It’s no secret that the Calgary Flames are rolling right now. They’re riding a five game winning streak, and have consistently found ways to win games, especially after falling behind early.
However winning has the tendency to hide flaws, and the one flaw that’s seemed to pop up at times over the last 5-10 games, has been the Flames special teams.
I swear I’m not trying to be a Johnny Raincloud here.
I’ll admit that after the red-hot run the PP had earlier this year, a slow down was expected, but I’m actually more worried about how much both sides of the game have struggled lately, especially in the last five or ten games.
The Flames have found themselves down early in the last four contests, with the early goals being surrendered while shorthanded in the last three.
In the last five games, the Flames penalty kill has surrendered 5 goals against (one per game) on only 12 opposition opportunities. In other words, the Flames penalty kill has operated at a ghastly 58.3%. However it is a very small sample size.
If we scale things back to the last 10 games, the Flames have allowed 6 goals against on 25 penalty kills to hit a 76% kill rate, which is still very poor. Last 20 games, same thing at 15 goals on 62 chances for 75.8%.
Then you can look at the stretch from November 23 to January 9 and see that the Flames killed 76 of 84 shorthanded chances for a 90.5% kill rate to see the opposite effect.
The Flames have shown inconsistency all year long on their penalty kill, which makes it very likely that they’ll bounce back soon.
For the season the Flames are sitting at an 80% kill rate, so it’s safe to assume that the penalty kill is struggling currently, but it’s also just a slump. However if this trend has continued in a couple weeks, I’ll be back to talk about it.
Just as the penalty kill has struggled of late, so too has the power play, and also to a pretty startling extent recently.
In the last nine games, the Flames powerplay has gone a staggering 1 for 25, or a 4% conversion rate.
Again I think it’s just a slump which happens a lot for special teams units during the ups and downs of a season as opposing teams watch footage and figure them out.
In the previous nine games to these the powerplay had gone 9 for 31 or 29% which would be far and away the best in the NHL.
Put the two nine-game windows together and you get 10 for 56 or 17.8%, so it’s really nothing too frightening.
The Flames powerplay unit has been a roller coaster this season, with dramatic ups and downs, going all the way back to the first few months where it seemed like they couldn’t even enter the zone. At times we even called for Dave Cameron to be fired from being the powerplay coach as nothing seemed to improve, but slowly it did.
Then we saw the month of December where they operated at 17 for 49 (34.7%) or even the more specific window where the Flames had eight games with a PP goal and went 13 for 28 (46.4%).
My point is that special teams are finicky, and even windows of ten games or so can’t really be read into too far because of the hot and cold streaks that are special teams.
Penalties are a part of the game regardless of the “Wideman effect” and the Flames need their special teamers to pick it back up to give the team an added boost. There’s going to be a lot of close games down the stretch, and special teams goals will make a big difference in tight contests.
While I ultimately think that both units are simply mired in a slump right now, the Flames are dangerously playing with fire (no pun intended) as you often can’t sustain success for long whilst losing the special teams battle.
Of course you also aren’t supposed to win too often when falling behind 1-0 in games, but the Flames lead the league in wins from that situation with 16, so what do I know!?
They’re finding ways to win games, so I guess I can’t nitpick too much, but they won’t win every game the rest of the way (I think), so it’s important to address this issue soon to give them an extra edge down the stretch as they fight for the playoffs.