Folks, through four games against the Edmonton Oilers, the results have been disappointing for the Calgary Flames: just a single win. But after such a strong performance in the last series with the Dallas Stars, it’s natural to wonder what precisely has been done differently for the Flames against Edmonton than against Dallas.
We decided to dig into the underlying metrics to figure it out.
Some details: We used five-on-five data from Natural Stat Trick. We’re comparing expected goals for (per 60), expected goals against (per 60), and PDO, which is each player’s combined on-ice shooting and save percentage.
Let’s sift through the numbers here!
Who’s better offensively against Edmonton than Dallas? Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane. Who’s notably worse? Mikael Backlund, Tyler Toffoli, Black Coleman, Calle Jarnkrok, Dillon Dube, Milan Lucic, Trevor Lewis and Brett Ritchie.
On the defensive side, we’re seeing improvements from Backlund, Coleman and Mangiapane, and basically everybody else has allowed more from the Oilers than the Stars.
Are the changes we’re seeing a product of the Oilers having Connor McDavid and other high-octane offensive pieces that Dallas did not have? Yes, that’s definitely a big piece of it. But look at the PDO differences: we’ll get into this in more detail in a bit, but most Flames forwards have lower PDOs, generally reflecting the puck going into their own net more than previously.
The Flames had Chris Tanev for 5.67 games of Round 1. They’ve had him for one game of Round 2, and he was labouring. That’s a big difference, as it’s forced Nikita Zadorov and Erik Gudbranson to effectively become the second pairing.
Noah Hanifin is doing better defensively than against Dallas, but everybody else is allowing more. In terms of offense, aside from a slight uptick for Zadorov, everybody is generating less. A lot of these changes, again, can be attributed to the high-powered Oilers scoring threats and that the Flames are without Tanev.
Alright, let’s dive in here: Markstrom is doing worse against every danger level of shot than he did in the first round. His save percentage dropped by thirty points against high-danger chances.
He’s facing slightly more shots at each danger level per game, but not massively so. The biggest jump is a 0.78 medium-danger shots increase – high-dangers went up 0.41 shots per game and low-dangers 0.36 shots per game. But the percentage drop against high-dangers combined with the slight uptick adds up to an extra two high-danger goals against per game.
Simply put: Markstrom has swung from extremely stingy to somewhat struggling in a matter of a week or so. The shuffling of the defensive assignments and responsibilities in Tanev’s absence certainly hasn’t helped, nor has the team facing a really potent group of Oilers shooters. It is, in essence, a perfect storm of challenges that have put the Flames in this situation. Change any one of these factors, and the Flames are probably right in the thick of the series rather on the verge of elimination.
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