Flames in seven games: 5-2-0 in season’s fifth segment

The Flames have won every seven-game segment of this season so far.

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. In their fourth, they improved to 5-1-1. And even though they were shut out twice in this fifth segment, going 5-2-0 was still their second best of the year so far.

Underlying numbers via Corsica and Natural Stat Trick.

Team stats

Now at 22-11-2, the Flames have left many wondering just how good they really are – because at this stage of the season, they’re very, very good.. They have a 0.657 winning percentage through the season so far, up from their previous 0.643. It has them tied for fifth in the NHL, tied for second in the Western Conference, and alone at first in the Pacific Division.

  • Their goals for per game is 3.49, down from their earlier 3.57. They’re sixth overall in the NHL, third among Western Conference teams, and first in the Pacific Division.
  • Their goals against per game is 2.69, improved from their previous 2.89. They’re third in the NHL, second among Western Conference teams, and first in the Pacific Divison.
  • Their goal differential is +27, up from +18. It has them third in the NHL, and first among Western Conference teams and the Pacific Division.
  • Their powerplay is at 22.6%, down from their earlier 23.8%. It’s 10th in the NHL. They’re fifth in the Western Conference, and second in the Pacific Division.
  • Their penalty kill is at 79.8%, up from their earlier 75.9%. It’s tied for 15th in the NHL. They’re 10th in the Western Conference, and fifth in the Pacific Division.
  • At 8:56 penalty minutes per game, they’ve taken more infractions, up from 8:08 earlier. They’re 18th when it comes to penalties taken in the NHL, ninth in the Western Conference, and fifth in the Pacific Division.
  • Their 5v5 CF/60 is 59.24, down from their previous 61.10. It’s the seventh highest in the NHL, and third among Western Conference and Pacific Divison teams.
  • Their 5v5 CA/60 is 51.68, down from their previous 52.04. It’s the second lowest in the NHL, and among Western Conference and Pacific Division teams.
  • Their 5v5 CF is 53.41%, down from their previous 54.01%. It’s the fifth highest in the NHL, and third among Western Conference and Pacific Division teams.
  • Their 5v5 shooting percentage is 7.89%, down from 8.03%. It’s tied for 20th in the NHL.
  • Their 5v5 save percentage is 91.83%, up a little from 91.57%. It’s 14th in the NHL.
  • Their PDO is 99.72, up from 99.61. It’s 19th in the NHL.

So, what’s changed?

The Flames are still scoring at a high rate, but as the season has gone on, they’ve done well at reducing the number of goals going against them. While some of their offensive prowess has been sacrificed – their falling corsi for and shooting percentage, for example – their corsi against and save percentage have improved. In this latest stretch, the Flames gave up five goals in one game; other than that, they never gave up more than two. It may be worth noting that David Rittich played the majority of the games – four and a third – while Smith played two and two-thirds, and was the one in net for the lone goal explosion against the team.

The Flames won a couple of games by high margins, they won a couple of games by narrow ones, and they lost a couple of games by just a couple of goals. No matter the type of game that breaks out, they appear to be well equipped to handle the challenge. They won’t win every time, but they have a chance to do just that – even when staring down a multi-goal deficit.

They’ve taken more penalties as of late, but their penalty kill has improved, as well.

The main takeaway from these numbers is probably the same as they’ve been all season: their underlyings are good across the board. This isn’t a percentage-driven team, they’re downright average or even below average when it comes to the numbers falling their way. They’re getting by primarily on talent. At the absolute minimum, a good performance is likely sustainable.

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 719:40 17 37 3.08 18.28 59.45 65.35 54.17 +1.257
Gaudreau 713:45 15 45 3.78 14.02 62.22 69.23 67.80 +1.436
Monahan 691:49 20 39 3.38 18.18 61.83 66.30 69.73 +1.305
Tkachuk 616:07 15 40 3.90 18.29 62.68 67.53 67.18 +1.193
Backlund 574:37 5 17 1.78 6.76 54.81 53.45 49.24 +0.787
Neal 523:02 3 7 0.80 4.00 57.35 44.74 63.78 +0.375
Ryan 458:58 4 11 1.44 12.90 51.50 45.95 45.70 +0.365
Bennett 448:43 5 10 1.34 9.26 55.89 55.56 62.42 +0.495
Jankowski 374:22 4 12 1.92 10.81 44.57 51.61 46.51 +0.320
Hathaway 304:45 4 5 0.98 16.00 40.17 55.56 50.94 +0.170
Czarnik 242:25 2 6 1.49 7.14 54.84 36.36 57.78 +0.340
Frolik 242:25 7 7 1.73 18.92 51.49 45.45 53.93 +0.568
Dube 205:18 1 5 1.46 5.00 49.16 56.25 62.65 +0.271
Mangiapane 80:43 0 0 0 0 49.28 0.00 65.63 +0.023
Quine 59:10 3 4 1.01 50.00 53.13 80.00 50.00 +0.617
Lomberg 24:49 0 0 0 0 29.03 n/a 55.56 -0.292
Rychel 18:21 0 0 0 0 36.36 50.00 40.00 -0.268
Peluso 16:27 0 0 0 0 48.15 0.00 25.00 -0.019

