Predicting how the Calgary Flames will do in the Canadian Division

With the Canadian Division an almost certainty for the upcoming season, the Calgary Flames say goodbye to Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Vegas, and welcome back just Edmonton and Vancouver from the Pacific Division. They are joined by Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and last year’s first round opponent Winnipeg.

Last season, the Flames went 9-4-1 in 14 games against Canadian opposition. This was good for a 0.679 points percentage. The Flames actually did remarkably well against Canadian teams, recording a win against every team except for the Montreal Canadiens and the Winnipeg Jets, although they beat the Jets three times in the play-in.

The Flames were also managed to pour on the goals against Canadian opponents. Putting 42 goals past opposing goalies, while allowing 39 against. They were only shut out just once, by Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens, and only scored just one goal one time, in the Winter Classic against the Winnipeg Jets. In every other game, they were able to score at least two goals, even putting six past new goalie Jacob Markstrom and the Vancouver Canucks.

Going into this season, the Flames will see a lot more of quality opponents like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Edmonton Oilers. Let’s break down how they did against each opponent, and what to expect this season. We take a look at how the Flames did against each opponent by using data from Natural Stat Trick. All data at 5v5 and adjusted for score and venue. To read more about these statistics, read our primer here.

Edmonton Oilers

RecordGF DifferentialCF%SCF%HDCF%
3-1-0+147.6%43.9%44.7%

Additions and subtractions

Additions: Kyle Turris, Jesse Puljujarvi, Dominik Kahun, Tyson Barrie

Subtractions: Riley Sheahan, Andreas Athanasiou, Matt Benning, Mike Green, Markus Granlund

Analysis

The Flames rose to the test against Connor McDavid and Co. last season. With David Rittich and Cam Talbot standing on their heads to pick up three wins in the four games, the Flames were able to handle most of what the Oilers tried to throw at them. From there, they were able to put goals through the weaker Oilers’ defence and past either former Flame Mike Smith or Mikko Koskinen, both of whom will be retuning to the Oilers’ crease this season.

The blue and gold will return this season with both McDavid and Leon Draisaitl providing a formidable one-two punch up front, and the Flames defence, with newly added Chris Tanev, will have to try to keep them to the outside as much as possible. With McDavid putting four goals and an assist against the Flames, and Draisaitl having seven assists, the Flames will need to do what they can to minimize their impact.

The big questions for the Oilers are on the back end. They have added veteran Barrie from Toronto this season, but he is known more for his offensive ability than his defensive. While both Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones have taken another step forward, they will be without Oscar Klefbom, who is expected to miss the entire season with a shoulder issue.

It will be interesting to see if the Oilers can do a better job minimizing chances on net. With the Oilers unable to add a strong veteran presence in net, they will rely on Smith and Koskinen to hold down the fort.

What does it come down to?

Defense. If the Oilers’ defense can contain the Flames’ top forwards, they will end up winning the lion’s share of matches. If the Flames defense can minimize McDavid and Draisaitl, the Flames will likely be able to carry this one.

Montreal Canadiens

RecordGF DifferentialCF%SCF%HDCF%
0-1-1-344.544.344.7%

Additions and subtractions

Additions: Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli, Jake Allen, Joel Edmundson,

Subtractions: Max Domi, Dale Weise, Christian Folin, Keith Kinkaid,

Analysis

The Canadiens have historically been a team the Flames have struggled against, and last season was no exception. The only Canadian team that the Flames could not win against, the Habs had their number all season.

Probably the most interesting team of the lot, Montreal is a team with excellent goaltending, three very good defencemen, and some strong pieces at forward. That being said, how those pieces pull together will determine how this season goes for Les Habitants.

Up front, the Habs will be relying on Brendan Gallagher to continue to be one of the best forwards at 5v5. With him will be Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar, both of whom had incredible seasons. The team will need this line to keep being as productive as they were last season, but looking at their advanced stats, both Tatar and Danault appear to have overperformed.

Down the roster there are more questions. Sophmore Nick Suzuki or third year Jesperi Kotkaniemi will be centering the second line, with the team expecting both of them to take another step forward. Then newcomers Toffoli and Anderson, who is returning from major injury, will fill out the second group. The Habs will need both newcomers to gel with the team and perform.

