Photo Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Flames leading, trailing, and failing to score the “next goal”

The Calgary Flames were a team with some problems in 2017-18. A lot of words were written – both here and elsewhere – about the team’s shortcomings this past season. We’ve dug into some of the numbers regarding the team’s performance in particular game situations, trying to look at whether or not the team truly did “crumble” or collapse in specific situations.

The Flames had a negative goal differential in every major game situation; leading, trailing and when the games were tied. Based on the numbers we’ve dug up, the Flames are a team that battled hard in close games, but seemed to fall off big-time when the games began to get away from them. This is very similar to a phenomenon they experienced in the first half of Glen Gulutzan’s first year behind the bench: the Flames were a team that were constantly chasing (and usually failing) to score the big “next goal” in any game.

The Flames: often chasing

This probably won’t shock anybody, but the Flames trailed in games more often than they had the lead. The other team scored first 48 times, but the Flames ended up coming back to win 15 of those games. Overall, the Flames never had the lead in 24 of their 45 regulation and overtime losses this season – including 10 times through March and April.

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The interesting thing is how the Flames seemed to respond when in a trailing situation.

  • The Flames went from a tied game situation to down a goal 90 times across all game situations. Their response was functionally 50/50; 46 times they scored to tie it up and 44 times they allowed another goal to go down two goals. The other few times they ended up losing by one goal. The team’s most frequent goal-scorers when down a goal – the players who most reliable tied the game up – were Dougie Hamilton and Matthew Tkachuk, with 7 each.
  • The Flames went from another game state to down two goals 50 times. They battled back to tie the game 7 times and scored a goal but didn’t tie another 9 times – so 17 of 50 times they responded with a goal. They didn’t allow any further goals and lost by two 7 times, and they allowed more goals and lost by more than two 27 times. Essentially, they responded 16 times and didn’t respond 34 times. (That’s bad.)

For those of you curious about the impact of the power play, the Flames’ power play scored 16 times when trailing – including 10 goals that tied the game up – while allowing three short-handed goals that expanded their deficit.

Situation Time CF% S% SV%
Trailing 1255:46 57.6% 7.71% 90.5%
Down by 1 630:34 54.0% 9.55% 90.3%
Down by 2+ 625:12 61.3% 5.88% 90.8%

(All numbers are via Natural Stat Trick; game state is 5-v-5.)

Compared to all other game situations, the Flames’ goaltending was the shoddiest when down by one goal. But the team’s shooting percentage is the best when down by one goal. These circumstances explain the 50/50 break the Flames seem when they’re down a goal. But their shooting percentages utterly deflate when they’re down by two goals. The data seems to support the “when the Flames get down, they crumble” narrative – the team giving up multiple goals in rapid succession in March and April wasn’t that much of an aberration based on the data.

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Mixed results with holding leads

The Flames scored the first goal 34 times and ended up winning 22 of those games. They never trailed in 20 of their 37 wins, but that only happened four times through March and April.

But again, the Flames reacted a little bit differently when they were up by one than in other lead-holding situations:

  • The Flames blew a one goal lead 43 times by allowing the other team to score. They expanded their lead 32 times. The most frequent goal-scorers when up one goal were Sean Monahan (7) and Mikael Backlund (6).
  • When up by two goals, they allowed an opposing goal 26 times and expanded their lead 31 times.

The Flames’ penalty kill allowed 11 opposition power play goals when they had a lead – six of them tied the game – and scored two short-handed goals to expand the team’s lead.

Here’s another summary table of the team’s situational stats.

Situation Time CF% S% SV%
Tied 1503:37 53.1% 5.99% 93.1%
Leading 1034:18 49.3% 7.06% 91.6%
Up by 1 604:15 48.8% 6.12% 90.7%
Up by 2+ 430:03 50.1% 8.40% 92.9%

They were better at everything when leading by two goals or more, perhaps because they were just playing hockey and not pressing too hard to score a goal (or two, or three…).

