The Calgary Flames continue to trend upward, after hammering the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 on Monday night at the Saddledome. The win comes after former Canucks netminder Jacob Markstrom posted a shutout for the Flames on Saturday night. The two points from Monday puts the Flames in a tie with the Montreal Canadiens for second in the North Division at five points apiece, behind the Toronto Maple Leafs with six points.
The Flames are, without a doubt, off to a red-hot start. They now possess five points out of a possible six, and a record of 2-0-1. It’s way too early to get wrapped up in the standings race, but with the way the Flames are playing, and with the goaltending they’ve been receiving from Markstrom thus far, the cushion between them and the other Canadian teams below them could easily continue to grow.
One thing that continues to hinder the team, though, is their constant trips to the penalty box. Despite having an exceptional penalty kill throughout the first three games of the regular season, their discipline is cause for concern.
Throughout the first three games the Flames have played, they’ve taken 13 minor penalties. Honestly, that’s an alarming stat to be staring at so early on into the season, as it appears the trend of taking ill-timed and undisciplined actions is a reoccurring one for this team in the last few campaigns.
The Flames are currently the 12th-most penalized team in the NHL, with 26 penalty minutes issued on the 2020-21 season. The penalty stats could be significantly worse, though, as the Maple Leafs currently lead the league with 53 penalty minutes. The players with the most penalties on the Flames right now are Milan Lucic, Sam Bennett, and Noah Hanifin.
The trio only have two minor penalties served each, so to put things into perspective, it’s not terrible by any means, but it’s imperative that the Flames tighten up on the infractions as a whole, and more so on the times in the game in which they are taking these penalties.
Can’t Complain About the Penalty Kill
The one positive from all these penalties taken, has surprisingly been the Flames’ ability to kill them off. Only one penalty has cost them a goal throughout the 13 trips to the box, and the penalty-killing unit is currently operating at 91.67% — a pretty tremendous stat off the bat.
Their penalty kill is good for eighth place in the league right now, and it appears Markstrom is more than capable of back-stopping his team as their number one penalty-killer. Through the Flames’ first three games, Markstrom has posted a .935 save percentage, has allowed just five goals, and a few of those tallies were deflections off of a Flame defenseman that I know he’d like back.
5-on-5 Needs Time
Six of the Flames’ 11 goals this season have been scored on the power play, and as great as it is to see their special team’s unit clicking with the man advantage, we still haven’t seen the full potential of this team at even strength. Does this team have another gear to shift upwards to? Absolutely they do, and I believe we saw shades of that gear last night with Johnny Gaudreau’s highly impressive tuck, as well as in their cycle game in the second and third frames.
The reason for my concern with the Flames taking minor penalties is simple. More often than not, this team struggles with taking costly infractions, and as great as it is to see this team finding some early chemistry with one another, they shouldn’t push their luck when it comes to serving minor penalties.
Best Served Hot
When you spend too much time in the box, that pre-existing chemistry tends to slow down, as the lines are not only being constantly rearranged, but the players are also grinding themselves down by trying to clear the zone on the kill. We saw some desperation mode within the Flames’ kill last night several times, especially late in the game with Andrew Mangiapane in the box and the Canucks pressing.
The Flames have an ample amount of time before their next game. Their next opponent happens to be the most penalized team in the NHL, the Maple Leafs, and the puck drops under the Saddledome on Sunday. The club will have plenty of time to go over video, practice, and likely mix in a scrimmage or two while they wait for the Maple Leafs. In that time, discipline will likely be at the forefront of discussion.