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Have the Flames “Deserved” Their Results This Year?

Is Calgary’s hot start sustainable?

Calgary Flames v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

Stealing games. “Getting goalie’d” we sometimes call it. You know when it’s happening to your team but sometimes it’s harder to realize when it’s going the other way. Other times it’s your team stealing a game they definitely didn’t deserve to win or taking advantage of a poor goaltending performance. In theory it should all balance out over time, but I wanted to take a look at how the Flames are performing in terms of their expected points versus the actual points they are getting.

As we hit the 25 game mark of the Calgary Flames season, the team sits with a very respectable 15-5-5 record and on top of the Pacific Division. While this hot start has certainly come as a surprise for many fans and likely other teams around the NHL, the Flames seem to have achieved it by playing sustainable even strength hockey. However I wanted to look at some of the numbers from various sites to see if the Flames are actually overachieving based on their performances or are more or less where they should be.

Basically my goal of this is to see if the Flames are winning more games that should “probably” be losses or vice versa as they have definitely been on the unlucky side a few times this year.

The main number I have chosen to use for this are the Deserve-to-Win-O-Meter from moneypuck.com while also comparing with the xGF% and High Danger Chance numbers from NaturalStatTrick.com.

The Meter uses a team’s chances to calculate a likelihood of winning from 0-100%. It is important to note that the Meter changes slightly every time you reload the page so I took the average of three tries for each game. The Meter uses in game events and generates whether teams are deserving by the quality and quantity of their chances, you can read more here on it.

For the sake of argument, I have chosen the following numbers for ranges from the Meter:

  • <35% - The Flames deserved a loss, they get 0 points.
  • 35-65% - The Game is a Toss-Up, they are credited with going .500/one point in them (1-1, 2-2, etc.)
  • >65% - The game is should be a Win, they get two points.

Games 1-5 (Opponent, Score, Deserved to Win%, Outcome)

  • Game 1: at Edmonton, 2-5 Loss, 56.8%, Toss-Up
  • Game 2: vs Anaheim, 2-3 OT Loss, 74.0%, Deserved Win
  • Game 3: at Detroit, 3-0 Win, 39.8%, Toss-Up
  • Game 4: at Washington, 4-3 OT Win, 43.2%, Toss-Up
  • Game 5: at NY Rangers, 5-1 Win, 40.5%, Toss-Up

Segment 1: Points “Earned” = 6, Actual Points = 7

Totals: Points “Earned” = 6, Actual Points = 7

Games 6-10

  • Game 6: at New Jersey, 5-3 Win, 82.4%, Deserved Win
  • Game 7: at Pittsburgh, 4-0 Win, 19.3%, Deserved Loss
  • Game 8: vs Philadelphia, 4-0 Win, 70.8%, Deserved Win
  • Game 9: vs Nashville, 2-3 OT Loss, 92.1%, Deserved Win
  • Game 10: vs Dallas, 3-4 OT Loss, 53.7%, Toss-Up

Segment 2: Points “Earned”: 7, Actual Points = 8

Totals: Points “Earned”: 13, Actual Points = 15

Games 11-15

  • Game 11: vs NY Rangers, 6-0 Win, 88.1%, Deserved Win
  • Game 12: vs San Jose, 1-4 Loss, 74.1%, Deserved Win
  • Game 13: at Montreal, 2-4 Loss, 24.8%, Deserved Loss
  • Game 14: at Toronto, 1-2 OT Loss, 22.7%, Deserved Loss
  • Game 15: at Ottawa, 4-0 Win, 67.5%, Deserved Win

Segment 3: Points “Earned”: 6, Actual Points: 5

Totals: Points “Earned”: 19, Actual Points: 20

Games 16-20

  • Game 16: at Philadelphia, 1-2 OT Loss, 25.3%, Deserved Loss
  • Game 17: at Buffalo, 5-0 Win, 66.8%, Deserved Win
  • Game 18: at NY Islanders, 5-2 Win, 30.7%, Deserved Loss
  • Game 19: at Boston, 4-0 Win, 73.0%, Deserved Win
  • Game 20: vs Chicago, 5-2 Win, 72.9%, Deserved Win

Segment 4: Points “Earned”: 6, Actual Points: 9

Totals: Points “Earned”: 25, Actual Points: 29

Games 21-25

  • Game 21: vs Winnipeg, 2-4 Loss, 78.9%, Deserved Win
  • Game 22: vs Pittsburgh, 2-1 SO Win, 82.2%, Deserved Win
  • Game 23: at Los Angeles, 3-2 Win, 65.7%, Deserved Win
  • Game 24: at Anaheim, 4-3 SO Win, 58.0%, Toss-Up
  • Game 25: at Vegas, 2-3 Loss, 14.5%, Deserved Loss

Segment 5: Points “Earned”: 7, Actual Points: 6

Totals: Points “Earned”: 32, Actual Points: 35

As we can see here, the Flames are slightly outperforming their expected results as they have three more points than they should. That is a relatively small difference but also shows that they are roughly in line with where they should be. You could put the small difference mainly on the fact that they have gotten elite goaltending this season. They are 2-2-2 in games that they probably should have lost, while being 10-2-1 in games they deserved to win, which means they are getting the results when they play well too. By elimination that leaves them at 3-1-2 in toss-up games which is slightly better than expected.

It is also encouraging to see that they were the team that has definitely “deserved” to win in over half of their total games this year.

For the sake of comparison, I chose a random team from the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are 13-10-0 with 26 points so far this year. According to their numbers, they have only “earned” 16 points so they are vastly outperforming their expected results right now. Most of their expected goals stats have them among poor teams like Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, and Arizona. So yeah, don’t buy Columbus stock at this point.

I also looked at the league leading Florida Panthers who have 37 points in 24 games. In their situation, they had earned 33 points of 37 this year, and have only played a single game that they “deserved” to lose, which they still won. 13 of their 24 games have been Toss-Up games and good teams find a way to win those games (FLA is 7-3-3). You can really see how the good teams separate themselves by winning the close games.

Getting back to the Flames, I think it has to be an encouraging sign that they have played well enough this season to be a team near the top of the Western Conference, and along with some goaltending and strong play from the skaters, they do really deserve to be where they are. It is also encouraging that they don’t seem primed for a regression like Columbus might be. They were within a point of their “expected” in 4/5 of the five game segments, with the exception being Segment 4 where Jacob Markstrom stole three points in games the team probably deserved zero.

This team has been extremely exciting to watch this year, especially on the road, and while individual players might not stay this hot all season long (Mangiapane’s Goals or Kylington’s Points), they are well poised as a team to contend for 1st in the Pacific and West all year long. The next big question is of course, can they do it in the playoffs? We will see.