In the midst of a record setting week, the Calgary Flames are the NHL’s hottest team right now. With their win against the Winnipeg Jets, the Flames matched a franchise record with their 10th straight victory, Elias Lindholm matched a franchise record by scoring a goal in eight straight games, and the Flames set a new NHL record by sweeping a seven-game home stand. It’s been a thrilling week for the team.
This season has been much, much more successful than last season already. The Flames are almost certainly going to the playoffs and look to have a deep team at all positions. One of the most impressive things they’ve done this season as opposed to those in the past is not to sit back after getting a lead. This season, the Flames have not taken their foot off the gas and it has led to some absolute blowouts. Perhaps even more impressive though, is not how they’ve blown out inferior teams, but how they’ve managed to put together an impressive record against the top teams in the league.
The Flames’ record against top teams
By my count, the Flames have played top competition 17 times this season. The list includes games against teams in the top half of the NHL standings (with overall rankings in brackets): The Florida Panthers (2), Carolina Hurricanes (3), Tampa Bay Lightning (4), New York Rangers (6), Toronto Maple Leafs (7), Pittsburgh Penguins (9), Washington Capitals (11), Boston Bruins (12), Vegas Golden Knights (13), and Nashville Predators (14).
In these games, the Flames own a 9–5–3 record, picking up 21 of a possible 34 points which is good for a .618 points percentage. Over the course of the season, that record would put the Flames just behind Vegas for second in the Pacific, and that number only includes games against the best in the NHL. Impressive stuff.
Their nine wins also include three shutouts which came against the Penguins, Rangers, and Golden Knights.
Individually, the Flames have only truly struggled against two teams, the Lightning and the Hurricanes. Fortunately, these teams will only pose a real problem in the Stanley Cup Final. Two teams the Flames have yet to play that would be included in this list are the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche. The first matchups against these two teams are on February 26th and March 5th, respectively.
Possession and expected goals
Over these 17 games played, the Flames also own the possession and expected goals battle on the aggregate in essentially every major category.
Statistics below are at 5v5 and from NaturalStatTrick.
High-danger chances are the only major statistic that the Flames don’t outright win in, but they break even across this set of games. They are above the 50% mark in both Corsi, scoring chances, and expected goals though, and that’s a big reason why they have the record they do against these teams.
This is a big deal. The Flames aren’t beating these teams out of sheer luck or riding a one-goal lead and bleeding chances like we’ve seen them do in the past. Over the entire period of time, the Flames are outplaying their opponents and generating chances at a higher rate. They not only deserve to be winning these games, but have put forward a consistent effort against top teams.
In terms of goals, the Flames are the clear winners here, both in all situations and at 5v5.
In all situations, the Flames have scored 55 goals for an average of 3.24 per game. They’ve only allowed 38 goals, an average of 2.24 per game. Over these 17 games against top competition, the Flames are scoring a full goal per game more than their opponents on average. With a goal share of 59%, that’s a recipe for success.
At 5v5, it’s the same story. The Flames have scored 2.35 goals per game and allowed 1.76 goals per game at 5v5, good for a very impressive 57% goal share. When the playoffs roll around, 5v5 play becomes even more important. The fact that the Flames are dominant at 5v5 against the top teams in the league now bodes well for their success against tough playoff games in the spring.
The real test comes in the spring
The Flames have proven they can hang with the best of the best in the regular season. What has eluded this franchise for much of the past three decades is proving they can do that come playoff time. With a deep team in a weak division and an elite coach with unfinished business, the Flames are set up for success. Time will tell if they achieve it or not.