Sum it up

The Flames had challenges scoring when: down by 2+, tied , and up by 1. They had challenges making saves when: down by 1, down by 2+ and up by 1. The save-making challenges could speak to the Flames cheating a bit defensively and giving up higher-quality chances when down in an effort to get back into the game. Their challenges scoring when tied or up a goal may be some combination of systemic issues, players pressing too hard, and plain ol’ bad puck luck.

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    • buts

      WIth all due respect Ryan skylardog addressed everything written in this article. The coaching both at the nhl level and AHL level is terrible. Any big game brings a sub par performance. BT better make some changes as these coach’s are not good enough.

  • kirby

    Said it since November. One step forward, two steps back. A good game, then a really bad one. A great road trip, then come home and take a 4 game vacation. Smith makes a few great saves, let’s in an inexcusable bad angle soft squeaker. Makes a few good plays on the puck, then forces a couple completely boneheaded plays that result in turnovers and scramble drills and empty net goals against. Top line on fire, but no depth scoring. Bottom lines start to up their game, then Johnny and Mony go cold. They pick it up again, depth scoring disappears again. etc etc etc

    Everyone looks at the end of the season as our failure, i say it was the first half. When we were the healthiest team in the division, when teams like LA and ANA and SJ were banged up and off to slow starts, when EDM (who was supposedly a Cup contender according to experts lol) was nowhere to be found, when we were looking up in the standings at nothing but an expansion team. Every little bit of momentum we gained, we instantly gave it back. Every good win we had, there was a brutal sloppy loss to follow. Every time it looked like this team was waking up, they fell back into complacency. Our season didn’t go off the rails in March when we lost all those “must win” games. It went off the rails months before that, when we could / should have been building a cushion in the division and playing with the lead, instead of putting ourselves in a vulnerable position to play desperation late season catch up.

    This team had no heart, no focus, no killer instinct, no team toughness. Could never put it together.

    (and on that note, where’s the “Gulutzan Fired By Flames” headline at? Figured we woulda seen that by now…)

        • Pizanno

          Ok, so who is the replacement? NYR looking, Dallas looking, maybe Carolina…lots of landing spots for prospective coaches. Vignault? Ruff? Sutter? Desjardins? Do their systems compliment our players?

      • Stu Cazz

        BT is a process guy. Believes in due diligence & evaluation. Make no mistake within the next couple weeks he will fire the entire coaching staff including Sigalet…..he has no choice!

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      “When we were the healthiest team in the division, when teams like LA and ANA and SJ were banged up and off to slow starts, when EDM (who was supposedly a Cup contender according to experts lol) was nowhere to be found, when we were looking up in the standings at nothing but an expansion team.”

      This. This is the season’s kernel right there. You want to blame the coach? Go for it. You want to blame leadership or a lack thereof? Go for it. You want to b lame the bottom six? Go for it. Because we had it in our hands and the team threw it away. So the blame can be placed anywhere, and legitimately so.

  • ThisBigMouthIsRight

    Just maybe the Coaching Template of “Playing for the Tie” had a little to do with the ~> “The Flames blew a one goal lead 43 times by allowing the other team to score”. Just a Guess…. (Ungh~) I can’t wait for Changes coming this Off-season…
    No surprise this team had zero killer instinct, when you’re coached to play a d-shell for a whole period(or more) instead of continuing an aggressive offensive pressure game you create a culture of passive indifference, especially when you witness that plan backfiring over and over again. Talk about sucking the joy and fun out of a locker room. Play for the tie boys, play for the tie…..

    • IUsedToHaveAName

      Playing for a tie is just immensely frustrating. There is a saying in RTS games: when you’re ahead, get more ahead. Hockey strikes me as a real time strategy game since the game is so fluid, very few stops and starts. Too many times this season the Flames should have been trying to get more ahead and then we have Brouwer/AHL guy/AHL guy on the ice.

      Part of it’s the players not showing enough urgency and part of it is the deployments from the coaching staff. This team, on paper, is more than a bubble team, something’s gotta give.

