Thanks, tips: how the Flames keep getting burned on the PK

After Calgary’s 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 1, Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan was not happy. “The most frustrating thing for me is we made the exact same mistake on
the penalty kill that we did the night before, which we addressed this
morning. That’s the most frustrating.”

The mistake? Yet another tip-in goal by an opposing power play. It’s become a continual vulnerability for the Flames this season, so we thought we’d illustrate for our readers precisely what the coach was talking about (and perhaps ponder what can be done about it).

THE GENERAL FORMATION

Last month, our pal Mike Fail did a great job illustrating the general concept of Paul Jerrard’s revamped penalty kill. In short? Intelligent, targeted aggression, in a system known as the Czech Press.

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Here’s a brief illustration of what the Flames’ penalty kill has looked like over the last while.

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In short, it’s a box formation. (Which isn’t all that aggressive.) Teams like the box because it allows the PK to keep the puck around the perimeter and (theoretically) more readily allows for disruption of passes and shots by closing off shooting and passing lanes. But a box formation is also much more passive than the Flames likely desire themselves to be on the PK.

There’s also been a constant vulnerability of the formation: tip-ins from the slot or right around the goal-mouth.

OCTOBER 22: ST. LOUIS

On the first goal, one of the Blues defenders sneaks in from the point and delivers a low, tippable slap shot towards the slot. David Perron is there, unchecked, for the easy direction.

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On a subsequent power play, the Flames seem to be aware of their vulnerability (as you can see in the first of the two photos that follow).

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The Flames cheat a bit towards the forward in the slot, not wanting to get burned in the same way. The two Blues forwards see that and criss-cross before the one-timer, which crosses up the Flames defenders. Three Flames get bunched together by the hash marks, allowing Paul Stastny a completely open lane for the tip-in.

OCTOBER 30: WASHINGTON

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Against Washington, the Flames seemed to guard against the tip-in from the slot by having a strong presence. As you can see in the above image, Dennis Wideman is right on top of him.

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But if you look here, you can see a challenge: Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie move up to the hash marks to guard against Justin Williams’ tip and neglect to notice Marcus Johansson behind them. Alex Ovechkin delivers a nice slap-pass that Johansson tips past Brian Elliott.

NOVEMBER 1: CHICAGO

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Once again, the opposition power play induces the Flames to operate in a box with some movement along the perimeter. Then, a rapid-fire sequence leads to a redirection goal.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

The challenge for the Flames is that teams with good puck-moving power plays can move the puck around the perimeter rather quickly to work against the pressure the Flames are trying to create, as passing is always faster than the pursuing skaters. To combat this, the Flames have shown a tendency to move from their Czech Press formation to the box when they get flummoxed by passes around the outside. It saves energy and allows for killers to guard the passing lanes around the perimeter, but it does have the big vulnerability that we’ve described and illustrated here.

  • Scary Gary

    Thanks for this Ryan. We also lead the league in minor penalties taken (92), so simply staying out of the box at a league average pace would have resulted in 23 fewer penalties (6 fewer goals at 72.7% PK).

  • RedMan

    Flames complain about slashes to Gaudreau, but even after 21 slashes in a single game and a broken finger, no calls.

    “OK Flames, you want us to call slashes? sure, here’s one for you”.

    Refs then call slash against wideman, even though it was minor…

    i am really losing interest in watching games because of the inconsistent reffing that appears fishy, not just to the flames, but around the league.

    this is the only professional league that changes the way it calls penalties on a night by night basis, even a period by period basis. really destroys the game.

  • Scary Gary

    We’re also not as bad of a team as we appear to be (8-12-1).

    Second worst save percentage in league (0.884), second worst penalty kill in the league (72.7%), worst power play in the league (8.5%), second worst PDO in the league (0.964), shot attempt percentage close (50.44%), 11th in unblocked shot attempts for vs unblocked shot attempts against (+12)

    Based on previous seasons these goaltenders aren’t this bad, our shooting percentage isn’t this bad and we can be more disciplined. If one or more of these things improve with our special teams we’ll be a fringe wild card team at the end of the season like many of us thought we would.

    • Southboy

      So when we are a basement team with these numbers were not a bad team? This means we are exactly a bad team. People need to quit thinking we are a good team with a run of bad luck, we are a bottom feeding, rebuilding team that needs a few more years.

      Maybe its not our goaltending that is bad, but our lack of defenseman. We have brodie, an aging Giordano signed to a bad contract for an okder guy, and hamilton who needs a few more years.

      • Scary Gary

        Well in fairness I did say we could be a “fringe wildcard team”.

        We always knew the first 20 games or so would be an adjustment period with new coaches.

        • Southboy

          From the fact he is still young, and defenseman typically take longer to progress, plus the fact he HAS not played well in a top pairing roll, but rather really well in a 3rd pairing roll. Common sense really is the short answer!!

  • redwhiteblack

    If worst or close to worst in special teams is the norm for this team all year then we will be in the running for Nolan Patrick.

    Vegas Golden Knights is a cheesy name. However I do like the logo. The logo and team name reveal party was a train wreck. Bettman got booed even in Vegas (must have been a few Canadians in the crowd) which is awesome.

    • Baalzamon

      I like the logo too. I was afraid they’d go overboard and make it a gaudy mess, but it’s nice and sleek. Colors are maybe a bit on the dull side though.