Anatomy of a Streak: Flames Win 9 Straight

On March 11 against the Winnipeg Jets, the Calgary Flames made history when they won their ninth consecutive game. The victory set a new record winning streak since the club moved to Calgary and came in the midst of a remarkable turnaround for the Flames that’s placed them fairly comfortably in a playoff spot (and pushed them to the brink of having home ice in the first round).

Here’s a break look at how the nine game record streak came about.

Nine Wins, At A Glance

February 21: beat Nashville 6-5 in overtime

The opening game of the streak was a roller-coaster. The Flames scored in the first minute of this game, eventually getting out to a 4-1 lead by the midway point. Unfortunately, a combination of a Nashville goaltending change and the Flames sitting back on their heels a bit allowed for a much more dramatic finish than they would have liked as they blew their lead. Four consecutive Nashville goals were answered by a third period goal from Mikael Backlund, and Mark Giordano added the game-winner in the first minute of overtime.

February 23: beat Tampa Bay 3-2

The Flames gave up an early goal, but took the game over after two quick goals in the second period. The game itself was fairly even, but the Flames were good enough in the high leverage portions of the game – particularly a late power play that made it briefly 3-1 before Tampa answered back with just over a minute left.

February 24: beat Florida 4-2

Once again, the Flames allowed an early goal. This time, they responded back much more quickly and they held a 3-2 lead by the end of the first. They cruised from that point on, adding a goal in the second period. Chad Johnson made 36 saves, playing his first game in 11 days.

February 26: beat Carolina 3-1

In a rare afternoon game, the Flames once again gave up the opening goal. Once again, they managed to answer back in the second period and took the game over. Johnny Gaudreau had two goals, including the game-winner off a tremendous individual effort.

February 28: beat Los Angeles 2-1 in overtime

In a game with a playoff-like atmosphere, the Flames gave up a first period goal but (again) managed to battle back to tie the game. T.J. Brodie scored to end a thrilling back and forth overtime period.

March 3: beat Detroit 3-2 in overtime

The Flames allowed an early goal by Darren Helm, but answered back with a pair of goals before the period was done. It seemed like it would be another game where they would ride things out with a slim lead, but Tomas Tatar scored to force overtime with just two seconds left in regulation. Mikael Backlund scored to end a very eventful overtime in which Brian Elliott made five saves to keep the game tied.

March 5: beat NY Islanders 5-2

The opening period was very event for the most part, though the Flames couldn’t quite figure out the Islanders’ defensive scheme or Thomas Greiss. However, a pair of deflection goals opened the floodgates; the Flames led 4-0 after the first period and never looked back.

March 9: beat Montreal 5-0

Similar to the Islanders game, the opening period was quite even but the Flames managed to get the opening goal off a nice individual play by Matthew Tkachuk to set up Mark Giordano. They seemed to figure out the flu-riddled Habs defense in the second, adding three more goals.

March 11: beat Winnipeg 3-0

The Flames had arguably their worst start of the last stretch, getting shelled early and generally playing a very disjointed, out of sync game. However, they managed to score a power play goal before the period ended. They rode out another sloppy start to the second period and carried play the rest of the way. Dougie Hamilton, playing with stitches in his leg after being sliced against Montreal, had three assists.

Where Did This Come From?

As outlined above, the Flames have won games in a lot of different ways. The interesting thing is that they are, for the most part, coming by their success honestly. They’ve had as much bad luck as they’ve had good luck – the late goal by Tatar being a prime example of bad luck – and aside from a rough first 25 minutes in Winnipeg they’ve been driving play in every game. They haven’t had to rely on miracle comebacks, as the 2015 “Find A Way Flames” had to.

The Flames’ November resurgence, which basically got them hovering around the .500 mark for the balance of the season to this point, was born on the back of their special teams. Their power play was excellent during that stretch, but their even strength play was iffy. During the nine game streak, the Flames have out-scored opponents 34-15, including an impressive  edge 30-10 at even strength. The Flames have zero players with negative plus/minuses during their streak.

Moreover, the Flames have gotten contributions from all over their lineup. Seven different players have scored game-winning goals. 11 different players have registered multi-point games. Five players – Gaudreau, Hamilton, Backlund, Sean Monahan and Michael Frolik – are scoring at a point-per-game pace or better during the streak. Gaudreau has finally found his offensive swagger after seemingly fighting the puck all season. Arguably the biggest turnaround has been Brian Elliott’s return to form after lacking consistency for much of the season.

For roughly 60 games, the Flames were a team that had to rely on Backlund’s 3M Line (with Frolik and Matthew Tkachuk) and the Mark Giordano pairing with Hamilton to carry play. Even if that group of five managed to get the Flames some chances, the team’s other lines occasionally frittered away the momentum they generated. However, Michael Ferland has joined Monahan and Gaudreau to shore up a very strong second line and Kris Versteeg and Sam Bennett have generated a lot of chemistry and scoring chances in their time together.

If the Flames can keep playing the same cohesive team game and they keep getting the same strong goaltending they’ve been getting, their aspirations of having home ice advantage in a playoff round may be closer to reality than many may realize.