February 03 2009 01:24PM
Due to some server issues, this was cross-posted from my site.
After last night's loss at the hands of the bottom-feeding Colorado Avalanche, the Flames road record dipped to a mediocre 11-10-1; a stark contrast to their 19-5-3 home dominance.
With 18 of their final 33 games on the road - including a noxious 7 game trip at the beginning of March, it would be interesting to see what may be causing the inefficiencies away from the Dome.
First, let's get the obvious stuff out of the way: the Flames started the year on the road and they were terrible. They've also struggled in back-to-backs so far this season, often due to cruel scheduling.
Still, the issue has persisted somewhat beyond the ugly first couple of weeks. Calgary were monsters from January 1 till now, winning 8 of 12. Three of the 4 losses occurred on the road, however. Not a good trend for a team aspiring to be amongst the elite in the league.
Let's take a look at the clubs away corsi and ES percentages during the last month or so to perhaps illuminate what's been going on.
The good stuff:
Solid goaltending (.915) and strong outshooting (+50) over the 5 games in question. Doesn't look like the Flames were grossly outplayed in aggregate, which is good news: it indicates the team isn't reliant on certain home advantages to drive results (last change, familiar surroundings, etc).
The bad stuff:
Flames combined SH% and SV% over those 5 games was a below average 98.6, despite technically outplaying the opposition at ES. The culprit is the nominal 7.1 SH%, which is obviously driven by the terrible SH% with guys like Iginla (1.9 !!), Cammalleri (2.2), and Lombardi (4.3) on the ice. When your first line skaters are getting those kinds of bounces (despite typically outplaying the competition) it's tough to get wins.
The bright side, is, of course, the fact that there's little chance of Iginla et al. shooting blanks forever. Jarome managed 19 ES shots on net over five roads games during the period in question - and scored just one goal. Bertuzzi, for comparative purposes, scored twice on 6 shots. Iginla is still clearly moving the puck in the right direction and at some point it's bound to start going in the net.
It's amazing how results can color perceptions, isn't it? I was starting to come around on the subject of Bertuzzi - but guess who was the biggest boat anchor in terms of possession at ES away from the Dome last month? That's right - ol' number 7 (one of only 4 players in red by the CORSI metric). His ineffectiveness was entirely hidden by astronomically good percentages at both ends of the rink. His combined SH%+SV% number of 119% is mind-bogglingly good fortune, given that we know that forwards don't really effect their own goalies SV% and the Flames were out-played with him on the ice.
Bert's CORSI rate has been mediocre or worse all year (despite good linemates and so-so opposition), but he was a victim of crappy ES % for a good portion earlier in the season. This is likely the correction. Once the hot streak ends, Bertuzzi may go back to looking like a questionable signing. You'll also note from that link that star players like Iginla tend to drive both shots and SH% over the long run, further suggesting that the team can't possibly be this bad with Jarome on the ice for much longer. Once Iginla gets the bounces, the team is likely to do better in other buildings.
Of course, five games is a pretty small sample size, so it might be instructive to look at the entire season on the road thus far.
The picture painted by these numbers might actually be a rosier one, if you believe that outshooting is valuable and percentages tend to correct themselves. The Flames are +128 away from the dome this year, with only youngsters like Boyd and Pardy in the red. Even Bertuzzi is above water by a good measure. The weakness, again, has been the SH% and SV%, with the team not being particularly efficient at either end of the rink. Wayne Primeau was the only semi-regular skater to enjoy a SH% above 10* when he was on the ice. The 89.8% SV is likely well below league average as well.
*(Poor Curtis MceLhinney - the Flames's ES SH% with him in net is 1.2%!!!)
All told, Im less worried about Calgary's road heavy schedule going forward: they're currently one game above .500 as the visitor thus far, despite some pretty crappy bounces and a number of ugly back-to-back trips. They've managed to play in the bad guy's end of the rink more often than not, which indicates they aren't necessarily being outplayed. If the team can continue in the same and vein and get Jarome on his horse, they'll be fine.