Power Outage: Calgary’s Flickering Power-Play

Since their win over the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on October 21, the Calgary Flames have amassed a disappointing 1-4-0 record. In a possibly-related development, the Calgary Flames have not scored a power-play goal since that game, where they scored three times – including a game-winning goal on the power-play by T.J. Brodie.

Sven Baertschi Flames
Sven Baertschi. (Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)

In the five games since their win in Los Angeles, the Flames have had 18 power-play opportunities. In those opportunities, they’ve had 23 shots, given up 3 shots and 2 short-handed goals (granted, one of those was into an empty-net). For reference, during the other eight games this season, the Flames scored 8 times on 22 shots. That equates to a 36% shooting percentage. If the power-play produced at that rate during the latest dry spell, the Flames would have scored another 8 power-play goals. Even if the team’s production was bound to slow down based on regression to the mean – the NHL’s best PP last year was Washington’s, which had a 20% shooting percentage – the Flames probably should have scored at least a bit during the past five games.

One notable difference between the Flames power-play when it was successful and the more recent struggles was the presence of team captain Mark Giordano. Hardly an offensive juggernaut generally, Giordano has been a huge contributor to his team’s on-ice success. He was injured blocking a shot in Los Angeles and hasn’t played since. He’s gotten points on 5 of Calgary’s 8 power-play goals to date – only Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman have been on the ice for more power-play markers.

Giordano’s absence removes just under four minutes of extra-man ice-time per game, as well as a tremendous steadying influence on the back end. Several different combinations of players have been trotted out of late – including Sven Baertschi at Giordano’s spot at the point – but the unit hasn’t been able to connect. The addition of Baertschi has cemented the power-play’s strong perimeter puck movement, but hasn’t translated into goals.

One thing that has been going well for the Flames on the power-play, though, is face-offs. Although the team has only won about 45 or 46% of draws on the power-play on the whole this season, they have won about half of them (17 wins in 35 draws) over the last five games. Two players deserving credit for their face-off success are Joe Colborne, who’s been strong on the dot in recent games, and Curtis Glencross, who usually takes power-play draws and has won just over half.

Regardless of the reasons behind its struggles, in several recent games – all of them close contests – Calgary’s inability to score power-play goals has cost them wins and key points in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. While its bound to find its stride again, team management undoubtedly hopes the group can capitalize again soon, before too many points slip away.