The Flames have felt like one of the most snakebitten teams in the league this year. They have regularly put up 30 shots per game, and sometimes hit over 40, but each time it felt like they were unable to beat whichever goalie they faced. Call it bad luck, shooting from the wrong parts of the ice, not enough bodies in front, or puck luck, the long and the short of it is the Flames simply have not been able to put the puck in the back of the net reliably this season.
One big factor for that has been their inability to beat the metal bars around the net. The Flames sit first in the entire league in terms of shots off the bar this season. Here’s how it looks:
Across the league
Only five teams in the league have hit the bar 40 or more times so far this season, averaging over one ping per game. While the the Flames lead the league, the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, and Washington Capitals are all not far behind at this point. A sign that the team is shooting for those corners but just keeps getting close
For the Flames, the problem is even more acute, with two skaters leading the way here.
Pings by player
While the New York Rangers’ Vincent Trocheck leads the league with a combined 11 posts and crossbars this season, the Flames Tyler Toffoli is not far behind. The former Canadiens sharpshooter has hit the bar nine times already this season, tied with Connor McDavid. He is also tied for the league-lead in crossbars hit with four. Troy Terry and Elias Pettersson are the only other players with four this season.
Right behind Toffoli is Andrew Mangiapane, who has three crossbars hit, including two in the team’s 4-1 win over the St Louis Blues last week.
Only three other Flames skaters have hit a single crossbar this season, forward Adam Ruzicka and defencemen Rasmus Andersson and Connor Mackey, each hitting it once.
In terms of the two posts, three Flames skaters are tied for the team lead with five apiece: the aforementioned Toffoli, Elias Lindholm, and Nazem Kadri. Right behind them are Mangiapane and Dillon Dube who have four apiece.
The Flames have been incredibly snake bitten, with only two regular forwards not hitting a single bar this season: Blake Coleman and Trevor Lewis.
Putting together their combined missed shots, those that have gone wide, over the net, or hit iron, Nazem Kadri leads the way with 65 so far this season. Toffoli is next with 52, and Andersson picks up third place with 41. This make a lot of sense, with the three sitting first, second, and fifth in shot attempts this season.
On the other end of the spectrum, Nikita Zadorov has missed the net the least among regular Flames’ skaters, with just 17 shots that have not hit the target. Trevor Lewis is at 21, and Ruzicka sits third with 24. The latter two make sense, with Lewis sitting 13th and Ruzicka sitting 15th in shot attempts this season, but Zadorov is tenth with 140 shot attempts, so to see how rarely he misses the net is a good sign for the team.
All this to say, the Flames have been incredibly unlucky so far this season. The Flames have beat the goalie but not the bars 49 times this season, and even if you say very conservatively that 10% or five (4.8 rounded up) of those went in, how differently this season could have gone. The one post hit by Mikael Backlund right at the end of the 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the final Battle of Alberta is just one example of a game where had that puck gone in the net, the Flames would have had at least one more standings point than they do now.
The good news is that these things are bound to change. The team can only be unlucky for so often before the tide is bound to turn. This is far from the only reason for the Flames’ struggles this season, but once the bounces start going their way, expect for things to start to turn around all over the ice.