The Flames haven’t had strong goaltending in November
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike6 months ago
Pop quiz, friends: which National Hockey League goaltender has played the most in November? It’s the Calgary Flames’ Jacob Markstrom. A related question: which goaltender has allowed the most goals against in November? Also Markstrom.
With the Flames trying to gain traction in the standings, goaltending has caused challenges this month.
In November, Markstrom has made nine starts and played 546:52 overall with a 4-3-2 record. He leads the NHL in overall and even strength goals allowed in the past month. His 88.1% overall save percentage is 1.5% below the league average. His 88.8% even strength save percentage is 1.6% below the league average. His 82.9% penalty kill save percentage is 2.1% below the league average.
The difference between Markstrom’s November performance and a league-average goalie is four goals against.
While Dan Vladar has played much less than Markstrom – he’s started twice and lost both times – his numbers are similarly, uh, ungood. His overall save percentage is 86.8% and his even strength save percentage is 83.3%, both below the league average by a decent amount. (His penalty kill save percentage of 95.2% is really good, though.)
The difference between Vladar’s November performance and a league-average goalie is 1.5 goals against.
Overall, the Flames’ November even strength save percentage is 87%, second-worst in the NHL.
Now, let’s be blunt here: while the goaltending numbers haven’t been sparkling, they’re probably depressed somewhat by the quality of scoring chances allowed by the club amidst some injuries and depth challenges on the blueline – if you take out Chris Tanev and Michael Stone from the lineup and lean too heavily on five players every game, mistakes can happen.
The challenge for the Flames this month has been that their goaltending hasn’t covered up for the mistakes of the players in front of them quite enough.
In November, the Flames have ranked third in Corsi For percentage, third in Shots For percentage, 10th in Expected Goals For percentage, 10th in Scoring Chances For percentage and 13th in High-Danger Chances For percentage – via Natural Stat Trick. They’ve scored about one more goal than their expected 26.12. They allowed about 7.5 more goals than their expected 23.44.
Some of that is defensive lapses. But not all of it.
As the Flames get healthier and their defensive group returns to a quasi-normal state, the frequency of defensive gaffes will go down. Life will get easier for the Flames’ goaltenders, and it’s inevitable that their numbers will normalize – it’s not as if Markstrom and Vladar both forgot how to perform at a high level.
But they’ll still be asked to bail out their blueliners from time to time, and they’ll need to be able to do it more often than they have in November.
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