Calgary Flames

Breaking down how the Calgary Flames’ new forward lines performed

After shaking up their forward group in advance of a home game against the Seattle Kraken, the Calgary Flames came out and suffered their most embarrassing loss of the season. After jumping out to a two-goal lead in the third, the Flames proceeded to allow three straight goals unanswered and lose in 5–4 in regulation.

Despite the new lines, the Flames continued to have issues getting goals at 5v5 from their top line. Coach Darryl Sutter even threw things into the blender midway through the game as things just weren’t clicking for long stretches. Overall, the new lines showed some positives, but it appears as though things may go back to the drawing board. Let’s take a quick look at how the new lines performed on Tuesday.

Jonathan Huberdeau – Nazem Kadri – Andrew Mangiapane


Of course, less than a full game’s worth of being linemates will come with a small sample size alert. This is more to give a first look comparison on how the lines fared.

Without a doubt the line everyone was most excited to see, the Flames new look top line posted some solid underlying numbers but continued to fail to get on the scoresheet at even strength. In particular Jonathan Huberdeau has still yet to get a single 5v5 goal this season. Something has to give eventually right? The underlying results were there, but the actual results weren’t once again. Nazem Kadri did get one in the second, but it was after Sutter had already mixed up the new lines. It was also a pure individual effort goal.

The line generated the most shot attempts of any trio with 14, and the second most high-danger chances with two. They also dominated the expected goal share, coming in at 65.24%. We may need to just continue to exhibit some patience when it comes to Huberdeau and his line’s production. The underlying results are there but a combination of bad luck and adjusting to a new team and system has caused some early struggles it seems. If they were getting outshot and out-chanced it would be a different story, but the percentages say the pucks will start going in soon.

This line seemed like the best bet to kickstart the offence, but the tangible results still weren’t there on Tuesday. That said, the trio generated some good chances and had some looks so it’s probably worth giving them a couple more games together to see if the floodgates finally open. Eventually Huberdeau’s luck will turn around.

Milan Lucic – Elias Lindholm – Tyler Toffoli


If there was any new line that most expected would fail almost right away, it was this one. Despite that, the trio combined for two of the Flames three goals at even strength. Or should I say, the duo of Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli did, because Milan Lucic looked out of place all game. As we all could’ve predicted before the game even started, playing Lucic in the top-six is never a good idea.

First let’s go over the good. Lindholm and Toffoli combined on two of the Flames four goals at even strength in this one. First, Lindholm got the puck to Toffoli who sent a great cross ice pass to Nikita Zadorov for a tap in.

Then later again, the duo hooked up for a second time this time with Toffoli scoring off of a nice little play by Lindholm right off the draw.

The duo clearly has some chemistry going and it would probably be in the teams best interest to keep them together for another couple games. The issue is who to play with them? One thing we do know is it isn’t Lucic. Despite the line’s success at 5v5, Lucic had no part in it. Lucic’s final stat line from the game was zero points, zero shots, zero iHDCF and 0.01 ixG. He quite literally did nothing of note outside of a solid early shift in which he laid a couple big hits.

To make matters even worse, Lucic coughed up a brutal turnover late in the game that led to the eventual game winner for Seattle. That should remove any future thoughts of placing him anywhere but the fourth line.

Dillon Dube – Mikael Backlund – Blake Coleman


In a game in which the Flames controlled the play for nearly the entire game, the new look third line of Dillon Dube, Mikael Backlund, and Blake Coleman was the only one that posted results below 50% and failed to stay above water. Not a great endorsement to keep them together long-term.

As mentioned, every line on the Flames was above at least 60% for CF% and xGF% against Seattle except this one that came in below 50 in both metrics. They were also the only line to not register more shot attempts than the opponent while on the ice, breaking even with six a piece. They CF% relative to the rest of the team was -12.42%. They did at least generate the most HDCF among any line with three.

It’s not a surprise the line was switched up to move Andrew Mangiapane in for Dube. Mangiapane, Backlund and Coleman were an elite possession line together last season and immediately posted much better results together than when Dube was on the line. The reality is the Flames really need another middle-six winger to play alongside Backlund and Coleman. Unless they are willing to move Mangiapane to the third line, it’s back to the workshop to find the right fit alongside Backlund and Coleman as Dube didn’t really gel.

Trevor Lewis – Adam Ruzicka – Brett Ritchie


It’s hard to judge a fourth line after just one game considering this new look trio played just four minutes together, however in the short time they did see the ice their results were solid. They generated more shot attempts than the opponent, and actually had the highest xGF% of any line at 72.85. Again, it’s a miniscule sample size but impressive nonetheless.

The line also combined for a 5v5 goal, with Trevor Lewis getting his second of the season. If Lewis is scoring, something must be going right. Brett Ritchie shoveled the puck towards Lewis who made a nice play getting to the centre of the ice and sniping one past Joey Daccord.

It was nice to see Adam Ruzicka finally get into a game and he showed that he deserves a longer look as it didn’t take much to contribute more thane has this season. I think it makes a lot of sense to keep this trio together longer.

Plenty of positives and negatives

I think it’s fair to say we’d look much more positively over these new line combos if the overall game result weren’t so brutal. Blowing a two-goal third period lead will do that. That said we did see some positives from the new lines and I think it makes sense to keep them together for the most part.

The top line and fourth line showed some promise and proved they should stick together a little while longer. Lindholm and Toffoli finally showed off some chemistry, but finding a spot for Lucic is another issue. Until the Flames pick up another winger to add to their depth, we may continue to see some shuffling around in the middle of the lineup.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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