The Calgary Flames have started off 5–4–0 and their special teams have been a big contribution to some of the success they’ve had early this season. The power play has struggled the past few games, but is currently 7/33, good for a 21.2% success rate. That mark is tied for 15th in the league. The penalty kill is even more successful than the power play, sitting at 31/38 so far. It’s currently at 81.6%, tied for 11th best penalty kill league-wide.
Let’s take a look at some stats to see how good the special teams have been and which Flames have been the top performers on them.
How good the Flames power play has been
The Flames rank around the middle of the league and looking at some stats per 60 minutes, it’s fair that it ranks around there. They rank 11th in CF/60 with 105.36, 10th in SF/60 with 58.78, 15th in SCF/60 with 61, 17th in GF/60 with 7.76, and 13th in HDCF/60 with 27.73. Averaging these placements out, they rank 13th, which is only two places higher than their power play conversion ranking.
The top performers on the power play so far this season include Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Huberdeau, Rasmus Andersson, Tyler Toffoli, and Elias Lindholm—which is the top unit. All five of these players have a majority of their points or goals on the power play.
Kadri has five points on the power play accounting for 50% of this points so far, Andersson’s four power play points make up 57% of his points, and Huberdeau has scored his only goal and 80% of his points on the man advantage. The trend continues with the other two as Toffoli and Lindholm have both picked up a majority of their points off the power play—both of Lindholm’s goals came on it, and two of Toffoli’s fouur goals did as well.
The success of the top unit makes me think that the second power play unit needs to shuffled.
Using the power play offence chart from HockeyViz.com, the Flames’ man-advantage look fairly good, even great.
Calgary has xGF/60 of 8.68 on the power play which is just above average for where they rank based on percentage. The Flames are very good at generating offence on the power play. There is some areas of the offensive zone where they struggle, but there’s also some areas where they excel such as around the middle of the blue line and to the right side of the net.
Success of the Flames penalty kill so far
The Flames penalty kill has been one of the better penalty kills in the league as it ranks 11th in the league and ranks even higher in some statistics. The Flames have also pitched in some offence on the PK, currently third in shorthanded goals league-wide with two markers.
On the penalty kill, they rank second in CA/60 with 73.19 only behind the Carolina Hurricanes, third in SA/60 with 39.84, ninth in GA/60 with 6.48, fifth in SCA/60 with 46.32, and second in HDCA/60 with 14.82 only trailing the Boston Bruins. The average of these stats has them ranked fourth, so by these numbers alone, the Flames penalty kill could be ranked seven spots higher.
The best penalty killers to start the year have Lindholm, Chris Tanev, Mikael Backlund, Nikita Zadorov, and Blake Coleman. Some quality penalty killing has come from Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, and Noah Hanifin, but I wouldn’t group them into the best. Backlund and Dube have also come through with some offence as they are the two Flames with shorthanded goals.
Turning to the penalty kill defence chart, again from HockeyViz, it’s clear why the Flames have had so much success.
While having a xGF/60 of 5.41 doesn’t look ideal, it’s pretty good for the penalty kill. The Flames are great at shutting down offence, especially around and 20 feet out from the net. There aren’t too many areas on the ice where they struggle to prevent offence generated against them. The Flames have seemed to always have a really good penalty kill in recent years and that trend is continuing.
Strong special teams for Calgary
The Flames have had some great results on special teams to start the year and it should only improve—both with better conversion luck on the power play, and better goaltending luck on the penalty kill. Although they have struggled as of late, the top power play unit has looked the best it has in years and hopefully the second unit can start producing too.
Ever since Darryl Sutter has become the head coach of the Flames, they have put up strong defensive and penalty killing results and it doesn’t look like that is changing any time soon.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire