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Scouting the Enemy: Calgary Flames

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The Flames have been outplaying their opponents with a combination of flash, good goaltending, and blueline scoring.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

In 26 contests against the Flames since their inception, the Panthers have racked up a 9-10-4 record, with three ties. Their resulting .481 points percentage is actually Florida's 12th best amongst their 29 opponents. In fact, they're only above .500 against eight teams in total, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, the San Jose Sharks, the Montreal Canadiens, and most notably, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Their last matchup, on April 4th last season, would pit the 27-42-8 Panthers against the 32-38-7 Flames in South Florida in a battle for pride. The Flames won, behind second period markers from Kenny Agostino (1) and Mike Cammalleri (26). Vincent Trocheck also scored in the second period, on the power play. It was his fourth of the season with assists from Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Pirri. Roberto Luongo took the loss, allowing both goals on 17 shots. Joey MacDonald earned the victory, making 34 saves. None of the three Flames remain with the club, which brings us to our scouting report. * Box Score

Left Wing

Calgary will roll out super-rookie Johnny "Hockey" Gaudreau, Curtis Glencross, Mason Raymond, and Lance Bouma on the left side. Each of the four is far below the watermark in shot generation, with Lance Bouma around minus-140, but that's considering he starts less than 40% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Glencross faces the stiffest competition, also starting around 38% of the time in the offensive zone, but he sits at around minus-90. Gaudreau starts around 56% of the time on the opponents end of the ice, and has racked up a minus-70, while ex-Leaf Mason Raymond is around minus-60 with 47% positive zone starts.

Gaudreau has garnered serious consideration for the Calder Memorial Trophy, and sits third on the Flames in scoring with 31 total points and a team-lead tying 13 goals. He's shooting the biscuit at a 16% clip and playing nearly 17 minutes per game. He's not physical at all, garnering just three hits and 18 blocked shots through 40 games this season, but that's not where he makes his money. Johnny Hockey owns otherworldly instincts on the offensive end of the ice, and is very creative with the puck, although he tilts the scales at around 145 lbs and stands just 5'8". This lack of size has forced him to play a more cerebral game than his counterparts.

Glencross doesn't possess a great deal of "natural" talent, takes an occasional bad penalty, and is sometimes inconsistent. That being said, he's industrious and physical, and tends to play a north-south game. He has good speed, and has been known to go on the occasional scoring jag. He's also a pretty good penalty killer. He ranks fourth on the team with 26 points, on eight goals and 18 assists. He's second on the club with 81 hits.

Raymond is an exceptional skater and stick handler with an underrated shot, and is equally at home scoring or dishing out assists. He sometimes lacks strength, and is easily outmuscled for the puck. He missed half of the season thus far with an injury, and has been prone to them throughout his career. Aside from a hat trick early in the season, he has scored three goals with two assists in 20 games.

He has good defensive instincts and the physical skills to match, with a team-leading 125 hits on the season. He's a hard worker who can play all three forward positions, but he lacks natural scoring instincts. He's scored six goals and four assists in 39 games this season in just over 12 minutes per game.

Right Wing

Jiri Hudler, Joe Colborne, Paul Byron, and David Jones line up at right wing for the Flames. Hudler starts around 55% of his shifts on the offensive side of the ice, while his three counterparts all come in around 42%. Colborne faces the toughest competition, and has racked up a minus-100 Corsi diff on the season.

Hudler is the Flames leading scorer, with 38 points in 39 games. He's racked up 13 goals on 72 shots for an 18.1 shot percentage. He's reached 50 points three times in his career, and looks poised to repeat this year. He a great instinctive forward with a lot of creativity, and can unload a shot from anywhere with precision. He's a little weak defensively, due to his lack of size.

Colborne is 6'7" in skates, and weighs 215 lbs. He's a powerful forward who can score and set up teammates, but he's still a little raw at 24 years of age. He sometimes loses track of the game when he doesn't have the puck. He's racked up 59 hits in just 23 games this season so far, with three goals and nine assists.

Byron is a pesky little guy, roughly the same size, shape, and speed of the more famous Gaudreau. He's played in every game this season, around 15 minutes per, and has five goals and eight assists so far. He also leads the NHL (unofficially) in unsuccessful breakaways, sometimes more than once per game. Despite his size, he fears nothing (ranking third on the club with 70 hits) and can play all three forward positions. Aside from all the hits, he's prone to defensive lapses in judgement.

