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.
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.
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.
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:
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):
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):
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.