Friday, January 10, 2014

Updated: Expanded History of Flames Offensive Futility at Home

So, how bad is it? You really want to know? Really?

Well, it's all right here including a nostalgic look at a Guinness World Record the Flames hold that is related to this topic and contrary to what you're thinking, is a record to be proud of. But, I'm saving that for dessert. First, you have to eat your vegetables.

With the Calgary Flames goal-scoring misery -- especially on home ice, continuing on Thursday against the St. Louis Blues in a 5-0 loss (in which coach Bob Hartley admitted afterwards, he's seen some of his players "mentally destroyed" during this recent stretch), the team is nearing a different kind of record and spoiler alert: it's not the good kind.

Five shutouts in seven games is one precedent they've already set. As documented below, Calgary was once shut out four times in six games but they've bested (or worsted) that.

The focus now becomes consecutive minutes on home ice without scoring a goal.

Being shut out twice in a row on home ice is something that has happened five times previously. You have to go back over a decade to find the first four times and just back to last week to find the most recent occurrence.

As they prepare to host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, the Flames have gone 145 minutes and 30 seconds without a goal at the Scotiabank Saddledome. That goes back to when Sean Monahan scored against Ray Emery and the Philadelphia Flyers on New Year's Eve at 14:30 of the second period. That mercifully ended a stretch of over 159 minutes without a home ice goal, which was the third longest goalless stretch ever for the Flames at home.

Now, they've crept within one game again of making dubious team history.

Longest Stretch Without a Goal at the Dome

The record for offensive futility on home ice is 186 minutes and 39 seconds, a streak mercifully ended by Czech defenceman Petr Buzek on Nov. 21, 2002. As some longtime fans may remember, Buzek beat Edmonton Oilers goaltender Tommy Salo after being set-up on the play by Flames assistant coach Martin Gelinas. It was one of only four career goals for Buzek in his short tenure with the team.

Prior to the New Year's Eve game with the Flyers, I talked to Gelinas about his memories of that rough patch 11 years ago and asked what his advice is to the current Flames.

If Calgary enters the third period against the Penguins and still doesn't have a goal, that would leave them just 1:09 away from making team history. So, if that scenario comes up, either hustle back to your seat after intermission or make sure you stay away -- depending on your outlook.

Recent Stretches of Two Home Games Without a Goal

Until it just happened right after Christmas this year, the last time it had happened, there was a Miikka Kiprusoff angle to it.

On Nov. 4 and 7, 2003, Calgary suffered identical 3-0 losses to Detroit and Minnesota. It was nine days after the loss to the Wild that Coach and General Manager Darryl Sutter pulled the trigger on a trade with the San Jose Sharks that brought Kiprusoff to the Flames and ultimately rejuvenated and changed the course of the organization.

At the time of the deal, the Flames were in 14th place in the Western Conference, ahead of only the Columbus Blue Jackets. They ended up sixth to make the playoffs where they beat the Vancouver Canucks to get out of the first round for the first time since 1989, and then went three more rounds before ultimately losing in game seven of the Stanley Cup to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Also notable about that Nov. 7 loss to Minnesota - the last home game before the Kipper era began, was that it was a time when fan interest in the Flames had become dangerously low.

It seems like a long, long time ago given the Flames have been announcing sell-out crowds of 19,289 seemingly forever, but back on that Friday night against Minnesota when Dwayne Roloson shut out Jamie McLennan, the attendance at the Saddledome that night was just 13,839.

Worst Stretch of Offensive Futility Ever?

Having been shut out in five of the last seven games as mentioned, you could say this is it. However, at the same time and thanks to Avalanche goaltender JS Giguere, Calgary has scored five goals during those seven games. Believe it or not, there has been a worse stretch than that.

Talk about your 'dead puck' era, the following 15 days of ugliness featured a meager three goals in seven games. It happened during the 2002-03 season with Greg Gilbert as head coach -- although he would be fired 10 days later.

Nov. 7 - 1-0 loss (OT) at NYR
Nov. 9 - 3-0 loss at Fla
Nov. 11 - 2-1 loss at Atl
Nov. 14 - 2-1 loss vs NYR
Nov. 16 - 1-0 loss vs Stl
Nov. 19 - 5-0 loss vs Det
Nov. 21 - 3-1 loss vs Edm

Another historic footnote to this stretch is right in the middle -- on Nov. 15, sandwiched after the loss to the Rangers and prior to the loss to the Blues, Flames General Manager Craig Button traded disgruntled centre Marc Savard to Atlanta for Ruslan Zainullin. Who?  Exactly. Zainullin never surfaced in North America although he will be forever remembered because of this deal in which he was acquired for a player that would go on to score over 500 points for the Thrashers and then Boston before injuries forced him into early retirement.

Back When Home-Ice Shutouts Were Rare

Here's some context for you that may just make your mind explode. Flames fans 30 years old or younger won't even believe what I'm about to tell you.

After arriving in Calgary, the Flames were shut out on home ice just four times in the first 12-plus seasons. It was a span of 515 home games. In fact, in two different stints, the Flames went four full seasons without being blanked at home (1982-83 through 1985-86, then 1987-88 through 1990-91). Compare that with today where Calgary has been shut out on home ice four times in the last two weeks (five home games). That's just crazy to think about.

The record for most consecutive home games without being shut out was in the second of those two aforementioned stretches. After Bill Ranford and the Boston Bruins blanked the Flames on Oct. 26, 1986, Calgary scored at least one goal in 224 straight regular season games at the Saddledome before Dominic Roussel of the Philadelphia Flyers pitched a zero on Feb. 27, 1992.

Guinness Book of World Records

While I've been mainly focused on being shut out on home ice, there's a flipside and considering the current plight of the Flames, it just drips with irony. It will also put a smile back on the face of nostalgic fans.

Calgary is recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records for having played the most consecutive NHL games in which they scored at least one goal.

The stretch began on Nov. 12, 1981 and lasted 264 games. It ended on Jan. 11, 1985, when Richard Sevigny and the Quebec Nordiques shut out the Flames 4-0.

Here's the entry that appears in the online version of the Guinness Book.

Recap: Home Ice Futility Streaks

For the record, here is a closer look at the six sets of consecutive shutouts that have happened at the Saddledome, how long the shutout streak was and other pertinent information. Never before have the Flames been blanked in three consecutive games (home or away).

-----------------------------------

Season: 2013-14
Dates: Jan. 3 & 9, 2014
Coach: Bob Hartley
Scores: 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay, 5-0 loss to St. Louis
Span: Currently at 145 minutes and 30 seconds
Last goal before: Sean Monahan at 14:30 of second of 4-1 loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 31, 2013
Goal that ended it: TBD
Notes: Flames have been shutout in five of their last seven games overall. On home ice, they have one goal in 305 minutes and 5 seconds.

-----------------------------------

Season: 2002-03
Dates: Nov. 16 & 19, 2002
Coach: Greg Gilbert
Scores: 1-0 loss to St. Louis, 5-0 loss to Detroit
Span: 186 minutes and 39 seconds
Last goal before: Jarome Iginla at 19:21 of first in 2-1 loss to New York Rangers on Nov. 14, 2002
Goal that ended itPeter Buzek at 6:00 of the second of 3-1 loss to Edmonton on Nov. 21, 2002
Notes: Gilbert was fired less than two weeks after these two games -- with Calgary on four game-losing streak and having lost 11 of 12 (see above note). He was replaced by Al MacNeil on an interim basis. Later that season, Darryl Sutter was hired.

-----------------------------------

Season: 2001-02
Dates: Jan. 24 & 26, 2002
Coach: Greg Gilbert
Scores: 2-0 loss to Colorado, 2-0 loss to Vancouver
Span: 185 minutes and 59 seconds
Last goal before: Dave Lowry at 12:22 of first in 6-1 loss to Toronto on Jan. 22, 2002
Goal that ended it: Marc Savard at 18:21 of first in 4-3 win over Detroit on Jan. 30, 2002

-----------------------------------

Season: 2013-14
Dates: Dec. 27 & 29, 2013
Coach: Bob Hartley
Scores: 2-0 loss to Edmonton, 2-0 loss to Vancouver
Span: 159 minutes and 35 seconds
Last goal before: Mark Giordano at 19:55 of third of 4-3 shootout win over St. Louis on Dec. 23, 2013
Goal that ended it: Sean Monahan at 14:30 of second of 4-1 loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 31, 2013

-----------------------------------

Season: 2000-01
Dates: Mar. 29 & 31, 2001
Coach: Greg Gilbert
Scores: 1-0 loss to Colorado, 2-0 loss to Dallas
Span: 154 and 27 seconds
Last goal before: Valeri Bure at 1:30 of the third in 3-0 win over Columbus on Mar. 27, 2001
Goal that ended it: Oleg Saprykin at 15:57 of first in 3-2 loss to Los Angeles on Apr. 7, 2001
Notes: Head coach Don Hay was fired in mid-March and was replaced by Greg Gilbert. Gilbert had been on the job for only eights games when these two blankings too place.

-----------------------------------

Season: 2003-04
Dates: Nov. 4 & 7, 2003
Coach: Darryl Sutter
Scores: 3-0 loss to Detroit, 3-0 loss to Minnesota
Span: 136 minutes and 39 seconds
Last goal before: Shean Donovan at 17:41 of third of 3-0 win over Columbus on Nov. 1, 2003
Goal that ended it: Steve Reinprecht at 14:20 of the first in 3-2 OT win over Toronto on Nov. 18, 2003

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