Jones has missed 13 games this season due to injuries, and has scored six times with five helpers in the remaining 28. He doesn't shy away from contact, with 50 hits and 15 blocked shots, but is also prone to miss time with various ailments. He's streaky, but generally plays a well-rounded game.

Center

Center is manned in Calgary by Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Markus Granlund, and Matt Stajan. Backlund leads the Flames with Corsi diff, at just minus-15. More impressively, it's against the toughest competition, and with just 38% positive zone starts. Stajan is around minus-25, starting just 35% of the time on the short side of the ice. Granlund, despite being the only center to rack up a ZS% over half, trails all other centers with a minus-120 Corsi.

Monahan is the type of player that makes his teammates better. He has piles of all-around ability and hockey sense, and is a great two-way player. He's totaled 11 goals and 25 total points in 41 games this season, leading the forward corps with nearly 20 minutes per game. He wins 49.8% of his faceoffs, but despite his 6'2" frame does not play a very physical game.

Backlund is a great skater with a lot of upside, but lacks consistency, and tends to miss a lot of games with frequent injuries (28 missed games this season). He's scored twice with four assists in a dozen appearances - but between you and me, he's due. He wins his faceoffs 50.6% of the time.

Granlund creates offense, and he's a solid two-way player. He just isn't a very consistent scoring threat, and he's kinda smallish. He plays just under 15 minutes per game, and has totaled five goals and eight assists in 29 appearances. He needs some work in the faceoff circle, currently winning just 35.4% of his chances.

Stajan is actually a natural third-line NHL level talent. He's a hard-nosed player who won't score many goals (just one with four assists in 23 games this season), but he's always getting his hands dirty with tough, gritty play. He does have some natural offensive ability, which will remain dormant as long as he continues to lack confidence. He is the best faceoff man on the roster right now, with a 53.8% success rate.

Defensemen

The defensive corps is what sets Calgary apart. Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, and Dennis Wideman rank amongst the NHL's leaders in blueline scoring, while Kris Russell leads the NHL in blocked shots season-in and season-out. The backcourt is filled out with Deryk Engelland and Raphael Diaz. Brodie and Gio both sit around minus-70 Corsi, starting just 43% of the time in the offensive zone against the best competition. Russell is the only defenseman with 50% zone starts, but he's sitting at minus-160. Wideman is at minus-200 and at 48%.

The first pairing is manned by the two best skaters the Flames have, Giordano and Brodie. Gio has 10 goals and 25 assists in 41 games, making just over 10% of his shots, while Brodie has six markers and 20 helpers. They each play around 25 minutes per game, and have combined for an impressive 169 hits. Giordano skates well and possesses highly above average offensive ability. He's currently playing at a level that will gain him notice in consideration for the Norris Memorial Trophy. His only weakness is in handling bigger forwards in the defensive zone, which bodes well for Nick Bjugstad and Hayes. Brodie is a consummate team player, with a skill set comparable to his pairing mate, but seven years younger. He is guilty of sometimes losing concentration.

Wideman and Russell would be a good top pairing on most other teams. Russell has actually gone scoreless despite taking 62 shots on goal, but he does have 16 assists. Wideman has 10 goals with a dozen assists. The Flames are the only NHL team with three defensemen who each have scored 10 or more goals. The two play around 24 minutes per game. Wideman has excellent skills with the puck and runs the point on the power play. He's got a nasty slapshot. He does sometimes turn the puck over at the worst possible time, and isn't very good defensively. Russell is fast and plays with confidence. He ranks seventh in the NHL with 125 blocked shots, but he isn't the best on the offensive side of the ice.

Diaz and Engelland round out the defensive corps. Engelland is a combatant first and a hockey player second at this point of his career. He's not good with the puck, totaling zero goals and three assists, but ranks fifth on the Flames with 60 hits in 35 games. He also has 58 blocked shots. Diaz has a single assist in 22 appearances. He's better with the puck than his partner, and doesn't make a lot of mistakes with it. He moves it well, but lacks some assertiveness.

Goaltender

Jonas Hiller gets the start in net. He's never lost to the Panthers, having allowed five goals in five games for a 1.13 goals against average and a 5-0-0 record. He's stopped 130-of-135 shot in total. He uses his position better than most, possesses quick lateral movement, and shakes off bad goals very quickly. He sometimes goes to his knees too early, which is the only weakness in his butterfly-style game. This season, he's posted a 13-12-2 record with a shutout, a .915 save percentage, and a 2.34 GAA.

I used research from www.hockey-reference.com, www.nhl.com, www2.dailyfaceoff.com, www.sportsforecaster.com, hockeystats.ca, and war-on-ice.com to create this article.