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Five observations from Calgary’s shutout victory over Vancouver:
1) Last night Jacob Markstrom showed why the Flames were so desperate, if you will, to get him in free agency. They were complete no-shows in the opening frame. Even by the team’s up and down standards, it was very bad. But they didn’t pay much of a price because Markstrom was absolutely locked in. He conceded just once despite facing 16 shots, and 14 scoring chances, in 20 minutes. It almost felt like the Flames were doing everything in their power to throw the game. Markstrom wouldn’t allow it. He wasn’t tested all that much in the final 40 minutes but that’s a game the Flames probably fall behind several goals, and fail to record even one point, if Markstrom isn’t locked in from the start.
2) I don’t know what changed but, after a similarly sloppy first few minutes to open the 2nd, they flipped the switch and went from underwhelming to unstoppable. They had almost all of the puck and at times it felt like they were toying with Vancouver. They really could do whatever they wanted. Chances were 17-1(!) Calgary in the 2nd. It was as lopsided of a period as you will ever see. What I liked is the Flames didn’t take their foot off the gas in the 3rd. They weren’t as potent offensively, obviously, but a lot of times you see teams play ultra conservative and go into a shell trying not to allow the ‘easy goal.’ The Flames didn’t do that. They still forechecked hard to try and win extra possessions, fed Johnny Gaudreau all the touches he could handle, and tried to stay on the front foot.
3) I thought Gaudreau was excellent. He looked like a threat to make something happen almost every time he touched the puck. He was flying through the neutral zone. He was a jitterbug with, and without, the puck, which made it very hard for the Canucks to keep up with him. He was always moving and changing directions. The give-and-go down low with Sean Monahan, in particular, was magnificent. I’d still like to see Andrew Mangiapane get a shot on that line – I feel like his ability to win extra possessions, and help out through the NZ, would make him the perfect compliment – but I like how Geoff Ward is using Gaudreau thus far. I think he is heading for a nice bounce-back year.
4) How about Rasmus Andersson? Another game where he was quietly fantastic defensively at 5v5. He played 12 minutes in that gamestate. The Flames controlled more than 65% of the Expected Goals and gave up just three shots on goal. He is a horse.
5) Travis Hamonic had himself a night...and not a good one. He spent a lot of time on his back foot in the defensive zone. The Canucks posted a 12 xGF% (12!) with Hamonic on the ice, and he put one on an absolute platter for Mark Giordano to ice it in the 3rd period. He was a shell of his former self last year in Calgary and, while still early, it looks like the Canucks have picked up the same version. The good news for the Flames is they’ll be seeing a ton of him.
numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
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