On defence, the Habs have Jeff Petry, Shea Weber, and Ben Chiarot as their top three defenceman. Their fourth defenceman is former Flame Brett Kulak. A bit of a drop off in terms of quality. Adding Edmundson is a nice add, but he is a depth piece for the Habs.

Where the team sparkles is in net. Having Vezina Trophy winner Carey Price complimented by Allen gives the Habs an impressive one-two-punch in net, and they will need to rely on both players being excellent to make a dent in the Canadian Division.

What does it come down to?

The Flames will need to turn around their poor performances against Montreal to win this, and that starts and ends with cracking Price. In the two games last season, the Flames beat Price three times on 57 shots. On their 23 high danger chances, they were able to capitalize just once. They will need to find a way to beat Price somehow if they hope to beat the Habs and secure a playoff spot in the tough Canadian Division.

Ottawa Senators

RecordGF DifferentialCF%SCF%HDCF%
1-1-0-158.560.754.3

Additions and subtractions

Additions: Matt Murray, Evgenii Dadonov, Alex Galchenyuk, Logan Shaw, Austin Watson, Erik Gudbranson, Josh Brown, Artem Zub

Subtractions: Anthony Duclair, Craig Anderson, Mark Borowiecki, Ron Hainsey, Jayce Hawryluk, Mikkel Boedker, Scott Sabourin

Analysis

Do the Senators have some good pieces? Yes, absolutely. Between Brady Tkachuk, Dadanov, Murray, and first round pick Tim Stutzle, the Senators are probably going to be a better team this season. Are they still in the middle of a rebuild? Yes, absolutely.

The Flames and Senators split the season series last season, with each of the Tkachuk brothers’ respective teams coming away with a victory. And while it will be nice to see the two face off again in what will surely be a heavyweight clash, the fact of the matter is the Senators just are not going to be as competitive in the Canadian Division as other teams.

For the Senators, this will be a year for their young guys to take another step forward. The aformentioned Tkachuk along with Drake Batherson, Erik Brannstrom, and company will be looking to improve on their play. With Tkachuk one of the best players on an entry-level contract last season, and with incredible underlying numbers that he could not translate into points last season, he will be a player to watch.

What does it come down to?

Not playing down to their opponent. The Flames cannot afford to take games off, especially when playing a weaker opposition in Ottawa. The Flames will still need to bring their A game to beat Murray in net, and limit scoring chances from the Senators’ top guys, but if they can do that, the Flames stand a good chance of picking up the majority of points.

Toronto Maple Leafs

RecordGF DifferentialCF%SCF%HDCF%
2-0-0+346.148.347.5

Additions and subtractions

Additions: T.J. Brodie, Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, Zach Bogosian, Mikko Lehtonen, Jimmy Vesey, Joey Anderson, Travis Boyd, Aaron Dell

Subtractions: Kasperi Kapanen, Tyson Barrie, Andreas Johnsson, Cody Ceci, Kyle Clifford, Frederik Gauthier

Analysis

The team that the will most likely challenge for the top spot in the Canadian Division, the Maple Leafs have only gotten better this offseason. Adding former Flame Brodie on the back end will help shore up the blue line, while bringing in veterans Thornton and Simmonds up front will give the team help both on and off the ice.

On top of that, if the Leafs managed to retain their core group of forwards for another season. With Mitch Marner, John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander making up the better part of their top six, the Leafs will be a scary team to contend with. While they did not get everything they wanted out of this group in the playoffs, with many fans shouting for the team to trade one or more of this group, they were the four best skaters, putting up 266 points between them.

On the back end, the Leafs still have Frederik Andersen to backstop them in net, while also having Jack Campbell, Aaron Dell, and Michael Hutchinson who will be challenging for the backup role. While Andersen is a very capable netminder, there is an enormous gap in talent between him and the other three. The Leafs will be hoping to ride Anderson through the season, and that their defense will be able to minimize chances against.

While the Flames did manage to win both games against the Leafs, they were held in place by excellent goaltending. They need to do a better job minimizing chances against to have success against an even stronger Leafs team.

