The Calgary Flames spent 2021–22 racking up shutouts. Jacob Markstrom had four shutouts in his first nine starts, finished the season with nine in total, and Dan Vladar had two to his name as well. With 11 shutouts and 50 wins as a team, that equated to a shutout rate of 22.0% of their wins, or 13.4% of all their games played. They led the league in shutouts, and it took them just three games to record their first one (coincidentally it was Calgary’s first overall win of the season too). This season however, has been an entirely different story.
Calgary’s lack of shutouts this year
Markstrom was in the running for the William M. Jennings Trophy as a starter last year. So far in 2022–23, neither Markstrom nor Vladar have picked up a shutout at all. In every single game they’ve played this season, at least one goal against was ceded.
Calgary is now the first team in the NHL to reach 50 games played without recording a single shutout.
With this season being an uphill battle for the Flames to establish win streaks—or any semblance of sustained momentum at all—they have recorded just 24 wins with an overall record of 24–17–9. A quick breakdown of these 24 wins: 20 were in regulation, three were in overtime, one was in the shootout, and none were shutouts.
Over their 50 games, they’ve had outcomes ranging from one to six goals against. Here’s how many times each outcome has occurred for Calgary:
2022–23 versus 2021–22 goals against
Saying that things have not gone as expected for the Calgary Flames this season can refer to a myriad of issues for the team, but the go this deep into the season without a shutout is truly odd for the same tandem that recorded 10 shutouts in their first 50 games last year.
Sure, Markstrom and Vladar’s shutout rates were super elevated last year, but a single-season drop from ten to zero is unheard of. To take a closer look at the numbers, I used a histogram to show the frequency of the Flames’ goals against outcomes for the first 50 games from the past two seasons.
As mentioned, over the first 50 games last season, the Flames had 10 shutouts, good for a shutout rate of 20%! Their record by then was a much better 30–14–6, which represents in otherworldly shutout ratio of 33.3% of their wins.
Further, they had seven games where they allowed just one goal. So that’s a total of 17 out of 50 games of allowing one goal or fewer. The Flames have allowed one goal just four times this season. That’s a huge change in game outcomes and overall goaltending performance.
Further, when looking at the histogram, the Flames’ lack of shutouts and games with one goal against compared to last year primarily shifted into allowing two or three goals against. At the surface level that’s not the end of the world—scoring is up across the board in the NHL after all.
However, the Flames’ offence took a huge step back this season. They have been shutout once, scored one goal 11 times, two goals 5 times, and three goals 14 times. Doing rough mental math, the probabilities of winning a game have not turned out in Calgary’s favour.
When a team is struggling to score on top of preventing goals against, this is the result: a mediocre season.
A look at other NHL shutouts
Elsewhere in the league, 26 out of 32 teams have recorded at least one shutout this season.
The Detroit Red Wings got their first shutout on their season opener to be the first team with a shutout in 2022–23. Nine other teams recorded their first shutout before their seasons were 10 games in.
Five teams in addition to Calgary are still looking for their first. The Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, and Vancouver Canucks all have 49 games played, so they’ll have one more opportunity each to try to get their first shutout at the 50-game mark. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a couple of extra games in hand as they’ve gone 47 games without a shutout, so they may still get their first shutout soon enough.
Here’s the number of games every team has needed to get their first shutout of the season. The table is sorted alphabetically.
|Team||Games to first shutout||Team||Games to first shutout|
|CBJ||No shutouts (49 GP)||PHI||41|
|CGY||No shutouts (50 GP)||PIT||18|
|DET||1||TBL||No shutouts (47 GP)|
|EDM||No shutouts (49 GP)||TOR||27|
|FLA||14||VAN||No shutouts (49 GP)|
|MTL||No shutouts (49 GP)||WSH||9|
Shutting out the noise
To be perfectly clear, the Flames not recording any shutouts at all isn’t a major concern. Shutouts are hard to come by and again, with scoring up in the league, they’re going to be scarcer. As evidenced above, there’s still a handful of teams without a shutout and the Flames aren’t entirely alone in this aspect.
That said, the actual concern for the Flames is how they’ve trended all season long. Early goals against, odd-man rushes on defensive breakdowns, allowing third period comebacks, and fewer game-breaking stops to shut down the opposition—it’s an entire identity issue at this point.
Any player on any team will tell you truthfully that they don’t care about shutouts as long as their teams are winning. The Flames, however, are failing to put up emphatic wins and their lack of shutouts is a definite contributor to this.
Calgary has to focus on their own game and build their confidence and identity, especially Markstrom. He has greatly struggled in finding his game, with great single-game performances almost always sandwiched by goaltending doozies. Vladar has been much steadier and has been reliable for Calgary as a backup, but even then, he is giving up goals more often than not too.
The fact that the Flames have went from first to last in the NHL in shutouts over the span of one season is just proof that goaltending is completely unpredictable.
Calgary will hope to see the return of Vezina-calibre Markstrom sooner rather than later, the success of their season really does depend on it.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire