When the Calgary Flames need a goal, their big guns aren’t delivering

Photo credit:Brett Holmes-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
For the Calgary Flames, the script has become all-too-familiar. They play well. They out-shoot their opponents. But they just cannot score the much-needed goal to draw even, or the much-needed goal to take the lead.
Factoring in empty-netters, the Flames have played 42 one-goal games in 2022-23. They’ve lost 27 of them (15-14-13). Friday night’s 3-1 setback to Anaheim – a one-goal loss with an empty-netter – was loss 27.
“You gotta get the equalizer,” observed Flames head coach Darryl Sutter following the loss to Anaheim. “Or the one that pushes you ahead a little bit. Five on five, just think in the last four or five games, we haven’t had many goals.”
“Honestly, I’m so frustrated,” said blueliner Rasmus Andersson. “We didn’t score. That’s the easiest way to say it. We had a lot of looks, and especially in the third. We were dominating the game in the third. We just can’t get that tying goal or that leading goal, so it’s frustrating. I don’t know. It sucks.”
At five-on-five this season, Tyler Toffoli leads the Flames with 10 game-tying or go-ahead goals. Rounding out the podium positions are Andrew Mangapane with 9 and Mikael Backlund with 7. The highest-paid Flame, Nazem Kadri, has 5 – half as many as Toffoli. Highly-touted Jonathan Huberdeau has 6 goals in that situation. (All stats cited here via Natural Stat Trick and five-on-five.)
We know, you’re saying “But Huberdeau’s primarily a puck-distributor! Assists would be a better metric to note his clutch contributions!” Well, Huberdeau has 8 assists on game-tying or go-ahead goals. That puts him behind Backlund (15), Elias Lindholm (14), Blake Coleman (12), Dillon Dube (11), and MacKenzie Weegar and Kadri (both 9).
Both Kadri and Huberdeau have points on only 14 go-ahead or game-tying goals; Backlund leads the team with 22.
Could these players just bit a bit unlucky? Kadri is fifth on the team in high-danger chances in these situations and Huberdeau is sixth. They lag behind Coleman, Mangiapane, Backlund and Toffoli.
Suffice it to say, the Flames need their best players to be their best players if they want to win games – especially in the game situations where they need a goal to draw even or pull ahead. But so far this season, they haven’t. And despite out-shooting their opponents by 244 when tied and by 118 when down a goal, their situational goal differential is +10 when tied and +2 when down a goal. (That’s a +362 shot differential when tied or down a goal, resulting in just a +12 goal differential.)
“It does feel pretty repetitive,” said Weegar. “We gotta find ways to win. It’s another night of out-shooting our opponents but kinda coming up short.”
“It’s been the same sort of story all season long,” said Andersson. “We’ve been in games and we’ve been dominating games but we keep losing them, one goal or overtime.”
In “Exile,” Taylor Swift wrote “I think I’ve seen this film before, and I didn’t like the ending.” The Flames desperately need to find a way to spark their offence in these need-a-goal situations. Otherwise there’s a very good chance they won’t like how this season ends.
The Flames are back in action on Sunday when they host the Ottawa Senators.

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