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Six takeaways from Calgary vs Edmonton:
I thought the Flames were very slow out of the gate. It felt like they were second to every loose puck and they just didn’t make quick enough decisions when they did gain possession. The Oilers came out like they were playing for keeps and it showed. While there was some shaky goaltending – Cam Talbot looked uncomfortable early on even when making the save – that was not why the Flames trailed after 20. They trailed because Edmonton was sharper and all over the puck.
To Calgary’s credit, they *really* ramped things up over the final 40. Edmonton may have out-scored the Flames 2-1 during that time but that’s not indicative of the run of play. The Flames looked much more confident on the puck and much steadier without it. For the most part their defenders did a great job of stepping up on Edmonton puck carriers and killing plays before they really started.
If the team we see Saturday night is the one we saw over the last two periods, they’ll have a real shot of going up 1-0.
The Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Andrew Mangiapane line was Calgary’s best on many nights prior to the pause. They certainly picked up where they left off. Backlund made some really nice passes to create chances for his linemates and, as usual, he was reliable in the defensive zone. Mangiapane was an absolute puck hound regardless of which Oilers player possessed it. He was all over everybody, even when giving up a lot of size (like to Darnell Nurse). The Bread Man had a ton of the puck and was able to generate plenty of opportunities around the net, be it for himself or a teammate. Tkachuk wasn’t as involved with the puck, however, his defensive work and agitation on the forecheck was up to par. This line combined for the most shot contributions of any Calgary unit while giving up just one chance at the other end. They’re ready for playoff hockey.
Calgary’s top line showed more of a pulse over the last half hour but, man, that was *not* an encouraging showing from them. Edmonton is hardly the most stout defensive team and yet CGY1 looked much like they did prior to the break: lifeless. They did find the scoresheet on the power play, however, they combined for two chances and 0.18 expected goals at 5v5. That’s not good enough when, generally speaking, you’re not going to get scoring from the bottom-6. They absolutely have to create more in order to beat a Jets team that just so happens to have an all-world goaltender manning the crease.
Speaking of goaltending, that was far from an area of strength vs Edmonton. Talbot looked a little shaky early. He definitely righted the ship but two goals in 30 minutes is still nothing to write home about. Despite facing next to no shots, David Rittich didn’t fare any better. There was the misplay/bad luck bounce that led to a 3rd Edmonton goal that essentially put the game away (and never should have happened). Then there’s the fact he posted a .778 SV%. It’s hard to blame him for the 4th goal – that had much more to do with Noah Hanifin – but it’s not like he had zero chance at it. A stop would have been nice to get. Based on Talbot getting the initial game time, and Rittich’s less than perfect performance, I would think he’ll get the nod in G1.
More than anything this playoffs, I’m excited about seeing Rasmus Andersson as a full-timer in the top-4. This kid is the real deal. He was rock solid defensively throughout the night – how many times did you notice him make a mistake? – even when going up against the league’s most dynamic player. The 5v5 chances were 10-3 Calgary with Andersson on the ice and his expected goals for was nearly 76%. He couldn’t quite prevent Noah Hanifin from being Noah Hanifin but who can? Andersson was awesome and Geoff Ward should have full confidence throwing him out for 20+ minutes every night against the Jets.
The bottom-6 was pretty hit and miss. Dillon Dube looked sharp. Sam Bennett, despite not scoring on any of his 20 chances, played very well and provided some much needed life. There wasn’t much of note beyond that. Derek Ryan was fine. Milan Lucic was meh. Mark Jankowski was completely invisible prior to being nailed to the bench. Zac Rinaldo and Tobias Rieder did...stuff. I don’t see any great recipes with what Ward has to work with. At this point, I’d rather jam in a guy like Austin Czarnik and bank on his skill making something happen. I think he’s more deserving of a spot than Jankowski, Rieder, and Rinaldo.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
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