Final Countdown: Still Trying To Figure Out The Flames
With 32 games left to play, the Calgary Flames might be a playoff contender, or miss them altogether. Given their puzzling play so far, it’s tough to predict where they’ll land.
With 32 games left to play this season, the Calgary Flames continue to be a riddle.
Wrapped in a mystery. Inside an enigma.
You could easily have already written them off as a true Stanley Cup contender. After 50 games, they’re outside the playoff picture. Their longest winning streak of the entire season so far is three games — a feat they’ve accomplished exactly twice. They've lost at home to the Chicago Blackhawks. They've also lost in Chicago.
Statistically, their powerplay (19.1 per cent, 24th in the league) has been pathetic. Their scoring is sporadic, averaging a middle-of-the-pack 3.12 goals per game. That’s a far cry from their 3.55 a year ago.
While Tyler Toffoli, Dillon Dube and Nazem Kadri, Rasmus Andersson and Nikita Zadorov are on pace for career highs in at least one offensive category, others are falling well short.
Jonathan Huberdeau, of course, is one obvious case. Without a massive jump in offensive production, Huberdeau could finish a whopping 50 points shy of the 115 he scored last season. Fifty points is a career year for most NHL players, and that’s how far short he’s falling of his NHL best in his first year as a member of the Calgary Flames.
Andrew Mangiapane is in a similar spot after setting a high benchmark with 35 goals in a breakout season last year. He was such a prominent goal-scorer that he was getting early consideration for Team Canada for the eventually scrapped NHL participation in the Winter Games.
Both, however, could easily increase their output during the upcoming home stretch of the season. No one would be that surprised to see them finish strong. But their lack of potency thus far is one of the big reasons the team hasn’t had the opening 50 many expected — and they likely anticipated themselves.
Goaltending has been another major plot line for the Calgary Flames. And not for the stingy sessions we saw last season as Jacob Markstrom lined himself up for runner-up in the Vezina voting. Nope. The Flames are the first team to hit 50 games without a single shutout this season.
And Dan Vladar, who just tied a franchise mark for consecutive games with at least a point, has unquestionably been the most consistent presence in the blue paint.
Despite all of that — although the negatives far outweigh the positives in sheer numbers — the positives are the kind that can keep a team like the Calgary Flames from being counted out.
Their penalty kill has been a saviour during these stormy periods, ranking in the top five at 82.6 per cent. And their penchant for losing overtime contests but still salvaging points? It has given them a points percentage that ranks in the top seven in the league since mid-December. And the Calgary Flames were just five points behind the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights as of Monday morning. They trail the Seattle Kraken — a team they beat soundly on Friday in their pre-break finale — by six.
The Pacific Division defence may be a long-shot, but it’s not over just yet. Nearly a third of the season remains. And there's the upcoming NHL trade deadline, too.
Where the Flames go from here is anyone’s guess. But if they play the majority of their games the way they did in Seattle, up would be a good bet.