Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today Sports

A game score look at the Flames playoffs

The Calgary Flames were eliminated in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs by the Anaheim Ducks. While the loss still stings, there were some nice performances by some Flames players in the four-game series. To shed a light on the good (and bad) of the first round, we turn to game score.

What’s game score?

Last spring, our pal Dom Luszczyszyn (@domluszczyszyn on Twitter) tried to encapsulate a lot of statistical noise into one handy metric for assessing game performances, taking a cue from baseball and other sports that have done the same. Tying in goals, assists, shots, blocks, Corsi differential, penalty differential, faceoff differential and goal differential, he created “game score.”

For our purposes, I’ve slightly modified game score and used even strength instead of five-on-five for the Corsi differentials for the Flames this season. It’s basically the same concept, with a few minor differences.

The scores

Here is every player that suited up for Calgary in the playoffs, with their regular season game score in brackets for comparison’s sake.

Great (0.95 and up)

  • Sean Monahan: 1.271 [0.662]
  • Chad Johnson: 1.250 [0.658] (1 game)
  • T.J. Brodie: 1.025 [0.400]

Obviously there a grain of salt for Johnson’s single game performance, but both Monahan and Brodie definitely elevated their games during the four-game sweep. Monahan never had a game score lower than 0.78 and he broke 1.70 twice. That’s very good and means he was good at even strength and also scored many power play goals.

Good (0.45 to 0.95)

  • Kris Versteeg: 0.890 [0.488]
  • Johnny Gaudreau: 0.638 [0.857]
  • Mikael Backlund: 0.565 [0.777]
  • Michael Stone: 0.544 [0.279]
  • Troy Brouwer: 0.504 [0.166]

Gaudreau and Backlund were a little bit worse than in the regular season, but not overly so. Versteeg, Stone and Brouwer were markedly better. Brouwer was out-and-out bad in the regular season, but in part due to his performances on the power play he managed to nudge his game score into postseason respectability. (He wasn’t good enough to erase 82 games of meh, though, and it’s hard to make a “he’s built for the playoffs!” case for Calgary’s seventh- or eighth-best player.)

Fine (0.15 to 0.45)

  • Sam Bennett: 0.433 [0.280]
  • Micheal Ferland: 0.334 [0.312]
  • Michael Frolik: 0.312 [0.688]
  • Mark Giordano: 0.288 [0.691]
  • Dougie Hamilton: 0.188 [0.810]
  • Curtis Lazar: 0.150 [0.445] (1 game)

Bennett was a bit better than in regular season, which was nice to see. Ferland was basically regular season Ferland. Frolik, Giordano and Hamilton were a fair bit worse than in the previous 82 games, possibly due to a tough matchup. Lazar didn’t play enough in other situations (regular season or playoff) for his numbers to mean much.

Bad (-0.15 to 0.15)

  • Brian Elliott: 0.025 [0.576]
  • Freddie Hamilton: 0.025 [0.109] (1 game)
  • Lance Bouma: 0.025 [0.109] (3 games)
  • Matthew Tkachuk: -0.025 [0.786]
  • Alex Chiasson: -0.075 [0.334]
  • Matt Stajan: -0.108 [0.242] (3 games)

Elliott was much, much worse than he was in the regular season, as was Tkachuk. Chiasson and Stajan were both a fair bit worse, but didn’t fall off a cliff like Elliott or Tkachuk. Bouma and Hamilton were a little worse, but eerily they both ended up having identical numbers in the regular season and playoffs.

Awful (below -0.15)

  • Deryk Engelland: -0.200 [0.252]
  • Matt Bartkowski: -0.225 [-0.053]

Who else? The third pairing was a major issue for the Flames. Neither guy was all that good in the regular season, but both were downright awful in the playoffs.

Sum it up

The primary story of the 2017 playoffs was a lack of bounces for the Flames. The secondary story, reflected by game score, was that some players seemed to step up while others disappeared a bit.

Let’s put it a bit more simply: the Flames had 10 regulars with “good” average game scores during the regular season. They were Johnson, Elliott, Hamilton, Giordano, Monahan, Gaudreau, Backlund, Tkachuk, Frolik and Versteeg. Of those 10, their best players, only half of them maintained that standard (and Johnson only played a single game). Three players that had mediocre seasons stepped up (Brodie, Brouwer, Stone), but it obviously wasn’t enough to make up for the contributions the Flames didn’t get from some of their top guys.

    • Derzie

      Agree with this. Eye test and stats align. found that to be the case through the season as well. Can be used as exhibit A when doing those keep or cut polls as well.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        Ras has a really good shot of cracking the line up next year. I could see him bumping Stone to the 3rd pairing half way through the season (assuming we still have Stone). This off season is critical for Ras so that he maintains his good habits and does not fall off the wagon.

  • RKD

    Tkachuk was dynamite in the regular season but after the Drew Doughty incident and the Flames brass not liking his comments they must have really come down hard on the kid and he was probably shaken. He was invisible in the series, I will cut him a lot of slack as the Flames shouldn’t be relying on one talented young kid to get them to round 2 but he was very pedestrian he wasn’t the Tkachuk were all accustomed to seeing, not by a country mile. Why Gulutzan put Elliott in to pull him after 1 goal is beyond me. Gulutzan should have put in Lazar and Freddie Hamilton earlier in the series. Gulutzan should have called timeouts or put Johnson in earlier to give Elliott a break when the Ducks were gaining momentum. Johnny hockey was invisible, he had some assists but when it came time to shoot he went for some stupid pass that fizzled the play. I was looking more from Backs his whole line totally neutralized. Engelland and Barts in the awful category, the Ducks had no Fowler no Vatanen but their kids stepped it up. Gulutzan should have had Kulak and Rasmus back there. It’s time to put some kids on the back end.

    • TheoForever

      I too believe that after the Flames management came down on Tkachuk, he wasn’t the same. Seems like a repeat of Bennett situations. Way to shoot yourself in the foot.