The Calgary Flames’ first five pre-season games, at a glance

Photo credit:Angela Burger/Calgary Wranglers
Ryan Pike
7 months ago
Through five exhibition games, the Calgary Flames have gone 3-1-1. Of course, it’s the pre-season, and the results don’t matter. What matters is progression, for the most part. So how has the group, and key individuals, looked across the five games the Flames have played so far?
Here’s a rundown of their five games so far, at a glance.

Sept. 24: 10-0 win vs. Vancouver

The Flames put together an NHL-heavy roster – about half NHLers – to face the Abbotsford Canucks, more or less. The Flames heavily out-chanced and out-played ’em; expected goals for were 51.0%, scoring chances for were 53.1% and high-danger chances for were 50%. The Flames led the entire way and so score effects – the leading team taking their foot off the gas pedal as the game wore on – were in full effect.
Three Flames forward lines registered expected goals for at over 60%: Huberdeau-Lindholm-Sharangovich, Hunt-Jones-Coronato and Pospisil-Zary-Klapka. In terms of game score, every single Flames player had a positive game score. Most of the team had games scores north of 1 (the shorthand benchmark for a strong game), and several had game scores that were super-high – Coronato led with a 6.56.

Sept. 25: 5-3 loss vs. Seattle

This game featured a NHL-skewed Flames team against a depth Seattle group. The game is most notable for the unfortunate injury to Jakob Pelletier, but the Flames played fairly okay. Expected goals for were 43.0%, scoring chances for were 52.6% and high-danger chances for were 60%. They had the puck less than Seattle, but they did more dangerous stuff with it.
One line excelled: Pettersen-Schwindt-Klapka were above 60% expected goals for. Walker Duehr (1.53) was the game score standout, but eight players were in the negatives. That’s more or less the tale of the game; unlike against Vancouver, the whole group just wasn’t clicking.

Sept. 25: 3-2 shootout win at Seattle

The Flames sent some depth players to the Emerald City to face an NHL-skewed Seattle roster… and they won! The Flames were largely out-played: 27.1% expected goals for, 32.1% scoring chances for and 23.1% high-danger chacnes for.
One line was above 60% expected goals for: Ciona-Rooney-Hunt. The big standout for the Flames was Dan Vladar, who made 35 saves, but Hunt led in game score at 1.31. Nine Flames were in the negatives. The team was over-matched, so that’s to be expected, but their goaltender gave ’em a chance to steal the game.

Sept. 27: 3-2 shootout win at Winnipeg

The Flames sent a few NHLers (and a bunch of guys battling for jobs and AHL ice time) to Winnipeg to face a Jets squad with a few more NHLers, but this wasn’t a gigantic mismatch. But the Flames were generally pretty good (50.8% expected goals for), but didn’t generate much danger with 34.6% scoring chances for and 37.5% high-danger chances for.
No forward lines were above 60% expected goals for, but a few players had good games. Nikita Zadorov led in game score at 2.17. Six Flames were in the negatives for game score, but overall the team played well enough to win and Dustin Wolf, while not a game-stealer the way Vladar was in Seattle, was quite solid.

Sept. 29: 2-1 overtime loss vs. Edmonton

A veteran-laden Flames team faced the Bakersfield Condors, plus guys like Derek Ryan, Brett Kulak and Jack Campbell. The Flames were generally the better team, with 51.6% expected goals for, but their scoring chances metrics were fairly blah, with 48.4% scoring chances for and 50% high-danger chances for.
Two lines were above 60% expected goals for: Coleman-Backlund-Duehr (no surprise there) and Honzek-Schwindt-Bishop. Jeremie Poirier’s 1.39 game score led the team, while six players were in the negatives. The Flames were fine, but probably needed to be a little bit better at key times to get the victory.

Trends and observations

Of the Flames who have played multiple pre-season games, a few have stood out. Four skaters have expected goals for metrics at over 60%: Kevin Rooney, Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman and Walker Duehr. (Adam Klapka, Cole Schwindt and Chris Tanev were in the high 50% range.) In terms of average game score, the leaders among players who’ve played multiple games are Dryden Hunt (1.85), Nazem Kadri (1.77), Jonathan Huberdeau (1.50), Dillon Dube (1.45) and Kevin Rooney (1.41). (In terms of expected goals versus game score, think of expected goals as a possession proxy while game score tries to measure impact.)
Systems-wise, the Flames are starting to put things together, but you can see sometimes they’re having some growing pains with the zone defence transition and so they get a bit of decision paralysis in their own end while trying to figure out coverage or when setting up their breakouts.
Who’s stood out for you in the five Flames pre-season games? Let us know in the comments!

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