The Flames’ top five forwards – Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, and Mikael Backlund – remain a cut above the rest, with further pronounced separation between the top four and Backlund, though Backlund obviously suffers a lot more by playing in a much more defensive role than the other four. It helps speak to how valuable he is to the Flames, and why they missed him when he was out for four games: adding together Mark Jankowski and Derek Ryan still doesn’t form the complete player that Backlund is.

If there’s any red flag with this team, though, it’s just how high their top four forwards’ shooting percentages are. All are above their career averages, but only Gaudreau and Monahan’s seem in range. If anything goes wrong with this team, it might be those particular wells drying up with nothing really ready to replace them.

A glaring hole still remains in the top six, though, with nobody else really standing out. Maybe it should be Michael Frolik’s spot when he returns, but he’s been out since Nov. 19. Sam Bennett could maybe still be that player, but we’ve yet to see any truly meaningful steps forward. And it comes up every single time, but surely there’s no way James Neal is that poor a player – say what you will about his effort level or age or whatever, but he should still be getting better results than he presently is. And it’s been like that the entire season thus far. But maybe, at some point, it’ll starting paying off for the Flames…? He’s the only one with a suspiciously low shooting percentage.

Alan Quine is looking amazing, but it’s only been a couple of games. Other call-ups need to start doing more, though. And with increased ice time some of the sheen has worn off on Austin Czarnik, but he remains better than some options. Garnet Hathaway’s standing has improved, however – though he still holds limited value.

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

Gaudreau Monahan Lindholm
Tkachuk Backlund Bennett
Tkachuk Backlund Frolik

No major changes here. Lindholm has been a blessing for Gaudreau and Monahan, but Tkachuk and Backlund still need a consistent third party, and they’re no closer to getting one.

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

Player TOI Goals Points P/60 SH% CF% GF% OZS% Game score
Giordano 809:00 6 35 2.60 6.38 57.70 66.34 51.21 +1.167
Brodie 753:49 3 14 1.11 6.25 52.41 56.52 49.63 +0.625
Hanifin 725:49 3 15 1.24 5.00 53.63 50.00 49.58 +0.569
Hamonic 553:36 2 9 0.98 3.70 50.58 50.00 38.81 +0.657
Andersson 492:13 1 3 0.37 2.56 48.90 56.76 60.00 +0.187
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 131:25 1 2 0.91 25.00 48.51 66.67 63.64 +0.155
Prout 57:55 0 0 0 0 52.73 33.33 57.89 +0.071

Mark Giordano is the king of Flames defencemen, but after him, the rest of the top four is relatively equal to one another: all are good players, and it’s a healthy mix they have. Travis Hamonic deserves a particularly special shoutout for performing so well with the worst zone starts on the team by a fair margin (not playing on the powerplay but being a top penalty killer will do that).

Oliver Kylington’s stock has gone up over this latest seven-game segment, while Rasmus Andersson continues to hold in there. It’s also important to remember that, at this point, we’re talking about bottom pairing defencemen: that they’re holding their heads above water is better than what the Flames have had over the past several seasons, let alone all the potential they still possess. The defence is in a great spot.

And finally, goalies (all situations):

Player TOI SV% ldSV% mdSV% hdSV% Game score
Smith 1103:31 88.84 95.17 90.67 77.21 +0.128
Rittich 981:49 92.55 96.53 94.86 81.13 +0.932

Smith has continued to bring his numbers up as the season has gone on, but even for his recent improvement, he hasn’t been able to catch up to Rittich. Rittich has fallen off a little compared to earlier in the season, but that’s just it: it’s only by a little. He’s still putting up great numbers, and if it keeps up, he’ll establish himself as one of the team’s top players.

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    I am happy but score in bunches and then getting shut off is somewhat concerning. The other concern is lack of scoring from 3rd and 4th line
    Besides that I am good.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      I think what that shows is they can play a high event games and follow that up with a low event game. The problem is those low scoring games sometimes come at the end of a roadie (Dallas) or on the 2nd night of a B2B (EDM). The good thing is that the game afterwards has recently been another high scoring game. If the goaltending evened up a bit, we wouldn’t have to always play come-back. Or have to score 6 to win.

    • oilcanboyd

      The Oilers shutout, back to back games while the Oilers rested and Flames without Gio and Backs.
      Against Dallas – players hit a wall. Sooner or later mental and physical fatigue hits them and they can’t perform up to snuff. Happened to the oilers last night too; same crazy schedule with a 2 or 3 games at home then 2 or 3 games on the road. Sometimes you would like to be home in your own bed for a week to 10 days…that hasn’t happened. I am not concerned.

  • buts

    Just imagine if we could a few of Neal, Bennett, Czarnik, Jankowski, Frolik, Backlund,Ryan scoring. They all have the capabilities. What worries me is you shut down our top line and you virtually shut down the team, like Dallas did last night. The team is doing good and if BT can’t get a few of those guys going then no one can.

  • Kevin R

    With Berglund getting contract terminated would he be worth bringing in for a look on the cheap? 6’4″ 215 lbs so a fair sized player. Him & Backlund had amazing chemistry during lockout. Maybe a fit with Tkachuk & Backs?

      • Cfan in Van

        Yep. St.Louis traded him the very minute his no-movement turned into a limited no-trade. His agent didn’t submit his preferred team list in time, so they just pulled the trigger to send him to the Sabers. Now the Sabers are dumping him after 1/3 of the season on a multi-year contract. This isn’t a guy that organizations respect.

  • The Doctor

    Not having a fourth line that makes you cringe and not having a third pairing that’s a net liability and has no real offensive upside— those are huge improvements over last season.

          • The Doctor

            Funny. Can’t really remember Babchuk at the moment, but one thing about Jikipaaka that constantly made me want to throw a brick at my TV was his shooting from the point. Like, was it possible for a Dman to have a more ineffectual shot from the point? A 10 kph looping wrist shot straight at the goalie’s midsection, unscreened and untipped of course. I swear there were Dmen playing midget hockey who had better point shots than that guy.

          • Cfan in Van

            Babchuk was a year or two before Jokipaka. He had a super hard shot, but that was absolutely it… Couldn’t skate or play D. Sometimes he would hammer that puck, and that’s all.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    “Their goal differential is +27, up from +18. It has them third in the NHL, and first among Western Conference teams and the Pacific Division.”

    (I have no comment here I just want everyone to read this twice)

  • canadian1967

    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.

    Why don’t you order them by Game Score then? Why order them by total ice time if there’s a stat that gives them a score for HOW they played, not HOW LONG they played?

    • Ari Yanover

      Because then, at a certain point, it’s going to get skewed by small sample sizes. Quine has one of the better game scores for the forwards, but he’s barely played; he isn’t as influential to the team as, say, Neal is. Frolik would have one of the better game scores as well but he hasn’t played in a month and he’d still be near the top.

      I’m more interested in how the players who see the most ice are influencing the team, regardless of whether they’re good or not. They get the most ice time, so in theory they’re going to dictate how the team performs, for better or worse.

    • Ari Yanover

      My main concern with doing this is how much data is too much data for one post? How many tables are too many before everyone’s eyes glaze over (my own included)? Especially when I’m trying to divide everyone up by position.

      I’m trying to think of a way I could possibly divvy that up without it being too much, so I’m open to any suggestions. Should I keep the current all situations format and use it for points, shooting percentage, and game score? Then do a 5v5 table to include cf%, gf%, ozs%? And a third highlighting the top PP/PK players? That would be… six tables total, maybe (the three I currently have, two 5v5 ones for the offence and defence, one for special teams ice time)?

      • canadian1967

        I like it as well, but I do wish that there was a table for all situations and one for 5on5 simply because of course the guys on the PP will/should have higher counting stats and Game scores etc.

        As a hater of Corsi, I just decided that Game score might be something I can buy into, but obviously there is already a lot of info in the tables as is.

        All good. I guess it’s hard for any of us to argue too much since the we are winning so much, eh?

        • Ari Yanover

          Gotta find something to complain about!

