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How many games have the Flames lost due to the powerplay?

It’s not exactly news that the Flames’ powerplay has been costing them games. With a success rate of 17.0%, it sits a surprisingly high 24th in the NHL.

The Flames are well aware it’s a problem. Troy Brouwer is apparently being given another chance on the top unit, replacing Mikael Backlund. At this point, it just feels like shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic; the Flames have a number of talented offensive players, but none of them have been able to solve the problem.

So, just how many games have the Flames actually lost due to their poor powerplay?

I tried to use strict criteria when judging what games the Flames’ powerplay has cost them.

  • Multiple powerplay opportunities in the game were required. Not scoring on one powerplay chance isn’t the end of the world.
  • The powerplay, in said game, had to have a success rate of under 100% to get them the win. If they needed a perfect powerplay to win, they had other problems.
  • The powerplay had to get them the win in regulation, not merely force overtime.

Based on those metrics, 50 games into the season, the Flames’ powerplay has cost them 12 games, and 18 points.

Date Opponent Final Score in Loss PP Success Rate
Oct. 21 Wild 4-2 1-for-6
Dec. 2 Oilers 7-5 1-for-6
Dec. 12 Wild 2-1 (SO) 0-for-3
Dec. 14 Sharks 3-2 0-for-3
Dec. 16 Predators 2-0 0-for-5
Dec. 28 Sharks 3-2 (SO) 1-for-3
Dec. 29 Ducks 2-1 0-for-3
Jan. 20 Jets 2-1 (SO) 0-for-4
Jan. 22 Sabres 2-1 (OT) 1-for-3
Jan. 24 Kings 2-1 (OT) 0-for-5
Jan. 25 Oilers 4-3 (SO) 0-for-4
Jan. 30 Golden Knights 4-2 (EN) 0-for-3

Things weren’t always so dire. Prior to their Dec. 12 loss to the Wild, the Flames’ powerplay had really only cost them two games. That’s acceptable; it’s not going to be on every night, and two games out of 30 is a blip.

Since Dec. 12, however, the Flames have lost nine of their past 20 games due to the powerplay. Included are a three-game losing streak and the current five-game losing streak.

The Flames have lost six games in extra time thanks to an inability to score just one more powerplay goal in regulation. How big of a difference does that make? They’d go from 58 points to 64, which would have them second in their division, and eighth league-wide. Instead, they’re fifth in their division and 17th league-wide.

Let’s aim a little higher. It’s unlikely the Flames’ powerplay would come through for them every time they needed it, so scrap adding an additional 18 points to their total; how about nine? If they’d been able to earn just half of the points their poor man advantage has cost them, they’d be at 67 points on the season: three back of the division lead. (One back, if we count their loss to Vegas as two of the reclaimed points.) They’d be fourth in the NHL.

A truly horrendous powerplay has them within a coin flip of the playoffs. A powerplay doing the bare minimum has them in a playoff spot. A half-decent powerplay has them as one of the best teams in the NHL. That’s how dire their complete inability to do anything with a man advantage – a system designed for them to score – has been.

The Flames have had the seventh most powerplay opportunities in the NHL and they’re 20th in the league in powerplay goals for. It is singlehandedly killing them, and has been for a month and a half now.

Flip side: How many games have they won thanks to the powerplay?

In the interests of fairness, surely the powerplay has been a positive for the Flames on occasion. It has to have won them some games at this point in the season. Using similar criteria as above, here are the four games in which their man advantage has actually helped them:

Date Opponent Final Score in Win PP Success Rate
Nov. 2 Penguins 2-1 (OT) 1-for-4
Nov. 18 Flyers 5-4 (OT) 3-for-5
Nov. 25 Avalanche 3-2 1-for-4
Dec. 31 Blackhawks 4-3 (OT) 2-for-2

Four games it helped them win – three of which went into overtime anyway. Nine games, it’s cost them.



  • Flames fan since 83

    I 100% think we would be in a playoff spot if we had an average PP.
    Just an idea, but what do you guys think of bringing up Rasmus Anderson to play the power play. Coaches lament the fact that we need a right hand shot in their system. Rasmus has a 100 mph shot, has offensive skill, and is right handed.
    Use Rasmus over Brouwer, and maybe get Rasmus some time on the back end as well.

    • Jessemadnote

      or ya know… just play Dougie on the first unit… That NHL defensemen with the 12th most powerplay goals in the league in the past four years… Maybe we could try him on our top unit? How the hell has this not happened yet?

