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Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Why are the Flames so good in extra time?

The Calgary Flames did it again Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.

Thanks to Michael Frolik’s game winner 78 seconds into extra time, the Flames improved to 3-0 in overtime this season, continuing an impressive trend. Factoring in a pair of shootout wins, Calgary is a perfect five for five in games that go beyond regulation this year.

Dating back to last October, no team has been more proficient in extra time than the Flames, and that’s no fluke.

The results

Before we get into why Calgary is so dominant in extra time, let’s take a look at the raw results. All of the stats in this piece are compiled starting from the beginning of the 2016-17 season, which has been a nice stretch for the Flames when going beyond 60 minutes.

Overtime Shootout
Team W L PCT Team W L PCT
Calgary 12 2 0.857 Detroit 11 1 0.917
Washington 10 4 0.714 Winnipeg 4 1 0.800
Los Angeles 14 6 0.700 Calgary 6 2 0.750
Columbus 13 6 0.684 Arizona 7 3 0.700
Montreal 13 9 0.591 St. Louis 4 2 0.667

So, since the start of last season, Calgary is the only team with a top five win percentage in both OT and the shootout. For context, Detroit is 11-1 in shootouts but just 7-15 in overtime. Similarly, the Kings have the highest number of OT wins but are just 3-4 in shootout situations. Impressively, the Flames have been able to marry both sudden death formats better than any other team.

These extra time wins have been crucial, too. Thirteen of Calgary’s 97 points last season came as a result of extra points earned in overtime or a shootout. The team went a combined 13-4 last season; however, a record closer to .500 in that regard would have made things far more touch and go for a playoff spot.

For instance, 9-8 in extra time would have seen the Flames finish just two points ahead of Winnipeg for the final Western Conference wildcard spot. Had that been the case, things could have been a whole lot more interesting down the stretch, so there’s no doubting how crucial Calgary’s work was in extra time.

Overtime

When comparing overtime to shootouts, the Flames are definitely at their best in the former. That’s not to say they’re not good in shootouts, because they are, but three-on-three is definitely Calgary’s forte, as judged by their league-best winning percentage. Perhaps the biggest reason for that is the team’s multitude of players seemingly made for the format.

With so much emphasis on possession in the current iteration of overtime, it should come as no surprise that certain players thrive more than others. As such, it’ll come as no shock to see the seven Flames players with OT winners over the last 14 months or so.

Player OTG
Sean Monahan 3
Mark Giordano 2
Mikael Backlund 2
Michael Frolik 2
Dougie Hamilton 1
T.J. Brodie 1
Johnny Gaudreau 1

Actual overtime winners only tell part of the story, though. After many swear words, I accepted the infuriating fact the NHL does not track overtime points, making it a little more difficult to paint the desired picture for this article. As per usual, though, it was Corsica to the rescue.

While not 100% accurate, I was able to isolate point totals scored at three-on-three since the beginning of last season. Because the VAST majority of that has been OT time, the results below are a pretty good gauge. Additionally, the following point totals do not take into account four-on-three powerplay time, because that would have taken days to sift through and I don’t love this article THAT much, although I do think it’s very neat.

Player G A PTS Rank
Johnny Gaudreau 1 4 5 T-4th
Mikael Backlund 2 3 5 T-4th
Michael Frolik 2 3 5 T-4th
Sean Monahan 3 1 4 T-17th

My conclusion is pretty simple: the Flames have the type of players that fit overtime perfectly. Backlund and Frolik are cerebral types who can read open ice and anticipate what’s coming next. Gaudreau is one of the most ridiculously skilled players in the league and the puck is tethered to his stick at the best of times. Monahan is an efficient finisher, while Hamilton, Brodie, and Giordano are all gifted skaters tailor-made for three-on-three.

Prior to compiling these stats, it was still fairly easy to suggest Calgary had solid personnel for overtime. Taking the team’s numbers into account, however, makes the argument that much more convincing.

Shootouts

Because the Flames are so proficient in OT, they just don’t get to shootouts as often as they could. Since October 2016, only 36.3% of Calgary’s extra time games end up in a shootout. The team’s ability to close once they get there is an asset, though, especially when their win rate is up at 75%.

Since last season, the Flames have had just three players score shootout goals, but they’ve all done so at a solid rate.

Player SOG ATT PCT
Kris Versteeg 4 7 57.1
Sean Monahan 3 8 37.5
Matthew Tkachuk 2 2 100.0

It’s actually astonishing to not see Gaudreau’s name on that list, knowing how skilled he is with the puck. Alas, Gaudreau is 0-for-3 in shootout attempts since last October, which makes you wonder if he’s due for some to start going in.

Versteeg’s work has been the most important, as three of his four goals have ended up being shootout-deciding markers. Impressively, both of Tkachuk’s shootout goals this season have won games for the Flames, too, which is a pretty nice clip.

