Flames Are an All-Around Better Team When They Score First

With only 21 games remaining on the regular-season schedule for the Calgary Flames, the club finds itself in a heap of trouble. After dropping their fourth-straight game for the first time this season on Friday night, their playoff hopes grew a whole lot bleaker. The main issue this team has faced all season is an identity crisis. On any given night, any guess would be as good as mine as to what version of the team we’ll be witnessing.

Fans are fed up with this team’s perpetual mediocrity. If they had been able to start on time for even half of their games, they wouldn’t be in such a shallow position. The Flames actually have a record worth noting when it comes to scoring the first goal of the game, and would be a far better team if they could just score first. (From ‘Frustrated with the Flames? You’re not alone as players weigh in on how their fans are feeling about mediocrity,’ Calgary Sun, 08/26/2020)

Just Score First

The Flames have had quite the rollercoaster-like season. Often times when I hear from Flames fans, their biggest complaint seems to be the teams’ ability to start games on time. This season, the team has a record of 11-3-2 when they score the first goal of the game, but those goals have been difficult to come by at times.

Fans of the Calgary Flames
CALGARY, AB – 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 15, 2019 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

So far this season, the Flames have scored the first goal of the game on 16 occasions, but they’ve also given up the opening tally 19 times. When the Flames give up the first goal of the game, their record is far more concerning – the team is 4-14-1 after giving up the first goal, so if you like to place bets and you’re Flames fan, you should bet that Calgary is more likely to find two points after opening the scoring.

The Domino Effect

Scoring first certainly does wonders for a team. It can be even more pivotal when you have thousands of screaming fans behind you, but when the Flames are strong coming out of the gates, their stats prove they are a better team. When scoring first this season, the Flames are averaging about 3.19 goals per game, but when they give up the first goal, they are only averaging 2.06 goals per game. 

Johnny Gaudreau, Derek Ryan
Calgary Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau with teammate Derek Ryan. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

The increase in offense based on scoring first can likely be credited for the confidence it generates the team, and that confidence is showing in their special-teams units when scoring first, too. The Flames are 90.2% on the penalty kill when they’ve opened the scoring, but when they give up the first goal, their pk-unit operates at 69.4%. The team’s power play is 21.8% when scoring first, but only 17.7% when being scored against first. It seems as if this team feels a sense of comfort and security when they play with the first lead of the game, now they just need to find a way to score goals.

Results Needed Now

For the Flames, they have seen a number of coaching changes over the last decade. It likely wasn’t easy going through a shake-up behind the bench in the middle of the 2020-21 season, but the fact is, their new head coach Darryl Sutter demands results, and he was not happy with his team after Friday’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets. “We had some real dopey players in the first period, so it cost us the hockey game…The start of some of our players, as I said we had some dopey players that didn’t wake up till we were down a goal which is unfortunate” said Sutter during Friday’s post-game press conference.

Flames head coach Darryl Sutter (Lee Gunderson/Flickr).

The Flames are going to need to throw everything they can towards their opponent’s crease from now until the end of the season, as the club sits at 20th in the league in goals scored. Over their current four-game losing streak the team only managed to score 4 goals, and according to Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 The Fan, the Flames have played behind on the scoreboard for roughly 40% of the regular season.

They will need to go 16-5 to make the postseason, and that still doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. With the trade deadline fast approaching, as well as playoffs, it will be interesting to see if the Flames will be looking to make any acquisitions. No question about it, the Flames needs help scoring goals, especially in the opening frame where they have been outscored 40-29 in this year. (From ‘SNAPSHOTS: Flames playoff hopes fading fast after loss to Jets,’ Calgary Sun, 03/26/21)