It feels hard to believe but we have just crossed the halfway point of the 2021–22 season. Despite all the postponements and COVID-19 concerns, the Calgary Flames currently sit fourth in the Pacific Division with an impressive 23–13–6 record and have between four and six games in hand against each of the teams ahead of them in the standings. A very good position to be in.
However, this position is only good if the Flames are able to win their games in hand, and that is a big if. With half a season remaining, the quality of their opponents will vary greatly. Let’s see how their second half breaks down.
Who are the Flames up against?
In their final forty games, the Flames face off against 24 different opponents. While they do face many of these opponents just once, they do face off against a few key opponents multiple times, which will impact the course of their season. These key opponents are the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks, and Seattle Kraken, all of whom the Flames play three times each.
The Flames are yet to face off against the Western Conference-leading Avs, but since the devastating playoff loss to them in 2018–19, the Flames have only beaten them once. They boast two of the top ten point producers in the league in Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen, as well as one of the top ten assist leaders in the league in Nathan MacKinnon. They also have a stable of elite defencemen in Cale Makar, Samuel Girard, Devon Toews, and more. The Avs are one of the top teams in the league and will be by far the toughest test of the four.
The Wild are also a formidable opponent with Kirill Kaprizov on the top line along with the top shutdown line in the league in Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Marcus Foligno, who have been on the ice for zero goals against in nearly 200 combined minutes. Having yet to play them this season, it is hard to predict how the Flames will do, but the Wild are not going to make it easy on the Flames.
The Kraken are the weakest team of the four, having struggled mightily in their first season in the league. They look to be sellers at this year’s draft, but given how close the gap is between teams up and down the league, the Flames cannot afford to take this team lightly. Mark Giordano scored three points against the Flames the last time the teams met as well.
The Canucks are perhaps the most interesting team of the bunch. While they are seventh in the Pacific, they are just six points behind the Flames, and those three games will be seen as must-win for Vancouver, so they’ll come into these games with an all-out attack. After all, they won’t consider themselves out of the playoffs unless it’s mathematically certain.
The first two games against Vancouver will be interesting as it’ll be against divisional rivals who have yet to write off their season, whereas the last one will be late in the season with less odds of impacting playoff implications. The Canucks has some high end skill in their lineup as well as some great complementary pieces, and given the Flames play them twice before the NHL Trade Deadline, expect them to face a very desperate team.
Aside from these four teams, the Flames also play the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, Vegas Golden Knights, and Winnipeg Jets twice before the end of the year.
In ten combined games against these opponents, the Flames have picked up six of a possible twenty points and have yet to win against five of the eight opponents. Yikes! The good news is that only two of these opponents, Nashville and Vegas, sit ahead of the Flames in points percentage at this point of the season. The Flames are also analytically one of the best teams in the league, which should give them a good chance against any of these eight teams on any given night.
Home versus away splits
It seems hard to believe but the Flames are done their Eastern Conference road trips for the season. The furthest they have to travel between now and the Stanley Cup Finals (if they make it there) is two goofy trips to Nashville, once on a short two-game trip with Chicago and another on a three-game trip to end the season with Minnesota and Winnipeg. Here is who they play at home and away for the rest of the season:
|Opponent||Number of home games remaining||Head-to-head record this season|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||1||1-0-0|
|Detroit Red Wings||1||1-0-0|
|Los Angeles Kings||1||1-0-0|
|New Jersey Devils||1||1-0-0|
|New York Islanders||1||1-0-0|
|San Jose Sharks||1||0-2-0|
|St. Louis Blues||1||1-1-0|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||1||0-1-0|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||1||0-0-1|
|Vegas Golden Knights||2||1-0-1|
|Opponent||Number of away games remaining||Head-to-head record this season|
|Los Angeles Kings||1||1-0-0|
|San Jose Sharks||1||0-2-0|
Between now and the end of the season, the Flames play just 14 games on the road, leaving 26 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. From a revenue perspective, the organization must be hoping that they will be allowed to have fans in the stands, as the economic impact of empty seats is enormous.
On the ice, the story is a little different. The Flames have been better away from the Scotiabank Saddledome than at it, boasting a 16–9–2 record on the road compared to a 7–4–4 record at home. With a crucial seven-game home stand up next in their schedule, they’ll finally get a string of games on home ice without travel interruptions—which will be all the more important with their condensed schedule.
Unless the home stand shows otherwise, it is clear that the Flames, and particularly Andrew Mangiapane, feel far more comfortable and dominant in front of opposing crowds.
Looking at the big picture
Assuming 95 points is the playoff cutoff for the Flames this season, they need just 43 points in the next 40 games. This means they need to take an average of just over one point from every game to make the playoffs at this rate.
All things being equal, they should be able to do it. So far this season, the Flames have played 43 combined games against teams that they will play in the back half of the season and have taken 50 total points from them, just over one point per game.
This does not factor in having not played against Colorado or Minnesota so far this year, nor does it account for games where the Flames dominated for huge stretches of the game and had one bad bounce turn two points against them. Assuming they can continue to play at this very marginal pace for the rest of the season, they should be able to make the playoffs.
The math is one thing but their performance is another. The Flames will need to play hard the rest of the season, as they face some very tough tests. Just looking at the schedule alone, they are in a gauntlet of games from now until the end of the season.
The first test will be the home stand, and then they’ll be playing 16 games in the month of March. Strap in and hang on tight, the Flames are about to start a crazy second half.