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Flames vs Sabres - Stats Recap

It's funny, Ari and I were discussing how important the remainder of this road trip was the other night. Plus the importance of actually winning some crucial games. We had no idea this was one.

You smug motherfu-
You smug motherfu-
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we lost to the Buffalo Sabres last night and I'm still dealing with it. I didn't sleep all night and I may have thrown up about five times. What gives, Calgary? You shoot like 20% all season, you're posting back to back shutouts, and you're beating Montreal like 6-2? NOW THIS!? Oh god, it's almost like everything is coming back to normal. Which is sorta what is happening. Shooting % is trending down negatively in the last few games, both in all situations AND even strength. Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller's save percentages are dropping too despite the two aforementioned shut-outs. In fact here is what the situation is right now:

  • SH% is down in ES situations and has been trending that way for a bit. The 5-2 on December 2nd was at 20%, against the Avalanche down to 13.04%, then against the Sharks 7.14%, and finally the other night in Toronto: 0%
  • We've supplemented those situations with a PP that has generated goals too. In all situations, over the same course of games: 20.83%, 16%, 5.71%, and then 3.13%
  • Save % is down too in all situations: 93.1%, 89.66%, 90%, and 86.21.
  • ES SV%: 92.31%, 88.46%, 88.89%, and 88%
This is all after two straight shut-outs from Karri Ramo. For the most part we know and accept that SH% and SV% are generally luck driven. We can't quantify luck completely, but we can make observations, monitor a potential hypothesis, and see what the results are like. We know what the league average SV% is and will usually average out to be. The same goes with SH%. So for a team like Calgary who is winning all these games, making us "stats nerds" look like we're wrong, and etc; we know that PDO will balance out. All teams fall will in many cases fall to 100 or lower depending on the talent. Better teams will sustain/maintain above 100...typically.

I'm not going to bore you much further with that, I've got a massive stupid post coming in the coming days with all the numbers to examine, broken into the 7 game segments Bob Hartley had been using.

I get that these stats aren't for anyone, a lot of people will refuse to look at them and that's cool. That said, when it comes to what the Flames are doing now; it mirrors previous teams in recent years to do the same thing. We're also willing to accept that a large portion of the game does come down to luck however predictability does exist in the sport.

Or you could watch the game rather than be a nerd, right?

Anyway, onto the numbers breakdown. Courtesy of Hockeystats.ca:

Flames vs Sabres - All Situations

  • In all situations, even with the Sabres' on the power play, they had no chance to really control the game. There is one interval on the ES chart showing them with a slight edge in Corsi but that's it. The entire game at times felt like an AHL team versus a NHL team. (this is a joke, you can laugh here).
  • The best interval of the game and arguably of the Calgary Flames season IN A SECOND PERIOD was around the 17 minute mark of the period. In that moment in time, they had 8 shot attempts in just over 1:20 of play. Of course it was 4v4, 5v4, and 5v5 during that time but it's one of the best sustained moments of pressure for the Flames all year.
  • This Sabres team is engineered to fail although they're finding some luck lately. I briefly go over a few of the goals further down. Either way, they got lucky and took advantage at opportune spots.
  • The Flames ability to rally in the third period was a serious test again here. Score effects were the hugest driver at times in this game. One team takes the lead, the other immediately begins increasing shot attempts to draw even.
  • Calgary didn't need much after the first Matt Moulson goal - all of two events. The same goes for the one event after the Marcus Foligno goal. Luck? Probably. I mean it was a great breakout pass which lead to the zone entry. A defensive breakdown in front and David Jones puts it in. Buffalo can't defend, Jones takes advantage. Just a smart play.
  • By the time the Sean Monahan goal happens, Calgary has started the period with 8 Corsi events. Buffalo doesn't get a single event until Latvian folk-hero Zemgus Girgensons makes it 3-3. Two events later, Moulson's second is the game winner.
  • Calgary's 76 CF events is tied for second in most in a game. The Sharks game the other night topped out at 77 CF, 60 CA in All Situations.
Flames vs Sabres - Even Strength

  • One of the quickest starts I've seen from the Flames this year that didn't trail off until, well that flatline midway through the period. Most of it is related to Mark Giordano's interference call but even then I'm fairly certain that stuff happened while I watched the game. Just nothing shot related.
  • This is when it got really interesting: the second period. Both teams were 50% at ES here. Buffalo looked to be the more consistent of the two teams in the period. Calgary is notorious for this stuff. They go through massive stretches of nothing, then blast away. Fortunately, they did score at even strength twice last night. Still, they need to improve at keeping some sustainability there.
  • By far one of the nicest looking third periods this season. They started strong at even strength and did everything possible up until the tying goal and subsequent winner. They were consistent, albeit against Buffalo (who are hot, hot hot per Stace).
  • Buffalo is what Buffalo is. I don't know.

