Flames in seven games: 6-0-1 in season’s seventh segment

The Flames only got 13 of a possible 14 points in their seventh seven-game segment of the season, so I guess you could say it could’ve gone better.

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. In their fifth, they kept it up with a 5-2-0. In the sixth, they fell to 3-2-2. Seems they responded to that weak stretch rather well.

Underlying numbers via Natural Stat Trick.

Team stats

Now at 31-13-5, the Flames haven’t shown any signs of dropping off from the NHL’s best. They have a 0.684 points percentage through the season so far, up from their previous 0.643. It has them second in the NHL, and first in the Western Conference and Pacific Division.

  • Their goals for per game is 3.71, up from their earlier 3.57. They’re second overall in the NHL, and first among all Western Conference teams and the Pacific Division.
  • Their goals against per game is 2.84, up slightly from their previous 2.83. They’re eighth in the NHL, fifth among Western Conference teams, and second in the Pacific Divison.
  • Their goal differential is +41, up from +29. It has them second in the NHL, and first among Western Conference teams and the Pacific Division.
  • Their powerplay is at 23.9%, up from their earlier 21.2%. It’s eighth in the NHL. They’re fourth in the Western Conference, and second in the Pacific Division.
  • Their penalty kill is at 78.6%, up slightly from their earlier 78.5%. It’s tied for 21st in the NHL. They’re tied for 10th in the Western Conference, and fifth in the Pacific Division.
  • At 9:01 penalty minutes per game, they’ve taken fewer infractions, down from 9:19 earlier. They’re 19th when it comes to penalties taken in the NHL, 10th in the Western Conference, and sixth in the Pacific Division.
  • Their 5v5 CF/60 is 58.51, down a little from their previous 58.64. It’s the eighth highest in the NHL, fourth among Western Conference teams, and third in the Pacific Divison.
  • Their 5v5 CA/60 is 52.29, up a little from their previous 51.91. It’s the second lowest in the NHL, and among Western Conference and Pacific Division teams.
  • Their 5v5 CF is 52.81%, down a little from their previous 53.02%. It’s the fifth highest in the NHL, and third among Western Conference Pacific Division teams.
  • Their 5v5 shooting percentage is 8.66%, up from 8.24%. It’s ninth in the NHL.
  • Their 5v5 save percentage is 91.79%, up from 91.52%. It’s 16th in the NHL.
  • Their PDO is 100.04, up from 99.76. It’s tied for 12th in the NHL.

So, what’s changed?

Not a ton, really. The Flames have been more fortunate over this stretch, scoring more, with a higher shooting percentage to match. But with it has come a higher save percentage and PDO, although nothing to indicate this is a fluke for the Flames: everything is still within pretty sustainable levels (although it wouldn’t be surprising to see their goals drop a little in the future).

What might be most eyebrow-raising is just where the team ranks among several key league stats. It isn’t just that they’re numerically the second best team in the NHL right now: they score the goals to match it. They still do a great job of preventing corsi events against them, even if the puck keeps going in (albeit at roughly the same rate as before).

This has ended up being the team we possibly could have predicted from the offseason after they chose to focus on forward depth: one that’s one of the top scorers in the NHL, and with the young defensive group they have in place and with a relatively young starting netminder as well, one that may not be elite at keeping the puck out of their net, but definitely capable – especially when you consider that more often than not, they really can score their way out of trouble.

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 1005:37 21 56 3.34 18.10 57.09 63.33 52.63 +1.253
Gaudreau 996:24 28 72 4.34 17.61 60.79 69.12 67.80 +1.601
Monahan 965:46 26 59 3.67 17.33 60.42 66.18 69.68 +1.363
Tkachuk 863:51 24 56 3.89 19.51 61.65 69.44 66.01 +1.258
Backlund 819:45 10 25 1.83 9.26 53.59 58.54 48.86 +0.797
Neal 712:10 5 12 1.01 4.90 54.95 46.15 63.74 +0.376
Bennett 641:13 9 19 1.78 11.69 55.56 55.36 61.74 +0.551
Ryan 632:30 4 16 1.52 8.89 50.33 46.43 44.02 +0.344
Jankowski 569:52 7 19 2.00 10.94 45.62 48.00 44.98 +0.409
Hathaway 432:10 5 6 0.83 15.15 39.38 41.38 47.30 +0.120
Frolik 398:40 11 17 2.56 18.33 52.39 60.53 50.36 +0.746
Czarnik 304:54 2 6 1.18 5.56 53.69 36.00 55.36 +0.293
Dube 227:58 1 5 1.32 4.55 48.10 56.25 64.04 +0.227
Mangiapane 115:49 0 1 0.52 0 48.94 14.29 56.52 +0.072
Quine 85:03 3 4 2.82 50.00 48.91 57.14 52.00 +0.327
Lomberg 27:55 0 0 0 0 27.27 n/a 55.56 -0.244
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

Johnny Gaudreau continues to separate himself from the Flames’ other top forwards. Sean Monahan is leading the pack to try to catch up with him – vain though it probably is – while Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm are about neck-in-neck. The Flames’ best have remained consistent all season long.

