The Calgary Flames are heating up as playoff season approaches
By Josh Werle, Staff Writer
The Calgary Flames have been red-hot as of late and are firing on all cylinders as the NHL begins to inch closer to the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Flames recently tied their all-time winning streak record with 10 straight victories and have seemed to be unbeatable as of late.
At the time of writing, the Flames are in first place in the Pacific Division and hold a commanding lead over the second place Vegas Golden Knights. The easiest explanation for their success is that they have kept their goals-for high and their goals-against low. In short, the Flames have been doing everything right. But there is so much more to their recent success, so let’s take a look at what the Flames need to do to continue dominating heading into the playoffs.
The Flames offensive numbers continue to skyrocket and some of the top players are scoring at well over a point-per-game pace. At the time of writing the Flames two leaders, Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau, have recorded 56 and 64 points respectively with 50 games played. Gaudreau, Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm all have a positive net rating of over 30. This means that when these three players are on the ice, they are scoring goals and not getting goals scored on them.
Andrew Mangiapane leads the team with 26 goals as he continues to impress during this breakout year. At the time of writing, the Flames have scored 47 more goals than their opponents in their matchups, which has led them to an impressive record of 30-14-6.
Defence is oftentimes what can keep a team going even if they are having trouble scoring against the other team. Solid defence can help teams steal games, and the Calgary Flames’ defensive unit has not only helped them from a defensive perspective, but also from an offensive perspective.
It is often customary for defenders to have a negative net rating, as they regularly play high minutes in games. Oliver Kylington and Christopher Tanev both sit at a positive net rating of over 20 each, meaning that not only are they not allowing goals but they are producing offensively as well.
At the time of writing, the Flames are tied for the least amount of goals against in the entirety of the NHL, meaning that they have been extremely successful in limiting the offence of their opponents.
The low amount of goals scored against the Flames cannot solely be attributed to their stellar defence, as their goaltending has been extremely consistent as of late. At the time of writing, Jacob Markström has played the majority of the Flames’ games as he sits at 40 played for the team, with backup goaltender Dan Vladar appearing in 12. Markström continues to lead the league in shutouts with eight; double what his closest competition has accomplished. Dan Vladar has also recorded two shutout victories this season, leaving the pairing with a combined 10.
At the time of writing, the Flames have a team save percentage of almost 92, meaning that scoring goals has been difficult for their opponents.
Undeniably great coaching
Realistically, what was the biggest change for the Flames from this year compared to the last?
They added a few big-name players like Tyler Toffoli and Blake Coleman but they haven’t contributed the greatest amount to their success. The Flames still had Markström in net with Tkachuk, Gaudreau and Lindholm on offence, so what was the big change?
Darryl Sutter, the Flames’ head coach, has seemingly transformed this team from playoff pretenders to title contenders. Sutter joined the team late last season and was unable to make an impact in a short amount of time. However, with a proper training camp and the time to allow some chemistry to build, Sutter has turned this team around.
When asked about the Flames’ impressive 10-game winning streak during a postgame press conference on Feb. 21, Sutter responded, “I don’t put a whole lot into 10 in a row unless they were 10 in a row in the playoffs.”
It seems as though Sutter has dedicated all of his focus to not only making the playoffs but making sure the team is able to have postseason success. The way that the Flames have been playing throughout the vast majority of February would indicate that they shouldn’t have a whole lot of trouble with that.