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Assessing the road trip

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Now that the trip has come to a merciful end, it's time to start picking through the wreckage. There's no black box to tell us preciesly what went wrong, but let's see if we can get a few steps closer to isolating the problem.

First, the Flames ES shots and save percentage. Some numbers that stand-out:

- Despite going 3-4 and having a shit ton of goals scored against them, the Flames still out-played the opposition in terms of outshooting overall (+68), so that's encouraging.

- The big guns were shooting lights out. On-ice SH% for Jokinen, Iginla and Cammalleri were 12.3, 13.3 and 15.9 respectively. Iginla and Jokinen also had individual SH% of 21.7 and 33.3. That's good stuff, although no way can it continue indefinitely. Probably the biggest tragedy of this trip is wasting that kind of top line potency.

- Calgary's ES SV% was freaking abysmal this trip (.884). That's a SH SV% on a bad team, let alone an ES SV% on a division leader. Yuck. 

Even with such lackluster goaltending, the Flames could have escaped this trip with a better record if the special teams had at least been competent. Specifically the PK, which was probably the club's Achilles heel over the 7 games. Consider:

- The Flames were short-handed 39 times. That's almost 6 penalties/game.

- They surrendered 74 shots and 12 goals against in those 39 PKs. That's a 69% PK success rate and a SH SV% of 0.838.

Im not just going to lay this one on the goalies: the Flames have been giving up too many shots and too many opportunities short-handed for awhile now. I noted it back in February when Kipper was standing on his head and little has changed since then (except he's suddenly unable to stop a beach ball). I've especially noticed that the bad guys are getting a lot of uncluttered looks from the point recently, resulting in point shots, rebounds and deflections that are finding their way into the back of the net. This was espcially an issue in CAR, DET and TOR.

If the Flames can clean up their PK work, I think they'll be fine - I mean, just as a really high ES SV% is probably unsustainable, there's no way Kiprusoff is going to continue at a 0.886 clip for long, even if he is just an average goalie. That's Marc Denis while in Tampa level goatending and Miikka hasn't sunk to that level (yet?).

Other thoughts:

- Let's put to bed all this Kipper for Vezina talk, shall we? I think he got a bit unlucky on this trip considering all the penalties and bad bounces he suffered through, but there was also enough flat-out soft goals against to finally convince me that this is what Kipper is now: a no better than average netminder. His SV% has slipped to .903, good for 32nd in the league. He had one notable run in February, but otherwise he's been either terrible or average this season. According to Hockey Numbers, goaltending has been little more than an anchor on the Flames GD this year.

- The Flames defensive prowess has also been no better than average by a number of metrics this year as well, which I also consider to be under performance considering the dollars Sutter is spending on the back-end (and roster in full). The Flames allow an average of 30.2 shots against/game, good for 18th in the league. Their shot quality against index of 1.02 places them 19th in the league. Calgary also gives up the 24th most SA on the PK. Overall, they are 25th in the NHL in terms of GA/game. None of that is terribly impressive and is problematic when you're $6M goalie is in the bottom third of  starting goaltenders in terms of SV%. 

- Calgary is still a very strong ES team despite all that. They frequently outshoot the bad guys at ES and have three valid scoring units up front. The Flames could likely be a legit Stanley Cup contender if they could get their defensive house in order (big if at this point).