Part 1 was written on Dec. 3. At the time, the surprising Flames were 16-8-2, good for fifth overall in the Western Conference, despite some underlying numbers that suggested the good times wouldn’t last forever.
Three days later, Calgary began an eight-game losing streak that would see it plummet out of a playoff spot.
Just like the analytics folks predicted would happen.
What the analtyics folks didn’t predict was a Calgary resurgence. Since that eight-game losing streak, the Flames have won eight of 11 and moved right back into a playoff spot. They won their fourth straight last night in Los Angeles, beating the Kings 2-1 in overtime thanks to another stellar goaltending performance by rookie Joni Ortio, who made 33 saves in the victory.
“I don’t think [the Kings] had that many quality chances,” Ortio said, per the Calgary Herald. “I know I keep repeating this, but we kept them to the outside again and that makes my job so much easier.”
And perhaps that’s reason to wonder if shot-based metrics apply to Calgary the same way they do to other teams.
Regardless, the analytics remain decidedly against the Flames. Consider:
— In their last 11 games, eight of them wins, Calgary’s score-adjusted Fenwick is 43.2. Only the Sabres (36.8) have a lower number in their last 11. And in a related story, Buffalo has lost 11 straight.
— The Flames have won four in a row with shot totals of 23, 25, 23, and 23. They have not registered 30-plus shots and won since Nov. 22.
— There are 15 teams in the NHL that average at least 30 shots per game. Calgary averages 26.9, more than only Buffalo and New Jersey.
Which is why the Flames remain such a compelling story. They’re winning despite the numbers. Just like the Colorado Avalanche did last season.
Can they hold on to that playoff spot down the stretch? It won’t be easy — especially with teams like the Kings and Stars in pursuit. But with a hot goalie, it’s doable.
On Wednesday, Calgary will try to win its sixth straight road game when it takes on the Ducks in Anaheim.