Finally back in action after almost three weeks off, the Calgary Flames have picked up right where they left off with two solid wins against the Seattle Kraken and the Chicago Blackhawks. They are sitting in first place in the Pacific Division in terms of points percentage, as well as second in the Western Conference and eighth in the NHL overall. They’re a good team, but are about to face their stiffest test of the season.
This week’s slate
Starting tonight, the Flames will face three of the best teams in the NHL in a short four-day span. They are in Sunrise to take on the Panthers tonight, then head up the highway to Tampa to take on the Lightning on Thursday, and wrap up their road trip the following night in Raleigh to take on the Hurricanes.
All three of their next opponents are currently ahead of the Flames in the NHL standings. The last time the Flames played against an opponent above them in the standings was December 9th when they hosted the Hurricanes at the ‘Dome, falling 2–1 in overtime. Before that, it was November 12th when the Flames beat the Maple Leafs on the road.
Facing three better teams in the span of just four days will be a serious change of pace for the Flames, and are surely measuring stick games for the team.
Opponents at a glance
The Flames’ opponents this week are among the best in the league in almost every statistical category.
Overall in the NHL, the Hurricanes are first, Panthers second, and Lightning sixth in terms of points percentage. All three teams have positive goal differentials, all three boasting more goal scoring power than the Flames.
However, the Flames are right there with them. They have the second best goal differential in the league and have allowed just one more goal than the Hurricanes despite playing one fewer game.
Looking at possession and expected goals, all four of the teams listed, the Flames and their next three opponents, are dominating the league in all four categories. They are consistently at the very top of the rankings for each stat.
All four teams are well above the 50% mark in all for categories, but what really stands out is each team’s dominance in owning the share of high-danger chances and expected goals. These teams all play a high possession, play-driving style of hockey. Seeing similar styles clash all week will be very interesting and truly show which team is better at this play style.
The Flames deserve to be in the same conversation as these teams, and there is no doubt that each of these opponents are looking at the Flames as a measuring stick as well.
Time to make a mark
With the Oilers reeling and the Golden Knights and Ducks continuing to win games, this is a critical week for the Flames. If they can come out of this road trip with a winning record the rest of the way, it will go a long way in showing that the Flames are in fact one of the best teams in the league. It will show not only the rest of the league but also themselves, that they are a contender and not a pretender.
It might even help prove to a few of their pending free agents that Calgary is on the rise and the place to be for a 2022 playoff run.
Hopefully the Flames can hold their own this week and score well in these measuring stick contests. It all starts tonight in Florida.