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1. The power play was excellent
Calgary's performance on the man advantage is up to par with the personnel they ice. Finally.
After a horrendous showing on opening night made us all think 'here we go again', they have bounced back in a big way scoring at least two power play markers in consecutive games.
There are still some hiccups to work through in the neutral zone – the drop passes haven't always panned out, to put it kindly – but they're getting better at setting up shop. Once they do that, they're rather difficult to stop. Last night, in particular, the Flames were really good at dissecting the defense and getting the puck into high-danger areas for shot attempts.
2. Elias Lindholm continues to impress
If the blockbuster trade with Carolina is *ever* going to be considered a win for Calgary, they really need Lindholm to take another step forward. A big one. So far, he looks ready to do just that.
He has three goals, four points, and seven chances through three games and has gelled nicely with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau – particularly on the power play, where his right-handed shot has been quite handy.
Lindholm is not going to continue shooting 37.5%, of course, but I think he is a solid bet to be a 20+ goal, 50+ point player given the situation he's in.
3. Another quiet night for James Neal
It's been three games and he hasn't scored. That isn't the issue. The issue is he hasn't been generating *any* offense at 5v5. To this point, he has recorded just three scoring chances (zero high danger) in more than 37 minutes of ice. On top of that, the Flames have been caved in with him out there. Neal is currently rocking a 40.58 Corsi For% and 40 Scoring Chance For%. He hasn't had the best centers to work with – Derek Ryan and then a rookie, albeit a promising one, in Dillon Dube – but the competition he's faced has not exactly been stiff. He should be doing more.
4. Mike Smith answered the bell
The Flames desperately needed a quality start last night. I mean, a QS is pretty much mandatory to have success vs any team but especially so on the road against a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
After an underwhelming opening period, the Predators took it up 100 notches testing Smith with 36 shots and 13 high-danger chances over the final 40 minutes. He passed with flying colors stopping each and every one of them en route to a 43-save shutout.
It was really nice to see him step up following a disappointing start to the season.
5. The MMA line is for real
Another game, another quality showing for the Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Austin Czarnik trio. They were the team's only line to finish above water in terms of possession and they accounted for 14/48 attempts (29%) and 9/22 chances (40.9%). They didn't score, of course, but it's easy to envision a breakout game in the near future given how well they've been playing.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com.
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