The Calgary Flames are on the verge of making history. Thursday night’s game in Vancouver vs. the Canucks will put the Flames’ impressive 10-game winning streak on the line and give the 2021-22 squad the opportunity to break a three-way tie and own the franchise record outright. But, before the boys in red play that potentially record-breaking contest, let’s take a look at all three streaks: 1978, 2017 and the current winning spree to see how they’ve impacted their respective seasons.
The first time the Flames strung together 10 wins in succession was way back in the Atlanta days. From Oct. 14 to Nov. 3, 1978, the guys sporting the flaming A on their chest were unbeatable, which set the table for the best regular season in the young history of the franchise.
Chouinard and Lysiak’s Hot Start to the 1978-79 Season Powered the Flames
The Flames started the 1978-79 campaign with a couple of tie games — the first against the Chicago Blackhawks and the next against the Washington Capitals. After the second tie, the Atlanta squad was right back at it the very next night with another contest against the Caps. But this time they prevailed, and on Oct. 14, 1978 the streak was born. Guy Chouinard notched his second of the season while Tom Lysiak scored a hat trick to ensure the visitors beat Washington 6-3.
Over the course of the 10-game heater, the Flames’ offence was absolutely scorching. They not only outscored their opponents 55-23, but they also had three players notch seven goals during the streak — Lysiak, Chouinard and Bob MacMillan. Atlanta also got some great goaltending from their veteran puckstopper Dan Bouchard. The seven-year Flame played in all 10 games and posted a 2.30 goals-against average (GAA), a .928 save percentage (SV%) and two shutouts.
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Those two shutouts came in games nine and 10 of the winning streak, so the Flames must have been feeling pretty good about extending it to 11 when they faced off against the Montreal Canadiens in the Forum on Nov. 4. After trading two goals a side after the first two frames, Atlanta found themselves down 3-2 when Montreal’s Guy Lapointe scored a power-play marker early in the third. The Habs added an empty netter and stopped the streak dead in its tracks. While the victories stopped coming in bunches of 10, Chouinard kept up his torrid scoring pace, making franchise history by becoming the first Flame to score both 100 points and 50 goals in a season.
Sometimes a winning streak isn’t very indicative of a season’s overall success, but that was not the case for the 1978-79 Flames. The original boys in red used the momentum from their hot start to post a 41-31-8 record, their best result since joining the league in 1972-73. However, their postseason struggles continued. This time, the Flames suffered a disappointing sweep in a five-game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even in Atlanta, the Flames couldn’t find a way to win a first-round series.
Gaudreau, Elliott Led the Way in Flames’ 2017 Winning Streak
While the Flames’ first 10-game winning streak came right at the beginning of a season, the franchise’s second came near the tail end of the 2016-17 campaign. Before catching fire on Feb. 21, 2017, Calgary had posted a middling 29-26-4 record and was struggling to stay in the playoff picture.
After dropping a 2-1 OT loss to the Canucks on Feb. 18, the boys in red traveled to Nashville to take on the Predators three days later. After a truly wild 6-5 OT win, another record hot streak was born. Fresh off signing a six-year, $40.5 million contract, Johnny Gaudreau was having a decent 2016-17 season playing with Sean Monahan and Micheal Ferland but his game really took off during the Flames’ historic 10-game run.
Gaudreau led all Flames’ scorers with 13 points (four goals, nine assists), but his longtime partner Monahan wasn’t far behind with 11 (three goals, eight assists). Ferland, the third man on the top unit, also chipped in with six goals during the streak, but the first line wasn’t the only one firing on all cylinders. Remember the original “3M” line? Mikael Backlund also potted six markers and added three helpers, while Matthew Tkachuk and Micheal Frolik rounded out the scoring with seven and eight points, respectively. Turning to goaltending, much like the 1978-79 Atlanta squad, the 2016-17 Calgary team also leaned heavily on it’s No. 1 netminder.
After a letting in five goals on 28 shots to kick off the 10-game heater, Brian Elliott shut completely the door and was a huge reason why Calgary was so successful. In his next eight starts, Elliot posted a sparkling 1.37 GAA, a .956 SV% and two shutouts. On March 15, 2017, backup Chad Johnson got the start in the game that ultimately halted the winning streak at 10; a 5-2 setback to the Boston Bruins. While that red-hot string of games propelled the Flames back into the Pacific Division playoff race, they could only muster a 6-7 record to finish the schedule, fell back into a wild card spot and were swept 4-0 by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.
Lindholm on Fire During Flames’ Current Winning Streak
That brings us to the third, and current 10-game winning streak. Coming out of a lengthy COVID-19 break that saw almost the entire team test positive, the Flames struggled to find consistency. From Dec. 30 to Jan. 27, Calgary posted a handful of blowout victories, a handful of embarrassing losses and a middling 6-5 record. Coming off a 5-1 trouncing at the hands of the St. Louis Blues, the boys in red hosted the Canucks at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 29. After neither team could find the twine in regulation, Gaudreau scored the game’s lone goal in OT and the third streak was off and running.
While the entire team is clicking right now, there are three players in particular who have been leading the charge during the streak: Elias Lindholm, Gaudreau and Jacob Markstrom. Let’s start with the Flames’ first-line center. Lindholm’s play during this winning stretch has been simply phenomenal. The 27-year-old Swede has scored in eight straight games, tying a franchise record set by Gary Roberts and Kent Nilsson. But here’s the icing on the cake; he’s also tallied 16 points during the streak, is a plus-12 and was just named the NHL’s first star of the week. Not too shabby.
Much like in the Flames’ previous streak, Gaudreau is playing a big part in the team’s current hot stretch. In fact, he has matched his output from the 2017 streak exactly at four goals and nine assists. While the entire first line is executing at an elite level, “Johnny Hockey” is on pace for a career year and is definitely the straw that stirs the drink. It’s also no surprise that much like the other two times Calgary has strung together 10 wins in a row, the goaltending has been superb.
Here’s a fun fact for you: in all three winning streaks, the Flames’ netminders have posted two shutouts. Markstrom actually kicked off the current run of wins with a goose egg against Vancouver and then added another 11 days later against the Vegas Golden Knights. While the big Swede was pulled after two periods against the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 2, he has been spectacular in all of his other starts. How does a 1.50 GAA and a .945 SV% sound? I’d say pretty, pretty good.
Can the Flames Make This Winning Streak Count?
If our little trip down memory lane has taught us anything, it’s that a 10-game winning streak during the regular season doesn’t necessarily translate into playoff success. The Flames head coach Darryl Sutter certainly knows this and doesn’t seem to be impressed by his squad’s excellent run. “I don’t put much stock in 10 in a row unless it’s the playoffs,” Sutter said after Monday’s 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets matched the franchise record.
Both the 1978 Atlanta squad and the 2017 Flames had top-heavy lineups that could put the puck in the net, but everyone knows the unique nature of the “second season” requires all contenders have a balanced, experienced group that can go the distance. With the additions of playoff warriors Blake Coleman and Tyler Toffoli to the lineup, Calgary is definitely poised to make some noise in the postseason. While it would be nice for these guys to secure the franchise record for consecutive wins on Thursday night, I’d bet you anything they’d happily trade it in for a deep Stanley Cup run.