The Calgary Flames survived, but didn’t thrive, during their 15-game gauntlet run

Photo credit:Calgary Flames
Ryan Pike
5 months ago
Back on Nov. 24, the Calgary Flames began a stretch of 15 games over 30 days against some very good hockey clubs. The Flames managed to post a record that was above the .500 mark, going 7-6-2 while running this “gauntlet” of games.
So how did things up fold over the past 30 days, and what did we learn about the Flames in the process?

The gauntlet run, at a glance

Nov. 24at DallasW 7-4MarkstromGreer, Sharangovich, Ruzicka, Coleman, Lindholm [gw], Backlund, Kadri [en]
Nov. 25at ColoradoL 3-1VladarBacklund
Nov. 27vs. VegasOTW 2-1VladarGreer, Weegar [ot/gw]
Nov. 30vs. DallasOTW 4-3MarkstromTanev, Hanifin, Weegar, Kadri [ot/gw]
Dec. 2vs. VancouverL 4-3MarkstromBacklund [pp], Lindholm, Lindholm [pp]
Dec. 5vs. MinnesotaL 5-2Vladar/WolfBacklund, Zary
Dec. 7vs. CarolinaW 3-2WolfAndersson, Zary, Coleman [sh/gw]
Dec. 9vs. New JerseyL 4-2WolfSharangovich [sh], Kadri
Dec. 11at ColoradoL 6-5VladarKadri, Mangiapane, Coleman, Zary, Sharangovich
Dec. 12at VegasOTL 5-4WolfWeegar, Kadri, Sharangovich, Sharangovich
Dec. 14at MinnesotaOTL 3-2VladarSharangovich [pp], Coleman [sh]
Dec. 16vs. Tampa BayW 4-2VladarGreer, Weegar, Sharangovich [gw], Zary
Dec. 18vs. FloridaW 3-1MarkstromPospisil, Backlund [sh], Coleman [sh/en]
Dec. 21at AnaheimW 3-0MarkstromDeSimone [gw], Lindholm [pp], Greer [en]
Dec. 23at Los AngelesL 5-3MarkstromAndersson, Coleman [sh], Coleman [pp]

Team performance

(Stat cited here are a mix of Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com.)
The Flames played 912:07 in all situations over the past month. They led for 197:22, about 21.6% of game time, and trailed for 406:34, about 44.5% of game time. The Flames scored first six times (going 3-2-1 when they did) and allowed the first goal nine times (going 4-4-1 when they did).
The Flames led after two periods four times (going 2-1-1), trailed after two periods eight times (going 3-5-0) and were tied after two periods three times (going 2-0-1).
Overall, the Flames out-scored their opponents 48-47. They were out-scored at five-on-five 33-31. They slightly lost the expected goals battle (49.58%) and were slightly out-chanced (48.60%) but slightly had a high-danger chances edge (50.20%).
The power play went 5-for-49 (10.2%). They netted +5 goals on power plays, scoring five and allowing zero shorthanded goals. The penalty kill went 36-for-45 (80.0%). They netted -3 goals on penalty kills, scoring six shorthanded goals and allowing nine power play goals. On the whole, they scored 11 goals on special teams and allowed nine. They ended up ahead by two goals on special teams.