    • Cfan in Van

      Anderson won’t be brought up for the benefit of the PP. He’ll be brought up when there’s a good fit in the line-up, overall. I think they’ll make room for him next year, but until then, he’ll keep getting his big minutes in Stockton. As others have mentioned, Dougie should be slotted into PP1 if they’re looking to boost the offense from the blue line.

      • Flames fan since 83

        You misunderstood my point. I’m not suggesting Anderson on the back end of the PP. I agree with a couple of you that we should have Stone or Dougie.
        I’m suggesting putting Anderson in the Right handed forward position that Cameron seems to think we need. (I think it is currently taken by Backlund although he shoots from the left).
        Cfan, I also agree with you that is better to bring Rasmus properly and in good time. I’m just trying to think outside the box.

  • Off the wall

    We draw more penalties than we take. Thanks Byng!

    We had 171 PP opportunities, we scored on 29 of them for a grand total of 17%

    Our opponents had 164 PP against us. Thats only a difference of (+7)
    I think we can do better at getting our penalties down. That might help in itself.

    I think Ari’ might be overstating our case. Let’s say we had an average of 20% on the PP. On 171 attempts that would be 34 goals, instead of 29. Five extra goals might translate into 5 extra games won, but I think it’s a stretch to claim we lost more than that due to special teams.

    Even so, 10 extra points is too important to shrug off. That would place us solidly in 2nd place, behind VGK. Instead, we’re struggling for a Wildcard.

    The Knights have a 19.1% PP just for reference. They don’t rely on the PP as much as other teams. The score as a committee. They had 157 PP opportunities. What’s noticeable is the have 143 PP against. Pretty remarkable differential. (+14)

    That’s our problem. We rely on the PP to generate offence. How about if our shooting percentage went up a percent or two? Or if we could score as a committee.
    Yah, that would be even better, then relying on Cameron to fix our woes, cuz you know he did such a great job in Ottawa?!

    • Jessemadnote

      Good point, I don’t even necessarily think those 5 goals would contribute to automatic wins, especially based on how this team has looked with a lead the last few games. The thing that can’t be measured but is very noticeable to my eye is that they get a powerplay and it absolutely kills their momentum. I think that’s a real thing for sure… I just think it’s silly to try to play the what if game and turn it into a number of points.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    It’s all moot as with 3 games left against the Rusty Knights and 2 against the dreaded Oilers, the best the Flames can hope to come away with is 5 Bettman loser points.

    We have already pissed away 5 out of 6 points against the hapless Oilers and diddled ourselves out of at least a point against the Newtons. 7 points already lost with potentially 10 more to come.

  • buts

    Great article and it shows how important even a middle ranked PP can be. The biggest thing I see other than the possibilities in the standings its how momentum has been lost from a ineffective PP. That game against LA our PP took away momentum and gave it LA. Also in games when the PP has struggled our PK has as well which is a double wammy.

  • Off the wall

    I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want a guy who’s scored the most even strength goals (15) on the 1st PP unit. Ferland gets no love.

    If you’re going status quo with puck movement for the 1st unit, at least put a guy who has 19 goals in 1st unit rotation.

    If you’re set on using Brouwer,
    ( his give -a crap -meter is at least better this season) wouldn’t it make sense to have him on the 2nd unit PP? You know fire pucks at the net, use Brouwer for a screen.

    Maybe I just don’t get it. Our PP is not working well, yet we change to Brouwer up front, who has 3 goals?

    Cameron has no clue. But then again, neither does GG..

  • Just.Visiting

    If I were BT at the rink yesterday and I saw GG and DC roll out Brouwer for the PP in practice, I would have had them in my office immediately. Even if I had some little belief that it could potentially work, the dynamic with a grumpy fan base when there is a major concern about missing the playoffs is that it is an absolutely idiotic thing to put in front of paying customers after the consistency of failure to date.

    That demonstrates a total lack of judgment about player placement that reinforces that the only question about their tenure is when they leave, not if. This is now at a point at which continuation of this insanity in player usage is on BT if he stands by, not the coaches.

    This is not an attack on Brouwer, as he’s been playing much better lately. It’s about using Brouwer in a situation in which the better answer (Dougie and Gio on the points and JG doing his magic on the right side) is just so obvious. It is mind boggling to me that it hasn’t even been tried when everything else has failed.

    I’d also look at having Stone on the right point on the second unit and tell him to blast away like the one night when he brought back fond memories of MacInnis.

