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Five observations from Calgary vs Arizona:
1. The Flames were stout defensively
Arizona is not a great offensive team at the best of times. With Nick Schmaltz, Christian Dvorak and Michael Grabner, among others, out of the lineup, generating chances on a consistent basis was going to be even more of a challenge. That proved to be the case as Calgary absolutely smothered Arizona's attack and made life as easy as possible on Mike Smith.
In better than 52 minutes of 5v5 play, the Flames gave up 14 chances. Just four of those were high-danger, which is the 2nd lowest total of the season. The lone exception came in a 2-0 win over Minnesota where the Flames gave up three high-danger looks – and that game featured 10 fewer minutes of 5v5 play.
Regardless of how little firepower is on the other side, the Flames still deserve a lot of credit for the defensive effort they put forward. I mean, it's kind of hard to hold an NHL team fighting for a wild-card spot to one quality chance every 13 minutes.
2. The stars continue to produce
We all know the saying about your best players needing to be your best players to have success. Well, that was the case last night – as it has been all season long.
The Flames were playing from ahead for the majority of the game. Their stars didn't get regular workloads in terms of ice time. And yet they still piled up the points.
Norris front-runner, but certainly not all-star caliber defenseman, Mark Giordano scored a couple goals – one of which was an absolute laser – and added an assist while leading the defense core in Corsi For%.
Johnny Gaudreau recorded a goal, a beautiful assist from behind the net, a team-leading five shots, and consistently made something out of nothing.
Sean Monahan banged one in on the doorstep (what else is new?) and picked up the primary assist on Gaudreau's goal.
Matthew Tkachuk continued to show he's as capable of scoring goals as he is creating them by burying a pair on the doorstep to push his total to 23 through 47 games.
And the list goes on. All of their big guns came to play and the score reflected that.
3. Mike Smith held up
Smith stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced and was screened completely on the only shot that beat him. In other words, there were no soft goals he was clearly at fault for. That's not often the case. Yes, the Flames made life easy on Smith. Yes, there were some uneasy moments along the way (net front scrambles, shots off the post, etc.) even when the puck stayed out. But at the end of the day, he got the job done. It was a respectable performance for a guy who really needed it.
4. Andrew Mangiapane was finally rewarded
He picked up his 1st career assist on the opening goal of the game and threatened to score his 1st goal on a few occasions. Mangiapane generated two or three *really* good chances around the net. He didn't convert on any of them, of course, but the encouraging thing is they were there. Calgary's bottom-6 has been pretty inconsistent offensively this year – particularly if you focus only at 5v5, where Mark Jankowski has strangely had a much tougher time creating – so it'd be a big plus if Mangiapane can establish himself as a regular and start to chip in. His performance vs Arizona should buy him more opportunity to do so.
5. Travis Hamonic's absence was felt
With Hamonic out of the lineup, Noah Hanifin found himself paired with Rasmus Andersson on the 2nd unit. It did not go well. They controlled fewer than 35% of the shot attempts and all four of Arizona's Grade A chances at 5v5 came with that duo on the ice. No other defenders were on for a single high-danger look. It wouldn't be overly concerning if their struggles were a one-time thing but that's not the case. As a pairing, Hanifin-Hamonic have a Corsi more than 6% higher than that of Hanifin-Andersson. One defense injury really puts the blueline out of sorts, which probably explains why the Flames are rumored to be in the market for one more veteran defender.
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