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31 in 31

Calgary Flames key statistics

New goalies should be helped by one of League's best defense pairs

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the Calgary Flames.

 

[FLAMES 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Top prospects]

 

1. Goaltending change

For the third consecutive season, the Calgary Flames will have two new goaltenders. Mike Smith was acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on June 17, and Eddie Lack in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on June 29.

On the surface, they don't appear to be an upgrade over last season's tandem of Brian Elliott (who signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers) and Chad Johnson (who was traded to the Arizona Coyotes, then signed with the Buffalo Sabres as an unrestricted free agent). Over the past three seasons, Elliott and Johnson have even-strength save percentages of .925 and .919; Smith and Lack are .920 and .913.

Digging deeper into shot-quality factors that can influence a goalie's save percentage reveals that Smith's and Lack's numbers have been affected to a greater extent than most. Rather than treat all shots equally, Alan Ryder created a version of save percentage in 2004 that assigns a value to each shot based on where it was taken. Goalies are evaluated relative to how an NHL-average goalie would have performed against the same quality of shots.

Based on an updated version of this statistic provided by the analyst at Don't Tell Me About Heart, Smith's even-strength save percentage is .0030 above average, and Lack's is above by .0016.

 

2. The second line

Calgary's top forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan may get a lot of attention, but its most effective line last season was Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik and Matthew Tkachuk.

That assessment is based on the fact they played the tough, defensive-zone minutes against top opposing lines and produced great shot-based metrics.

Using Tkachuk as a representative example for the line, he started 399 shifts in the defensive zone at 5-on-5, and 215 in the offensive zone, for a zone start percent of 35.02 that was the 35th-lowest among those who played at least 20 NHL games.

Despite that territorial disadvantage, the Flames outshot their opponents 997-786 when Tkachuk was on the ice at 5-on-5, for an SAT of 55.92 percent. That's an increase of 7.4 percent from the Flames' SAT percentage when he wasn't on the ice, which ranked 15th.

 

3. Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton

With a combined 89 points (25 goals, 64 assists), Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton provided the Flames with one of the highest-scoring defense pairs in the NHL.

The full value of Calgary's top pair can be revealed using the statistical methods covered with the second line. Hamilton's Relative SAT of plus-7.8 percent ranked eighth among those who played at least 20 NHL games.

In addition to scoring and driving possession, the information compiled at Natural Stat Trick shows that Calgary's top pair was tasked with shutting down some of the highest-scoring players on its Pacific Division rivals. Hamilton's most frequent opponents at 5-on-5 last season included Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks (33:46), Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings (32:47), and Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks (31:31).

Video: 31 in 31: Calgary Flames 2017-18 season preview

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