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Five observations from Calgary vs Anaheim:
1. Mike Smith's gaffe proved costly
Prior to the game, I suggested the Flames would clearly be the better 5v5 team but goaltending could serve as the great equalizer.
Ryan Miller, while past his prime, is still quite good. Mike Smith is not. That's essentially what the game came down to.
The Flames out-chanced the Ducks by 13 and won the high-danger battle 18-9. They also controlled better than 60% of the shot attempts in all situations despite surprisingly taking a couple more penalties than they drew. And it didn't matter.
Miller put forth a rock-solid performance stopping 37-39. Smith again posted a sub .900 save percentage (shocking, I know) and also allowed an extremely weak goal to Jakob Silfverberg in a game where one goal was the difference.
Smith is hurting the team more than helping it, which was the case in the 2nd half last season. It's time to give David Rittich a bigger workload.
2. Line 2 impressed
Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, and James Neal looked really good in their first *full* game together. They spent the vast majority of their time in the offensive zone and created some really good opportunities off of the cycle.
The Flames out-attempted the Ducks 22-8 with that trio on the ice and each player was among the top-4 forwards in 5v5 shot contributions. They were unlucky not to convert at full-strength, which seems like a running theme with the 2nd unit.
3. Why Anthony Peluso?
I don't get the Peluso thing. I just don't get it. He played just 4:19 vs the Ducks. In that time, the Flames didn't register a shot and they conceded a goal. He made very little, if any, impact physically and was lucky not to take a boarding call. Why is he playing? Is Ryan Getzlaf going to waste his time with Peluso? No. Is Josh Manson going to, especially in his first game back from injury? No. The Ducks don't have many physical guys after that. It just makes no sense to me.
I'm not Garnet Hathaway's biggest fan, either, but at least he has some speed/energy and can get in on the forecheck.
4. The 3rd pairing continues to show promise
I've mostly liked Juuso Valimaki and Rasmus Andersson playing together. They have had some patchy moments, though, and it hasn't always been smooth sailing in terms of possession. That wasn't the case in Anaheim.
As a pairing, they posted a 76.47 Corsi For% in more than 11 minutes of ice at 5v5. Most of their time was spent against either Adam Henrique or Ryan Getzlaf, too, so it wasn't as if they were playing fluff competition. They more than held their own vs above average, established NHL players. It's going to be very fun to follow their development.
5. Another strong night for Noah Hanifin
This guy has been a completely different player with Travis Hamonic by his side (63.94 CF% with, 42.86 CF% without). The Flames once again dominated the shot and chance share with that pairing out there. Hanifin was also very involved offensively, which is often the case when Hamonic is healthy, leading all Flames blueliners in shot contributions at 5v5.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.
On the 2nd pairing, giving Rittich more work, and playing Czarnik
Predicting the Pacific Division standings