Breaking down the Calgary Flames’ scoring splits by period

For some reason, the Calgary Flames can’t seem to score. After scoring 289 goals last season, a total good for second overall in the NHL, the Flames have scored just 58 through 23 games this season, good for 20th in the league. Over a full season, that pace would result in 207 goals, a whopping 82 goals fewer than last season. The Flames’ best players haven’t been at their best, depth scoring has been fleeting, and wins have been hard to come by.

Time will tell if the version of the Flames we’ve seen through the first quarter of the year is the truth or if the dam will eventually break. Something needs to change, and despite the season still being young, there are a few trends that have emerged. To their credit, the Flames haven’t completely lost their resiliency. Last year, it didn’t matter what the score was, you could never count them out.

Though not to the same extent, this year’s team has also shown their ability to rebound from deficits and mount comebacks. That being said, the Flames have spent more time trailing this season than any other team in the NHL, and have needed to rely on comebacks to make up for completely lackluster starts.

The scoring is down, and the disparity between periods is cause for concern. Let’s take a closer look.

First period

SeasonGFGF% in
Period
GF RankGAGA% in
Period
GA Rank
2017-186430%T-226828%T-12
2018-198329%T-88136%T-23
2019-201017%311825%T-14

One area of significant dropoff so far this year is the Flames’ inability to score in the opening frame, or the first goal of the game in general. They’re currently dead last in the NHL for goals scored in the first period with a measly 10 through 24 games. For the past two seasons, they’re hovered around 30% of their total goals scored in the first, but this year they’re at just 17% and the overall number relative to the rest of the league has dramatically decreased; for comparison, the Vegas Golden Knights lead the league in first period goals with 29, almost triple the Flames’ total.

Surprisingly, the Flames have improved in limiting their opponents from scoring in the first. Only 25% of their goals allowed have come in the first, and they’re tied for the 14th best first period GA in the league.

Still, the most concerning thing here is the team’s goal differential in the first period. It’s not a recipe for success to be outscored in any period, but getting the first lead of the game has historically proven to be important in winning. With a differential of -8, it’s no wonder the Flames have spent so much time trailing this season. Starting on time is still an issue for this club.

Elias Lindholm leads the Flames with three first period goals this year, followed by Andrew Mangiapane and Sean Monahan with two each.

Second period

SeasonGFGF% in
Period
GF RankGAGA% in
Period
GA Rank
2017-188439%138435%T-18
2018-198329%T-147534%8
2019-202237%T-152940%T-28

Over the past three seasons including this one, the Flames have been a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of scoring goals in the second period. With 22 goals, they’ve scored more than double their first period total, and sit right in the middle of the league at 15th in second period GF.

Last season, the second period was a very strong period for the Flames in terms of limiting goals. They ranked eighth in the league in second period GA, but this year it’s the exact opposite story. The second period has been the worst for the Flames, as they’ve given up 29 goals and sit 28th overall in second period GA. This is the period that teams do the most damage against the Flames and seems to be where the team really breaks down; 40% of their allowed goals have come in the second.

It’s not easy to come back onto the ice after an intermission and have to deal with the long change, but if the Flames are to start being more consistent through 60 minutes of play, that has to start with sticking to their game in the second period. The first period isn’t where things get out of control, it’s the second.

Lindholm again leads the team with in second period goals with four, and Gaudreau is second on the team with three.

Third period

SeasonGFGF% in
Period
GF RankGAGA% in
Period
GA Rank
2017-186128%318635%T-19
2018-1911841%16429%1
2019-202643%T-52332%T-20

Similar to last season, the third period has been the Flames’ best for scoring goals. It’s not first place like it was last year, but with 26 third period goals to date, the Flames sit tied for the fifth most third period GF in the NHL. A whopping 43% of their total goals this season have come in the third, and only three of their 26 have been empty netters.

Defensively it’s a bit of a different story. The Flames are 20th in third period GA, a far cry from a first place finish last season. Proportionally it’s not awful, as just around a third of their total allowed goals have come in the final frame, but with how often the Flames have been playing catch-up, allowing lots of third period goals makes it difficult to pull off comeback wins.

Like last season, you can’t count this Flames team out, even if they’re down by multiple goals heading into the third. They currently have the third most wins when trailing after 40 minutes, but they also have the second most losses when trailing after 40. The bottom line is the Flames spend most of their time trailing, and comebacks, though they do happen, are not a reliable or consistent way to win.

Matthew Tkachuk leads the Flames with six goals scored in the third period, followed by Lindholm and Mark Giordano who have three each.

Overtime

SeasonGFGF% in
Period
GF RankGAGA% in
Period
GA Rank
2017-1873%T-952%T-8
2018-1952%T-1931%T-2
2019-2023%T-934%T-24*

The Flames are tied for ninth with two overtime victories this season, but are tied for 24th in goals against. The 24th rank is a bit misleading, however, as their three overtime goals allowed are the highest number in the NHL. Overtime hasn’t been as big of strength for the Flames this season as it was in previous seasons.

Historically, Gaudreau and Monahan have been the Flames’ kings of overtime. This year, a new contender for the throne has emerged. Tkachuk has scored both Flames overtime winners so far.

In the end

The Flames seemingly scored at will last season. This year, it’s been a struggle in some games to even score just one. They are on pace to score just 205 goals, 84 fewer than they scored last year, and a total that would have placed third last in the NHL. Most of the Flames’ skaters are shooting well below their career shooting percentages, so something has to give. The question will be whether that positive regression comes too late.

No single period has been a bright spot for the Flames so far. The first has been decent for preventing goals against, but a disaster for scoring goals. The second has been mediocre in scoring, and a disaster in allowing goals. The third has been their best for scoring, but near the bottom of the league in goals allowed. Even overtime which has historically been a strong suit for the Flames has been much closer to a coin flip this season.

The Flames are in a funk. Their goal scoring and goal prevention is all over the place, and they have a lot of areas to clean up. Until the goals start going in though, they should be focusing their efforts on improving their defensive play in the second period. If they can get back to the middle in that area, they should find more success and earn a few standings points along the way.

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