Courtesy of NauturalStatTrick.com we have our period breakdowns and player data:

Flames vs Sabres - All Situations Period Data

  • How often are we ever going to see the Flames be a quality possession team like this in a game this season? Maybe a handful or so more times. Double the CF than CA in all situations. Double the FF than FA in all situations. It's insane.
  • Thanks to the ability to get shot attempts off on the man advantage, the second period looked fantastic. The Gio goal to show for it helped keep the PP stats looking good, and we had a perfect PK so that will help the dire situation there.
  • This might be the best third period this season but you know... Buffalo. However they're spectacular now so maybe they'll win the cup or something.

Flames vs Sabres - Even Strength Period Data

  • At even strength, as I mentioned, the team did pretty damn remarkable. Everything looked great minus the score. Calgary was doing everything possible last night to destroy Jhonas Enroth. Even with Buffalo blocking shots, it didn't matter. 37 shots at ES is pretty insane for Calgary.
  • Buffalo had one of their better periods of the year I think in the second. They were a much more aggressive team and more sustainable possession wise. It's kind of a sign that things aren't right for Calgary when at ES, they broke even.
  • Finally, that third period. Everything offensively they had, they tried, and it didn't work out. I just don't know, guys. Everything is bleak now.

Flames - Even Strength CF% / FF% / OZS% Data

  • Alright let's start the with the negatives on possession: nothing really. Corsi Rel and Fenwick Rel here aren't that glaring of an issue though.
  • Brandon Bollig posted great numbers, I'd like to believe it's because every line contributed in some way, and they did at times. Why Mason Raymond was banished to Bollig-land, I have no idea. He played pretty well and he drives possession. Like Ari said, it's doubtful we see David Jones on the top-line again now. His TOI at ES was just under 11 minutes.
  • That said, he still scored again. When he is healthy and dialed in, DJ is pretty alright. Other times, he is slow, not making smart decisions, and well.. being like Deryk Engelland.
  • Speaking of which, even though he was positive as well (cough Raphael Diaz, cough TOI with others, cough playing Buffalo), that Foligno goal was painful to watch. So yeah, if we add the "eye-test" in here to discussion he's a fucking trainwreck. He lost the man behind the net, never paid attention to Foligno behind, and was slow. Awful.
  • I love the second line of Johnny Gaudreau, father-figure Jiri Hudler, and Josh Jooris. I love it more than having Markus Granlund on that line for several reasons. The first being, Jooris' style of play suits them perfectly. He creates space, he fights his way into zones, and wins the important battles that leads to Johnny Hockey setting the play up, and feeding one of them; or passing it around and/or doing it himself.
  • To stick with them further, they've been driving possession together the last few games together. They work very well and maybe Granlund is moved to the wing (or likely sent down) when Mikael Backlund returns. Their TOI together along with the numbers they're putting up AND the eye-test show they have a lot to prove.
  • Sean Monahan, silently having himself a great season so far. He's getting tougher and tougher zone starts and he's still generating chances. His goal courtesy of the chemistry he has with Joe Colborne was a nice way to cap off a strong performance despite the loss.
  • Sticking with Colborne for a moment, his first game back he looked a little slow at times and a step behind. Still he found his game at times when it was needed. If he can find a way to keep driving play WITH Monahan, it's a tag-team I'd keep together (including re-signing him). His and Monahan's instincts on that play were exactly what we need to keep scoring goals. He put up respectable numbers after a sluggish start to the game and his zone starts showed that despite a Buffalo team, he can take tougher starts.
  • Paul Byron, folks. Another breakaway and back to being unable to buy a goal. He is the perfect option for the third-line, but slotting him up on the first line isn't the best way to manage lines. I'm not sure if this is temporary or not, but I'd love Raymond up there with Colborne and Sean. Paul Byron's chemistry that he was finding with Granlund is something I'd love to explore a bit more. He is finding great ways to drive possession at even strength, on the PP, and on the PK. He is worthy of a new contract at this point [for me at least].
  • TJ Brodie had a bit of a rough night. He was "worst" if you can call it that in terms of possession. He had the toughest zone starts for a blueliner too. The first goal, he really had no chance on. Second goal against, not his fault for his positioning and where he should have been. Third goal, yeah he might have been a bit out of position on. That said, when on the ice he did benefit his team often enough. All up and coming potential Norris candidates have rough nights.
  • Mark Giordano, our captain. Scores a goal, out there for a couple against. Still drives possession though. His ability to find passing lanes, make smart decisions, and find ways to get the puck towards the net make him so valuable to this organization. That said, he and Brodie getting double shifted at times aren't helpful. That second pairing's weaknesses are visible now and hopefully they can be treated soon.
  • Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell both had softer nights. They drove possession like everyone did, they also had soft zone starts. Their abilities of playing defence however, they raise serious questions. The dialogue in the media about how well they perform is solely based off the numbers they are putting up offensively. That said, they still have issues most nights (like much of the team) driving sustainable underlying numbers and they're often being hemmed in their own zone.
  • Deryk Engelland and Raphael Diaz had some interesting events this evening. Diaz wasn't at fault on the second goal. He drives possession but he isn't a 3/4 guy. He's a 5/6 easily and maybe if we can find a better option of moving the bottom pairing to Russel/Diaz, we might have 2 1/2 capable pairings a night. That said, his TOI is still stupid low and he did improve players around him last night.
Player Spotlight - Markus Granlund

