Flames Notebook: No one is better after regulation

Micheal Ferland spoke with the media following the Calgary Flames 4-3 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils Sunday.

The Calgary Flames have forged quite the reputation over the last year or so. Dating back to the start of last season, no team has been more proficient in extra time than the Flames. While there are teams good in either overtime or the shootout, Calgary has married the two better than anyone else, and it’s paying dividends.

Since the start of 2016-17, the Flames are 17-4 in games that go beyond regulation (11-2 in overtime, 6-2 in shootouts). With 18, only Detroit has more overall extra-time wins during the same time period. However, when you factor in their 14 overtime losses, the Red Wings have a winning percentage of just 56.3 compared to Calgary’s 81.

“We have good players,” says head coach Glen Gulutzan. “We’ve got some skilled guys and from a coaching point of view … (goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet) has a really good handle on our shooters if we do go to a shootout. And we give them really four, which I’ll keep close to me, kind of things we talk about in three-on-three and then we let them play.”

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While Gulutzan wouldn’t divulge what those four focal points are, you can see why Calgary has been so successful, and Sean Monahan leads the way. Since his rookie season in 2013-14, Monahan has a franchise record eight overtime winners to go along with five shootout-deciding goals, which is tied for a team record.

It goes beyond that, too. With mobile defencemen like Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, and T.J. Brodie, the Flames seem tailor-made for three-on-three, at least on the blue line. Skilled forwards like Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk help the cause, too.

Once Calgary is in a shootout, they boast impressive finishers, too. In just over a season with Calgary, Kris Versteeg has four shootout winners, Monahan has three, and Tkachuk has two, both coming this season.

Plain and simple, when games go beyond 60 minutes, the Flames are as good as they come.

Kulak making the most of his opportunity

Since playing his first game of the season on Oct. 21, Brett Kulak is making a strong case to be Calgary’s full-time number six defenceman. Going back to the pre-season, we’ve seen Kulak and Matt Bartkowski battle it out to be Michael Stone’s partner on the team’s third pairing. From what I’ve seen, though, the decision seems pretty clear cut.

More than anything else, Kulak has been effective when in the lineup this season. Kulak is a gifted skater, moves the puck and, while not overly physical, defends well thanks to good positioning and gaps. Bartkowski, on the other hand, struggles with the puck on his stick and tends to find himself out of position and chasing too often. The underlying outputs from both players this season speaks to that.

Player GP CF% OZS%
Brett Kulak 6 51.6 51.3
Matt Bartkowski 9 43.1 49

With similar deployment, Kulak has spent far less defending this season as opposed to Bartkowski, and it goes beyond just this season, too. Comparing the same metrics from last year, we see similar results.

Player GP CF% OZS%
Brett Kulak 21 50.6 45.7
Matt Bartkowski 24 45.5 49.5

The results seem pretty clear to me. Both this year and last, Kulak’s possession rates put him top three on the team while Bartkowski’s place him last. Yes, the latter definitely brings more of a physical edge to his game, but how valuable is that if Bartkowski is spending most of his time defending?

Kulak, on the other hand, adds a little more on the offensive side of things and spends less time in his own zone. With a deep group on the blue line already, Kulak is emerging as a solid option on Calgary’s third pairing.

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