Flames must find new gear to overcome tough schedule
If the Calgary Flames don’t like what they put out on the ice against the Carolina Hurricanes to end their four-game road swing, there will be plenty of time to work on things over the next couple of weeks.
As of today, their home games against the Ottawa Senators ) Jan. 13, Florida Panthers (Jan. 18), and St. Louis Blues (Jan. 24) are still a go. As is their provincial battle up north against the Edmonton Oilers (Jan. 22). But there will be a whole lot of practice time even if none of the remaining dates are postponed because of the COVID/crowd situation in Canada.
The organization hasn’t been overly outspoken about how the awkward early season scheduling has played out. But because of the added pandemic circumstances, the Calgary Flames are in a unique situation.
Tonight marks road game 22 of their 33 contests so far, with about a third of their previously scheduled home dates dashed because of Omicron.
The Hurricanes game was supposed to be the halfway point of their season.
“We’ll be 10 games behind next week. And eight of those will be home games,” Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said of their calendar. “We started out with a real crappy schedule.”
The NHL started on Oct. 12 but the Flames didn’t play until the 16th. Those extra days sure look like a waste right now. Especially when you consider that astounding number – 23 road games in 34 regular-season contests after the Canes.
“It’s a tremendous imbalance,” Sutter added. “We’re probably lucky just to be where we even are in the standings.”
With a challenging road ahead, Calgary Flames need to get hot away from home
Luck may have a little to do with it, but their early season success on the road is keeping them in the hunt for the division title. That means making the most of the games in hand they’ll have down the stretch, but the team also needs to capture some of their early season road magic.
After their season-opening loss in Edmonton, the Calgary Flames got hot, winning five in a row and 11 of 14 away from the Saddledome. Only one of the three losses was in regulation.
They’re 2-4-0 since, including their 1-2-0 record on the current trip.
Granted, they’ve lost to pretty great teams the past few days. The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning are neck and neck in the race for the Atlantic Division and own two of the top four spots in points percentage.
The leader in the latter category is the Hurricanes, the last on this road gauntlet against the Elite of the East.
“If we want to be a top team in the league, we’ve got to play at that level. They’re challenging games but when we do what we can as a team, and everyone steps up, we’ve seen in the past that we can play at that level. We can play with the top teams. We’ve just got to play with emotion,” said Calgary Flames defenceman Noah Hanifin.
The former Hurricanes rearguard echoed what Sutter has said in his post-game availabilities. It boils down to each player doing their part.
“I think It just comes down to every individual guy. I think everyone has a little bit more in them, especially when you’re playing some of these top teams in the league. It’s another level,” said Hanifin, who scored on the Canes in Calgary before the Omicron outbreak.
“I believe what’s in the room, we can rise to that level and be a challenging team to play against. We’ve just got to all kind of look at each other in the mirror and do what we can to get to that level.”