Before the season started, Glen Gulutzan speculated that his team could have a 100-point season. Now, 21 games in, the Flames are on pace for roughly 98 points.
So far, so good. How else have things fared for the club roughly a quarter into the year?
The adage is that if you’re in a playoff spot by American Thanksgiving, you’ll probably be in a playoff spot by the end of the season. Last year, they bucked that trend (RIP L.A.); this year, they’ll be hoping they don’t, as they sit third in the Pacific Division. Not a comfortable third, mind you – the sixth-place team is only two points back from them – but also, they’re only two points out of first place.
It’s a tight race so far in the West, with only Arizona and Edmonton looking out of it. But the Flames, for their part, have played well.
- Are 10th league-wide in points percentage (.595), second in their division.
- Are 23rd league-wide in goals for (60), tied for 16th in goals per game (2.68).
- Are tied for 18th league-wide in goals against (64), tied for 19th in goals against per game (3.05).
- Are tied for the 11th best powerplay league-wide (21.6%).
- Have the league’s worst penalty kill (72.6%).
- Have the eighth best 5v5 CF% in the NHL (51.79%).
- Have the sixth highest 5v5 CF/60 in the league (62.6).
- Have the 16th best 5v5 CA/60 in the league (58.28).
- Have the 11th highest 5v5 SF/60 in the league (32.01).
- Have the 20th best 5v5 SA/60 in the league (32.38).
- Are sixth in the NHL in 5v5 SCF/60 (30.77).
- Are 15th in the NHL in 5v5 SCA/60 (27.44).
- Are 17th in the NHL in shooting percentage, at 8.97% (27th in 5v5 shooting percentage, at 6.74%).
- Are 14th in the NHL in save percentage, at 90.79% (fourth in 5v5 save percentage, at 93.52%).
- Have a .998 PDO in all situations (1.003 at 5v5 play).
In other words, the Flames have fared better on the offensive side of the puck than the defensive. The major discrepancies here are that their shooting percentage remains a little low – their recent success on the powerplay has done wonders for it, though – and that Mike Smith has been stellar, except when called upon to perform during the league’s worst penalty kill.
The Flames have also put themselves in an extremely good position to make the playoffs, collecting points more often than walking away empty handed. And their underlying numbers suggest this is sustainable, with excellent possession numbers and no totally egregious percentages suggesting a crash any time soon (barring Smith, who has thrived through the first quarter of the season, but even then it’s possible he simply keeps this up).
Speaking of Smith, he’s been one of the top goalies in the NHL so far this season. (All stats from the “Seriously, Mike Smith” header remain the same due to no games on Thursday.)
Speaking of Flames standouts, Johnny Gaudreau is right alongside Smith in making a case to be the team MVP. While Smith has kept the Flames in some games they perhaps didn’t deserve to be in, Gaudreau has done the bulk of the team’s scoring. With 31 points in 21 games, he’s been in on just over half of the Flames’ total offence at the season’s quartermark.
He’s also still third in NHL scoring, and of the five players with 30+ points so far this season – Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Jaden Schwartz, and Brayden Schenn – he’s the only one to not have a teammate up there with him. Sean Monahan, with 22 points in 21 games, is tied for 20th league-wide in scoring.
Courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, here’s how each individual Flame has fared so far this season. All stats are at 5v5, and the table is ordered by ice time:
Most of the Flames’ most-used players are also their top corsi players. The exceptions are T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and Michael Stone – the middling defencemen, if you will – and Sam Bennett, who kind of acts as a halfway marker between most and least played. On the other end, the exceptions are Brett Kulak (took some time to establish himself as a regular), Jaromir Jagr (previously injured), and Rasmus Andersson (one game call-up, but looked pretty good in said game).
Players who see a greater difference between their regular corsi percentages and high danger ones include Hamonic (worse in high danger scenarios), Stone (better), Matthew Tkachuk (worse), Micheal Ferland (better), Kulak (better), Mark Jankowski (better, from below 50% to above), Matt Stajan (ditto), Matt Bartkowski (worse), and Freddie Hamilton (better).
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the 3M line continues to have the toughest zone starts, as does Troy Brouwer, for some reason. Gaudreau, Monahan, Ferland, Jankowski, and Jagr all have the easiest zone starts, which makes sense: they’re either top offensive talents, playing on the top line, or a rookie.
League-wide, among players with at least 200 5v5 minutes played, Tkachuk is the NHL’s top corsi player. Mikael Backlund ranks eighth, Michael Frolik 10th, Dougie Hamilton 14th, and Mark Giordano just misses the top 20, at 21st overall. The Carolina Hurricanes are the only other team with four players in the top 20 at the quartermark, while the San Jose Sharks have three.
As for the powerplay, again ordered by TOI, players with minimal time excluded:
Ferland really looks like he belongs on the man advantage. The top unit would really be firing on all cylinders if Hamilton replaced Brodie. There’s a noticeable gap between the pucks the first unit gets compared to the second, though.
And penalty kill:
Brouwer is actually doing relatively well as a penalty killer. Meanwhile, I know Monahan gets a lot of ice time already, but it may be worth it to try him out on the kill a little more often – he might just have a knack for it.