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Five observations from Calgary vs Chicago:
1. The offense bounced-back
The Flames were simply not themselves on Saturday afternoon. In a game against a struggling Flyers team that went to extra time, they still only mustered up 18 chances. That matched a season-low. Though the Flames left the ice with two points, it was far from a good performance – particularly offensively.
I expected a much more dynamic effort against the Blackhawks. They're not only horrendous defensively, but they were in the latter half of a back-to-back. It was the ultimate Get Right spot for the Flames and it showed.
They mustered up 43 shots on goal (2nd most this season), 37 chances (6th most), and 23 high-danger chances (most). It felt like they threatened almost every shift. If not for a fantastic performance from Collin Delia, who somehow only conceded three times, this game would not have been close. It was a pretty thorough beatdown. Bill Peters should be very happy with that performance.
2. The top line feasted
In my game preview, I pointed out Chicago has used Carl Dahlstrom and Connor Murphy as the shutdown pairing despite poor results (44.9 CF%, 41.2 xGF%). It looked to be a dream matchup for Calgary's top line and, as it turns out, it was. In ~11 head-to-head minutes, the ice was significantly tilted in Calgary's favor.
Only one goal was scored during that 11 minutes – the other 5v5 goal came vs a different pairing – but it was not for a lack of opportunity. Sean Monahan, in particular, was able to consistently find space and gangerous shots off around the net.
3. David Rittich played well
Calgary won the high-danger battle by 12. They were clearly the better team. Still, they didn't win said battle because they were fantastic defensively. They won it because they were fantastic at the other end. They gave up plenty of volume (35 shots, 32 Grade B chances) and Rittich was there to hold down the fort. He made a couple saves on second and third efforts that he had no business stopping. With Delia playing so well at the other end of the ice, that was necessary for the Flames to come out on top. I think that's the kind of game the Flames would lose with Mike Smith between the pipes.
4. James Neal continues to James Neal
It's scary how often he puts forth the same kind of performance. He did not help much with the build-up of the offense and was caved in possession-wise. As a whole, he was not good. That said, he did find himself with the puck in fantastic scoring spots on a few occasions. As has been the case nearly every night this season, he squandered them. Only Sean Monahan had more chances/high-danger looks than Neal at 5v5. It did not matter because, as usual, nothing came of them.
Neal will run into some luck and become more productive at some point. Even so, I think it's fair to say he won't reach the level the Flames expected when they handed him a lucrative, long-term contract.
5. There's something to the rumors
Oliver Kylington played a team-low 6:28 at 5v5 vs Chicago. In the limited time he was out there, the Flames were out-attempted 14-5 (26.32 CF%) and out-chanced 5-2 (28.57 SCF%). It marked the 5th consecutive game the Flames were out-chanced with Kylington on the ice and he has played fewer than 10 minutes two games in a row. It's clear Bill Peters doesn't trust him – at least right now – and it's hard to fault him for that. If Juuso Valimaki's health is in doubt, it makes sense for the Flames to explore what's out there as far as getting a solid, established, left-handed defender for the 3rd pairing.
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