The Calgary Flames have some sort of playoff force in Sam Bennett. With frustrating regular season performances plagued with scoring inconsistencies and untimely penalties, Bennett has always taken his play to another level as soon as playoffs are involved.
His tenacity on the puck and his physical presence is an oft welcomed sight when Flames playoff hockey comes around. It certainly seems as though Bennett saves his best hockey for when it matters, and right now he’s playing some of his best playoff hockey to date.
Bennett (and the rest of the Flames) haven’t enjoyed a multi-series playoffs since the 2015 Playoffs. As the Flames beat the Winnipeg Jets in the qualifiers, a collective sigh of relief probably echoed from inside the Oilers’ locker room and out throughout the empty Rogers Arena. The Flames were moving on, and Bennett had already a large role in their early postseason success.
Using data from Natural Stat Trick, we can look at how Bennett has progressed over the years during postseason play. We’ll look at his 5v5 on-ice metrics and individual contributions, with the on-ice metrics being score-and-venue adjusted.
The numbers speak for themselves, Bennett along with Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube, have been playing phenomenal hockey so far. They’re dynamic on the ice and have been a highly reliable third-line. They give head coach Geoff Ward the luxury of spreading out the minutes across the roster while still being able to command the game.
In terms of on-ice metrics, Bennett’s posting career-bests across the board. His corsi for percentage (CF%) is north of 50.0% for the first time in his playoff experience, which in itself is already a huge positive. On top of that, both goals for (GF%) and expected goals (xG%) are far superior to any other year. Not only are the Flames dominating when Bennett is on the ice, they’re also scoring more.
The same goes for scoring chances for (SCF%) and high-danger corsi for (HDCF%). Across the board, the Flames’ third line has been dynamite, and Bennett has been a primary reason why. We can look at his individual contributions to see just how much of an impact he’s had.
|Season||GP||TOI||Goals||First Assists||Second Assists||Total Points||Shots||S%||ixG||iCF||iSCF||iHDCF||PIM||Hits|
In just five games this postseason, Bennett has arguably put on his best performance in his career. Already with two 5v5 goals on ten shots, he’s seeing a career-best shooting percentage, which even surpasses his playoff debut year.
Scoring goals and shooting percentages don’t show the whole story though. What’s more telling from the limited sample is that he seems to be taking more shots at a higher rate. Bennett’s individual expected goals (ixG) is currently at 0.72. Just last year, Bennett was limited to just 0.37 ixG in the same number of games.
That speaks volumes of how much more of an impact he has had this time around. Similarly, he’s had more individual scoring chances (iSCF) and has been relentless with the hits too.
Of course, a five game sample is not much to work with, but there’s still a pretty clear indication that whatever Bennett is doing this year, it’s working much better than previous attempts.
The best Bennett Yet
Hopefully, Bennett’s playoff experience can be extended to more than just a handful of games. To do so, the Flames will have to beat some tough teams, and being up 1-0 against the Dallas Stars is as good a start as any.
The on-ice chemistry of the Flames’ third line is undeniable, and Bennett has been the primary beneficiary of having competent linemates. The resurgence of Lucic has been the talk of the town, and Dube’s arrival has been nothing short of spectacular. The best version of Playoffs Sam Bennett is here, and we can enjoy what we’re seeing from him while it lasts.