If you’re looking to build a battle-hardened mindset before the ultimate goal of the NHL playoffs, the most meaningful statistic for Calgary Flames might be the one they’re leading the league in.
Not counting contests that included empty netters, the Flames have been involved in 24 goals decided by a single score. More than 60 per cent of their outcomes. That includes their loss to the Winnipeg Jets this week, where they gave up the lead with about six minutes left and couldn’t find a way to claw back for a third time — leaving them frustrated and angry in the locker-room.
If you look at it from a process perspective, the team should be comfortable in the traditionally more closely contested, tighter-checking hockey games that take place down the stretch of the NHL season.
"I think it's a positive thing,” veteran and Stanley Cup winner Nazem Kadri told reporters on Wednesday.
“We've been in a lot of tight games and that's going to pay dividends towards the end. That's great experience for our group to try and stay calm and composed in those tight, high-tense situations.”
Just one addendum. The Calgary Flames need to win more of them to ensure they get a spot in the playoffs where it could pay off.
Their record of 10-7-7 in those one-goal games isn’t awful, but some of those overtime losses would look real nice in the two-point column instead.
"At the end of the day, we've got to find a way to win those games,” Kadri said.
"More times than not, we're capable of doing that."
We’ve heard a lot about the Flames needing a gamebreaker to make a difference. That doesn’t necessarily mean just one guy to rely on for every close game. Kadri is capable of scoring in big moments. He hit yet another post in Winnipeg. Tyler Toffoli is another who has done it in past playoff performances. And there is plenty of skill with Elias Lindholm and Jonathan Huberdeau coming off massive personal seasons that ended bitterly in the playoffs.
Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube are high-energy pests with the ability to make an impact. Longest-serving Flame Mikael Backlund is having a banner season. The blueline, too, has a guy in Rasmus Andersson who’s on the verge of elite status this season.
There are plenty of guys who can be clutch.
That means even more focus on improving their third periods.
Huberdeau’s first game-winner in Seattle was also his first goal in the final frame all season. As a team, the Flames are 3-5-4 when tied going into the third period.
A good start is important and gets talked about a lot. A big finish is even better, though.
The Jets got that in Winnipeg on Tuesday, which is why they emerged victorious over the Flames.
“They stepped on the gas and pulled it out,” Kadri said. "We didn't play nearly our best, but we played well enough to have a chance to win the game. A couple posts, a couple great opportunities, great saves by their goalie. At the end of the day, it just wasn't enough. You've got to give credit to them.”
The Jets are a great team. We’ll find out in the coming weeks whether the Flames belong in that category, too.