With the NHL all but cementing the plan for the shortened 2020-21 season, Calgary and the rest of the Canadian squads find themselves in a more unique situation than the rest. While the actual location of the games remain to be determined, one thing is guaranteed: it’s Canada vs. Canada all 56 games in the temporary North division.
With only 6 possible opponents for the duration of the regular season, scouting your opponents have never been simpler. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how Calgary has matched up against their fellow canucks (sorry Vancouver fans, they’re in a better place now).
The Eastern Canadian teams obviously bring the most intrigue to this new division for Flames fans. Since the scheduling alterations prior to the 2008-09 season, the Flames have only played Eastern teams a maximum of twice per season which is hardly enough to form rivalries or build credible comparisons.
Below is Calgary’s all-time regular season record against each team, recent record, a featured player who has enjoyed lighting Calgary up, and a summary of this past season’s games. Maybe even a fun fact or two!
All-time Flames record: 124-97-6 (19 Ties)
Last 10: 7-3-0
Flame Killer: Connor McDavid (15-7-22 in 20 GP)
Fun Fact: Edmonton has not won a game in overtime against Calgary since March 16th 2006, while the Flames have gone 3-0 in OT, and 5-3 in the shootout since that loss
Although I have a clear bias, arguably nothing was more entertaining during the 2019-20 regular season than the Battles of Alberta. After decades of meaningless games between bottom-feeders, both Alberta squads are finally relevant. The result ended up being playoff style hockey smack in the middle of the season. The series swung in Calgary’s favour, as the Flames won the first 3 games (5-1, 4-3, 4-3 SO) before falling to the Oilers in the finale (8-3).
The Flames found success as a collective against Edmonton, while the Oilers largely relied on Connor McDavid’s atypical goal scoring against the Flames. In the 4 games in 2019-20, McDavid had 4 goals and an assist. Calgary is the only NHL team against whom McDavid has more goals than assists, and it’s more than doubled.
Edmonton added some solid pieces (Tyson Barrie, Kyle Turris, Dominik Kahun), but the defence and goaltending may prove to be the same crippling awfulness that sank them in the play-in round.
All-time Flames record: 40-61-3 (15 ties)
Last 10: 3-6-1
Flame Killer: Carey Price (9-5-1, 2.43 GAA, .920 SV%, 2 SO in 15 GP)
Fun Fact: Montreal is the only Canadian team who Calgary has a historical losing record against
Two of the worst Calgary performances this past season were both to the benefit of Les Habitants. A 2-0 first period lead in December 2019 would vanish quickly en route to a miserable 4-3 OT loss at home. There would be no redemption, as the Flames squandered a superb David Rittich performance in Montreal, falling 2-0 to an inferior team that dominated the Flames from start to finish.
The Canadiens are widely agreed to be one of the most improved teams this off-season. Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson will cause problems in their own ways up front, while Jake Allen and Joel Edmunson bring more stability to the back end.
All-time Flames record: 23-15-3 (4 Ties)
Last 10: 6-3-1
Flame Killer: Evgenii Dadonov (6-1-7 in 6 GP)
Fun Fact: Both Tkachuk brothers have posted 3 points in the 4 matchups thus far through 2 seasons
An otherwise meaningless matchup, these two teams will be linked for the foreseeable future by the sons of Keith Tkachuk. Brady and Matthew put on a show in the2018-19 matchups, but both were much more subdued this past season. Matthew assisted on Elias Lindholm’s second goal of the game into an empty net for a late November 3-1 Flames win, while Brady posted a goal and an assist in a lopsided 5-2 Senators victory in January.
The Senators will still be bad, but they’ve always been a tough win for the Flames. A much more consistent goaltending situation (Matt Murray) and a few solid adds (Evgenii Dadonov) will make them a better team than in 2019-20.
Toronto Maple Leafs
All-time Flames record: 65-59-2 (12 Ties)
Last 10: 5-4-1
Flame Killer: John Tavares (8-11-19 in 16 GP)
Fun Fact: The Flames are the only remaining NHL team whom Auston Matthews has never scored a goal against
Calgary has caused quite a few problems for Toronto. The potent Maple Leaf has never really found it’s groove against the Flames, which is highlighted by the fact listed above. Calgary took both contests in 2019-20, and held the Leafs to 2 goals or less in both contests. The offence hasn’t been overly shy either, highlighted by a 4-2 victory at the Saddledome in December, and solving Frederik Andersen in a 2-1 shootout victory in Toronto a month later.
There are lots of shared storylines amongst the Canadian teams, but perhaps no two are in more parallel situations than Calgary and Toronto. Both teams have put high expectations on themselves derived from a combination of strong rosters and regular season play, but both have had the wheels fall off come playoff time. Both teams likely face some major changes should the script not flip this season.
The Leafs haven’t really added to their lineup this off-season, instead shipping out two wingers to free cap space. Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh) and Andreas Johnsson (New Jersey) will be replaced by promising Nick Robertson and a multitude of cheap AHL options.
All-time Flames record: 138-93-17 (33 Ties)
Last 10: 6-2-2
Flame Killer: Elias Pettersson (4-5-9 in 8 GP)
Fun Fact: Calgary’s 138 wins against Vancouver is the franchise’s single most victories against one opponent
The Canucks and Flames never seem to pull away in season series, nor play particularly tight games. Calgary earned their first victory of the 2019-20 season with a 3-0 win in their home opener wayyyy back in October 2019. Vancouver responded with a 5-2 win in December, and the Flames took the series with a 6-2 domination in February.
It isn’t as if a historical matchup like this usually needs more elements to hook you, but man the first Canucks v. Canu…Flames game will be one like no other. The Canucks lost quite a few players this past free agency and a comically large amount of them ended up in Cowtown. Jakob Markstrom, Josh Leivo, Chris Tanev and Louis Domingue all crossed the BC border, and all 4 will be on the roster whenever these two teams meet for the first time.
Other significant Vancouver losses include Troy Stecher (Detroit) and Tyler Toffoli (Montreal). The only major incoming piece is a questionable Braden Holtby, who will compete with rising star Thatcher Demko for starts. With so many losses, the impressive playoff run the Canucks found themselves in this summer may not be repeatable.
Winnipeg Jets (+ Thrashers)
All-time Flames record: 17-12-2 (1 Tie)
Last 10: 5-3-2
Flame Killer: Paul Stastny (27-38-65 in 57 GP)
Fun Fact: Similar to Matthews, Calgary is one of only 2 teams Kyle Connor has never scored against (Pittsburgh)
The Jets and Flames only ended up playing 1 of the 3 scheduled regular season games due to the shortened season, but the lone game provided enough drama to cover all 3. The 2019 Heritage Classic in Regina was a freezing, close affair which ended with Bryan Little’s overtime winner. As someone who was there, it was truly a surreal experience and almost made the outcome irrelevant. Elias Lindholm and Josh Morrissey exchanged powerplay goals in regulation, which set the stage for the 2-1 winner in OT.
The drama was certainly not lessened the next time these two teams met, as the long hockey drought was broken by their play-in series in August. The Flames more or less dominated the Jets and eventual Vezina winnner Connor Hellebuyck, but it was far from a complete Jets squadron that the Flames defeated. Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, and Mason Appleton all barely saw the ice before their playoffs ended with injury. Nontheless, the Flames took the series 3-1 and carried a decent amount of momentum into Round 1 against Dallas.
by Gordie Taylor