  • JMK

    Great article, Ryan. Your comments on how the team dealt in certain situations speak for themselves. What I though was really interesting was the players who stood up and scored when they needed to. Tkachuk and Hamilton showed a lot of clutch and scored some big goals. Would love to see this broken down further and see which players were getting goals/assists at key moments. For instance it would be worthwhile knowing if the majority of Gaudreaus points were when the game was already won or lost – not saying it is just an example of what would be an interesting conclusion to the analysis.

    • JMK

      Perhaps it would show which players have more heart, a difficult characteristic to quantify I know. But it may help reveal the passengers and which players carry this team on their backs.

  • The Fall

    GG’s ‘Game Management’ style was excruciating to watch all season. Not just playing for the tie, but then he managed to also ruin one of the best overtime teams in the league. GG found a way to make 3 on 3 boring.

  • Trevy

    This article just proves and reinforces GG’s inability to be a head coach. You see time and time again when good teams are down, the coach is pacing up and down the bench, conversing or voicing his displeasure to the players firing them up. A good coach needs to motivate, communicate, point out mistakes, shorten his lines if a game is tight. GG is literally like the statue of The Thinker, stays in that position almost all game and barely speaks to his players. Unfortunately, this team is also in need of more players with talent, passion and fight. Tre has a lot of repairs to mend and it starts from the coaches of both clubs to infusing some new blood into the lineup

  • freethe flames

    This is the perfect article for me to continue my discussion of Flames forwards. Again all I give is a pass or fail. Both guys I am going to talk about today should have been used more often on the PP and more often when we needed a goal rather than putting TB on the PP or trotting out the Stajan group. I will start with Tkachuk who obviously gets a passing grade; there is no doubt that his injury significantly hurt these team going into the stretch. This year his numbers were 25 goals 24 assists 49 points but a -1. Last year his numbers were 13 goals 35 assists 48 points and a +14. The entire 3m line say their +/- numbers drop this year. I believe MT numbers could have been significantly higher had he had more early season PP time. It is also time to unshackle him from the defensive responsibilities of the Backlund line. He needs to be slotted in the top 2 offensive line units. I would be okay with a line of him, Janko, Ferland or he/Monahan/Ferland(or a offensive play maker to be acquired this off season). I would like to see him kept away from Johnny just because of all the after the whistle the stuff he helps create. I think the medical made the right choice keeping him out after his concussion but I interested in seeing how he responds next year. Again a clear passing grade.

    • Hockeysense93

      I hope you mean more time on the PP will eventually contribute to more defensive awareness…because the PP doesn’t contribute to +\- directly, one way or another. Anyways…again and again we talk about player deployment as a shortfall. Why is it that everyone watching games can see it, yet the coach that uses a lot of video can’t. I agree that a more offensive 2nd line needs to be put together for sure. Backlund as a shutdown specialist should be that (3rd) line with majority defence starts. That does happen…but should be without Tkachuk. Chucky is very good at driving play and actually looks to help Backlund then the other way around. Good 2-way line that should maybe start 50/50 zone…or an uptick in offensive zone?? Tkachuk, Janko…and even maybe Bennett on the right? Bennett needs a confidence boost big time, and playing with Chucky may be the recipe.

      • freethe flames

        Somehow what I meant to say got lost in the translation. More PP time and a better PP unit would have increased his PP production. My bad for not putting that comment with his counting stats. I’m not as sure as you are about Bennett though; I just don’t see the offensive hockey IQ in him. I will be writing about him on a future thread.