          I like using game score as my immediate snap judgment in evaluating the players on these things, too (and then I’ll contextualize using other stats if necessary). I think the thing with these posts is they’ve turned into snapshots of a moment in the season, and for me at least, they’re a great barometer of how the team/a player is doing as the season progresses (i.e. seeing how they’ve completely cut down on their goals against as the season has progressed).

          Maybe we’ll do a separate post on special teams usage? Not necessarily in these seven-gamers, but there are four days with no games coming up, so we can visit how the Flames personnel are doing after Saturday’s game and revisit it before the All-Star break a month later, and go from there.

  • Brian McGrattan's Salute

    Super excited to watch the game tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could have a Flames//Lightning SCF?? Especially now that they got video review??

    I was really hoping Smith got the game last night, because it’s almost a guarantee that Smith will play, with Rittich having been between the pipes for 3 games in four nights. I hope I’m wrong, but I think Smith might turn into swiss cheese again, especially with his horrid HDSV%. Sigh.

    • Cfan in Van

      That’s my worry as well. I’m OK with Smith getting the lesser teams, he’s got to play, after all. But we need all the help we can get with Tampa. Who knows, maybe he’s still not feeling “right” by tomorrow…

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I am not so sure that Smith starts against the Bolts. I don’t think BP wants to throw Smith to the wolves after the way he was serenaded in his last home game. I think that is why BP started Rittich 3 games in a row. I am confident that we don’t beat the bolts with a inconsistent Smith but a hot Rittich gets the fans going. The flip side is putting your rookie in against the top team in the league….but Rittich is a 26 year old Rookie which is different.

  • canadian1967

    I wonder if Tre has given any thought to just terminating JN’s contract if possible?


    Not likely, I’m sure.

    I for one think that Neal is just struggling with his stick. I know I can only play with a 5030 with any confidence, so because his whole brand and pattern of stick has stopped being made he is obviously having trouble finding a stick he can be comfortable with.

    Hey James, try a 5030 Buddy. There is no better stick anywhere in the Land! I think once/IF he finds a new stick he’s comfortable with, his luck will change for the better.

    • freethe flames

      What does his stick have to do with his inability to keep up with the play, to lay a hit or get back into a defensive position on a more regular basis.

  • Alberta Ice

    At least this team seems consistent this year: Lose to Golden Knights 2-0, win some games in a row; lose to Oilers 1-0, win some games in a row; lose to the Stars 2-0; ( ). You fill in the blank, but the obvious implication is we start the next winning streak versus the Lightning. GFG.

  • Flamesforever

    We are a banged up group and it showed last night. I wonder how close to returning Frolik and Valamaki are, it would give the boys a boost for sure. Same with Stone.

  • Jourflamesfan

    I’m a bit paranoid.
    Last year, I think it was around the new year or in too January & the Flames had just concluded a long winning streak.
    They were on a break and first game back they played Winnipeg and it THERE that the offense just disappeared!
    The season unraveled from that point.
    I am cautiously optimistic that this will not happen as bad as last year but secondary scoring is going to be key.
    James Neal please stand up.

  • everton fc

    Back to Berglund; seems ROR wanted out, as well. Is it because the team stunk, or is it deeper?

    Berglund was almost as productive in Buffalo, as Neal’s been here. Sad to say. If you can get him cheap, our bottom 6 could use some scoring. Perhaps Lindholm and the other Swedes would make him fit in better, here?

    • Kevin R

      That was my thinking & I got trashed pretty bad. I just remembered Backlund & Berglund had gone wild playing in that Swedish league during the lockout & Backlund was actually playing on the wing. If he’s dirt cheap it may be worth it. He kind of got screwed in the deal so attitude going into that situation was horrible, so no wonder things soured.

      The guy I cant understand why he is available is Parayko. 6’6″ 240lbs 25 years old 3 more years after this at 5.5 mill per.
      Holy smokes! This guy is a missing link we have needed on our blueline when things get rough come playoff time.
      Brodie is playing his best hockey but I truly think he’s getting the Gio bump + our 1st may get that done, maybe one of our better forward prospects on the farm like Foo or Magpie. Just saying, when guys like this are available, you need to strike.

      • everton fc

        I think Berglund needs a change of scenery, and a hard-nose bench-boss, like Peters. He’d be an upgrade to our bottom 6, without question. Being amongst his fellow Swedes may also help him get his head screwed on straight.

  • freethe flames

    I don’t see anywhere that the Flames brought anyone up from the Heat prior to the player movement freeze that suggests to me that one of Bennett, Neal or Frolik is likely ready to play tonight.