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Seven Game Segments: Part One

A look back at the Flames’ first seven games.

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

As I previously posted I am going to be tracking specific stats throughout the course of the season and examining them as well as the Flames’ record in seven game segments, the same way good old Bob used to, to try and find an explanation for the Flames’ performance and identify trends. This first segment is going to be painful.

Before we begin I want to take a brief moment to talk about scoring chances.

danger scoring areas photo ScoringChanceArea_zpszhslru1w.jpg

In the above picture from the now defunct War On Ice scoring chances are the shots coming from the area illustrated by the “home plate” drawn in front of the net. While Corsica does not differentiate between High Danger Scoring Chances and plain old Scoring chances I would like you to direct your attention to areas One and Two. These are the scoring chances that I am referencing when I have them listed in the stat blocks below. To avoid any confusion I would also like to note that I have Scoring Chances For listed as a percentage. This percentage is the Flames’ share of total Scoring Chances occurring in the game between both teams, not the percentage of their shots that are Scoring Chances.

October 12, 2016

Game One: Away vs Edmonton Oilers

Loss: 7-4

0-1-0

Starter: Brian Elliott

PDO CF% SCF% SV% SH% PP% PK%
85.66 55.84 30 81.82 3.85 33.3 83.3

Last season, possession was one of the many weaknesses of the Flames’ systems under Hartley and throughout the year you’d be hard pressed to find a possession advantage such as this in any game, let alone one that the Flames lost. Right out of the gate Gulutzan has this team playing more of a possession oriented system and that’s a great thing. Good teams have the puck, bad teams don’t.

On the bad side, while the Flames did control play for long stretches at 5v5 their goaltender couldn’t keep Edmonton’s pucks out of the net and the forwards couldn’t get pucks into the net. A respectable performance on special teams helped keep them in the game but if we look at the abysmal 30% Scoring Chance metric we can see that the Flames were largely shooting from the perimeter and a lot of those shots simply were not of a high quality.

Game Recap

October 14, 2016

Game Two: Home vs Edmonton Oilers

Loss: 5-3

0-2-0

Starter: Brian Elliott

PDO CF% SCF% SV% SH% PP% PK%
104.74 60.24 38.46 94.74 10 0 50

The rematch on opening night in Calgary went a lot better than the season opener in Edmonton. The Flames managed to dominate the shot clock, were provided with excellent even strength goal tending from Elliott, the forwards were able to score like they’re supposed to and while they didn’t crest 50% their share of Scoring Chances increased nearly 9% from the previous game.

Unfortunately, the Flames were sunk by special teams. The power play failed 5 times in 5 tries while the penalty killers went 2/4. This is how you waste an excellent effort from your goaltender.

Game Recap

October 15, 2016

Game Three: Away vs Vancouver Canucks

Loss: 2-1 (SO)

0-2-1

Starter: Chad Johnson

PDO CF% SCF% SV% SH% PP% PK%
96.77 39.24 40 96.77 0 0 100

Another game, another quality start by the goaltender, this time Chad Johnson in his Flames debut, wasted by abysmal special teams and poor forward play. This is the first, of probably many times, that we have seen the Flames at a possession deficit this season. While there was some marginal improvement in where they were shooting from, they simply weren’t getting the volume of shots that they needed to put one away.

The lone bright spot is their 100% penalty kill (0/4). I already don’t want to talk about their power play (0/2). I guess they finally got a point in the standings, that could be a bright spot.

Game Recap

October 18, 2016

Game Four: Home vs Buffalo Sabres

Win: 4-3 (OT)

1-2-1

Starter: Chad Johnson

PDO CF% SCF% SV% SH% PP% PK%
99.7 61.1 56.25 86.6 13 0 80

In their first win of the season, Calgary shows what the underlying numbers of a good team look like. Their shot advantage is huge, they won the scoring chance battle, the skaters shot an incredibly high 13% at even strength and it was more than enough to bail out Johnson against his old team, which I’m sure he appreciated after what ever that was in Vancouver.

Of course, the Flames could have done better. I’m sure it would have been a regulation win if they would have scored on any one of their SIX power plays. The penalty kill so far has been respectable but not amazing and they killed off 4 out of 5 penalties called against them.

Game Recap

October 20, 2016

Game Five: Home vs Carolina Hurricanes

Loss: 4-2

1-3-1

Starter: Brian Elliott

PDO CF% SCF% SV% SH% PP% PK%
102.7 47.83 37.5 90.9 11.8 0 75

By the numbers the Flames played nearly evenly with the Hurricanes. Possession wise, they lagged slightly behind, for scoring chances they weren’t that great but pretty close to their performances so far. This time around both even strength shooting and even strength save percentages indicated a team that could have won or at the very least should have scored more than two goals.

Unfortunately, frustrations were obviously coming to a boiling point as the Flames took an incredible 8 penalties. At home. Eight. They did go 75% on the PK though, which is nothing to sneeze at this early in the season. Also unfortunately, the PP managed to stink it up yet again as the whistle happy referees awarded the Flames 6 power plays. Six opportunities in which they scored zero goals. Again.

The even strength numbers looked fine. Not great but not utterly abysmal either. It’s just that in this case, they do you no good when you aren’t really at even strength for any significant stretch of the game.

Game Recap

October 22, 2016

Game Six: Home vs St Louis Blues

Loss: 6-4

1-4-1

Starter: Chad Johnson

PDO CF% SCF% SV% SH% PP% PK%
108.75 43.82 14.29 90 18.75 0 50

I’m just going to break this to you gently. The Flames were badly outplayed in their first encounter against St Louis. Sure, their possession game was better than it had usually been at this point but just look at that SCF%. Not even close to good. Almost any time the Flames had possession they were forced to give up a weak shot from outside of the prime scoring areas.

How they managed to score 4 goals? Put simply: luck. Now I know people don’t like to hear that a team scores because they are lucky but an even strength SH% of 18.75? The NHL average for shooting percentage over the last few seasons has averaged out around 8-9% each season. In all situations. How they managed this 5v5 I can’t explain beyond the fact that they made the most of their very, very few chances.

Special teams wise, it was not a good night. Their power play once again proved fruitless in 3 opportunities and they were punished twice out of 4 times when they took penalties.

Game Recap

October 24, 2016

Game Seven: Away vs Chicago Blackhawks

Win: 3-2 (SO)

2-4-1

Starter: Brian Elliott

PDO CF% SCF% SV% SH% PP% PK%
92.86 40 26.67 92.86 0 40 100

This is the game we’ve been waiting for! This is how special teams help you win against a perennial Stanley Cup favorite! Special teams! Power play goes 40% (2/5) while the penalty kill is perfect. Throw in an excellent even strength performance from your starting goaltender and you have the recipe for a win.

Despite their own special teams struggles, the Blackhawks are still a great team. They’re off to a poor start (by their standards) but make no mistake, as far as the League is concerned, they’ve already been penciled in for the playoffs. What the Flames needed to do is almost exactly what they did. They went into the enemy team’s barn and stole one from them.

With that said, there are a couple of somewhat concerning trends that are illustrated by some of the numbers in this game. They lost the possession battle and badly lost the even strength scoring chance battle. One goal more goal at even strength and the Flames don’t need a shoot out. They likely don’t even need over time.

Game Recap

The Seven Games As A Whole

PDO CF% SCF% SV% SH% PP% PK%
98.74 49.7 34.74 90.53 8.2 10.5 76.9

To get it out of the way, after the Chicago game the Flames rank 27th on the power play and not by a whole lot. If it weren’t for Chicago’s league worst penalty kill at the time of the game it would be dead last in the League by a country mile.

The penalty kill is far from great in this time span (October 12 to October 24) but the Flames are sitting comfortably above the last place team (Chicago Blackhawks) and look primed for some improvement in the near future. The St Louis game and the second Edmonton Oilers game really hurt them but otherwise the PK looks like it could be in the top half of the League once the sample size becomes a bit larger.

In segment one, the PDO this season is at a fairly low number so far, the league average must be 100% just by the nature of the stat, but generally playoff teams hover around the 101-102% mark over the course of the season.

Possession wise, this team has seen a marked improvement over this time last year’s 46.6 CF% while the scoring chances are way down compared to last season’s 45.9%.

The Save Percentage is clearly way up (last year at 88.7%) and the higher quality of goaltender certainly helps with that. Barring a major injury to either Elliott, an arguably elite goaltender in the League over the last few seasons or Chad Johnson, a guy who had really surprising numbers behind a terrible Buffalo Sabres team last season, I don’t expect this number to dip anywhere near the “Hiller should have retired the previous season” territory.

Shooting percentage is right where a good team’s shooting percentage should be all season long. It will take a lot more games to find out what the true shooting percentage of the team is but so far, so good. Last season’s team 5v5 shooting percentage was an abysmal 6.9% while this season the Flames are sitting pretty at a very sustainable 8.2%