I find shootouts a little harder to evaluate, mainly because there’s still such a “coin flip” element that goes along with them. However, Calgary’s 19-11 record since the 2013-14 season is nothing to sneeze at. At the very least, the team’s ability to grind out shootout wins is a nice companion to their outstanding work in overtime.

Conclusion

It would be tough for the Flames not to be supremely confident in games that go past regulation. Their work beyond 60 minutes is a true X-factor no other team has in their back pocket, and it’s something that should give them an edge as the season continues. With a perfect 5-0 record in overtime and the shootout so far, it has already paid huge dividends in a season less than two months old.

  • Sven

    Why are the Flames good in extra time?

    Johnny Gaudreau

    From ESPN:

    “Simply put: Gaudreau is the best 3-on-3 player in the NHL today. Johnny Hockey has four goals and seven assists for 11 points in 41:43, a league-best 15.93 points per 60 minutes for players with at least 30 minutes in the 3-on-3. He has been on the ice for 11 goals for and just one goal against, which is remarkable. In overtime, size matters not.”

  • Off the wall

    Excellent read Pat!

    I can’t remember where I read it, however when we have the lead going into the 3rd period, we’ve also been able to shut teams down.

    It’s nice knowing that we have the personnel to be a great finishing team, whether it be 3on 3, shootout or shutting down the opposing teams in the 3rd!

  • Alberta Ice

    I remember how awful the Flames were in shootouts in the Iggy era. (Iggy was awful at it and looked uncomfortable when called upon.) The older players were not as good as the newer ones when it was introduced. Guys like Jonathan Toews came in and were lights out. But with Mony and Johnny and Matthew, lots now to like. And, yes, 3 on 3, Johnny Hockey is ever dangerous with all that room to maneuver. And the fact that he loves to play 3 on 3 doesn’t hurt either.

  • Robhouli

    Gotta love the picture for the article. Johnny is at leat 8″ off the ground and is the same height as Jankowski. I think the Flames like to attack with 3 on 3 hockey, GG said it the other game ” Guys are looking at me in OT and asking is it my turn”. With success comes confidence and this group in OT is as confident as anyone in the NHL. Great time to be a Calgary fan, GO Stamps GO!!

  • Puckhead

    A few observations about Johnny:

    I’m the warmup in Detroit he was the last guy off the ice in the warmup, as he tried to squeeze in as many shots on the net as possible. His shots are more accurate this season and he is mixing up the types of shots he takes, with great results.

    When his ‘little’ legs get churning, he is on fire with better acceleration than I’ve seen before.

    He’s playing above his weight class and is oozing confidence.

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    Just my own observations from watching different teams play 3 on 3 in OT. The Flames play a possession game, where they rarely takes shots for the sake of shooting. They will gladly back off and try to enter the zone, over dumping it. They usually only dump it if the crew on the ice is dead tired.

    Compare that to other teams that think it makes sense to take a slapshot. Or make a high-risk pass into a crowd. We have two trios that know how to tire out the other team, by passing it around and getting them to chase.

  • Greatsave

    Honestly, expected more depth from a Pat Steinberg article than “Flames have players suited to 3-on-3 look at their lovely counting stats.” Not to belittle his work, just pointing out his usual high standards.

    I was hoping for more detailed analyses on things like strategy, tactics, set plays, tendencies, etc. He noted that teams have emphasized possession in 3-on-3 OT, but then didn’t dig into how (or whether) the Flames were doing things differently to ensure possession, or if indeed possession was the reason why the Flames are doing as well as they are in OT.

    Hopefully there’s more to come on this topic from yourself or one of your colleagues, Pat!

  • HOCKEY83

    The shoot out should be taken out of the game and 3 on 3 should be implemented until someone scores. No way would it ever take as long as a period or the length of the 5 minute 3 on 3 ot period combined with the length the shoot out takes. The 3 on 3 is far more entertaining then the shoot out.

    • Atomic Clown

      I would argue that 3v3 needs to be extended to 10 minutes. This would force coaches to utilize more than 6 players, and even if the flames use 3 players to just tire out the opposition and let the big guns rest, that still gives them almost 9 players that can go grab the winning goal. All of our D except for Stone and Hamonic is extremely mobile, they can basically play as a forward. Backlund and Frolik are like the Sedin twins, each knows where the other is, and read the play a step ahead. Monahan has the best shot on the team, and his offensive instincts, he doesn’t miss. And finally, Gaudreau, as per ESPN the best 3v3 player in the league. That much space is just unfair. If the league decides to revisit 3v3 for the all star, I would like to see a line of McDavid-Gaudreau-Karlsson. Goodnight everyone else

        • BlueMoonNigel

          Watch the 2022 Winter Olympics as they will be teammates on the Chinese national team. Chinese Olympic officials are as we speak fiercely negotiating a relaxation of citizenship rules that will make it even easier for athletes to “shop” their services for the purpose of Olympic competition. It is said in the Chinese press that the Matthews and McDavid will be offered anywhere from$10M US to $15M US to wear the red and gold in 2022. This for about a month’s work!