I wanted to focus on Granlund this time for various reasons. First off is he is a particular interesting young man with an innate ability of having the talent to be a top-six forward and someone who appears to be capable of driving play the right way along with having two-way skills. That said, part of the biggest growing pains I've noticed about him have been his match-ups. With the injuries to Matt Stajan, Backlund, and Colborne he broke our centre depth pretty quickly. Thrust into a top-six role in parts of a schedule where you're playing incredibly difficult competition is a huge problem. Different to how Hartley deployed Monahan last year, giving him as much soft competition as possible; Hartley did the opposite often.

Did it impact Granlund with regards to underlying numbers? Yes, oh god yes. Having Hudler and Gaudreau flank him a lot of the time helped but the majority of the time it didn't. They line spent a lot of time being hemmed in their own zone often. They did generate offensively which is a huge benefit but I think it took it's toll on Markus. How have things changed? Well, he's had his TOI adjusted, his line-mates, and deployment changed up. He's still a rookie but he's getting a bit softer circumstances for now.

So how did he fair last night?

  • His toughest starts were with Lance Bouma and Brandon Bollig, of the two; he was on ice for two Corsi events against, and one for. The same for Fenwick. The sample size is so small so even though it'll impact his over all CF% for the night, it wasn't a horrible issue. If anything, it looks like an icing call that caused it.
  • His best OZS% came from starts with Russell at 85.71%. Which makes sense based off Kris' data above being so padded on starts.
  • It looks like Hartley wanted him to play with Gaudreau and Hudler a bit so if you do examine the full game data, you'll see he and Jooris swapped spots for a bit in the centre role on the second line. That said, his time with the two worked out nicely as they did generate great underlying numbers with them last night.
Onto the opposition side of things...
  • Matching up against what would appear to be Buffalo's second and third pairings in Nikita Zadorov/ Rasmus Ristolainen; and Mike Weber/ Andre Benoit he faired well. I mean the entire team flourish possession wise but this about Markus right now.
  • He played mostly against the Sabres' second line in Brian Flynn, Brian Gionta, and Torrey Mitchell which I wouldn't call a real "second line" but hey, I'm not a coach and I've never played in the NHL. That said, he torched them. Corsi and Fenwick, he was 100% successful against them. Just remember: one game, small sample size. Still a small victory for him.
  • The only real "down" match-ups would be against Nicolas Deslauriers and Tyler Myers. Of which the sample size is really small already due to his overall TOI; but < 2:00 isn't huge here either.
That said with Granlund, I think sending him down won't hurt him at all. He has proven that with his stint last year and now this year he is a fantastic young player in the making. Sending him down could bolster the offense in Adirondack IF needed. If he is sent down, he should be the first called back up before anyone else. If he isn't sent down, I'd love to see him moved to the wing on a line with Backlund. Likely though, it's down to the AHL for him.

Next season gives him so much more opportunity depending on roster moves this season and during the off-season. The likelihood that Curtis Glencross next season is slim and for all we know others could be moved too in packages. Either way, he's an exciting kid and I hope everything continues on the up for him this year. The Flames take on the Penguins tonight so we'll have you covered for that. If you don't hate me already, I'll have the stats recap for that on Saturday morning.