It was mentioned before the start of the season by Calgary Flames head coach Geoff Ward that Elias Lindholm would begin the season at center. It wasn’t until a couple of days into training camp that it looked like he would be on a line with Matthew Tkachuk. Then on opening night, Dillon Dube was added to the right wing and the Flames’ newest first line was born.
Through three games the line has looked excellent playing with pace and battling against other team’s top players. Dube was injured and missed the last two periods in the second game against the Vancouver Canucks, but is listed as day-to-day right now. Three games is an extremely small sample size to be getting excited about, but a look at the numbers is definitely an encouraging start for the Flames’ new first line.
By The Numbers
Tkachuk and Lindholm have been successful players since their debuts in a Flames jersey, but it may have been a surprise to some to see Dube practicing on the top line at training camp. After a bit of a coming-out party in the 2020 Playoffs, Dube was given the opportunity on Lindholm’s right wing and in seven periods he has run with the opportunity.
In the game against the Winnipeg Jets, the line was mostly matched up against the Jets’ third line in Adam Lowry, Mason Appleton, and Andrew Copp. The Jets’ line was able to suppress the attack of the Flames’ first line as all three had a Corsi-for percentage (CF%) under 50% when on the ice together. When the trio was able to get away from the Lowry line, they buried their opponents in both shots and scoring chances, while giving up next to nothing.
The next two games against the Canucks were very similar except for the fact that Vancouver didn’t have a line that could shut them down. In the Jan. 16 game, they played primarily against the Bo Horvat line and finished the game with a CF% above 70% and out-chanced their opponents.
The Flames’ top line continued their dominance on Jan. 18 in their second match-up with the Canucks. This game saw them matched against Vancouver’s top line of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and J.T. Miller who couldn’t muster any offence against the Lindholm line. They didn’t allow a single Canucks scoring chance-against at five-on-five and generated six against the Petterson line.
Dube Listed Day-to-Day
During their last game, Dube took one shift in the second period before he left the bench and did not return. It was mentioned by Ward that they don’t think the injury was too serious and he could be ready to go for Sunday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. (from ‘Calgary Flames optimistic that Dube’s injury is only minor’ – Calgary Sun – 21/01/21) No specific play was shown where the injury may have occurred, but it was officially announced on Wednesday as a lower-body injury.
It looks as though Andrew Mangiapane will fill in on the top line as has been seen at practice this week with Tkachuk flipping to the right side. The three already played during Saturday night’s game after Dube left with his injury. Mangiapane has shown some great flashes of skill in his first three outings and has one assist, which came against the Canucks on a beautiful pass on the power play to Dube.
Sunday Vs Maple Leafs
Sunday’s matinee game will be a big test for the newly created top line as they play Toronto who has been the favourites to win the North Division. Auston Matthews is out of the lineup Friday against the Edmonton Oilers due to a small injury concern. “There was a possibility that he would play today, but he just wasn’t feeling right. So, we’re going to give it a little bit more time,” said Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe.
From that quote, it’s likely that the Flames will see Matthews in the lineup when the teams face-off at Scotiabank Saddledome. It has been noted that Matthews has suffered from a bit of a cold streak to start the season, along with the rest of the roster as Toronto sits fifth in goals per game in the division. If the Vancouver games were any indication we will probably see the trio (either with Dube or Mangiapane) battle the Maple Leafs’ top line come Sunday.
It’s very early into the new season, but it is a breath of fresh air for Flames fans to see a line start the season in a dominating fashion. If Tkachuk, Lindholm, and Dube can continue this type of play, it won’t be surprising to see all three have a successful campaign in the newly formed North Division.