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Seven Game Segments: Segment Four

A look back at games 22 through 28

Last time, I talked about the shooting percentage beginning to fall off a little bit and the special teams still being miserable. Over the course of the season there will be peaks and valleys for every team and so far this season the Flames have been slowly climbing out of the special teams hole they've been digging for themselves with mostly excellent 5 on 5 play. Another thing to consider going into this segment is the team finally adjusting to the offseason coaching change. As Darren Haynes pointed out in his excellent piece on coaching changes in the NHL we can reasonably expect that as the Flames hit that 20 game mark there should be, at the very least, signs of improvement while playing in new systems and with a different staff.

Thankfully, in the first winning segment of the season the Flames appear to have settled in to the new systems and they're paying off in a big way. Chad Johnson's stellar goaltending certainly doesn't hurt either.

November 23, 2016

Game Twenty Two Away Vs Columbus Blue Jackets

Win: 2-0


Starter: Chad Johnson

106.67 42.68 41.67 100 6.67 33.3 100

The Flames begin this segment against one of the League's hottest teams. Luckily they went into Columbus with one of the League's hottest goaltenders in Chad Johnson. Their PK was perfect over four penalties and Johnson shut the door for his second shut out of the season. The Flames also scored a PP goal and if we can see more games where the special teams' percentages add up to over 100% then we are going to start seeing a lot more wins.

Game Recap

November 25, 2016

Game Twenty Three: Away vs Boston Bruins

Win: 2-1


Starter: Chad Johnson

103.83 37.08 54.55 95.83 8 0 100

The Flames continue their longest road trip of the season with a stop in Beantown where Chad Johnson was once again solid in net and the Flames PK was again perfect. The PP once again came up with nothing and this trend has got to change for continued success. As the scoring chances show, the Flames were the more dangerous team at even strength with a healthy advantage below the blueline compared to the Bruins. One thing to note when it comes to looking at these unadjusted numbers is that things like corsi are going to appear to suffer at a glance because of score effects. The Flames are down in possession but this is most likely because the Flames played the majority of the game with a 1 goal lead. In a 1-0 game the team that is down is more likely to play more aggressively than the team that is defending the lead. Thus we see a dip in possession.

November 27, 2016

Game Twenty Four: Away vs Philadelphia Flyers

Loss: 5-3


Starter: Chad Johnson

87.1 45.45 33.33 87.1 0 100 83.3

This was just not a good game. Possession was down, scoring chances were nearly non existent, and the PK managed to outscore the PP on a night where the PP actually scored for once. For those of us tuning into this game after whatever it was the Calgary Stampeders did at the Grey Cup earlier in the day the Flames did not make our night any better. It was a terrible performance at even strength as Chad Johnson had a rare off night and the regular even strength performers (Backlund, Frolik, Tkachuk) somehow saved all of their scoring for the special teams. Which is nice but we have got to get both sections of the team going on the same night. Every game.

Game Recap

November 28, 2016

Game Twenty Five: Away vs New York Islanders

Loss: 2-1 OT


Starter: Brian Elliott

98.85 53.93 77.78 95 3.85 0 100

On the second game of a back to back Johnson gets the night off and Brian Elliott goes in. The trend in this segment so far is the PK being nearly unstoppable and obviously the goalie is a huge part of this. The Flames, by the numbers, largely outplayed the Islanders but unfortunately Thomas Greiss outplayed the Flames as a whole. What were learned from this game though is that a PP goal would have won the game for them, the PK is now firing on all cylinders, and yes, despite being relegated to a back up role, Brian Elliott is still a damn good goaltender. "The best player from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft" finally made his NHL debut and he didn't look out of place. He needs a bit more seasoning in the AHL but his first game in the NHL was definitely not a disappointment. I think the kid has a bright future.

Game Recap

November 30, 2016

Game Twenty Six: Home vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Win: 3-0


Starter: Chad Johnson

111.54 42.42 47.06 100 11.54 0 100

Try as they might the Leafs become the second team in this segment unable to solve Chad Johnson as he collects his third shut out of the season. As an aside, Johnson's first shutout was 1-0, his second was 2-0 and his third is 3-0. Of course with the perfect save percentage comes yet another perfect PK. It remains to be seen if this is just a peak before normalizing somewhere down the road but this half of the special teams is paying off in spades. As I mentioned after the Boston game the Leafs were playing from behind for the majority of the game so it comes as no surprise that they pressed hard enough to edge out the Flames in scoring chances and plain beat them in the possession department. The Flames are enjoying a hot streak right now but they have got to find a way to get those CF% and SCF% numbers in the positive even when they are playing with a lead.

