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The Calgary Flames were broadly quite good against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that’s been to the Stanley Cup Final in each of the past three seasons. But despite out-shooting the Lightning handily, it was a relatively quiet night at the office for Tampa netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy in his 4-1 victory over Calgary.
The Flames couldn’t translate shots into grade-A scoring chances, and so they came out on the wrong side of a fairly close game. Again.
At a high level, the Flames did many good things against Tampa Bay. They didn’t get into too much penalty trouble or give the Lightning’s high-end offensive players a ton of free passes to get good chances on Jacob Markstrom.
The Flames out-shot Tampa 40-24 in all situations and 34-18 at five-on-five. Depending on your possession metric of choice – Corsi, Fenwick or just plain shots – the Flames controlled between 61-65% of the game at even strength. That’s great!
So how come they lost? The details.
“I think in the end the trenches were a little hard for some of us,” said Sutter, speaking with the media following the game.
Neither of the two five-on-five goals scored by Tampa Bay were considered a high-danger chance by Natural Stat Trick: one was a 25-foot shot from Steven Stamkos over a sprawling Chris Tanev that beat Markstrom’s glove, the other was a 69-foot wobbler from Philippe Myers from the point that beat Markstrom’s glove again.
Post-game, Sutter noted the circumstances that led to those goals.
“Those are trench goals, right?” said Sutter. “They’re mistakes. They’re battle plays.”
While the Flames were all over the Lightning in terms of the possession game, they couldn’t translate it meaningful or dangerous possession.
High-danger chances were 14-4 Tampa at five-on-five. Just two Flames were on the ice for more high-danger chances for than against: Dennis Gilbert (3-0) and Jonathan Huberdeau (2-1). Only six Flames had expected goals percentages north of 50%: Gilbert, Huberdeau, Mikael Backlund, Trevor Lewis, Chris Tanev and Rasmus Andersson. Everybody else was underwater.
The Flames have been one of the NHL’s better possession teams this season. Fourth in Corsi For percentage and Fenwick For percentage. Third in Shots For percentage. But there’s a gap between possession and dangerous possession: they’re ninth in Expected Goals For percentage and 10th in High-Danger Chances For percentage.
The bones of the Flames’ game are sound. They have the puck a lot. They get a lot of shots. Broadly speaking, they’re a good hockey club. But there’s a difference between having the puck and using it well, and so far, the Flames haven’t been able to translate possession into dangerous possession enough to be north of .500.
If they want to get to where they want to be, they’ll need to solve this riddle.