(Photo credit: Resolute)
For the second time in three seasons, the Calgary Flames will be just like the rest of us as they watch the Stanley Cup playoffs from home.
After a 5-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on March 24, the Flames fell nine points back of the final spot in the west with just six games to play. It was a far cry from where the team was just a month prior when a 5-1 win over Colorado put the Flames into the second wild-card spot in the West. The loss to the Sharks all but eliminated Calgary from postseason contention. The 3-0 loss to Los Angeles just days later officially eliminated them.
Despite entering the season with hopes thanks to a new goaltender in former All-Star Mike Smith, a plethora of young talent, and the momentum of making it last year, things just didn't go as planned for the Flames. But what exactly went wrong this season?
Where was the depth scoring?
No matter what you read or hear about the Flames this year, everyone will mention the fact that Calgary struggled to score all year long.
Now, it wasn't everyone. Sean Monahan has scored 31 goals and added 33 assists; Johnny Gaudreau is better than a point-per-game player with 82 points in 76 games; both Matthew Tkachuk and Micheal Ferland have each scored over 20 goals. But other than those four forwards, reliable scoring becomes as inconsistent as the weather in Calgary.
When things were rolling for all four lines, the Flames, unsurprisingly, were winning games. From New Year's Eve to January 14, Calgary won seven straight games and scored 27 goals during that stretch. That was good for nearly four goals per game. But once that win streak ended on January 20, the Flames lost — a lot.
Starting with a 2-1 loss to Winnipeg, the Flames lost six games in a row. How? Well, after scoring 27 goals during their seven-game winning streak, Calgary scored just 12 goals in those six games. Three of which saw the Flames score just a single goal. In fact, since that seven-game streak, the Flames have averaged just 2.4 goals per game.
Goaltending struggled down the stretch
When things were going well for Calgary, the team had reliable play in between the pipes. Smith, who the Flames traded for from Arizona during the offseason, played like his All-Star self for a large part of the season.
Through his first 36 games, Smith went 20-13-3 with a 2.46 goals-against average (GAA) and a .924 save percentage. Unfortunately, things didn't continue that way as not only did Smith suffer a lower-body injury in early February but in games just prior and after his month-long absence. In the 15 games since his hot start, Smith has gone 4-8-3 with a 3.16 GAA — this isn't worthy of a hell yeah! — and a measly .894 save percentage. Not quite the numbers you need a number one goalie to produce, especially when you're a team trying to get back into a playoff race.
Better luck next year
It's not what the Flames and their fans want to hear, but things are still looking up for the team on the ice. With the addition of quality depth scoring up front and a defenseman that can truly help on the power-play — maybe a Mike Green? — this summer, the Flames could very well go from a team on the outside looking in to one truly ready to make a run to the Stanley Cup.