The last five game segment wasn’t one to remember. The boys went 1-3-1 over the span of 5 games. This stretch was a little misleading, with the Flames going 2-1-2 over 5 games against some tough opponents.
After their worst stretch of the young season, the Calgary Flames came back to where we expected them to be. They had fantastic games against the Islanders and Devils. But they blew blow both of them with dumb penalties in overtime. They played well against the Bruins, but too many missed chances and, more importantly, missed open nets were their demise. Despite an onslaught in the second period, the Flames played well enough to snap their 7-game losing skid against the Jets. Their game against the Kings was their best of the 5-game set by far. They controlled almost 70% of the expected goals, but they were one miracle save away from a tie game. Let’s get into individual contributors this week!
Most Impressive Player: Adam Ruzicka
Who would have thought that a young player could make an impact on the lineup? Ruzicka exploded for 4 points in 4 games, with his best game coming against the Kings. The newly formed line of Ruzicka-Lindholm-Toffoli has been explosive, partly because of Ruzicka’s excellent play. He currently leads the team in CF%, HDCF%, and xGF% at almost 70 percent. He’s also leading the Flames in average game score with a 1.46 average, .17 higher than the next-best player. While his strong 5 games represent a small sample size and should be taken with a grain of salt, he’s making a strong case to stay in the NHL as a regular.
Least Impressive Player: Jacob Markstrom
Hoo boy! Where do we even start? Jacob Markstrom has had a roller coaster of an NHL season this year – just when he starts looking unbeatable, he’ll let in a softy that keeps the opposing team in a game they don’t deserve. The most recent example was against LA. What ended as a 6-5 final score could easily have been a 6-2 win for the Flames. While he did make a ten-bell-last-minute save on Anze Kopitar to preserve the win, it SHOULD never have reached that point. The best example of this can be seen through 12 starts for Markstrom, he’s only had an above-average save percentage three times. That’s nowhere close to the elite goalie we know he can be. If the Calgary Flames want to make a playoff push, Markstrom needs to be better.
Through 15 games this year, the Flames have played well enough to be a top-10 team. They’re top five in CF%, top ten in xGF%, and top four league-wide in xGA. They have all the makings of a fantastic team built on solid chance suppression. The problem is that the goalie can’t save any of the limited chances coming the other way. I’m not worried yet as I still believe that Jacob Markstrom has the pedigree and skill to turn his lackluster season around. However, if he can’t, the Flames’ promising season is in serious jeopardy.
The next 5 game segment: Tampa Bay, Florida, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington.