Flames’ Next 20 Games Are Crucial to Playoff Bid

The Calgary Flames are about to embark on their most crucial part of the season, beginning tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights at the Saddledome. The team has seven rescheduled games coming up in what would have been the Olympic break had the NHL participated. This stretch of games – from now until the trade deadline – will be massive in terms of pushing themselves into the playoffs.

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Calgary has 20 games before the March 21 trade deadline. Pending any more postponements, only five of those games will be on the road, and they have five back-to-backs. Their travel schedule will be fairly light, which will also be crucial to this stretch. Their play at home, which has been okay, will need to be better to get as many points as they can to rise up in the standings.

Minimum Travel for Flames

The Flames have just five games on the road in the next 20, and their travel is fairly light, visiting the Minnesota Wild once, Colorado Avalanche twice, and Vancouver Canucks twice. They also only have to travel for two of their back-to-backs, playing in Calgary on March 12 and then flying to Colorado on March 13, followed by playing in Calgary on March 18 then flying to Vancouver to play on March 19.

This season, Calgary is 4-2-1 in the second game of a back-to-back, and four of those situations included significant travel. The team will have to be sharp on March 12 when they play the Avalanche in the second game since they have arguably been the best team in the league this season. With dedicated travel days for three of their road games, the Flames shouldn’t be too affected by travel and could be in good shape by the trade deadline.

Flames at Home in 2021-22

The Flames have played just 15 games at home all season, the fewest in the NHL; the Wild have played the second-fewest, three ahead of Calgary at 18 games. Calgary has a modest 7-4-4 record with 2.87 goals for average, ranked 23rd in the league, but their 2.20 goals against per game is the best.

Darryl Sutter Calgary Flames
Darryl Sutter, head coach of the Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Part of their trouble to score goals could be linked to their lack of finish and their power play. At home, they sit third in the NHL with 3.47 power-play opportunities per game and fourth in power-play ice time per game, but their 21.1% success rate ranks 17th in the league. The team should look to shake up the lines or start to enquire about trading for a power-play specialist.

Their 90.1% penalty kill on home ice is the best in the league and, along with their goaltending, will be a big factor in helping collect two points each game. The team has been good at staying out of the box as they’ve been averaging 2.40 shorthanded, the sixth-lowest in the NHL. Continuing their dominance on the penalty kill and finding their groove on the power play will be crucial for the Flames to make the most of their current homestand.

Flames’ Big Week Ahead

This week starts with a big matchup against Pacific Division rival Golden Knights, who played last night against the Edmonton Oilers in a 4-0 win. Calgary sits just seven points behind Vegas but has five games in hand. A win would be massive in the race for first in the Pacific. The Flames will be facing Robin Lehner as Vegas played their backup Laurent Brossoit last night in Edmonton.

Milan Lucic Calgary Flames
Milan Lucic, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Their first set of back-to-back games comes right after Vegas as the Toronto Maple Leafs are coming to town. They’ve been hot of late with an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games. The Flames have already played the Maple Leafs once this season, losing 2-1 in overtime after Dan Vladar played fantastic in goal. Toronto is averaging 3.71 goals per game on the road this season, which is second in the league. Playing two top teams in two days, head coach Darryl Sutter may use Jacob Markstrom both nights.

Flames general manager Brad Treliving will be busy working the phones all the way up to the trade deadline, already rumoured to be calling about players. But that won’t matter if the Flames don’t seize the opportunity in front of them with 15 home games in their next 20.

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