We’re at the halfway point of the 2022–23 season and due to some big changes on the forward front, the Calgary Flames have done plenty of line shuffling. They have tried many different combos and time and time again, they haven’t been able to gel. With those failures, the Flames decided to go back to what has worked before and put Andrew Mangiapane, Blake Coleman, and Mikael Backlund back together. In hindsight, this line should’ve never been broken up.
A look at the third line’s numbers
The line of Mangiapane, Coleman, and Backlund has only scored three goals in their time together. One has come courtesy of Blake Coleman and the other two from Mikael Backlund. Although that can be seen as a disappointing amount of goals, the majority of their success can be broken down with underlying numbers.
Stats via NaturalStatTrick.com at 5v5, score- and venue-adjusted:
In the 106 minutes this line has played together, they have been terrific—allowing few chances while producing many. They already have produced 89 scoring chances while only allowing 36 against. Their high-danger chances ratio is just as good with 36 for while allowing a measly nine against.
Their on ice shooting percentage helps tell the story of lack of offence. The average on ice shooting percentage is roughly 8% while Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman have an on ice shooting percentage of 3.61%, so about 4.5% under the average. This should mean that this trio should eventually start burying these chances they are creating.
Making a switch over to MoneyPuck.com for a quick look, the Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman line has the best expected goals percentage of any line that’s play 100 minutes with an expected goals percentage of 76.3%, the line in second place has a percent of 69.4%.
Looking at a model to see the same story
Charts are from HockeyViz.com:
Below we can see the Flames offence and defence with and without Mangiapane, Backlund, and Coleman out on the ice together. For those unfamiliar with these charts, a brief synopsis is wherever you see red, the more offence and shots are being generated and where there’s blue, the less offence and shots being generated. So more and darker red is good in terms of offence, but bad in terms of defence and blue is the opposite, bad for offence, good for defence.
Mangiapane, Backlund, and Coleman have some out of this world results so far when together, especially when compared to the Flames results without them. When those three are on the ice together, the Flames have a +67%(!) and a xGF/60 of 4.39, plus a huge amount of this offence is coming from in front of the net and in the slot, two of the most dangerous areas of the ice.
Compare that to the Flames offence without, a +0% (so average) and a 2.64 xGF/60, they also struggle to generate offence in the two areas this line flourishes. Just looking at that difference is crazy. The defence isn’t as bizarre but it still is wild. With them, the Flames a -40%(!) and a xGA/60 of only 1.57 and just like the offence, they shine in the slot and in front of the net. Just a complete shutdown of opposition in terms of limiting chances in those areas. Without them, the Flames defence is still good, maybe not as dominant but probably amongst the best in the league with a -9% and xGA/60 of 2.39.
The most underrated line in the league?
Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, and Blake Coleman combine to make which is probably the most underrated line in the league. Sure, the goals and points aren’t there, but they have been unlucky in the shooting department. This line produces a mass amount of chances and prevents many from happening—high-danger ones especially. This might not be the line that produces point per game players, but you can rely on them in tough situations.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire