Calgary Flames home-and-away split influenced by their special teams

Nearly a quarter of the way through the season, much of the Calgary Flames’ on-ice performance has left a lot to be desired. Mediocre starts, the lack of 60-minute efforts, and constant trailing in games have tarnished the fact that they’re sitting pretty at fourth in the Pacific Division with 23 points, three points behind the first place Edmonton Oilers.

Despite teams beneath them having games in hand, it doesn’t change the fact that the Flames are still managing to secure points and are working their way out of their initial slump. Much of their success can be attributed to their current MVP, David Rittich , but looking at the team on the whole, it’s their play at the Saddledome that’s been most impressive thus far.

Twenty games into the season, the Flames’ home-and-away split currently sits at a solid 6-1-2 at home versus a meager 4-6-1 on the road. So what exactly has contributed to this discrepancy? To investigate, I looked at the Flames’ goals for compared to their expected goals for (all data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick).

Breaking things down even further, 5v5 score and venue adjusted values were compared to all-situation values. In doing so, the idea was that special teams contributions could be highlighted.

feeling at Home in the dome

The Flames have played fairly well at 5v5, and with score and venue adjustments, their results are as follows:

5v5 SVA at HOMe

OpponentOutcomeCF%GF%xGFxGAxGF%
VAN3-0 W51.3100.01.511.1656.6
LAK3-4 OTL43.037.01.572.8135.9
PHI3-1 W64.465.61.330.9857.6
DET5-1 W58.074.22.761.8759.6
WSH3-5 L49.630.21.631.6949.1
FLA6-5 SOW51.642.71.612.0044.6
ARI4-3 OTW58.10.01.861.6752.7
NJD5-2 W56.447.52.101.0866.1
STL2-3 OTL44.347.41.301.5745.3
Average53.049.41.741.6551.9

Through nine games, the Flames are posting promising possession numbers, averaging 53.0 CF%, and are posting an average of 51.9 GF%. However, their actual GF% is slightly below at 49.4%. The difference maker for the Flames has been their special teams play. Looking at all-situations, it’s clear how they’ve been winning games at home:

All-situations at home

OpponentOutcomeCF%GF%xGFxGAxGF%
VAN3-0 W42.0100.03.062.3456.7
LAK3-4 OTL48.842.92.193.0641.7
PHI3-1 W58.375.01.911.6953.1
DET5-1 W59.083.33.592.4359.7
WSH3-5 L51.337.52.112.7843.1
FLA6-5 SOW56.350.02.592.3053.0
ARI4-3 OTW59.957.13.953.0456.5
NJD5-2 W58.671.43.081.3669.3
STL2-3 OTL52.140.02.262.0053.0
Average54.061.92.752.3354.0

Despite not having much difference possession-wise with corsi, their GF% jumps up to a whopping 61.9%, and xGF% similarly reflects a boost up to 54.0%. They’re adding almost exactly an extra expected goal from 1.74 to 2.75 when special teams are involved, all while holding their opponents to a smaller increase from 1.65 to 2.33 expected goals.

This largely comes from the Flames’ superb home penalty kill this season, which is currently fourth in the league, operating with a 90.3% efficiency. Considering that they’re the most penalised team in the league, it has paid dividends to have their penalty kill be so largely successful at home.

Calgary’s power play, however, could use a bit of reworking. When on the man-advantage, the Flames are closer to middle of the pack, sitting 14th with a 23.5% success rate. While it could be better, the Flames have still managed to score eight power play goals over the span of nine games at home.

This all ties back into looking at the difference between the 5v5 SVA values compared to all-situations. Overall, the Flames’ special teams have been more than adequate, and are able to gain about an extra goal while on the power play, and are also able to prevent their opponents from doing the same.

Nothing but dismay while away

Comparing the Flames’ home performance to their away performance, it’s abundantly clear that their special teams has not been as good on the road. As much as special teams can be credited for home wins, they’re also to blame for road losses.

When comparing 5v5 SVA values, the Flames are largely the same team at home and on the road:

5v5 sva away

OpponentOutcomeCF%GF%xGFxGAxGF%
COL3-5 L53.135.01.831.5753.9
DAL3-2 SOW45.251.71.601.7148.4
VGK2-6 L51.126.41.382.1239.3
SJS1-3 L54.134.41.590.9063.8
LAK1-4 L46.00.01.291.4547.2
ANA2-1 W53.468.72.191.8254.6
WPG1-2 OTL48.01.761.4155.5
CAR1-2 L43.553.41.611.8446.7
NSH6-5 OTW48.858.41.211.5843.4
CBJ3-0 W54.7100.02.362.0453.6
WSH2-4 L56.042.42.281.9354.2
Average50.347.01.741.6751.0

There’s a bit of a drop off in performance, but it’s not exactly raising any red flags. Going from 53.0 CF% at home to 50.3 CF% on the road, that’s hardly a reason for concern. This is even more true when looking at their xGF%, which drops from 51.9% to 51.0%.

However, at all-situations, the Flames heavily falter:

All-situations away

OpponentOutcomeCF%GF%xGFxGAxGF%
COL3-5 L49.237.52.853.8742.4
DAL3-2 SOW39.450.01.933.9432.9
VGK2-6 L56.825.02.822.9249.2
SJS1-3 L54.625.02.302.3849.1
LAK1-4 L48.220.03.372.5956.6
ANA2-1 W45.566.72.112.8842.2
WPG1-2 OTL40.733.32.252.8044.5
CAR1-2 L43.833.32.823.3345.9
NSH6-5 OTW54.054.62.102.0051.2
CBJ3-0 W46.7100.03.282.8553.5
WSH2-4 L52.733.32.662.5451.2
Average48.343.52.592.9247.1

Comparing home and away splits, their CF% drops from 54.0% to 48.3% and their xGF% suffers a drop from 54.0% to 47.1%. Their road power play is about half as potent as their home power play, clocking in at a 12.5% success rate, good for 25th in the league. Further, their road penalty kill drops to 83.3%, placing them 14th in the league. This combination isn’t conducive to success, and having a trend of poor road play won’t help the the Flames in the already tight Western playoff race.

Truth be told, it’s promising that the Flames essentially perform the same at 5v5 regardless of location, but to have that big of a drop off when looking at special teams, that’s a cause for concern.

It’s easy enough to say that the Flames must tighten up their play on the road, optimise their power play chances, all while limiting their penalties taken; but to have a clear drop in performance for both the power play and penalty kill have severely hurt the Flames on the road. Their record certainly reflects this.

For a team that often starts slow out of the gates, the next few games will be a good indicator of what type of team the Flames will be for the rest of the season. Will they slip and fall due to complacency and sloppiness, or will they clean up their play and string together solid performances? Whichever the case, it’ll likely depend on Calgary’s special teams.


Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

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