When the Calgary Flames defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, they became the fourth NHL team this season to win 10 games in a row, joining the Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, and Philadelphia Flyers. They’ve taken the streak and used it to vault themselves into contention for a home ice playoff spot: something that would have been unthinkable earlier in the season.
It is, of course, not going to last. You want to talk about sustainability; winning another 10 games in a row is probably not that. The NHL record is 17, after all. Winning another 10 right now would see them carry this victory streak into April – which is a little difficult to imagine, even for the most dedicated of supporters.
But that doesn’t mean the Flames are a paper tiger, either. Yes, they’ve been a team that has been getting the bounces more often than not over the course of this streak, but they’ve earned it.
All numbers are from Corsica, 5v5, score and venue adjusted.
|Stat||10-game streak||Entire season|
|CF%||52.37 (4th in NHL)||50.87 (13th in NHL)|
|SCF%||51.59 (9th in NHL)||47.39 (23rd in NHL)|
|GF%||76.59 (1st in NHL)||50.25 (15th in NHL)|
|xGF%||52.17 (6th in NHL)||48.70 (T-20th in NHL)|
|Sh%||11.43 (1st in NHL)||7.43 (18th in NHL)|
|Sv%||96.23 (2nd in NHL)||92.29 (15th in NHL)|
|PDO||107.66 (1st in NHL)||99.72 (19th in NHL)|
Three numbers from this streak in particular stand out: their goals for percentage, shooting percentage, and PDO. Remember back in January when Kent Wilson noted the entire Flames team basically turned into a bunch of Engellands, and it wasn’t likely to last? That’s corrected itself in a big way, and that’s the part that likely is unsustainable. Their save percentage has spiked as well, and that has a good shot of falling back to earth, too.
But it’s not like the Flames haven’t earned some of those numbers. Yes, they’re getting a lot of goals – but they’re also creating those opportunities. I keep saying this, but it’s not at all like the 44% CF team of the 2014-15 season. Throughout this streak, the Flames have been outshooting their opposition. Throughout the season, they have been outshooting their opposition – just not to as great an extent, but still good enough to be in the top half of the NHL, lows of the year included.
There’s one stat I really want to point to that’s made a major jump, though: scoring chances for. The Flames aren’t a top team in the NHL at this. They’re top 10, but they’re not among the very best. But they are so, so, so much better at this now than where they were through the rest of the season. They won’t be able to maintain a lot of these numbers, but if they can maintain that one, they’ve probably turned a corner. Because generating more scoring chances isn’t as reliant on luck as a stepped up shooting percentage is – they can control that. They can drive to the net more and keep other teams boxed out from theirs, and that’s part of what’s led to this streak. (Even just against the Penguins, which featured a number of fluke goals, how chaotic a crease did they make it for Marc-Andre Fleury?)
There have been two major lineup changes since this streak began: Michael Stone joined the team, and Micheal Ferland joined the top line. Stone has missed the past two games, but the streak has continued; Ferland has made the top line that much more dangerous, giving the Flames another threat when Mikael Backlund’s line is tied up with the opposition’s top players. I’d go so far as to suggest Ferland’s impact is greater than Stone’s for that reason alone, but the mid-tier of the defence does perform much better with Stone in the lineup (bless Engelland’s contributions, but having him out on the ice at the same time is Sidney Crosby is scary; being able to shelter him works to his and the team’s benefit).
Those two roster moves didn’t turn the Flames into one of the very best in the NHL overnight, though. There’s still more work to be done – re-signing Kris Versteeg and getting a more capable winger for him and Sam Bennett, and finding an ideal top four defence partner for T.J. Brodie, namely – but that will have to wait for next season. Then we might – might – be able to start treating some of those 10-game streak numbers as entire season numbers. That’s when a team has reached contender status.
A season is the sum of its parts. The Flames have had two horrible stretches in October and January. They had a six-game winning streak in late November and early December. They have their current streak, which has come at a particularly great time. Every single one of the games they have played has the exact same weight in the standings.
What we’re seeing right now, though, is a team in the final stages of a rebuild. They aren’t out of the woods yet – but they can see the sun shining.