On the pleasant surprise front, though, is that Mikael Backlund no longer looks quite as lonely in the fifth spot as he did before. Michael Frolik’s been strong since returning to the lineup, and that’s been reflected in his performance, as he’s caught up to Backlund in a number of categories. As things stand right now, he’s easily the team’s sixth best forward. Sam Bennett is making a push as seventh, though, as his game has continued to pick up.

The depth looks like it’s starting to come back into form. Mark Jankowski’s prowess on the penalty kill has been helping him, while both James Neal and Derek Ryan experienced upticks. Note that, while Neal’s shooting percentage is still probably the biggest thing making him an outlier compared to the rest of the forwards getting ice time, his points per 60 finally jumped over 1.00. Not to say this is the start of an offensive resurgence for him, because there’s no way to actually tell if that’s going to happen, but wouldn’t it be quite the forward group if it did?

Austin Czarnik’s numbers tend to drop with the more ice time he gets, but once you get past all of the non-Garnet Hathaway regulars, there aren’t a lot of standouts. With about a month to go until the trade deadline, it sure looks like there’s an opening to welcome another forward into the fold.

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

Gaudreau Monahan Lindholm
Tkachuk Backlund Frolik
Tkachuk Backlund Bennett

Frolik has overtaken Bennett on the second line, which isn’t much of a surprise: he’s been a perfect fit there since returning to the lineup, and seems to have solidified his spot (at least with the current personnel on hand).

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

Player TOI Goals Points P/60 SH% CF% GF% OZS% Game score
Giordano 1163:40 10 49 2.53 7.87 55.99 64.71 48.54 +1.192
Brodie 1068:16 6 23 1.29 9.23 52.36 58.72 46.37 +0.664
Hanifin 1026:31 4 24 1.40 5.26 51.88 50.93 50.47 +0.517
Hamonic 820:30 3 12 0.88 4.00 48.79 49.02 39.06 +0.589
Andersson 690:58 1 6 0.52 1.85 47.87 56.60 60.85 +0.172
Valimaki 331:58 1 2 0.36 4.35 47.80 34.62 64.71 +0.172
Kylington 286:52 1 3 0.63 9.09 49.71 50.00 64.63 +0.122
Stone 176:18 0 4 1.36 0 48.09 35.00 50.88 +0.364
Prout 100:07 0 0 0 0 53.37 50.00 62.96 +0.183

Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie had a great seven games in particular, with Giordano’s stock continuing to climb even higher, and Brodie separating himself from Travis Hamonic and Noah Hanifin. Hamonic and Hanifin are still doing well overall, but they had a rougher go of things these past seven games – something that could be witnessed over the course of the segment, with some uncharacteristic play from them resulting in goals against. Hamonic continues to get the toughest circumstances, by far, of all the defencemen in all situations, but he’s still holding on rather well, even if he’s the lowest points producer of the top four.

Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington, meanwhile, have seen improvement over these past seven games: Kylington in particular as he’s continuing to adapt to the rigours of the NHL (and in playing far more games than likely would have been expected from him this season). The improvement is a continuously welcome sign: there’s a lot of trust being put into these rookies, but game after game they’re starting to show why they’ve earned it.

And finally, goalies (all situations):

Player TOI SV% ldSV% mdSV% hdSV% Game score
Rittich 1533:00 0.917 0.937 0.933 0.853 +0.804
Smith 1401:04 0.888 0.951 0.902 0.777 +0.150

It was official, but now it’s official-official: David Rittich is the team’s starting goaltender, not just by virtue of superior stats, but by most minutes played. He started five of the team’s seven games during this stretch, and while he didn’t always have the best outings, he gave his team a chance to win pretty much every night (though that Sabres game was iffy).