What does it come down to?

Defense. The Flames will need to contain the deep Leafs’ team forward group and maximize their chances against the weaker Leafs’ defense. The Leafs will need to get the most out of Brodie, Muzzin and Co. in order to shut down the Flames’ top forwards. This will be the heavyweight matchup of the division.

Vancouver Canucks

RecordGF DifferentialCF%SCF%HDCF%
2-1-0+448.555.848.7

Additions and subtractions

Additions: Nate Schmidt, Braden Holtby, Jayce Hawryluk

Subtractions: Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, Tyler Toffoli, Troy Stecher, Josh Leivo, Nikolay Goldobin, Oscar Fantenberg

Analysis

Vancouver is a team that took a huge step forward last season. With incredible production from their young stars like Elias Pettersson , Quinn Hughes, and more, and backstopped by Markstrom and Thatcher Demko, the Canucks seemed to be built to compete for the cup this year.

Then over the off-season, they made some moves that raised some eyebrows. They lost a number of key pieces to free agency and were either unable or unwilling to add back quite as well. Even if you consider losing Markstrom for Holtby and adding Schmidt while losing Tanev to be a wash, the loss of Toffoli and Leivo are big pieces which the Canucks have not replaced.

However, the Canucks will be relying on young players to get the job done. With Olli Juolevi and Zack MacEwan joining Brock Boeser and the aforementioned Hughes and Pettersson, the Canucks will be hoping to get the job done that way. However, in a shortened season, the Canucks have a lot invested in their young stars.

With a strong top six and a strong defense, the big question will be their depth. There is a big dropoff from Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson to Antoine Roussel and Brandon Sutter. The Flames will need to be able to minimize the Canucks’ top two lines, while getting secondary scoring from their third and fourth groups.

What does it come down to?

How good is the Canucks goaltending going to be? While Demko was downright impressive in the playoffs and gave the Canucks a reason to move on from their starter, the question remains as to whether he can carry this performance night in and night out. Holtby had the starting job wrestled away from him in Washington so he will be looking to regain his form, likely as part of a 1A/1B role this season.

The Flames goaltending tandem seems to be stronger. With both Rittich and Markstrom having experience in the starting role, and being able to shut down opposition night in and night out. If the Flames can get consistent goaltending in their matchup against the Canucks, they should be able to win the majority of the games.

Winnipeg Jets

RecordGF CF%SCF%HDCF%
0-0-1-148.051.273.1%

Additions and subtractions

Additions: Paul Stastny, Derek Forbort, Nate Thompson, Dominic Toninato, Marko Dano

Subtractions: Dmitry Kulikov, Cody Eakin, Logan Shaw, Carl Dahlstrom, Mark Letestu, Anthony Bitetto. Nick Shore, Gabriel Bourque

Analysis

The Flames’ play-in round opponents in last season’s playoffs, the Jets will be looking to get some revenge after the Flames came away with the series win. The Jets hobbled to the off-season with numerous players out injured, but all should be ready for the upcoming season.

Coming into this season, the expectations were that the Jets would make some big moves to improve their depth and back end. With Patrik Laine’s name in trade rumours, there were big expectations for Kevin Cheveldayoff and his team.

Instead, the team made mostly secondary moves, electing to add 34-year-old Stastny along with former Flame Forbort to bolster what was a very thin blueline. The expectation is likely that the Jets feel they are a strong team when healthy, and anything that they add in this market will cost more than it is worth.

With Connor Hellebuyck, the league’s best goaltender last season, holding down the back end, the Jets are always going to be a tough team to beat. That being said, when the rest of the division made major moves in the off-season, the Jets remaining mostly stagnant feels like more of a step backwards.

What does it come down to?

This is a battle of depth. Both teams have excellent top sixes, top defense pairings and an elite starting goaltender. The Flames have the edge in the bottom six and their second and third defence pairings. If they can keep the Jets’ top two lines neutralized, their third line can go to town on the Jets depth forwards. However, if the Flames cannot get secondary scoring from the likes of Sam Bennett and Milan Lucic, they will struggle to beat this Jets team.


How do you think the Flames will fare against Canadian opposition? Let us know in the comments or on social media.

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