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Five observations from Calgary vs San Jose:
1. The Flames had no answer for SJ2
In my game preview, I speculated San Jose's 2nd line featuring Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl, and Joonas Donskoi could cause serious problems
– exceptional underlying numbers + 3M seeing more SJ1 than SJ2 = success – and, boy, that proved to be the case.
They threatened from start to finish. In ~13 minutes at 5v5, that trio helped the Sharks generate 20 shot attempts and a pair of goals; not to mention the two times they found twine on the man advantage. They were extremely dangerous down low/around the net and, clearly, not shy of shooting any and every chance they had.
When all was said and done, they combined to find the back of the net on four occasions, accounted for 10 of 26 Sharks chances, and finished 1, 2, and 3, on the team in Corsi For%. They were spectacular.
2. David Rittich was yanked too early
Don't get me wrong, he had a very rough start to the game. The 1st goal he allowed was soft and the 2nd goal was his fault as well. He came way out to play the puck – perhaps rightfully so – but the decision he made once he collected it was not a good one. It looked like there was some space to bank it off the boards and he tried to make a play over the middle instead. Obviously, the end result was not good. Even so, I would have left him in. I think the 2nd goal was a 'shit happens' kind of goal as opposed to a weak, confidence destroyer. The 1st, again, was not good but how many times has Mike Smith allowed a weak goal – or two, or three – and been given the chance to fight through it? Why couldn't Rittich have the same opportunity? He has been fantastic all season long and earned that right, I think. In a very important game vs an elite Sharks team, I'd have bet on the guy who has performed significantly better this season.
3. Deja vu
Last night's game reminded me a lot of the Glen Gulutzan era, and not in a good way. The Flames were going up against a goaltender – Martin Jones – who ranks at or near the bottom of the league in most important categories (save percentage, goals saved above average, etc). They tested him with 38 shots, 34 chances, and 16 high-danger chances. There were numerous net-front flurries where they had two, three, even four, real opportunities to score. And they just couldn't do it. It's not at all an exaggeration to say Jones is the biggest reason the Sharks aren't sitting atop the Western Conference and nipping at the heels of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Anything can happen any given night, but for Jones – the Achilles heel of the Sharks – to be a key factor in deciding a massive, massive, game is a little discouraging. That's the kind of thing that consistently happened under Gulutzan (I don't blame him for that, by the way).
It'll be interesting to see how they respond Saturday night in Vancouver.
4. The power play deserved better
Calgary was up a man for nearly 10:30. Though they played even hockey during that stretch (each side potted a goal), it's hard to be disappointed with their performance. They generated a ton of good looks on the man advantage. A ton. In that 10 minutes and change, the Flames piled up 25 shot attempts, 14 scoring chances, and nine high-danger looks. The heatmap really hammers home how much they created.
5. Quick hits
a) Sean Monahan recording five chances (four high-danger) on the power play and not converting any is about the most shocking thing ever. The guy is money in tight.
b) Though it wasn't your typical top-line performance – CGY1 started a little slow and didn't find the scoresheet – they still made an impact in other ways, such as drawing penalties. Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau accounted for four of seven minors drawn.
c) Score effects kind of took the 4th line out of the game – naturally, they don't play much while trailing – but I thought they looked good in their limited ice. They generated a few chances and weren't on for any against. Garnet Hathaway drew a pair of calls, too.
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