It’s hard to complain about the performance put forth by the Calgary Flames on Thursday evening.
Jacob Markstrom, starting in goal for the 14th consecutive contest despite his team being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention on Monday, made 24 saves and looked very much like his usual game-stealing self between the pipes.
Matthew Tkachuk chipped in a pair of primary points, increasing his output to 12 goals and 27 assists in 53 games this season. Rasmus Andersson scored for just the second time since Feb. 19. Team Canada’s own Andrew Mangiapane tallied the game-winning goal early in the first period.
Check, check, check. All good news for a team desperately seeking some positive storylines.
With centre Sean Monahan on the shelf with a season-ending hip affliction and top prospect Connor Zary still recovering from an upper-body injury sustained in Western Hockey League play, the Flames’ fortunes were due for a change.
Thursday’s game saw the Flames soundly out-chance and out-score the Canucks in both the first and third periods. In the final 20 minutes, Calgary held Vancouver to exactly zero scoring chances while generating seven of its own.
Calgary’s poor finishing hasn’t exactly been a secret this season. The Flames have scored the sixth-fewest goals in the NHL—just 142 in 53 games—and boast a pedestrian 8.90 shooting percentage in all situations, ranking 24th in the league.
In many of those same respects, the Flames’ 4-1 win over the Canucks felt like a breath of fresh air. Calgary’s skaters beat Vancouver goaltender Thatcher Demko four times on 28 attempts, good for a 14.29 shooting percentage.
Tkachuk entered Thursday’s contest mired in an on-and-off season-long scoring slump and with a dismal 7.86 shooting percentage. He bumped a 13-game goalless drought on Sunday with a goal against his brother’s Ottawa Senators; five days later, he beat Demko with a favourable bounce off the stick of J.T. Miller and was eventually named the game’s first star.
Sometimes, you only need one bounce to turn things around.
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) May 14, 2021
The Flames dominated the Canucks during Tkachuk’s shifts, out-chancing them 8-2 at even strength and winning the expected goals battle by a count of 0.68 to 0.25.
Conversely, Mangiapane had an unusually pedestrian defensive game by his standards but still paced all Flames skaters by producing 0.24 expected goals all by himself at even strength.
Mangiapane—who hails from Bolton, Ontario—will represent his home country at the upcoming 2021 IIHF World Championship in Riga Latvia. It’ll be his first time donning the maple leaf on the international stage.
The 25-year-old winger has 14 goals and 28 points in 53 games with the Flames this season and will be eligible to sign a contract extension on Jul. 28.
Johnny Gaudreau registered two assists in the game, keeping pace with current team scoring leader Elias Lindholm in the points race. (Gaudreau now has 44 points; Lindholm, 46). Andersson was the beneficiary of Gaudreau’s first assist, streaking down the right side towards Demko’s crease and depositing a pinpoint pass from the über-talented Flames star.
Thats a pretty pass by Johnny Gaudreau.
— Hailey Salvian (@hailey_salvian) May 14, 2021
It’s been a trying season at times for Andersson, 24, whose six-year pact with the Flames started ticking down this season. He’s averaged a career-high 21:17 per night but, according to Evolving-Hockey, has provided the team with minus-3.4 expected goals above replacement (xGAR) in 53 games. No Flames player has posted a worse mark this season.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Flames controlled 52.92% of the expected goals at even strength in Thursday’s game. That figure improved to 80.42% with Chris Tanev on the ice and 55.31% during Mark Giordano’s shifts. With Andersson deployed, the Flames controlled only 41.53% of the expected goals.
Here’s your Stat Of The Week: Glenn Gawdin, skating in just his seventh NHL game, played the least of anybody on either side. Flames head coach Darryl Sutter opted to deploy Gawdin for a team-low 8:47, including 1:10 of power play time in the dying minutes of the third period when Calgary already had a 4-1 lead.
Josh Leivo returned to the Flames’ lineup on Thursday after being out of the lineup and on the team’s COVID-19 Protocol list since Apr. 19.
The Three Gould Stars
It’s a play on my last name, see.
These “Gould Stars” will be used to recognize Flames players who were noticeable—for reasons both good and bad—in the game being discussed. This is not a list of the three best players.
Gould Star One: The Flames may not have a 20-goal scorer this year—yet—but there’s little doubt Elias Lindholm would have surpassed the mark in a full season. The 26-year-old centre victimized Demko in the third period with a lethal shot on a break.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 14, 2021
Gould Star Two: Chris Tanev, how about him? The 31-year-old defenseman led all Flames skaters (!) with five shots in the game, picked up an assist, and logged 22:07 of ice-time. (That figure likely would’ve been higher if Calgary had taken more than a single penalty in the entire game). Tanev also led the Flames with an impressive 80.42 on-ice expected goals percentage at even strength.
Gould Star Three: Yes, Jacob Markstrom is actually good. You can trust me on this one. Thursday’s win gave him 20 in four consecutive seasons. Now, it’s time for Artyom Zagidulin to start the remaining three games.