A few notes on the game that was, the notion of fighting affecting the result of a game, as well as a word on the Vancouver Canucks and their recent struggles.
It was a bit disappointing hearing Johnny get booed as much as he did in his return to Calgary. It seems like a lot of the fanbase has gotten toxic this year on multiple fronts.
The boos didn’t get to him off of his game. He set up the first two power play goals and served as a distraction on Boone Jenner’s tying marker at 4:34 of the third period. It’s a shame he chose not to re-sign in Calgary. He is such a rare combination of speed, skill and hockey IQ.
While he’s not considered elite like Johnny Gaudreau, Andrew Mangiapane put up a more structured game that resulted in him being named the first star. A goal and two assists while keeping the opposition scoreless while he was on the ice. Columbus had zero high danger chances while he was on — the Flames had six.
The eye test shows that the 5’10” left wing is starting to get his top gear back. His acceleration is a challenge to contain when he’s going. Expect the points to pile up in the coming weeks.
Another game, another careful deployment for the 26th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
His underlying stats looked sublime. 15-4 in shot attempts while on the ice. 10-1 in shots and 5-1 in high-danger chances. His single shot on net was a dangerous front-step opportunity.
It’s unreal just how quickly he gets to a loose puck. He might be the most talented puck retrieval forward on the team at 21. Here’s hoping he starts getting more minutes per game than the 7:36 he played last night. A bit of time with Jonathan Huberdeau would likely benefit both players greatly.
Speaking of shaking up the second line.
The Big Man
What a fight between Milan Lucic and Mathieu Olivier.
First of all, we don’t need to debate whether Olivier can eat rights. That fight was number nine of the 22-23 campaign for the 25-year-old rookie from Biloxi, Mississippi.
The brutality of the exchange may be for a reason. You’ll see that there really isn’t much attention paid to holding on to the other player. Nor is much mind given to pulling the other combatant around in any given direction. Milan tends to ragdoll the opposition with his left hand in order to keep them off balance.
It could be that Olivier wanted the rite of passage fight. Maybe Lucic wanted to wake up his team — the Blue Jackets had finished scoring two power play goals just a minute and eleven seconds before the scrap.
Regardless of the collective reasoning for the bout, Lucic’s left shoulder looks like it’s still partially broken down from an injury sustained last playoffs after taking a bodycheck from Josh Archibald. Check how awkwardly the fight ended. It doesn’t look great in his tussle with Ian Cole last Saturday either. Those two fights were his first and second of the season. They took place within three days of each other.
For reference, here is him against Mark Borowiecki in a statement game against Nashville late last April. Note how much more active his left arm is in managing Borowiecki’s balance. That kind of action prevents fights from turning into a stand-and-slug like we saw with Olivier.
Here’s where this gets interesting.
Look at this game chart graphing expected goals for last night’s game. The graph separates the three periods on the x-axis, or right to left.
The fight takes place at the 11:07 mark of the second period. Immediately following the fight, we see a massive jump in expected goals in the Flames’ favour.
You can see the same trend in their Corsi. Right around 11:07.
You’ll run into puritans from time to time that will shake their head furiously and yell over you that fighting has no impact on the result of a game. No impact on momentum even. Some people are stubborn enough to quote “studies” from 10-15 years ago that vary so greatly in sourced data that you actually might hurt their feelings to point out how unreliable the information they provided is.
This is an instance of a clear momentum uptick after a fight. It’s cool to see in the wild. Like seeing a ghost.
Speaking of shoulders.
It appears the 32-year-old stalwart will miss time after colliding with Columbus forward Eric Robinson in the first period last night. It’s the same shoulder he had surgery on over the off-season.
You look at the injured reserve lists prior to the game and see that Zach Werenski sustained a very similar injury in October — a torn labrum and a separated shoulder. Werenski got shut down for the rest of the season. You have to wonder what Chris’ timeline will be to return.
The 25-year-old has earned at least a point in his last 12 starts. He’s on a four-game winning streak. At what point do we just accept that Daniel Vladar carries the torch until Markstrom can earn his #1 role back?
The Canucks play their first regular season game of the Rick Tocchet Era tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks. If you have the evening free, it might be worth watching.
The new year hasn’t been kind to the Canucks. The team has put up a gruelling four points over ten games in January. Their 57.7% penalty kill over that time goes hand in hand with a tied-for-last 4.50 goals against per game.
They delayed the firing of Bruce Boudreau and the media released it before the organization could get their arms around the situation. The fans have been lambasting the organization for weeks. Morale among the fanbase is at a low and the home crowd will be vocally expressing their discontent with the coaching change at every opportunity.
Despite all of this, Vegas has the Canucks as -235 favourites tonight against a Blackhawks group that comes into Vancouver 6-2-0 in their last eight. Chicago lost their last game 2-1 to LA two days ago, but were pressing a rally in the last five minutes.
Maybe there is something bet makers are aware of. Perhaps one or two practices with a new coach is all it takes. It’s notable that Alex Stalock, the breadwinner of Chicago’s goalie tandem, is day-to-day. Petr Mrazek is coming off a .926 performance against the Kings, so you have to wonder.
The game will be an interesting preview of Thursday night when the Blackhawks come to Calgary.
Stats via naturalstattrick.com, nhl.com, hockeyfights.com and eliteprospects.com. Graphs courtesy of naturalstattrick.com. Credit to u/dbainerr on reddit for his bag-head selfie.