Of all the things to admire about the surprising Calgary Flames — from the way they’ve overcome the loss of Mark Giordano, to all the shots they’ve blocked, to the skill and speed they’ve displayed off the rush all season — one of the more under-reported keys to their success has been discipline.
Did you know the Flames haven’t taken a single minor penalty in their last three games, all of them victories?
Did you know they’ve had eight games when they haven’t gone shorthanded, and that they’re 5-1-2 in those games?
Did you know they’ve only been shorthanded 182 times in all, the fewest in the NHL? (In contrast, they’ve had 253 power-play opportunities.)
The Flames aren’t the only disciplined team in the NHL. The Hurricanes, Blackhawks and Islanders don’t take many penalties either.
Of course, compared to 2005-06, which was the season following the lockout when the league made a commitment to crack down on obstruction, no team takes too many penalties these days.
Consider: The Winnipeg Jets have been shorthanded an NHL-high 306 times this season. That would’ve made them the most disciplined team in 05-06, when the Devils had to kill the fewest penalties (348) and the Capitals the most (550!).
Part of it is the players getting the message. But another part is the officials letting more go. The NHL can deny the latter, but it’s clear to anyone who’s watching that the standard has slipped, for better or worse.
For example, this wasn’t an interference penalty the other night in Vancouver:
For the record, Alex Burrows wasn’t upset that Drew Doughty didn’t get penalized there. He was actually happy with how the officials let the Kings and Canucks play. How closely the game is called is a personal preference. It’s a balancing act. Too many power plays can ruin the flow. A little obstruction may help reduce injuries too.
But here’s another stat to consider:
In 2003-04, the season before the crackdown on embellishment, the Devils were shorthanded 266 times, the fewest in the NHL, and way fewer than the Flames will be in 2014-15.
That same season, the Ottawa Senators led the NHL with 80 power-play goals, and the 30 teams combined to score 1,717 power-play goals.
With two days left in the 2014-15 season, the Detroit Red Wings lead the NHL with 70 power-play goals, and the 30 teams have combined to score just 1,391 power-play goals.