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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.