  • Just.Visiting

    And while I’m in cranky mode, what’s with Mangi wasting away in the press box? Either move Lazar to centre and have Stajan sit for a bit or move Lazar to the press box. Lazar seems like a great guy who has size, skates well and tries hard, but, other than for the one rush that resulted in a goal about a week ago, has not shown any hands whatsoever.

  • Joeyhere

    Thanks for doing this Aruli. It’s an imperfect science. Other factors (such as when the goal game in the game, would the pp need to be 20 percent or 25)make the data less then pure. But it does show that some where between 4 and 9 points have been left on the table by this team. Your point is well taken – a few tiimely goals would make the difference. Too bad you can’t figure out a way to measure the effect of lost momentum due to our completely futile pp

  • Chucky

    If you look at it from Gulutzan’s point of view, it is obvious that the power play is a raging success. The Flames have been on the power play for a little over 4 complete games so far this year. They have scored 29 goals in that time, so they are averaging 7.25 goals per power play game. This is compared to the 46 non power play games (50-4) and have scored 110 goals (139-29) a rate of 2.39 goals per game. To add to that they are + 24 on the power play and therefore -24 when not on the power play. So I ask you ” would you prefer to have a power play or not?”. Obviously Cameron needs a contract extension and raise.
    With regard to Brouwer on the power play 3 out of his 12 points have come on the power play, 3 of 12 is 25%! Sean Monahan has only 25.6% of his points on the power play so it is obvious that Brouwer is just as effective as Monahan. Who in their right mind would not want Monahan on one of their power play units. People complaining about the use of Brouwer just don’t understand advanced statistics.

    Time to get on side and support this deep thinker, he only has 32 games left as a coach in the NHL.

  • Squishin

    Slightly off topic, but I think it’s time for me to do my first ever top 10 NHL coaches of the year list. In no particular order:
    1. Mike Babcock, TOR
    2. Gerard Gallant, VGK
    3. Bill Smith, CAR
    4. Travis Green, VAN
    5. Bruce Boudreau, MIN
    6. Peter Laviolette, NSH
    7. Joel Quenville, CHI
    8. Mike Sullivan, PIT
    9. Alain Vigneault, NYR
    10. John Tortorella, CBJ
    Any disagreements? Would anyone care to rank these?

    • Off the wall

      If for some reason Quenneville gets axed, we better get him immediately! You know the guy who had his 400th win against the Flames October 2007. The same guy who had his 600th win against the Flames December 2011.
      He’s now close to winning 900 (875) games as a coach in the NHL. A 3 time Stanley Cup winner. Yah, the guy with 20 years coaching experience , we need that guy affectionately known as coach ‘Q’

  • cjc

    I think the calculation overstates the number of points lost. For instance, if they had scored enough PP goals to win all of those games (13), the PP% would be looking unreasonably GOOD (24.6%, 3rd in the league). It’s less exacting, but it’s better to ask how many more goals the team would have scored if their power play was league average (19.59%). The answer is that Calgary would have about 5 more pp goals than they have now. If they were spread evenly that may or may not have won them 5 more games or 10 points, which is obviously still a lot. The usual translation between goal differential and wins is ~2.5, so the PP could also be said to have cost them 2 wins, or 4 points.

    Also, Calgary has a really low 5v5 shooting %. How many games has that cost them?

    • cjc

      Corsica does. Calgary is 26th in shots/60, but weirdly 10th in CF/60 on the power play. They have similar numbers to Tampa Bay in both categories, but Tampa has a league leading PP.

      Too much perimeter play? Too much traffic? Too fancy?

  • canadian1967

    I see it like this:
    Dec 12 vs Wild lost 1 point and gave 1 point
    Dec 16 vs Preds lost 1 point and gave 1 point
    Dec 20 vs Jets lost 1 point and gave 1 point
    Jan 24 vs Kings lost 1 point and gave 1 point
    Jan 25 vs Oilers lost 1 point and gave 1 point
    Jan 30 vs Vegas lost 2 points and gave 2 points

    That is 7 points from our totals and 7 points given to Western Conference competitors that I see our pathetic PP having cost us. We should be comfortably in second place or higher if the coaching staff had one iota of an idea.
    If they won’t trade for a shooter (who can score from the Dot, not a bomber from the point) then they should have Ferland positioned out there to put the PK on notice that someone can actually score from more than 5 feet from the net. He is wasted in front of the net when he has the heaviest shot of any of our forwards.