Blue Jackets vs Flames coverage
Perhaps the strangest thing about last night's loss to Columbus is the degree to which live reports are at odds with the metrics. Calgary was the better team by most measures: they spent more time in the offensive zone at even strength and they generated more scoring chances.
On the other hand, it would be difficult to find a Flames fan that was satisfied with the effort they observed yesterday. Perhaps it's frustration carried over from the poor December, the loss in Minnesota or the club's continued offensive struggles. Perhaps it was the nature of the game itself: aside from a couple of notable plays on both sides, most of the night was punctuated by players falling over themselves, sloppy passing and almost zero physical play. It was, in short, a bad hockey game.
Yes, the mid-season doldrums are upon us. Unfortunately for the Flames, their ragged December performance puts them in a position where points continue to be important. Both the NW division crown and the post-season cut-off point are within spitting distance so there isn't much room for boredom or indifference in the Flames schedule.
The good news is, the Flames have been out-chancing the bad guys pretty handily since the 5-1 loss to Vancouver. The bad news maybe be that their success is as much a reflection of some weak opposition as anything else. The Flames last 7 games included: Edmonton, LA, Edmonton, Toronto, Nashville, Minnesota and Columbus. That's not exactly a murderers row.
Of course, some issues have persisted through the recent good times - namely the lack of scoring and the inability to get shots on net. For yet another night, the Flames spent a lot of time in the offensive zone, but failed to make the opposing goalie make saves. Calgary finished the evening with 18 ES shots on net, 16 shots blocked and 14 missed shots. That's a 37.5% rate. The BJ's, in contrast, fired 28 pucks towards the Flames net, 18 of which made it to McElhinney (64%) at 5on5.
Mostly, I think it's this continued offensive ineffectiveness that is seeping into Flames fans collective conscience, resulting in the kind of frustration you see in the comments section around here as well as various messageboards (despite the fact that team isn't playing all that badly overall). I'm at a loss to prescribe a fix since I consider the moving the puck in the right direction to be 3/4 of the battle. That said, by managing so few shots on net every night, the Flames elevate the role of chance in their contests, which thereby decreases their margin of error on a nightly basis.
It seems the club is getting a hang of limiting the bad guys opportunities at the bad end of the nice. The next step is to convert their offensive zone time into something other than cycling and blocked shots.