(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)
After a horrendous October and a shaky November, the Calgary Flames really got their act together in the month of December. A lot of credit for that has to go to their much, much improved special teams play. While in the early months of the season the Flames gave up a ton of goals – and took a ton of penalties – to other teams’ power-plays, they reined things in during December. And the same goes for their power-play: rather than having fans shout “decline” in a mocking fashion the rare times they drew calls, instead they’ve managed to create chances and make teams think twice about hooking, holding or roughing them up.
So just how improved are the Flames’ special teams lately? Let’s dig into it, focusing on special teams opportunities and the amount of shots they’ve generated and/or given up in each circumstance.
The Flames played a dozen games in October. Through the month, they drew 31 penalties that produced power-play opportunities – an average of 2.58 per game – and they took 39 penalties that resulted in an opposition power-play – an average of 3.25 per game.
In terms of shots per situation, the Flames were generally out-shot at even-strength: their shots-for per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 time was 28.6, compared to their 29.8 shots against. They weren’t deluged by shots, but they gave up more than they got. On the power-play, they generated 43.7 shots per 60 minutes and gave up 48.6 shots per 60 minutes of penalty kill time.
Most Frequent PP Personnel In October: Gaudreau-Monahan-Hudler-Wideman-Giordano; Bennett-Colborne-Raymond-Russell-Hamilton
Most Frequent PK Personnel In October: Frolik-Stajan-Russell-Wideman; Backlund-Monahan-Giordano-Hamilton
As in October, the Flames played a dozen games in November. They drew 33 penalties that produced power-plays – averaging 2.75 per game – and took 26 penalties that needed killing – an average of 2.17 per game. The reduction in penalties was a huge improvement and probably saved their proverbial bacon (or would have significantly had their PK been a bit better).
In terms of shots per situation: the Flames’ power-play was even less effective at getting pucks on net, averaging 40.8 shots per 60 minutes; while their penalty kill was downright awful, allowing an average of 68.5 shots per 60 minutes of PK time. (Yikes.) At even-strength, to contrast, the Flames reeled things in a bit: they got 28 shots per 60 minutes and allowed 28.5 shots, which is as close to even as you can get without being even.
Most Frequent PP Personnel In November: Gaudreau-Monahan-Hudler-Wideman-Giordano; Bennett-Colborne-Jones-Brodie-Hamilton
Most Frequent PK Personnel In November: Stajan-Backlund-Brodie-Giordano; Frolik-Jooris-Russell-Wideman
In December, the Flames played 13 games. They drew 48 penalties that resulted in power-plays (3.69 per game) and took 27 penalties that needed to be killed (only 2.08 per game). Those both continue the improvements they made from previous months, particularly their MASSIVE jump in power-plays per game. It’s worth noting that they had a home-heavy schedule in December which lends itself to match-ups being favourable for chances and the generation of power-plays, but it’s still good to see.
In terms of shots per situation? The Flames generated 55.9 shots per 60 minutes of power-play time – a pretty big improvement over November – while they allowed 46.8 shots per 60 minutes on the penalty killl – another pretty strong improvement over November’s numbers. At even-strength, they allowed 26.9 shots per 60 minutes while allowing 29.1 shots against in the same situation. The numbers are close enough to November’s for the differences to be considered statistical noise, more or less.
Most Frequent PP Personnel In December: Gaudreau-Monahan-Hudler-Wideman-Giordano; Colborne-Raymond-Bennett-Brodie-Hamilton
Most Frequent PK Personnel In December: Stajan-Backlund-Giordano-Brodie; Granlund-Monahan-Wideman-Russell
SUM IT UP
The power-play is getting much more effective at shot generation, perhaps due to the fact that they’re getting more ice-time as the season wears on. The personnel on each unit hasn’t changed massively – the biggest chance is a healthy T.J. Brodie bumping Kris Russell from the power-play – but they’re much better at generating shots on goal.
The penalty kill is being used less frequently, but is also getting more effective – albeit in shot suppression. The personnel on the PK has been shuffled a little bit since October; there’s more Backlund, Granlund, Monahan, Giordano and Brodie, and less Frolik, Jooris, Wideman and Russell. (Granted: Frolik was injured in December and is typically a second-unit fixture on the PK.)
Admittedly, it’s a bit odd – and speaking to Calgary’s depth issues – that two players that are fairly frequent healthy scratches (Raymond and Jooris) are key players on the power-play and penalty kill, respectively. The usage of those players in particular baffles me a bit.