Vancouver Canucks 4 at Calgary Flames 3 (SO) – 2022-12-10 recap

The Canucks blew another early 2-goal lead, but were able to recover, keep the game even in the third, pour on a few chances late, and win in the shootout. And they’re not the only dramatic Western Canadian team this season.

It’s been a pretty tough season for the Flames. There was no chance that they were going to recreate what they had with their top line last season, when Johnny Gaudreau, Matt Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm were three of the league leaders in on-ice shooting percentage last season. Circumstances forced them to part with two of those three players and they did well to get what they got in return in Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, but things haven’t been great for them so far.

I have the added advantage of knowing that the Flames lost their next game against St. Louis. While I think they’re probably better than their record indicates, they haven’t really shown it. As of Saturday afternoon, the Flames are 4th in corsi but 16th in goals for percentage. That’s a combination that, ten years ago, would have made me sure they were due for positive regression, but hockey has changed a little over the last several seasons. Shot attempts and possession mean a little less, space and quality mean a little more. It’s tough to diagnose the Flames issues without a lot of data, but I’ve done a couple of their games over the last week (they were in Toronto last Saturday) and they weren’t great in either.

They were out-chanced 19-12 by the Maple Leafs, and though they out-chanced Vancouver 15-14, that’s not a great number against a team that’s been bleeding chances. While they’ve been able to get good scoring chances off the rush, once the rush breaks down, they’ve had difficulty creating anything in the offensive zone. This is a game about speed and space, and the Flames just… don’t create space when they have the puck in the offensive zone. There was a moment off a delayed penalty call where the Flames had the puck for nearly a minute and all it resulted in was a long, blocked wrist shot from the perimeter.

We’ve seen the Canucks this season. They aren’t a difficult team to break down. Every defenceman on the team is more than capable of missing an assignment every shift. The first two Flames goals were scored by players left wide open in the slot. Not moving bodies or pucks around neutralizes a key weakness the Canucks have.

It’s still too early to write the Flames off, of course. They’ve had a lot of stuff go wrong, and still have a team that can run off five in a row at any point and get back into a playoff spot. I’m more confident in them turning this ship around than the Canucks, but their offence just needs to get it together. It seems slow and predictable, far too reliant on tips and deflections, and easy to shutter on a night when a goalie like Spencer Martin has a decent night.

As for the Canucks… can they keep winning games past regulation?

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