Game Recap

December 2, 2016

Game Twenty Seven: Home vs Minnesota Wild

Win: 3-2 (SO)


Starter: Chad Johnson

95.76 50.6 36.36 90.91 4.76 20 100

Despite the narrative of the Flames wanting revenge for the Wild's slashing parade on Johnny Gaudreau the Flames actually played a pretty calm game. The Wild acually ended up 'winning' the penalty battle in a game that many thought would be rife with emotion. Thankfully the Flames PP woke up and made them pay with a goal as the Wild paraded to the box. Possession was in the positive and after the Flames scored early in the first the game settled into a classic Flames/Wild game, which is to say very boring. It doesn't seem to matter who the Wild coach is, they just play a suffocating style that at times is hard to watch. The Flames prevailed, however, in just their third trip to a shoot out on the season. Johnson was again solid in net and the skaters did just enough even strength scoring to keep them in it. Often through out this series I've mentioned that just a single PP goal would get the Flames at least a point if not a win and this game was a point in case example of this.

Game Recap

December 4, 2016

Game Twenty Eight: Home vs Anaheim Ducks

Win: 8-3


Starter: Chad Johnson

116.67 46.58 62.5 91.67 25 66.6 75

The big story for this game is the incredibly early return of Johnny Gaudreau. Many were left wondering if he actually was ready to return after a 6 week timeline was originally set after his initial injury but any doubts were quickly silenced after he scored the first goal of the game on his first shot of his first shift. While the Flames didn't have as much control over the game as maybe they would have liked judging from the possession numbers, once again playing with a massive lead for the majority of the game, it was a case of every single chance the Flames had seemed to find their way into the back of the net. The PP captilized on 2 out of 3 chances and the lone PK goal against was just the Ducks' second goal of the game after the Flames were already up by 8. This is as close to a perfect game that the Flames have played so far this season.

Game Recap

The Segment As A Whole

102.1 45.5 50.1 94.4 8.5 31.4 94

While we did see the Flames play arguably their worst game of the season in Philly the fact remains that they played against some of the hottest teams in the league and compiled a 5-1-1 record. Johnson, if I didn't mention it before, is now clearly the Flames number one goaltender and for anyone that payed attention to his performance last season in Buffalo this should come as no surprise as, despite the early season record, the Flames are a much better team than Buffalo was. The PK has finally gelled, allowing just 2 goals on 27 opportunites and closer to the end of this segment the Flames PP has finally started to pick up steam as well. Their even strength play has remained fairly consistent as Mark Giodano himself noted a number of times during this streatch of games. The special teams just had to get going and now that they have I think we're seeing the Flames team that a number of pundits expected going into this season.

The Season So Far

 photo segment4chart_zpskhkoaapa.jpg

So when a good team is on a winning streak we want to look primarily at two things: possession and PDO. The Flames in this segment are down in possession at 5 on 5 from their previous segments. This is not a trend we want to see continue. There are almost no teams that I can think of that have played with a possession deficit that have actually made any kind of noise in the playoffs. Historically, it just doesn't happen. The PDO is also a good indicator of where a team's true talent level lies. Over the course of the season the entire League will level out to 100%. When the season is done we're looking at good to great teams entering the post season at 102 to 103 precent. The teams that miss playoffs are of course in the 97 to 98 percent range.

The Flames in this segment finished at 102.9% in the PDO department, that makes them a good team for this stretch of games. Over the course of the season so far however the Flames have managed a 99.6% PDO which puts them in the 3rd division or Wild Card spot. They're a bubble team. Given that the Flames are playing well above their season performance thus far I would hazard to guess that this is just a hot streak. I would temper my expectations especially when you consider their possession rates. We need to get that number above 50% and in this segment, it wasn't.

At any rate, the Flames appear to be continuing their hot streak as I am about to publish this so maybe I will be proven wrong. We'll find out over the Christmas break as the Flames' 35th game will be on December 20th at the Shark Tank in San Jose.