A struggling powerplay has been costing the Calgary Flames some games. But lately, it’s been looking better, and they actually managed to score last night. Let’s check out why it’s been looking better.
I feel like we’ve all been a broken record the past month about the Calgary Flames powerplay. But for right reasons. Since the start of January, the Flames have the third worst PP at 14.5%. They’ve scored just nine powerplay goals in about a month and a half, but two came the other night.
It’s no secret that special teams can make or break a team. Many one-goal games for the Flames lately have resulted in their inability to score with the man advantage. But lately, it’s been looking much better. And just the other night vs. the Nashville Predators, they managed to score TWO powerplay goals in one game.
I thought that was a myth.
While the powerplay has looked better the last couple of games with Troy Brouwer being injured and Dougie Hamilton coming in on that first unit (which is what we all want), but there is still some work to be done.
Here are reasons why the Flames have been improving and ways they can continue to improve.
Reason for improvement: Adding Dougie Hamilton to the first unit
The last few games, the Calgary Flames have been using a PP1 unit of:
Mark Giordano-Dougie Hamilton
For almost two months, Flames fans have basically been begging the team to use Dougie on the first PP unit. He’s a right-handed shot, with a hard shot, and the Flames have been missing the right-handed shot from Kris Versteeg, who was always a factor on the PP.
But with the injury to Versteeg, the Flames have been struggling. While they’re still not scoring a ton of goals, they’re getting more chances. Especially with Matthew Tkachuk right at the net for a potential tip/deflection (which we’ll get into in a couple of minutes).
The other night against the Preds, Dougie even managed to score a PPG. The Flames need to continue to using Dougie on that first unit, but there’s another way they can utilize him more.
Ways to improve: Switch Dougie and Gio’s spots
Right now, Gio’s method is basically “hammer shots on the goalie pads” and it isn’t quite working. Switching Gio and Dougie at the point from where they normally shoot it from can get them more effective shots.
Another option is to keep Gio at the back and move Dougie closer to the middle, which the Flames have also somewhat experimented with. His goal against the Preds came at that location, and while he won’t score every goal from there, he’s most effective with his snap and wrist shots and can get good wrist shots at that location.
Reason for success: Matthew Tkachuk in front of the net
Matthew Tkachuk is one of the best players on the Calgary Flames for those tip-ins and deflections right in front of the net. He’s so good at spotting the puck, providing a screen in front of the goalie, and getting his stick where it needs to be. Tkachuk currently leads the team with eight powerplay goals.
Most of those eight goals have come on the tip. While they’ve been utilizing him well throughout the season at the spot, so this isn’t actually an improvement, but adding the Flames most offensive defenseman on the point to continue putting shots towards the net will increase the number of tips Tkachuk will get.
Let’s look at the game vs. the New York Rangers to see how many tips Tkachuk got.
In one game alone, look how many shots Tkachuk got on the PP and how many of those were tip-ins/deflection. One even resulted in a goal.
Ways to improve: Get more shots from the middle
Lots of research has shown that the majority of powerplay goals come from closer to the net, rather than from the point. A reason why the Calgary Flames powerplay struggles is their inability to get the puck to the middle, so they’ll just keep it around the perimeter and not get a good chance to set up.
I’ve looked at Calgary’s shot locations on the powerplay since Dec. 31st, and no goal has come from the point. The only time they’ve come from there is if it’s shot and get tipped in or deflected in front. If we go back more and look at from the start of December, only one goal came at the blue line with a snapshot from Giordano. Most of their goals have come from that middle area in front of the goaltender.
Getting more pucks there, especially with utilizing Dougie to get shots there on that first unit, that’ll help improve. With the second unit, Mikael Backlund and Mark Jankowski are the guys that are good in that area.
Let’s hope the Flames continue to improve their PP. As we saw with the game against the Preds, when they win the special teams battle, they’re a great hockey team.