Through the first 30 games of the 2013 National Hockey League season, the Calgary Flames have been inconsistent, to be charitable. The most obvious deficiency that can be found is their strangely strong play at the Scotiabank Saddledome and their equally poor play away from it.
Through 30 games, the Flames have played 16 at home and 14 on the road. They’ve posted a 9-5-2 record at home and a 3-9-2 record away from home. That translates to earning 62% of available home points and only 28% of road points.
At present, the Flames have won seven in a row at home and gone winless in nine games (tying a club record) on the road. A look into how, specifically, the team has performed in Calgary and away from home reveals how uneven the team actually has been.
THE FLAMES AT HOME
Home Record: 9-5-2
Goals For: 55 (42 even-strength, 12 power-play, 1 short-handed)
Goals Against: 48 (36 even-strength, 12 power-play, 0 short-handed)
Power-Play: 12-for-52 (23.1%, 10th in the NHL)
Penalty-Kill: 37-for-49 (75.5%, 28th in the NHL)
The Flames have a good home record, bolstered by seven wins in a row following an iffy 2-5-2 start. Fifteen different Flames have scored on home ice, led by Curtis Glencross, who’s scored 11 times at the ‘Dome.
On home ice, Calgary’s best players have been among their best players. While Lee Stempniak leads the team in home scoring with 16 points in as many games, the club has eight players with 10 points or more at the Saddledome. Besides Stempniak, the others are Curtis Glencross, Jarome Iginla, Jiri Hudler, Mike Cammalleri, Alex Tanguay, Matt Stajan and Dennis Wideman. Jay Bouwmeester is scoring just below this pace.
Each of the four goaltenders that played for the Flames this year won at least a game at home – Miikka Kiprusoff won four to lead the team – while six different players scored game-winning goals, with Stempniak, Glencross and Iginla each potting two.
THE FLAMES ON THE ROAD
Road Record: 3-9-2
Goals For: 30 (17 even-strength, 11 power-play, 2 short-handed)
Goals Against: 52 (44 even-strength, 8 power-play, 0 short-handed)
Power-Play: 11-for-53 (20.8%, 8th in the NHL)
Penalty-Kill: 38-for-46 (82.6%, 7th in the NHL)
The Flames are a lousy road record. They began the season with a fairly good 3-1-1 record. Then the bottom fell out, and the team has subsequently gone 0-8-1 away from home, tying a club record from the 1985-86 season.
On the road, only a couple of Calgary’s best players have been their best players. Alex Tanguay has 11 points and Jarome Iginla has 9, with the rest of the roster trailing behind. Every single regular Flames player has a minus rating, with the exception of fourth-line center Steve Begin, who’s even. Like at home, fifteen different players have scored for the Flames on the road – the primary difference being they all score a heck of a lot less. Three Flames have scored more goals on the road than at home – Alex Tanguay (5 road, 4 home), Mikael Backlund (3 road, 1 home) and Mark Giordano (2 road, 1 home).
And as for Calgary’s goaltenders, they have all been uniformly worse away from home than at home. Leland Irving, Miikka Kiprusoff and Joey MacDonald all have a win apiece on the road, but each of them has as many (if not more) road losses than road wins. To be charitable, the netminders have had some fairly porous defensive play in front of them throughout the nine-game road winless streak.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Following a recent home win, Flames head coach Bob Hartley waxed poetic about his team being successful at finding ways to win in different ways at home. In a nut-shell, that’s how things are going at home (and on the road) – the club is finding ways to win and ways to lose.
On the seven-game home winning streak:
- Beating Minnesota 3-1 after scoring first and entering the third period tied 1-1.
- Beating Phoenix 5-4 after scoring first, blowing the lead and tying (and winning) the game on a pair of rapid-fire goals in the last 90 seconds of regulation.
- Beating Vancouver 4-2 after the Canucks scored first, with the Flames scoring three unanswered goals (two of them in the third).
- Beating San Jose 4-1 after scoring first and entering the third period tied 1-1.
- Beating Detroit 5-2 after the Wings scored first, Miikka Kiprusoff held the team in the game and they entered the third period tied 2-2.
- Beating Nashville 6-3 after scoring first and leading for most of the game.
- Beating St. Louis 3-2 after scoring first, blowing a 2-0 lead, and then scoring mid-way through the third to win.
On the nine-game win-less streak:
- Losing to Phoenix 4-0 after giving up a goal 41 seconds into the game and trailing the rest of the way.
- Losing to Minnesota 2-1 (in overtime) after scoring first and blowing the lead late in the third period.
- Losing to Colorado 5-4 after leading 3-0 after the first and 4-2 after the second.
- Losing to Anaheim 4-0 after giving up a goal 1:15 into the game and trailing the rest of the way.
- Losing to Los Angeles 6-2 after trading early first period power-play goals and then fading.
- Losing to Los Angeles 3-1 after giving up two first period goals, scoring late in the third to get close and then giving up an empty-netter.
- Losing to Dallas 4-3 after giving up three first period goals, clawing their way back in the second with a pair of goals, then fading in the third.
- Losing to Nashville 5-3 after scoring first, leading 2-1 until blowing the lead late in the first period and then fading.
- Losing to Columbus 5-1 after the Jackets scored first, the Flames tied it up with an early second period marker, then they gave up four unanswered goals.
In short – almost as many things have gone wrong for the Flames on the road as have gone right for them at home. They have blown big leads at home and won, and blown them on the road and lost. They’ve trailed both at home and on the road – at home they’ve rallied and on the road they haven’t. It’s one of the season’s most peculiar mysteries, and one that the coaching staff (and the team’s veterans) seem befuddled as to the solution.
And it’s a prime reason why the Flames face an up-hill battle to make the post-season.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.