Was the Flames’ winning streak for real?

Updated: December 17, 2016 at 2:00 pm by Ari Yanover

The Flames have lost two games in a row.

It’s not the end of the world. It’s not even the end of their playoff chase. They’re on the outside looking in once again, but they’re still in the conversation.

Except it took them a six-game winning streak to get back into that conversation to begin with, to pull themselves up to a respectable record. The leeway they’ve earned with that has almost run out; that’s how far back they set themselves with their dismal start to the season.

So let’s take a moment to look at the Flames’ winning streak. Was it for real? Or was it just a one-off?

Six games at a glance

These are all pretty standard areas to look at: Chad Johnson’s save percentage throughout the streak, the Flames’ special teams, their five-on-five performance, and PDO. To balance out some of the lopsided scores, we’re also looking at their five-on-five performance adjusted for score and venue. All numbers from Natural Stat Trick.

Game Opponent Score SV% PP% PK% 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% S&VA 5v5 PDO
1 Toronto 3-0 1.000 0 100 42.42 47.76 1.115
2 Minnesota 3-2 (SO) .920 20 100 50.60 50.28 .957
3 Anaheim 8-3 .909 67 75 45.83 48.78 1.180
4 Dallas 2-1 .967 50 100 40.82 41.98 1.028
5 Arizona 2-1 (OT) .964 25 100 49.48 50.11 .947
6 Winnipeg 6-2 .929 50 75 47.31 48.89 1.096
Average .948 35 92 46.08 48.00 1.054

This is but a snapshot, but the overall picture isn’t exactly pretty. In only one of their games were the Flames the positive corsi team (the shootout win against the Wild); in only two was it a matter of score effects (the overtime win against the Coyotes). In every other game, the Flames were rather lucky; their PDO reflects this. It isn’t, however, that high overall.

Of course, the goalie is a part of the team, and Johnson was a key part of the streak, putting up great numbers in most of the games (and a couple of lapses here and there in the midst of a certain blowout giving him his worst number).

Special teams really ramped up during the win streak as well: the Flames’ powerplay and penalty kill were both dominant, which helped lead to wins.

The problem here? The majority of most games are played at five-on-five, which is where the Flames weren’t as successful as the rest of their numbers would have you believe.

Compared to the rest of the season

SV% PP% PK% 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% S&VA 5v5 PDO
6 games .948 35 92 46.08 48.00 1.054
33 games .904 17 79 49.23 48.77 .997

The good news is that all hope isn’t lost for the rest of the season. The winning streak was fun, and it brought the Flames meaningful results. However, this is a still a rebuilding team, and the bigger picture remains more important.

The Flames got massive boosts from special teams and goaltending. Johnson has redeemed the Flames’ save percentage, but it’s entirely possible Brian Elliott can completely redeem his own earlier performance to help boost the team save percentage, too. As for special teams, we were already seeing those start to trend upward. Overall, they’re still performing – especially when compared to the start of the season.

As far as even strength play is concerned, the Flames got a much-needed boost of luck during their winning streak. Over the course of their 33 games, this is about who they are: a team slightly over .500 in a division and conference that lets them get away with that.

Most important of all, though, is that they’re likely a better five-on-five team than the winning streak gave them credit for.

As bad as the Flames have been for a fair amount of this season, we’ve seen them play well in every single element of the game, too. Now it’s just about learning how to put it all together – and consistently doing just that.

Hopefully, they make the playoffs. But regardless, we should expect them to grow over the course of this season – and we should probably expect playoffs next season, too. This is still something of a burner year, it’s just one with potential.