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Special teams success doesn’t guarantee wins (but it sure does help)

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
2 months ago
On Saturday night, the Calgary Flames scored on their power play. Twice. And despite defending a two-man advantage from Vancouver for over a minute, in the second period, the Flames avoided allowing any power play goals.
As a result, the Flames won the special teams battle rather decisively – though they still managed to lose to the Canucks by a 4-3 score.
Following the game, Flames head coach Ryan Huska commented on his special teams’ contributions.
“We scored on the power play, which is a positive for sure,” said Huska. “I thought it had moments, and it had moments where it looked like the power play of old. But scoring two goals allows them to feel good about what they’re supposed to do. And I thought our penalty kill did a good job. That five-on-three could’ve been the difference in the game tonight.”
The power play goals were the first the Flames had scored in six outings, and it was just the second time this season the Flames had scored multiple power play goals in a game. (Oddly enough, they lost that game, too.)
The penalty kill posted a clean sheet for the second game in a row, which snapped a streak of four games in a row (and six of their previous seven games) where it had allowed a goal against.
However, while you would expect special teams success would correlate fairly cleanly with wins and losses, the Flames’ five-on-five game has been variable enough (especially early on) that it hasn’t worked out that way:
  • In 13 games without a power play goal against, the Flames are 5-7-1.
  • In 8 games where they’ve scored any power play goals, the Flames are 3-4-1.
  • In two games with multiple power play goals scored, the Flames are 0-2-0.
More broadly, the 10 Flames wins this season have featured a large swath of special teams outcomes. Twice they’ve won when their special teams groups have out-scored their opponent’s, four times they’ve won when the special teams battle has been a wash, and four times they’ve won when they’ve lost the special teams clash.
After Saturday’s game, the Flames’ power play ranks 27th in the NHL (scoring on 12.8% of advantages) and their penalty kill ranks 10th (killing off 84.4% of opposition advantages). To get to where they want to go – the post-season – the Flames will need both groups to be in (or near) the top 10, as despite Calgary’s experiences so far special teams success tends to lead to standings success.
Suffice it to say: they’ve got work to do on both sides of special teams.

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