The Calgary Flames clinched a playoff berth on Saturday when the Vegas Golden Knights fell to the Edmonton Oilers.
With the Flames officially headed to the postseason, let’s take a closer look at their season.
Darryl Sutter’s impact became apparent early in the Calgary Flames season as they consistently put together a strong two-way effort that dominated the possession battle. In strong goaltending from Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar, the Flames were able to rack up wins through the season.
Strong two-way play became the Flames calling card early in the season. Darryl Sutter’s impact was evident early on as the team prioritized checking (not defending) to regain puck control, then went on the attack.
Their xGF% sits over 55% at 5v5, ranking them 3rd in the NHL behind only the Bruins and the Panthers. Their strong possession play wasn’t only due to defence either, as they rank 3rd in xGF/60 and 4th in xGA/60.
The Flames top players led the way at even strength. The top line of Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau has deservedly received a lot of the spotlight, as they’ve put up a 62.7% xGF% at 5v5.
It ranks them 6th in the NHL among lines that have played at least 200 minutes together. Yet it isn’t even the Flames top unit from this perspective. Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, and Blake Coleman have spent much of the season together as the second line, where they’ve put up a 64.2% xGF%, good for 4th in the NHL.
The defence corps has been just as impressive in terms of controlling play, with all three regular pairs ranked in the top 21 in the NHL for 5v5 xGF%. Erik Gudbranson and Nikita Zadorov rank 21st (56.6%), Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson sit 13th (58.3%), and Chris Tanev and Oliver Kylington are 11th (58.5%). It’s been a tale of consistency and balance on the back end.
Brick Wall Goaltending
The Flames goaltending has been exceptional this season, with stabilizing performances on most nights. Markstrom Dan Vladar have provided strong goaltending that has complemented the possession game the Flames have become known for. It’s led to a 5v5 GA/60 of 2.12 that ranks 3rd in the NHL. With a 5v5 xGA/60 of 2.29, the Flames netminders are saving a goal above expected nearly once every 5 games.
Competent Special Teams
The Flames even strength game has carried the team to their current position atop the Pacific Division. Their special teams haven’t been weak either, as their powerplay and penalty kill are among the best in the league. The powerplay ranks 3rd in xGF/60 at 5v4, although difficulty finishing drops their ranking for GF/60 to 10th. The penalty kill sits 4th in xGA/60 and 5th in GA/60 at 4v5.
The Flames head to the postseason with a foundation for success built in their 5v5 game. Their regular season numbers paint the picture of a team that has derived it success from a strong team game. It bodes well as the competition heats up against the other top teams in the league.