Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Surprises in Calgary’s record splits

The Calgary Flames are having a bit of an imbalanced season when it comes to their schedule. They’ve played most of their games on the road with more games played against Eastern Conference teams so far. It makes for a tough start to the season with added travel and time zone changes, but the Flames thrived in these circumstances. When looking at their record splits, there’s imbalance there too. Which aspect of their record splits are the most surprising so far? We asked, you answered.

Calgary’s record splits

The Flames have now played 28 games this season. With their start, they’re on track to be making the 2022 postseason again after missing it last year playing in the North Division. Now that there is full league play again, there are different ways to compare record splits: home versus away, and now properly comparing West versus East outcomes.

Excluding their latest game due to the time of the poll being sent—which was a loss at home against the Boston Bruins—the Flames had a 15–6–6 record after 27 games. When looking at the splits themselves, which split was the most surprising—for better or for worse?

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Eastern conference dominance

The Flames have been finding ways to win against the East in all sorts of ways (last night was just their second regulation loss to an Eastern team). A large number of them have actually been shutout victories for both Jacob Markstrom and Daniel Vladar. The Flames put up three shutouts in October against the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Philadelphia Flyers.

They followed that up with four shutouts in November against the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, and Boston Bruins. Five of these shutouts belong to Markstrom—who’s still leading the league with that number—while Vladar earned two shutouts with one being against his former team in the Bruins.

Calgary’s been phenomenal against the East, and their record after 27 games was 12–1–3. They secured 27 of a possible 32 points when facing a team in the Eastern Conference. It’s been one of the biggest reasons they’re atop the Pacific Division.

They were 4–1–1 against the Atlantic Division (now 4–2–1), and 8–0–2 against the Metropolitan. To have two regulation losses in total against a whole conference is truly incredible, with their second coming during their 17th game against an Eastern team.

This was the biggest surprise split on this week’s poll—and rightfully so. No one really expects any team to do so well against the opposing conference, but the Flames have done exactly that. To have all seven of their shutouts so far coming against the East too—it’s unheard of, but it’s where the team is at right now.

Weakness against the West

The inverse of this is that the Flames haven’t fared as well against Western Conference teams at all. They have a losing record against conference opponents, currently sitting at 3–5–3. It’s obviously not great to lose, but especially not when the teams that the Flames are losing to are earning points in the standings that directly impact the Flames.

Calgary’s at least being chased and not playing the role of the chaser—which is a welcomed site and a breath of fresh air. But they set themselves up for success and are in this position thanks to their play against the East. If they can’t do as well against Western teams, that’s worrisome. It’ll matter even more when facing off against Pacific Division rivals, as major points are not just being left on the board but are allowing other teams to close the gap.

While the dominance against the East is welcomed, it’s a staggeringly large difference in splits when looking at how Calgary does against the West. Had they been more dominant against the West, or less dominant the East, then things might have at least been more explainable. But as it stands, it’s a surprise that the Flames are fumbling so frequently when Western Conference teams are involved.

The Flames are 1–1–2 against the Central—which isn’t ideal—and have an even less ideal record of 2–4–1 against the Pacific. A whopping four of Calgary’s regulation losses have come when playing against the Pacific Division, which is exactly what they want to avoid.

Road warriors

The schedule to start their season has sent the Flames away from the Saddledome for long stretches. They’ve already played a season-long seven-game road trip (which they came out of 4–1–2 with three shutouts). They’re playing much better on the road and it’s making their home play look comparatively much weaker.

Their road record of 11–4–2 is the best in the league. Of course, playing so many of their games on the road to open their season results in them having more chances to win road games, but that record was earned every step of the way. They were the first team in the league to 10 road wins, and did so at an alarmingly fast rate.

The Flames have embarrassed opponents in their own arenas several times this season, and have taken every measure to uphold the reputation that they won’t be fun to play against when they visit.

Woes at the Saddledome

When a team is good on the road, they are typically better at home too. At the very least, it should be expected that home-ice advantage should help a team pick up more standing points. However, the Flames have had a bit of karma go against them as they seemingly traded road victories for home mediocrity.

They are simply not as effective when they play at home. Fans heading to the Saddledome to catch the game have no idea what’s in store for them, as this team has been quite inconsistent in Calgary. Their 4–3–4 (latest loss against Bruins included) reflects a bigger issue too. They aren’t able to close out games they should be winning, and they aren’t anywhere close to being a 3v3 threat as they once were.

While they’ve captured a good chunk of points, they’ve still lost more often than they’ve won in the Saddledome, and that’s a recipe for disaster. The Flames haven’t exactly faced a true test of adversity when it comes to their roster, but they’re facing adversity when it comes to figuring out how to play at home.

Splitting the difference

It’s abundantly clear that the Flames’ season so far has been a tale of two outcomes, or rather two tales of four outcomes. When facing Eastern teams or on the road, they are playing at an entirely different level compared to when facing Western teams or at home.

Of course, luck comes into play for every hockey team and Calgary’s no exception. Did they deserve to win every game they did against the East? Probably not. But did they deserve to lose as many games as they have against the West? Absolutely not. The game against the Hurricanes was a clear example with three separate goal line clears by Carolina. It’d be a different story if that didn’t happen.

At the end of the day, the Flames are still playing good hockey. They have plenty of room for improvement, but they’ve executed a lot better than many expected them to. They’re one of the best teams in the Western Conference right now, yet they can add a whole lot more threat to their game if they can find a way to close out games.

As the season progresses and their schedule balances with both more home games and games against the West, the Flames will hope to right the ship and start showing those dominant displays they’ve already established a track record for.

If they can’t figure it out, they’re at risk of tumbling down the standings and then they’d go from being the hunted back into being the hunter. If they can manage to keep pace or even put some distance between them and the teams chasing them, only then would they earn more breathing space.

With how the season is going right now, it’s been much more enjoyable to watch the Flames play away from home as well as against Eastern opponents. Wait a minute… the Stanley Cup Final would definitely include road games against an Eastern team.

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