        • Hockeysense93

          Yeah I apologize FTF…I wasn’t questioning your hockey prowess and kind of knew what you meant lol. Anyways…I’m a “hope upon all hope” Bennett advocate lol. He’s definelty losing a lot of the shine as his career moves forward, but I am still optimistic lol. Watching him through the years shows that his IQ isn’t of the highest caliber, but his heart is definitely in his play. He does try, and sometimes too much. He talks about his confidence being a big part of his makeup, so GG having a huge influence on his deployment and line/player bouncing may have some factor. It can’t be easy for a player to be told all their life that they are great, just to be held away from a chance to build confidence when aloud to make mistakes. For sure he should have played even another year in juniors, and most likely a year in the AHL. Extended confidence being played in a top 6 position and PP to find a form, is a lot different then demoted (in his mind) and cycled with anchor players and stuck on PK (which is not what offensive players want). He’s one of those type players that needs to be coddled more…but GG has no clue. I feel sorry for Bennett and have a feeling that another coach (maybe somewhere else) will find a way to cultivate that.

          • freethe flames

            With all that I say play him in the right role and let him grow(like Backs has done). At the moment I see him being an effective LW with Backs and Frolik adding a little grit to that defensive first group or being the LW on the 2nd defensive line with say He Shore and Lazar and providing some offensive opportunity there. Kill penalties with Lazar or Janko either way 2 centers on the PK at the same time. From there build your confidence by performing. if can be 10-15 goal scorer and a defene=sive forward first he can help a team win.

  • freethe flames

    My other choice for today is Ferland; again I’m giving him a pass. Here is a guy who can play almost anywhere in the lineup but struggles to bring it consistently. I worry that his history of concussions has changed his aggressive nature. This year his counting numbers were 21 goals 20 assists and a +5; last year 15 goals 10 assists and a -1. A significant upgrade and should have been expected playing on the 1st line. Again I believe his under utilization on the PP hurt his numbers and the productivity of the PP. (sigh again another guy whose numbers were hurt by poor coaching) There was a point where he was on pace for 30+ goals but I believe his own injuries and Monahan’s injuries hurt his chances of getting there. Going forward he could be replaced on the top 2 scoring lines if BT can upgrade in that department but he could be very productive playing on the proper shut down role as well. At this point I see him being a guy who would look great on a second offensive line with Tkachuk and Janko and on the 2nd power play unit. Again a passing grade but there is plenty of room for growth.

  • oilcanboyd

    To sum it up: Bad coaching, gawd awful boring system of playing hockey, bad player management. GG didn’t see the light that using Dougie and Byng on the powerful instead of Browser and Brodie until later in the season.
    Under Hartley the D was actively deployed very successfully leading to success in goal scoring when we needed it. Under GG the D played passive boring hockey.

  • Pizanno

    I think garbage bag day should be after the end of the playoffs. Have the team (coaches, players, GM, scouts) watch together how teams play to win the cup. Take notes, everyone. Then clean out the lockers.

    • Hockeysense93

      I like that idea! You are paid for a full season…then you are grounded to the video room to watch. If you don’t want to work your @ss off to play there…then you can sit, watch, and learn. I love that idea!!

  • MDG1600

    Lets get one thing out of the way – I absolutely believe GG and his entire coaching staff should walk the plank.

    With that our of the way I sense a lot of delusion amongst flamesnation that all the Flames problem will be miraculously fixed with a new coach. BT should be taking way more heat – he has completely misread where the roster problems are and mortagaged the future for a defenceman we didn’t need while ignoring the obvious lack of depth on the wings. And don’t even get me started on signing Brouwer, trading away Baertschi and Granlund and the revolving door of crappy goaltenders. I know this isn’t on BT but what did we get for Iginla again? Oh yeah, a big fat zero – not a single player who is NHL calibre. My point is that GM mistakes are lot more harmful and long lasting than a bad coach.

    • freethe flames

      I’m not delusional at all about BT role in this mess but I am prepared to give him another year. He needs to decide what is identity he wants this team to be. If he wants this team to be a possession team he needs to get rid of the smaller skilled and slow forwards on this team; what we have as the core of this teams forwards is something completely different than the possession teams GG has tried to make. You are correct that GM’s poor decisions have a long term impact but a bad coach can derail any good work done by the GM.

