Looking at the Calgary Flames’ improving special teams

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 1:13 am by Ryan Pike

When the season began, the Calgary Flames had a problem. A big problem. Their power play was powerless. In short? It was awful. It took them 22 games to score seven power play goals. For comparison’s sake, they have seven power play goals through five games in December.

Prior to Saturday’s Flames game against Winnipeg, head coach Glen Gulutzan had a simple assessment of what’s different with the power play’s recent success:

It’s confidence, when they start to go in they go in in bunches. Even if you go beyond the four games or back past, we were creating some good chances they just weren’t going in. When we look at it, our stats, we haven’t created as good of chances, but they’re going in. So that’s why we’re going to try to keep pushing on the power play, so we don’t get complacent. But they’re just going in right now.

We ran the numbers.

Because both the team’s formerly awful power play and penalty kill have improved – in terms of scoring on the PP and not allowing as many PP goals when down a man – we’ve charted the scoring chances for (on the PP) and against (on the PK) through 30 games.

THE POWER PLAY

The blue line is scoring chances per 60 minutes of PP time; the red line is high danger scoring chances per 60 minutes of PP time. The lines represent a rolling five-game rate for each. Higher is better.

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Early on, they were generating very little by either metric. The PP was performing poorly by every measure. They were better at generating scoring chances in November, but they’ve been fairly consistent in generating high danger chances over the past few weeks – better than they have been all season.

Depending on how the Flames track things internally, Gulutzan’s stats citing is spot on: the Flames were generating more chances a while back, but the shots are just going in for them now.

THE PENALTY KILL

Here’s the same chart, except it’s chances against on the penalty kill. The lower the lines are, the better.

Screen Shot 2016-12-10 at 12.42.23 PM

The Flames are allowing fewer goals recently on the power play, but they’re allowing more high danger scoring chances than at any point this season. Their scoring chances against have also spiked, but they’re still slightly below the level they were in mid-to-late October. Given that they’re allowing their opponents some good chances, the difference is probably the goaltending they’ve been getting from Chad Johnson.