While it’s perhaps relevant Mike Smith’s low danger save percentage has overtaken Rittich’s, that’s about it. Rittich is still putting up the overall superior numbers – though Smith’s overall improvement, while perhaps not definitive, is at least encouraging.

    • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

      More like we have put up enough goals to win when Smith is in net. Smith has let in 3+ goals seven times over that stretch, which means to win we have to score 4+ (we needed 5 last night). Luckily we have the second best offence in the NHL, but if we didn’t Smith would likely only have 3-4 wins over that stretch. Smith is also getting cherry picked starts against really easy opponents over that time, which makes his below average numbers (0.896) seem worse. Smith winning is a product of playing on a good team, it’s not a product of him playing well.

      Even last night he didn’t get blame for the second Larkin goal, but Nyquist pulled him way out of position and Larkin had essentially a tap-in. That’s his fault, good goalies don’t expose that much open net ever. He also let two leaky ones through his gear. Honestly it’s such weird rhetoric following Smith, he scrambles so much and is always out of position when he makes a “big save” it would be routine for most NHL goalies, but he is scrambling back into position so it looks big. In the playoffs if Rittich goes down we’re screwed, because Smith isn’t of the caliber to play against top teams. You can’t hide Smith in the playoffs. Smith is 37 this year, most goalies fall off a cliff at that age (even Kipper did). You can defend him all you want, but he’s done like dinner. Father Time catches up to everyone, Smith hasn’t cracked a 0.900+ Save Percentage with us since January of last year, meaning for an entire year he hasn’t been of NHL caliber. That’s more than enough sample size to suggest it’s over.

      • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

        Don’t get me wrong, I honestly don’t have a problem with giving Smith some backup starts right now, but if Rittich goes down or faulters the playoffs will be wasted by Smith. Plus usually to get through a gruelling playoff run these days, you need two above average goalies. MA Fleury ran out of gas with Vegas in the cup finals because he tried to do the entire playoff stretch. When Pittsburgh won back to backs they used both Fleury and Murray.

        • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

          Goalies wins though are really more a reflection of overall team strength like pitchers in baseball. You get weak goalies on strong teams winning with a bad Save Percentage and good goalies losing on weak teams with a good Save Percentage, just like pitchers and ERA.

          To follow this same logic, look at Cam Talbot in Edmonton his numbers are slightly better than Smiths this year, but because Edmonton doesn’t collectively score enough as a team, Oilers fans go on and on about how he is wrecking their season. When in reality Edmonton is currently fifth in the pacific and they’re currently fifth in scoring in the pacific meaning they’re where they should be. Clagary is running away with the pacific scoring lead and so Smith looks alright.

    • KootenayFlamesFan

      And hopefully we find the proper fit for that open forward position. It would be nice to have everything locked down and clicking nicely going into the post season.

  • freethe flames

    What all of this tells us is that the Flames are a very good hockey team. The question is will there continue to improvement in the games of guys who have yet to meet expectations and will the fab 4 upfront cool down. I still think BT needs to address some depth issues: it was great to hear Valimaki is skating with the main group but it would not surprise me to see him add a depth defender, after last nights performance one can hope that Neal is turning his game around but again it would not surprise me to see another top 6 kind of forward added, the depth upfront on the farm is good but for the most part is bottom 3 or guys who could play in the bottom 6. I also could see him moving Gilles for an AHL goalie who they would feel more comfortable with as the #3 for the Flames.
    I know a lot of people do nit want the flames to go all in and I was of that mind for quite awhile but the more I think about it I think they need to be aggressive. I know this is just year one of a number of years where the window looks good but next year both TJ and Hamonic’s contracts are up; is it likely they resign both of them? Probably not so they trade one of them; who replaces the one they trade- there is no one in the system.

    • Misterbator

      With Andersson, Kylington, and Valimaki all playing at well for the Flames this year, I think you worry less about losing one of those two. However, it’s not out of the question to resign both Hamonic and Brodie. Personally, Brodie is the one you automatically reup.

  • Off the wall

    I’m happy to see this 7 game segments play out the way it did.
    It was one of the easier segments, as we mostly faced non playoff teams.

    However, we face some formidable teams next segment in Washington, Tampa,and SAN Jose. You can never discount the Oilers ( tonight) they seem to rise to the BOA.

    I’m impressed, ( 33 GF, 19 GA) +14 Goal Differential, but I’d really love to see them tighten up a bit defensively in this next stretch!

