champs with dominating performances from Weegar-Tanev and the Mangiapane-Kadri-Dube line. Just as everyone expected, Brett Ritchie scored the first goal of the season. Win Column readers knew Ritchie was a hidden gem. Speaking of Ritchie, the fouurth line also started out nicely, and this is a fun trend to follow over the first six games. Overall, a solid game from the team, while Markstrom wasn’t fantastic by any means. The Flames start 1–0–0, snapping a lengthy season-opening losing streak.
Game 2 sees a bounceback against the rival Alberta team, where the Flames held on to get their revenge. They got some luck as Jack Campbell disappeared in this game, and was pulled very early. The fourth line came out and dominated the Oilers, posting a whopping 96.63 xGF% at 5v5. That’s really good.
We also saw a nice game from the Hanifin-Andersson pairing, and the Zadorov-Stone pairing stood out with high offensive zone starts. We saw this happen a lot with Zadorov-Gudbranson last year, where they would start in the offensive zone to limit the chance they would be caught flat-footed in their own end. Dan Vladar was adequate, and let’s be honest, it was nice to see goaltending not get devoured by McDavid and Draisaitl. The Flames bump their record to 2–0–0.
A pretty resounding win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Logan Thompson played great for the Golden Knights, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Flames chances. Getting six power plays in unison helped the Flames out mightily in the second period, as they were finally able to pot a few. Really strong game from most of the team, with the fourth line being the only line to register a metric under 50%. Ultimately, a game the Flames deserved to win. The Flames are looking good with being undefeated after three games!
The first Flames loss of the season, where the major storyline was Hanifin being out of the lineup. The Sabres came out and played a strong and fast game, dominating the Flames and deservedly beating them. The fourth line followed up three solid games with a very poor performance. The top line and first two pairs on defence were also very weak. The one major standout was the third line, who posting very good results in a game where many didn’t. Zadorov moving into the top-four beside Andersson didn’t work, and luckily Hanifin was back for the next game. The Flames are still sitting pretty at 3–1–0.
This was a funny one. Based on the performance by the team, this is a game you shouldn’t win, ever. The Flames got out chanced, and posted a terrible xGF total. No line or pairing posted a metric above 50%. But, hockey is funny sometimes, and a couple bounces go the Flames way, and they tie this game up. After a rough start to the season, Markstrom has a really good game, saving 1.1 GSAx. The Flames should have taken these two points, thanked their goaltender, and sprinted to the next game with a 4–1–0 record!
Jacob Markstrom follows up a pretty good start against Carolina with a tremendous start against Pittsburgh, saving 2.66 Goals Above Expected! The final score doesn’t reflect the game, largely due to Markstrom’s excellent performance. Nice to see Huberdeau get his first goal as a Flame, while Kadri continued his hot start to the season. The bottom areas of the lineup performed well, while the top areas struggled. The Flames are now up to 5–1–0, their best start in franchise history!
The second edition of the Battle of Alberta was not the scoring circus that it usually is. Markstrom had his revenge game against the Oilers, and performed fine. Nice to see the top line finally have a very good game and generate a ton of scoring chances, but they just couldn’t finish them off. The fourth line has now performed extremely well in both games against the Oilers, and Brett Ritchie gets his third of the season already.
Deep analytics showed Ritchie had more to give offensively compared to last year, and he has shown that so far. All in all, the Flames played a very good game and deserved to win, but Edmonton’s top end talent got a few clutch goals and they take this one. The Flames suffer just their second loss so far, now at 5–2–0.
This game featured some new lineup combinations at forward, while Dan Vladar got the start. The new combos seemed to work at times, but there were some giveaways that cost them the win. Giving the puck away particularly doesn’t help when your goalie isn’t making a single save. Big game from the third pairing on defence. The Flames end their first eight game segment with a record of 5–3–0.
Eight game summary
To summarize, the Flames have definitely had a good start, winning some games they probably shouldn’t have, and losing others they should have won. That’s hockey, baby!
The following charts take all of the eight games played so far, and summarizes it:
|Forward Line||5v5 TOI||CF%||xGF%||SCF%||HDCF%|
|Coleman – Backlund – Lewis||62:46||59.48%||50.80%||52.06%||39.63%|
|Mangiapane – Kadri – Dube||56:45||53.26%||49.35%||49.34%||61.58%|
|Huberdeau – Lindholm – Toffoli||55:19||49.15%||50.54%||48.98%||47.18%|
|Lucic – Rooney – Lewis||50:04||50.97%||43.72%||41.70%||44.35%|
|Defence Pair||5v5 TOI||CF%||xGF%||SCF%||HDCF%|
|Weegar – Tanev||129:52||56.56%||59.32%||58.02%||60.00%|
|Hanifin – Andersson||96:10||49.51%||49.31%||46.08%||45.65%|
|Zadorov – Stone||83:13||65.00%||60.54%||56.79%||67.86%|
Looking at those two tables, some things stand out. Let’s start with the forward side. First, the Coleman – Backlund – Lewis line has posted very strong CF% metrics, while their HDCF% ratio is quite low. This essentially tells us that this line is generated chances and opportunities, but they aren’t high quality, and the opponent is producing high-danger chances when they are on the ice. The Mangiapane – Kadri – Dube line has produced mediocre results in terms of CF%, xGF%, and SCF%. But, they have more than generated their fair share of HDCF%, which makes sense that they have been seen as the best forward line for the Flames so far.
On the defensive side, both the Weegar – Tanev and Zadorov – Stone pairs have been very good for the Flames. The Weegnev Pairing has metrics above 56.5% in every category, as does the Zadorov – Stone pairing. However, Zadorov – Stone has a whopping 67.86 HDCF%, as they have been on the ice for 19 high-danger chances for to just nine high-danger chances against. That is exactly what you want from your third pairing.
There is definitely room for improvement for several lines and pairings. A sample size of eight games provides us with a quick look into how these lines and pairings are performing, but one game can still change things drastically. An overall record of 5–3–0 is a solid start, especially since the Flames have faced the toughest schedule so far.
There is lots to look forward to and evaluate as this team moves forward. Will Huberdeau start to gel with linemates and be effective at 5v5? Will Hanifin – Andersson improve their play over the next eight game segment? What will the forward lines look like? We’ll soon find out.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire