Flames in seven games: 5-1-1 in season’s fourth segment

We’re now a third of the way into the season, and the Flames haven’t just kept up their winning ways: they’re improving on them.

In their first seven-game segment, they were 4-3-0. In their second, they improved to 4-2-1. In their third, they were once again 4-3-0. They’ve yet to lose a seven-game set this year – and with a ton of goals scored over their past seven outings, they’re asserting themselves as a team to be reckoned with.

Underlying numbers via Corsica and Natural Stat Trick.

Team stats

Now at 17-9-2, the Flames have started to separate themselves from the rest of the Pacific Division. They have a .643 winning percentage through the season so far, up from their previous .595. It has them seventh in the NHL, fourth in the Western Conference, and first in the Pacific Division.

  • Their goals for per game is 3.57, up from their earlier 3.29. They’re tied for fifth overall in the NHL, second among Western Conference teams, and first in the Pacific Division.
  • Their goals against per game is 2.89, improved from their previous 2.95. They’re 14th in the NHL, ninth among Western Conference teams, and fourth in the Pacific Divison.
  • Their goal differential is +18, up from +6. It has them fifth in the NHL, third among Western Conference teams, and first in the Pacific Division.
  • Their powerplay is at 23.8%, up from their earlier 20.8%. It’s tied for 10th in the NHL. They’re fifth in the Western Conference, and first in the Pacific Division.
  • Their penalty kill is at 75.9%, up a little from their earlier 75.8%. It’s tied for 24th in the NHL. They’re 11th in the Western Conference, and fifth in the Pacific Division.
  • At 8:08 penalty minutes per game, they’ve reduced the number of infractions they’ve taken, down from 8:14 earlier. The Flames are tied for the seventh fewest penalties taken in the NHL, second fewest in the Western Conference, and second fewest in the Pacific Division.
  • Their 5v5 CF/60 is 61.10, down from their previous 63.65. It’s the sixth highest in the NHL, and third among Western Conference and Pacific Divison teams.
  • Their 5v5 CA/60 is 52.04, down from their previous 52.45. It’s the second lowest in the NHL, and among Western Conference and Pacific Division teams.
  • Their 5v5 CF is 54.01%, down from their previous 54.82%. It’s the fourth highest in the NHL, and third among Western Conference and Pacific Division teams.
  • Their 5v5 shooting percentage is 8.03%, up from 7.44%. It’s tied for 17th in the NHL.
  • Their 5v5 save percentage is 91.57%, up a little from 91.56%. It’s 17th in the NHL.
  • Their PDO is 99.61, up from 99.00. It’s 18th in the NHL.

So, what’s changed?

The Flames went on a goal-scoring spree these past seven games – a set that somewhat ironically included their first time being shut out this season – and that boosted their overall offensive numbers (but not their corsi for – though thanks to scoring so often, during games they didn’t have to try to generate chances as much as they likely would have otherwise). Their goal differential has soared as a result, but maybe the best news on the entire offensive front: the Flames, with all of their offensive talent, are actually, finally putting it to use on the powerplay.

Also encouraging is that on the defensive side of things, the Flames are holding pretty steady. They’ve been good at limiting corsi events against, and their goaltending appears to have evened out for the most part – and that’s with both David Rittich and Mike Smith sharing the net roughly equally (albeit Rittich did get the tougher opponents in this set). The penalty kill could still use some work, however, but at least the Flames have been pretty good about not really taking penalties.

The Flames really aren’t benefiting much from percentages one way or another: they’re driving play, their shooting percentage isn’t extreme, and by the numbers at least, they just look like a really good team.

Player stats

First, the forwards (all situations, ordered by ice time).

Game scores courtesy of our very own Ryan Pike: 0.950 and above is considered great; 0.450-0.950 good; 0.150-0.450 fine; -0.150-0.150 bad; under -0.150 awful.

Player TOI Goals Points P/60 SH% CF% GF% OZS% Game score
Lindholm 570:36 13 30 3.15 16.67 58.51 61.18 55.28 +1.243
Gaudreau 565:54 12 35 3.71 14.63 61.21 64.94 68.91 +1.347
Monahan 552:10 17 33 3.59 20.00 60.84 64.10 71.43 +1.331
Backlund 519:37 5 17 1.96 7.04 55.35 55.36 50.00 +0.856
Tkachuk 491:15 13 32 3.91 20.31 62.47 68.75 69.76 +1.204
Neal 430:16 3 6 0.84 4.23 58.02 50.00 63.09 +0.415
Bennett 380:39 4 9 1.42 8.89 55.81 58.06 66.40 +0.508
Ryan 361:04 4 9 1.50 14.29 53.81 44.83 47.95 +0.390
Jankowski 266:16 4 10 2.25 13.33 45.73 50.00 50.00 +0.378
Frolik 242:25 7 7 1.73 18.92 51.49 45.45 53.93 +0.568
Hathaway 224:19 3 4 1.07 15.00 43.18 64.29 53.25 +0.210
Dube 205:18 1 5 1.46 5.00 49.16 56.25 62.65 +0.271
Czarnik 197:31 2 5 1.52 8.33 56.40 31.25 59.72 +0.387
Mangiapane 23:54 0 0 0 0 52.50 0.00 85.71 +0.138
Lomberg 16:31 0 0 0 0 42.11 n/a 50.00 -0.038
Peulso 13:58 0 0 0 0 52.17 0.00 33.33 +0.042

Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk have proven borderline unstoppable. Lindholm is looking exactly like that last, hopefully long-term cog Gaudreau and Monahan needed to establish an elite line, while Tkachuk continues to make his case as one of the Flames’ most important players near singlehandedly, on an incomplete line featuring the team’s fifth best forward in Mikael Backlund and an uncertain rotating cast. It’s really difficult to find fault in any of these guys’ games, and it’s obvious who the team’s best forwards are.

There’s some good news in the hunt for the team’s sixth best forward: James Neal looks like he’s performing better as the season goes on. The puck still isn’t going in for him, but he has the worst shooting percentage among every single Flames forward with at least one goal. We keep saying this, but surely there’s no way that holds up for the final two-thirds of the season, right?

The Flames look to have a decent enough supporting cast to their top line players. Mark Jankowski is performing a little better and Derek Ryan is holding on as well, while Sam Bennett is doing alright and the team would probably benefit from Michael Frolik’s return. Some of the shine has worn off Austin Czarnik as of late, but he still deserves the chance to be a regular (at the least, over Garnet Hathaway).

Injuries and demotions have opened up chances for Andrew Mangiapane (decent start) and Ryan Lomberg (probably should not be in the NHL).

The Flames’ most common line combinations at 5v5 have been:

Gaudreau Monahan Lindholm
Tkachuk Backlund Bennett
Tkachuk Backlund Frolik

It doesn’t look like there’s any desire to split up the Flames’ top line any time soon: they’re one of just four lines in the NHL to have spent over 300 5v5 minutes together.

The team still hasn’t found a consistent linemate for Tkachuk and Backlund, however.

Now, the defence (all situations, ordered by ice time):

Player TOI Goals Points P/60 SH% CF% GF% OZS% Game score
Giordano 685:52 3 27 2.36 3.85 57.25 63.95 51.84 +1.113
Brodie 600:27 3 12 1.20 7.14 52.40 58.62 50.24 +0.693
Hanifin 573:15 3 13 1.36 6.38 55.03 50.85 49.21 +0.628
Hamonic 402:40 2 7 0.04 4.65 51.99 46.81 40.00 +0.756
Andersson 384:25 0 1 0.16 0 49.14 55.56 63.03 +0.191
Valimaki 331:58 1 2 0.36 4.35 47.80 34.62 64.71 +0.172
Stone 176:18 0 4 1.36 0 48.09 35.00 50.88 +0.364
Kylington 46:07 0 0 0 0 47.78 50.00 69.23 -0.075
Prout 25:40 0 0 0 0 52.00 20.00 50.00 -0.325

Mark Giordano remains the best the Flames have, but there’s been some noticeable improvement from the rest of the top four as of late. Travis Hamonic is performing well with the toughest zone starts on the team, while TJ Brodie looks to keep getting better. Noah Hanifin, meanwhile, has shot up over this seven-game stretch – scoring more probably has something to do with that, though. But fact of the matter is, there really isn’t a weak cog you can point to in the Flames’ top four most games.

The rookies are still figuring things out: Oliver Kylington in particular, who’s getting a chance earlier than expected due to Juuso Valimaki’s injury. He needs to show a little more, but in the meantime, he’s holding up well enough as an injury replacement sixth defenceman.

Dalton Prout probably shouldn’t be playing too much in the NHL at all, though.

And finally, goalies (all situations):

Player TOI SV% ldSV% mdSV% hdSV% Game score
Smith 943:31 88.36 95.38 89.23 77.12 +0.026
Rittich 726:39 91.88 95.71 93.75 83.15 +0.789

Rittich still easily has the superior numbers, but over these past seven games, Smith has done some work to bridge the gap. Rittich can be better trusted with the tougher saves at this stage of the season, but maybe Smith will be able to continue rounding back into form as the games progress – though it’s still going to take a fair bit to get back up there.

The best case scenario for the Flames, however, would be for two goalies playing at least at league average. It’s taken some time, but this is probably the first bit of evidence we’ve gotten indicating that they may be on their way towards just that.

  • MWflames

    In the era of advanced stats, do the flames have a team that has put the Game Score results as good as those in this article? You gotta look really hard for a weak spot in this line-up, best players are lighting it up, while the support are chipping in on the score board and providing solid play.

  • BendingCorners

    This team might actually be good. It would be nice if they had a bit more of a physical edge to them, and goaltending is a bit of a question mark, but they are fun to watch right now and could make some noise in hte playoffs.

  • BendingCorners

    This team might actually be good. It would be nice if they had a bit more of a physical edge to them, and goaltending is a bit of a question mark, but they are fun to watch right now and could make some noise in the playoffs.

    • Chucky

      The interesting aspect of this team is that they seem to be able to win a close tight checking game on night and the next they can win a run and gun shootout. quite encouraging.

  • buts

    Would you swap James Neal with a pick or prospect or say Stone for Kessel? 1 year older, a million more and can skate…. Pens are looking at moving Kessel according to Friedman.

  • Sven

    perhaps after last night – goal tending remains a concern

    but the skaters are rockin

    Looking at the ‘All Situation’ game score on Corsica Hockey

    of the top performing skaters this year to date

    Two are Jets

    Two are Lightning

    Two are Sabers

    Two are Leafs

    Three are Avalanche

    and five play for the Flames

      • Sven

        also thought the goal post gods have been a little anti Flame lately

        Johnny G rang three onto the iron and out against the Kings

        and I’m kinda thinking two or three of the jackets were onto the iron and in last night

        all evens out in the end

      • MDG1600

        If the Flames lose the CBJ game 6-4 I guarantee you everyone is talking about how the Flames goaltending is a concern. Calgary has outscored teams to win a number of games this year which has created complacency about our goaltending.

        • Avalain

          Complacency about our goaltending? Certainly not around here. We could win 9-0 and somewhere in the comments would be a post about our goaltending situation. If it was Smith they would say “Oh, sure, he got a shutout. But he looked really shaky on a lot of those plays and he’s just lucky that the defense helped him out. We can’t expect a performance like that against a team that actually showed up”. Meanwhile, if it was Rittich they would say “Rittich looked amazing, but can he do this when he begins to get more starts?”

          No, I don’t think complacency is the big issue around here. It seems that as the team does better and better, the expectations rise and we all find smaller issues to complain about. This is a good thing, of course. That’s what we want to happen. It’s good to never settle. However, since there really isn’t much that can be done about the goaltenders right now, what can we really talk about?

          • MDG1600

            ha ha ha – I guess I have to concede Smith does get a pretty rough ride on this site but I think most people love Rittich. Speaking for myself I know I really worry about the goaltending largely because I do think the Flames have such a good team. It will be a shame if they don’t achieve success on account of the goaltending. It is factually true that Smith has been poor this year and it is also factually true that Rittich is still unproven as a starter. For fans who want to see a deep playoff run it seems reasonable to worry about the goaltending. No one wants to see a repeat of the Nightmare Elliot produced against Anaheim 2 years ago.

  • Squishin

    In Friedman’s 31 Thoughts:
    31. 32 Thoughts in 2021-22. Need more sources.

    How about you try writing something about the Flames for a change? There were, honest to god, 5 big thoughts about the Leafs, 3 about Ottawa, 2 about Edmonton, and 1 about Vancouver. Winnipeg and Calgary continue to get ignored, despite being two of the three best Canadian teams. Guh.

    • wot96

      Maybe its a reflection of the fact that he has no friends in Winnipeg and none in Calgary now that Burke has moved media side. Hard to be an insider when there’s no one inside you know.

    • SGRietzey

      In fairness – where has the biggest news been lately? Seattle is official; naturally there will be remarks about it. Ottawa’s its usual tire fire, so it makes sense that there’s a sentence or two as well. Toronto finally signed Nylander – not that I’m advocating for more Toronto coverage, but it makes sense he’d write about it, especially given the effect it may have on comparable contracts. There are also 3 points about Philly in there – with them having fired Hextall and hired Fletcher, again, makes sense. Hitchcock has changed things under Edmonton and they have arguably the best player in the league; there is bound to be discussion based purely on that.

      Not that an acknowledgement about say, the Flames having 4 players with 30+ points, or more 5 goal periods than the rest of the NHL combined wouldn’t be nice – but could it be that there’s just not really any noteworthy or major about them right now?

  • Grayone

    8-1 the last two periods??? What a turnaround … Bill Peters must be wonderin’ about this group …. for certain: with the powerplay so efficient of late, no team will want to take penalties.

    Best moment for me was at the end … Smith uses his stick like a shepard’s crook and brings Rittich over for a post-game chat. Great mentorship there in my opinion … can’t help but wonder what the ‘old-guy’ said to the young buck?? Within all the hubbub of a wild win, the was a highly worthy moment!

    All the best …

  • The Doctor

    Anaheim seems to be defying gravity at this point. Pop gun offence and horrible goal differential yet second in the Pacific. Clearly shows what goaltending can do (as has often been the case with Montreal and Carey Price in years past). I live on the coast and thus catch more Anaheim games than I’d like to, and many games I’ve watched this season they’ve been decisively outplayed.

  • Chucky

    One of the things that no one is mentioning because no excuses are needed is that they are probably not putting their best lineup on the ice.
    It was a real ballsy move by Peters to play Prout last night over Kylington, particularly with CBJ second in the metropolitan realizing that Prout is the 8th defenseman on the roster.
    There can be a lot of debate regarding who are the top of the bottom 6 forwards but Frolik has to be in that discussion and so does Dube.
    This team is probably better than the one that played last night and should improve over the season. It must be nice for a coach to look at the room and think “I can win tonight without my best”.

  • Korcan

    With Bennett apparently struggling, now might be the time to move Neal up to the right wing on Backlund’s line and let him play a string of games there to see if they can develop some chemistry. My suggestion would be to leave him there with the exception being when Calgary faces teams with mega lines (i.e. Colorado) in which case reunite the 3M line; otherwise, keep playing Neal there for a while rewarding him for the progression we are starting to see in his game. If it clicks that will give Calgary two dominant lines.

    I would also suggest bumping Jankowski to the 3C position as his game is starting to round into form. Partner him with Mangiapane(until Frolik returns) and Bennett.

    That leaves Czarnik, Ryan, and Hathaway as the 4th line, which is where their recent play (with Czarnik the possible exception) would suggest they fit best.

    • Chucky

      I am not convinced that we will not see Bennett sit for injury. It looked to me like he hurt his right shoulder against Dallas and he was not hitting in Chicago or Columbus. When he doesn’t crash and bang his effectiveness drops off.

  • Jourflamesfan

    I think I’ll be more convinced if they beat Edmonton again and if they can dominate Anaheim & San Jose like they have so many other teams.
    This team gets you so high then they would get creamed by these above mentioned teams.
    This is the bench mark I guess for me.

  • The Doctor

    Off-topic, but I just caight the end of that Oilers-Blues game. Blues basically put on a “how to blow a lead” clinic. McDavid’s shootout goal was also clinical — he totally outsmarted Allen.

    • Alberta Ice

      So did RNH. Rather shocking the Oil had to come from behind to win this. Is Talbot back? Kept them in the game. Meanwhile, really curious to see how the Flames handle the Wild tomorrow night. They have been a tough team for them to beat the last few years. GFG.

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        Man, I used to watch Edmonton games for Connor but now I watch for Lucic. I mean, he can’t score. It’s like they told him he can’t.

        I watch with scientists. He’s defying the laws of physics at this point.

  • FlamesFan27

    I’m a Flames fan who lives in Edmonton. I’ve scored some tickets to the game on Sunday and I haven’t been as excited to see a live game in years! I’m from the “older” generation and the battles from the 80s and early 90s were epic. I’m hoping it gets back to that, but with a different team as the slightly better one. Yeah I know a lot of Flames fans hate the Oilers (it’s mutual), but there is nothing better than a top end rivalry. I would like nothing more than to get the rivalry back, and to beat the Oilers in the playoffs!

    Now, if I could just afford a new Tkachuk jersey to go with the overpriced tickets and the $13 beers.

  • freethe flames

    When I look at these numbers and especially the forwards I get excited as there are number of guys who have yet to live up to expectations or to have found their role on this team. One guy who I get excited about is Mangiapane; I know he has yet to get an NHL point but when I look at his talent and work ethic in the last few games I would suggest he will eventually. In many ways if you compare his career so for he reminds me a lot of Byron’s progress as a player; it’s going to take a while but I think he will get there.

    Janko seems to have turned a corner and may get near the numbers I had hoped for but he is still not there.
    Neal; I have been sadly disappointed by his production and his effort for most of the season but I have seen a better effort from him in the last 5 or so games and this could be a good sign.

    • Cfan in Van

      Just because you mentioned Byron… I read this morning that he has the NHL’s highest shooting %, with Monahan not far behind. He’s been successfully scoring goals for the Habs for a few years, so It’s probably not a fluke.
      It completely blows me away that he made a name for himself for not being able to finish anything at all. Always liked the guy, I was sorry to see him go, but man I wish he could finish like that here.