    Saying that, it has been a treat watching high scoring games…

  • Korcan

    I think Smith is benefitting from not having the pressure of being the team’s starting goaltender. He can now simply focus on his game without the constant stress of hearing questions about his game and what Calgary is going to do if he can’t get it together. Goaltending is such a mental position.

  • Flamesfansince04

    Let’s hope lightning win the President’s trophy … History has proven that for some reason it is very difficult to win that and the Stanley Cup.

    Just ask the Caps… Lol!

  • Guest

    Haven’t posted much this year. Despite the relative soft goals, last night was one of the best Smithe games this year. The brutal rebounds, deep in the net positioning and overall floppiness were not as present. The game prior looked more like luck where last night seemed more in control.

    Notice lots of Backlund hate creeping up again (mostly from the advanced stat hater crowd). Ultimately the goal is to score more goals than you allow – not just score goals. This place get hung up on scoring and forgets alot about preventing it. Anyways, not that its a good stat (though again popular here), but Backlund is 4th on the team in +/- at +22 and second among forwards behind Lindholm. Comfortably ahead of Tkachuk, Monahan and slightly above JG. And usually against stiff competition. And still headed for 45-50pts.

    Jankowski really looks great. Fully in favour of his expanded role even if its belated. He should be big next season.

    I don’t think we need to add anyone at the trade deadline. I remember a while back when this whole site wanted Okposo. Now look at him. There isn’t a major upgrade at any position except maybe for Smith where we can realistically make a trade and fit under the cap without a ton of picks. And picks are really valuable to us.

    • The Sultan

      The Flames need to add a backup goaltender. I understand it’s going to be costly to upgrade any position but after last night I just have absolutely no faith in Mike Smith to do anything. I don’t want to trade away our first pick or the farm; just a goaltender who can occasionally stop the puck. As was said above me, if Rittich goes down at any point in the playoffs we’re screwed. It’ll be like watching our season squandered away by Brian Elliot, and it’ll be a problem that can be avoided if we deal with it now. If last night was one of Mike Smith’s “better” starts where he was just bad and not terrible, then this team is shooting itself in the foot and handicapping their chances at making a deep run.

  • jupiter

    Great stuff Ari. Coaches seem to be doing a good job as well..Players have one shift to show that their energy level is where it should be ,or they’re thrown in the blender. Keeping them honest !

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Yes… the Flames are a good team – but not without their warts. Some interesting stats:
    – Flames lead the league (that’s right 1st!) in giveaways with 682. Teams behind them? Red Wings, Panthers and Rangers. Do they have a the puck a lot? Sure… but Tampa Bay does too and they are 25th in the league with 397 giveaways.
    – Flames are last in the league (that’s right… 31st) in hits with 712. If you have the puck a lot maybe you don’t have to be as physical? Well… again, Tampa Bay has the puck a lot too; they sit 7th in the league with 1164 hits.

    I’ve been wondering this a bit lately… is this a Bill Peters thing? I mean does it matter how much you hit? Could it actually help the team in the long run by less energy, exertion and wear and tear on the body to play that way? Or will it come back to bite them in the playoffs because they haven’t learned how to ramp up the physicality that comes with the territory come playoff time?

    And what about giveaways? Are we too cute with the puck? That’s the sense I get in watching this team. Peters wants them to play a more straight line game with more shots. Sure… fancy footwork, dipsy doodles get the crowd oohing and awwing, but where would this team be if they played a more direct game?

    Alternatively they are 3rd in the league in takeaways, so in the end does it really matter? The team is winning and has a ton of skill, but we have seen them get soundly outplayed on many occasions but the skill just carries them through.

    I personally would love to see things tighten up defensively and see a bit more execution with hits on the forecheck, but maybe I’m missing something big picture here.


    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Something else jumped out at me when perusing NHL.COM stats this morning. The Flames Home PK% is 27th in the league with 74.4%. Road PK% is 5th at 82.9%. Too cute at home? Trying too hard to score on the PK in front of the home crowd perhaps? Interesting nonetheless.

    • freethe flames

      BCC- I watched one of the games a second time and came away with conclusion about the Flames and hitting; I think they only hit when they are sure it is a legal hit and the forwards who do most of the hitting are Bennett, Hathaway, Frolik and Mangiapane. I don’t know it to be part of BP’s plan but I think it is away to avoid penalties for interference, charging etc but it would also save a lot of energy as well.

    • calgaryfan

      The Flames do not have a physical team. The only forward is Hathaway with Hamonic and Gio on defence. They do need to tighten up defensively and avoid the giveaways.