The 2014-15 Calgary Flames are a club known for its peculiarities.
First, they’re a team known for its late-game comebacks. Nine times this season, the team has been down after 40 minutes and come back to win the game. Second, they’re a team that has succeeded despite having flat-out bad underlying numbers.
I was curious about two things: (1) What’s different about third periods? (2) What’s changed since last season?
Here’s what I found out.
- Faceoffs: The Flames win 45.6% of draws in the first, 48.8% in the second and 48.7% in third.
- Zone Starts: 45.9% in first, 43.1% in second, 46.5% in third
- Shooting Percentage: 6.1% in first, 9.6% in second, 12.0% in third
- Save Percentage: 92.4% in first, 91.0% in second, 93.4% in third
- Corsi: 45.4% in first, 44.3% in second, 45.4% in third
- Corsi Close: 45.0% in first, 44.6% in second, 47.8% in third
So what’s different? They’re not appreciably better on face-offs than in the second period, though they take more draws in the offensive zone than in the second period. They shoot progressively better as the game goes on, to the point where they have the best even-strength shooting percentage in the league in the final 20 minutes. Their goaltending gets iffy in the second and peaks in the third period. Their Corsi Close is about the same over the first 40 minutes and then increases, slightly, in the third.
Despite all this, their goals-for percentage (61.9%) is among the best in the NHL, despite the only thing that’s really exceptional being their shooting percentage in the final 20 minutes. (Their save percentage is 8th in the NHL in the third.)
COMPARED TO 13-14
- Faceoff winning percentage is better than last season: 47.7% now compared to 46.6% then
- Team zone starts is worse than last season: 45.2% now compared to 48.3% then
- Shooting percentage is better than last season: 9.1% now compared to 7.9% then
- Save percentage is better than last season: 92.2% now compared to 90.9% then
- Team-wide Corsi is worse than last season: 45.0% now compared to 46.3% then
- Team-wide Corsi Close is also worse: 45.2% now compared to 45.8% then
The Flames are also worse-off in terms of shots-for percentage and Fenwick-for percentage. No matter how you feel like measuring possession game, they’re worse. They’re better in terms of shooting percentage and save percentage. Their shooting percentage is among the league’s best after being mediocre for both last season and the lockout season. Their save percentage is about league average, compared to last season (and the lockout season) when it was just ugly.
Are they getting better chances than before?
Not appreciably. All this tells us really is they’re taking fewer shots from (a) right in front of the net and (b) the far left side where percentages would be lower. Things are a bit more concentrated in that center lane, but not amazingly so.
These charts from War on Ice say similar things.
Top is 2014-15, bottom is 2013-14. More shots from the slot and thereabouts, fewer from far away. Shots from right out in front are taken at about the same rate as before relative to the rest of the league.
Same as before; 2014-15 is the top chart, 2013-14 is the bottom. Last season, the Flames shot a little bit better than the league right in front of the net and a fair amount worse farther away from it. So they did the logical thing: they started taking more shots closer to the net. They are still about as good as the league right in front of the net, but they’re a LOT better back in the slot than the rest of the league.
So compared to last season, is there something to the “They’re taking better shots!” mindset? Well, maybe a little. Further evidence and analysis is needed, but you can’t dismiss the possibility.
It’s also worth noting that these areas are harder to get to (and harder to shoot from) in the playoffs, as the teams that are in the playoffs are typically better at clogging up the middle of the ice than teams that are not in the playoffs.
SUM IT UP
Calgary gets better goaltending and score on more of their shots in the third than in the preceding periods, despite their other underlying numbers being not amazingly different or better than in the rest of the game.
Compared to last season, their shooting is a lot better and their goaltending has progressed from awful to merely average (which is probably sustainable). The shooting may be fueled by them getting better chances, but it may also be by them being more successful than the rest of the league when shooting from the slot. That specific phenomenon itself may be puck luck.