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Five notes from Calgary’s 4-3 win over Los Angeles:
1. Cam Talbot held up
Talbot has been a mixed bag this season. Given the extended run of games he was forced to sit on the bench for, rust was a real concern heading in. After he allowed a couple of early goals, although not necessarily his fault, I kind of had a ‘here we go’ feeling. He shut that out, though, and really stabilized himself the rest of the way.
I thought the Flames did a good job in front of him but he deserves some credit. He made the stops he had to make and only allowed one goal over the final 45 minutes or so. While three goals against is not ideal every time out, it’s also a manageable number. He gave the Flames a chance to win the game and that’s all they really could ask of a backup making his first appearance in three weeks.
2. Milan Lucic is on fire
He was really solid against Buffalo, netting his 1st goal as a member of the Flames and posting strong on-ice numbers to boot. It was more of the same vs the Kings.
I have been hard on Lucic – I think rightfully – so it’s only fair I praise his strong performances rather than sweep them under the rug. He played a good game vs the Kings and not just because he scored. The Flames out-chanced the Kings by three with Lucic on the ice and he ended up with a 75.18 xGF% at 5v5, bested only by his linemates.
It’s not like he was darting all over the ice making crazy plays but they didn’t die when the puck hit his stick. He made a couple nice passes into the slot area, helped sustain some cycles, and the goal is obviously a nice cherry on top.
Though I’m still not optimistic we’ll get this kind of performance from him on a consistent basis, it’s nice to know he can still contribute on occasion. He was looking like a lost cause.
3. An encouraging trend
The Flames took a ton of point shots under Bill Peters. It felt like every night Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin, and/or Travis Hamonic would be in contention for the team lead in shot attempts, if not hold 1st place outright. That seems to be dying down.
Against Buffalo only one defender attempted more than two shots at 5v5. The same can be said last night. Michael Stone led the way with three.
Geoff Ward talked about wanting to generate more shots around the net and it appears he’s practicing what he’s preaching.
Just look at the heatmap for Flames shot attempts vs that of the Kings. It’s no coincidence all four of Calgary’s goals came in tight. That’s where they took their shots.
4. Don’t worry about Johnny Gaudreau
I know No. 13 being penciled in on the 3rd line rubs a lot of people the wrong way. That’d be the case for me, too, if he was actually being used like a 3rd liner. He’s not. Gaudreau played nearly 19 minutes last night, 3rd most among all Flames forwards (behind Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm). Yes, he took a few shifts with Milan Lucic and Derek Ryan. He spent over 10 of his 14 5v5 minutes playing with Sean Monahan, though. He’s still being put in positions where he can be productive and is heavily featured in the offense.
Last night Gaudreau led the Flames in attempts (7), chances (4), Grade A looks (3), and recorded a beautiful assist on Monahan’s goal. Ward is using him in some interesting ways and, well, it seems to be working. Gaudreau has looked much more dynamic over the last couple games than he did at any point under Peters this season.
5. A true wild card
Zac Rinaldo has always, always, always been unpredictable on the ice. I used to watch him regularly in junior and even then you never know what he was going to do.
While he’s a *little* more tame than he used to be, he still has his fastball. That was evident last night.
In five minutes of ice – five minutes! – Rinaldo scored a goal, landed a very questionable hit, and then was ejected from the game for trying to fight his former Barrie Colts teammate, Kyle Clifford, during a commercial break.
I don’t think he is a great player but the Flames clearly value his energy. If not anything else, his shifts are...interesting. Just lay off the dirty hits, Zac.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
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