  • calgaryfan

    Poor play in the defensive zone, team seemed to play in a panic frame of mind, not confident. Need a coach to teach proper defense and breakout in your own zone. Need to play a more aggressive 2 man forecheck in the offensive zone. Corsi will take care of itself, should not even cross a coach or players mind while the game is being played. Need new coaches to fix the way the Flames are playing and also better player usage at critical times in the game.

    • Hockeysense93

      Stating the obvious, but all said here is true. Corsi is a helping factor…a tool to help evaluate and make “certain” decisions. Corsi should never be used as a starting point to build and make all decisions with. It’s just a tool. GG is too inexperienced to realize that.

  • Hockeysense93

    This team is showing some cracks which start from the top down. I have a feeling that Burke has more influence then is really told. Instead of a hugely respected GM that comes with his own staff? BT is hired and given his staff. Then instead of hiring a real respected coach to take over and bring in his staff? GG is given a staff to use. Usually when you are the head of your department…shouldn’t you be aloud to place the staff that you can ultimately trust to help make you successful?

    • Hockeysense93

      Both Pascal and Conroy are great guys and quite respected…but what are the showing really in contributions? The amatuer scouting staff is awesome, but most of it is carried over from the old regime. GG was aloud to bring his buddy Gerard…but was given everybody else it seems. I have this really nagging feeling that Burke runs things with a big ego…and it flows all the way down the line.

      • freethe flames

        allowed not aloud. But anyways I think BB has influenced the kind of team that BT is trying to put together but his view is about 5-10 years behind where the NHL is and where it is going. Speed and skill is the NHL of today; it’s okay to be physical but you need the other 2 first.

        • Hockeysense93

          I agree that the “truculence” era is far behind us, but still that edge is needed. Watching That 4th line on Vegas? Big, hard nosed players that aggravate, but can still play the puck? Fast skilled players that don’t back down is becoming the cream of the crop. Johansen, Marchant, Marchasault, Tkachuk…to name a few? That’s what’s needed now it seems. It will be interesting to watch a player like Phillips grow, because so far he seems to have all these attributes.

          • Hockeysense93

            It’s funny to say…but Fluery would thrive in this NHL! He was awesome in “those” NHL days, but wow!! His type of play and nastiness would translate into one of the best today would offer. Maybe Flames should offer him an assistant coach/mentoring position. How to play with heart and utilize that skill set with both speed and a real caring factor when it comes to protecting each other.

          • freethe flames

            I would be interested in Read from LVK as a RW option on the 4th line but only on a short term deal. Phillips is an interesting prospect everything I read about him makes me excited(I have not seen him play live so I can’t judge him but he could be an interesting fit) I sometimes think I would try in the preseason Tkachcuk/Monny/Phillips and Johnny/Janko/Ferland if BT doesn’t find a top 6 forward.

          • calgaryfan

            Phillips has a very high compete level. Is not afraid to drive to the front of the net and will do whatever it takes to win. Fearless! The type of player the Flames lack, will be interesting if the Flames give him a chance.

          • Hockeysense93

            Yeah I’ve only seen a couple junior games with Phillips, but make it a habit of reading everything I can. That tidbit about him in the 7th game of the first round this year, after scoring 2 goals and an assist…one would think that was enough. But not Phillips lol. In the last minutes of the game he was out there (of course) throwimg himself headfirst to block shots to preserve the win. That is the type of players we need in Calgary. Do anything possible to win. They should be giving Tkachuk an “A” next year, because that guy hates losing. It’s the little things that go a long way to winning in the end. We need players that are willing and able to do it. I like Janko big time, because he has put in a lot of work to become a competent 200 foot player. It will be interesting to see how more vocal he becomes next year. Monahan is awesome, but he’s a quiet leader…but after what we learned what he went through? Even quiet…a leader he truly is. Flames just need more vocal leadership to push for the next level.

    • freethe flames

      II was going to say the same thing. Why can’t the Flames score the big goal; answer to frequently Burden is on the PP or Stajan’s line is on the ice after the other teams score and we need a response.

