The Calgary Flames currently lead the Pacific Division with a 44-19-9 record. The Flames’ 97 points are good enough for second in the Western Conference behind the Central Division-leading Colorado Avalanche, who also owns the NHL’s best mark at 52-14-6.
The Flames have been overshadowed by the Avalanche’s monstrous season. They have also been overlooked outside of their conference, for the darlings of the Eastern Conference. Four teams in the East have surpassed 100 points this season, including the New York Rangers (100), Toronto Maple Leafs (100), Carolina Hurricanes (102), and East-leading Florida Panthers (108).
With the titans in the Eastern Conference and Colorado taking up most of the attention, the Flames have seemingly flown under the radar this season. However, there are plenty of reasons to consider them just as much of a favorite to come out of the West as anyone else, the Avalanche included.
Defense and Goaltending Could Lead the Way for Calgary
The rink seems to shrink in the NHL postseason as the checking gets tighter and the aggression level amps up.
This Calgary Flames team seems tailor-made for playoff hockey.
Along with their overall style of play, the Flames boast two qualities that increase their chances of success in the playoffs; solid defense and goaltending.
The Flames have allowed 177 GA this season, the fewest in the Western Conference. Also, on average, they give up 2.46 GA/G, the best in the conference.
Their stinginess for allowing goals extends to special teams; the Flames have an 83.30 PK%, second in the Western Conference.
Calgary’s 11 shutouts are the most in the NHL.
The Flames’ stout defense hasn’t allowed opposing teams to get many high percentage chances directed at their goal this season.
This season, Calgary has allowed 407 high danger scoring chances, the third-lowest in the NHL. Of Calgary’s 407 HDA, only 10.2% have resulted in goals.
If the first line of defense is broken, a team hoping to reach the final round of the playoffs needs a goaltender to bail them out. This season, Jacob Markstrom has delivered.
Markstrom (34-14-8) leads the Western Conference in GAA (2.16) and the NHL in shutouts (9).
His 34 wins are tied for third in the NHL behind Nashville Predators Juuse Saros (35) and Tampa Bay Lightnings Andrei Vasilesvskiy (35).
Markstrom is fourth in the NHL with a .925 SV%; only Colorado Avalanche Darcy Kuemper (.926), New York Islanders Ilya Sorokin (.927), and New York Rangers Igor Shesterkin (.935) are better.
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The Calgary Flames’ Offense is Getting Hot at the Right Time
The Calgary Flames have a well-rounded offense led by Elias Lindholm, Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Andrew Mangiapane.
The group has helped Calgary score 251 goals this season for a 4.49 GF/G, the fourth-best in the Western Conference.
Recently, the offense has been click, too. Calgary has scored four or more goals in three straight games and in 12 of their last 20 contests.
Lindholm’s 38 goals lead Calgary, followed closely by Gaudreau and Tkachuk (34 goals apiece) and Mangiapane with 30 goals.
Along with the Flames’ four 30-plus goal-scorers, Calgary has five more players with ten goals or more this season, including Blake Coleman (14), Mikael Backlund (12), Tyler Toffoli (11), Milan Lucic (10), and Dillon Dube (10).
Gaudreau leads the Flames in assists (65) and overall points (99).
Tkachuk (89) is second on the team in points, with Lindholm (73) posting the third-highest point total.
Calgary’s offense is a good pairing with their stifling defense and should only benefit them more come playoff time.
The Calgary Flames are Battle-Tested
The playoffs are about playing your best when you’re up against the best.
Calgary can say they’re heading down the home stretch in an excellent position to do just that.
With ten regular-season games remaining, the Flames have won four straight as they look to head into the Stanley Cup Playoffs playing well.
Also, Calgary has proven they can win against the teams they may face in the postseason ahead. They’ve performed well against the league’s higher-tier teams this season; Calgary has a 24-12-4 mark against teams who would qualify for the postseason if the playoffs started today.
Against Western Conference playoff teams, the Calgary Flames are a respectable 9-6-3.