Individual performance

Some preamble: xGF is expected goals for percentage, using Natural Stat Trick’s formula to estimate what proportion of goals for a team should have while a player’s on the ice based on shot frequency, quality and location. Higher is better. OZF refers to the percentage of face-offs a player takes in the offensive zone – it’s a proxy for how sheltered a player is. Higher OZF means a player is more sheltered, lower means less.
Andrew Mangiapane
15 gp / 6 pts / E
46.9% xGF / 50.0% OZF
Elias Lindholm
15 gp / 10 pts / -1
44.5% xGF / 44.7% OZF
Yegor Sharangovich
15 gp / 14 pts / -1
47.5% xGF / 48.5% OZF
Connor Zary
15 gp / 9 pts / +4
52.4% xGF / 66.1% OZF
Nazem Kadri
15 gp / 12 pts / +4
54.5% xGF / 65.9% OZF
Martin Pospisil
13 gp / 2 pts / +1
53.5% xGF / 68.8% OZF
Jonathan Huberdeau
15 gp / 3 pts / -2
50.2% xGF / 53.4% OZF
Mikael Backlund
15 gp / 9 pts / -1
51.2% xGF / 47.0% OZF
Blake Coleman
15 gp / 15 pts / +6
49.9% xGF / 50.4% OZF
A.J. Greer
15 gp / 5 pts / E
53.1% xGF / 54.4% OZF
Adam Ruzicka
15 gp / 5 pts / -1
44.1% xGF / 57.8% OZF
Dillon Dube
15 gp / 1 pt / +1
47.3% xGF / 57.1% OZF
Walker Duehr
1 gp / o pts / E
77.4% xGF / 33.3% OZF
Matt Coronato
1 gp / 0 pts / E
41.5% xGF / 55.6% OZF
MacKenzie Weegar
15 gp / 11 pts / +3
47.7% xGF / 60.0% OZF
Rasmus Andersson
15 gp / 8 pts / -3
45.3% xGF / 54.5% OZF
Noah Hanifin
15 gp / 7 pts / +6
48.7% xGF / 45.1% OZF
Chris Tanev
12 gp / 3 pts / +4
47.9% xGF / 45.0% OZF
Dennis Gilbert
14 gp / 4 pts / E
51.9% xGF / 58.6% OZF
Nick DeSimone
6 gp / 1 pt / +1
60.2% xGF / 64.1% OZF
Ilya Solovyov
4 gp / 2 pts / E
68.5% xGF / 53.1% OZF
Jordan Oesterle
6 gp / 2 pts / E
56.0% xGF / 61.9% OZF
Nikita Zadorov
3 gp / 0 pts / -1
41.4% xGF / 69.2% OZF
Jacob Markstrom
4-2-0, 2.52 GAA, .904 SV%, .898 ESV%
Dan Vladar
2-3-1, 3.12 GAA, .901 SV%, .910 ESV%
Dustin Wolf
1-1-1, 3.31 GAA, .892 SV%, .901 ESV%
So what’s worked? Well, Kadri’s line has been given high ground by the coaching staff and has done a good job taking advantage of that high ground. The Backlund and Lindholm lines have split the tougher deployments, and the Backlund line has performed well. The depth defenders have gotten high ground via their deployments, and it’s worked well for them. The top four defenders have been a mixed bag in terms of their deployments and outcomes.
The top five offensive producers during this month have been Coleman (15 points), Sharangovich (14), Kadri (12), Weegar (11) and Lindholm (10).
The Flames have been perfectly fine at five-on-five. They’ve made mistakes, but playing against some very good opposition, they’ve managed to nearly come out even in terms of goal differential. That’s good! The penalty kill has been superb, with the goals they’ve allowed largely been washed out by the ones they’ve generated. That’s good! Their power play has been a big letdown. The league’s average PP during the past month converted at 21.3% of their advantages; if the Flames PP was league average, they would have scored twice as many goals as they have.
The Flames are a decent enough hockey club overall. They lack high-end firepower and offensive difference-makers, but they’re structurally sound enough to stick around in most games, and they work hard enough that they generate turnovers, scoring chances and momentum pretty effectively. But when games are in the balance, when points are there for the taking, their power play is leaving them on the table.
Based on the past 30 days, the Flames are a good enough team to make the playoffs. But can they do anything substantial once they get there? We’re not so sure. The barometer, for us, for the Flames’ success this season are their December three road games against the big guns: Colorado, Vegas and Los Angeles. The Flames were in all three games and they weren’t embarrassed in any of those games, but they also seemed fairly out-matched overall and ended up losing all three.
If you’re somebody who thinks that the Flames should just try to make it into the playoffs, because anything can happen once you’re in, the past 15 games have probably shed some doubts on whether the Flames have the horses to go on a lengthy playoff run. If you’re somebody who’s hoping the Flames engage in some retooling, the past month has probably done little to change your mind.

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