        • Glensfunnyface

          I believe this photo is from the game where Stajan stayed on his feet for 2 entire shifts. Brouwer is like “good job dude, hope I can do that one day.” 7 + million cap hit right there. Major reason why they are on the outside lookin in.

  • MontanaMan

    The entire coaching staff needs to go in the next two weeks, to allow BT to bring in a new staff and start planning for the type of team the new coach will want and thereby starts the process for trades and planning for the draft. Peters is reputed to be an excellent coach of a poor team and holds players accountable. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he is the next coach of the Flames.

    • freethe flames

      That’s what the overwhelming majority of people on FN want but I keep hearing guys like Stienberg, Kerr and Eric Francis defend him. Drives me crazy.(How Francis has credibility in the sports industry is beyond me)

      • Rocket66

        How many players have regressed. Ferland. Bennet. Smith. Brodie Hathaway started off good I could go on my point is how can a coaching staff that is sucking the confidence out of its team be a valuable asset

      • Hockeysense93

        I don’t get that either lol. He talks and starts things without really knowing what he’s talking about. Or does he? Hmmm. That piece he wrote about needing to trade Hamilton?? I think the guy is a putz, but after he writes crap like that…I shake my head and cry in shame for having him considered one of Calgary lead writers lol

  • Dougiefred

    A couple of weeks back a lot of people on this site were down on Monahan, soft, no heart, coasting etc. all based on a what they saw at a game or on TV. Turns out multiple injuries, be careful what you rant about over and over facts may prove you an idiot.

      • Rockmorton65

        Isn’t it strange how a player can play through all these serious injuries and pain, but if they think someone, possibly, in the smallest way gets their bell rung, they can’t play for a week.

    • calgaryfan

      I respect that Monahan tried to play through his injuries, but his play for 5 years with the Flames have shown he is not an aggressive player on the ice. He never forechecks hard very rarely see him driving hard on the back check and never stands up for Johnny when the other team is hacking and slashing him. I would like to see Monahan just stand up to some of these players. I do not me fight just go over and show some aggression like he actually cares about the game and his team mates. Trash away LOL

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      Watching Trotz’s Caps in the playoffs leaves me greatly less inclined to want him… They just look slow and unorganized.
      Without OV and a few other stars on the team that can score they look bland, unimaginative and listless… and there Special teams look as weak as ours. (I know its only been two games but still, yuck)

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Trotz appears to be strictly an A to B guy–gets his club into the playoffs year after year. Cannot move from B to C–be a serious cup contender. Do the Flames really want that kind of coach at this time? I think not.

  • Derzie

    New coach needs to be tough but fair, able to play the new game, has had playoff success. Peters & Trotz don’t quite meet that criteria. Maybe wishful thinking but we have to aim high. If they get hired because they are familiar or a buddy, we won’t progress.

    • piscera.infada

      Who is this magical coach then? The one who is experienced, with playoff success, who is “tough but fair”, and is amenable to the “new game”?

      These are the mental gymnastics at play here. Need a guy with a “proven track record”: “Trotz leaves a lot to be desired in the playoffs”. “Need a guy that’s nothing like Gulutzan”: “Peters is available” (coach of Flames-East [Carolina]). “Hires a good AHL guy”: “no experience at all”. “Hires Sutter”: “lots of success, wears out his welcome quickly”.

      I’m not trying to be dismissive here, but it seems like this “magical coach” who’s going to “make it all better” just by virtue of some tangential qualities isn’t going to satiate this fanbase at all. For the record, if Trotz is available, I’m all over him.

      • Glensfunnyface

        I have said it b4 and will say it again….The coach the Flames need is local man and former Flame Tim Hunter!.. His stats in the WHL are great, his leadership and drive is second to none, and all players would be held accountable. Stanley cup finals 3 times, Stanley cup champ..he is a winner unlike stats man Gulutzan. Get an assistant coach who is stat smart and the combo will be deadly. 3 time assistant coach in the NHL so I don’t want to hear the experience bull garbage.