Since getting blanked 5-0 by the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Nov. 21, the Calgary Flames have won five of their last six games, while getting points in all six. They remain perfect in four games under interim head coach Geoff Ward. They now sit tied with the Vancouver Canucks, with a 15-12-4 record, for fourth place in the Pacific Division, but they’re just one point behind the Vegas Golden Knights. Calgary is now looking to keep their win and point streak alive despite the busy week and tough schedule that lies ahead.
This Week’s Matchups
@ Colorado Avalanche, Dec. 9
@ Arizona Coyotes, Dec. 10
Vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, Dec. 12
Vs. Carolina Hurricanes, Dec. 14
The Flames are kicking this week off by hitting the road to take on the blazing hot Colorado Avalanche tonight. The Avs are riding a six-game win streak of their own, with recent road wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, and Boston Bruins. Nathan MacKinnon has 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in his last five games, and he has totaled 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists) in 12 home games this season.
Luckily for the Flames, Calder Trophy contender Cale Makar is officially listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury for the Avs and won’t be suiting up in their matchup tonight. The Avs have seen the recent resurgence of forward Valeri Nichushkin, who has four goals and five points over the last seven games, but the Flames have also had their own players come alive as of late.
Fueling the Recent Fire
Sean Monahan has been a key contributor for the Flames during their current streak, notching six points (three goals, three assists) in the last five games. He scored the third-of-four unanswered goals against the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 7 after being down 2-0 in the first period.
Also scoring against the Kings was Milan Lucic, who now has three of his seven points this season in the last two games. He had a goal and an assist against Los Angeles, and put the Flames on the board in the first, which helped kick-start four straight Calgary goals. He scored his first goal of the season just one game earlier against the Buffalo Sabres, which they won 4-3.
Other contributors for the Flames include Johnny Gaudreau and Dillon Dube. Johnny Hockey has a goal and three assists in his last five games. Gaudreau has recently found himself on a line with Lucic and Derek Ryan and, so far, it’s been paying dividends for the Flames.
Despite playing just nine games this year for the Flames, Dube has five points (three goals and two assists) in the last five games while averaging just over 12 minutes a game. Dube has been playing alongside Monahan and Mikael Backlund on the second line.
Consistency in the Crease
Netminder David Rittich is 4-0-1 in his last five games, making 157 saves on 168 shots, which has earned him a .934 save percentage and a 2.20 goals-against average over that stretch. His recent play also earned him the Second Star of the Week honours across the NHL for the first week of December. After Cam Talbot got the nod most recently against the Kings, which saw him make 30 saves on 33 shots in the win, Rittich will start on the road against the Avalanche.
Pavel Francouz is expected to get the start against the Flames. He has a 7-2-0 record on the season with a 2.24 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.
The Flames will be looking for continued sharp play from their goaltenders as they take on high-firepower offenses this week. The Avalanche (3.7 goals per game), Coyotes (2.6 goals per game), Maple Leafs (3.2 goals per game), and Hurricanes (3.2 goals per game) are all averaging more goals per game than Calgary (2.5 goals per game) so far this season. The Flames are also allowing an average of three goals per game, which is among the league’s worst.
A Tough Test
Since taking over as Calgary’s interim head coach on Nov. 29, it seems Ward has the Flames playing in tune, but upcoming matchups against the Avalanche, Coyotes, Maple Leafs, and Hurricanes will force he and the Flames to dig deep to keep their win and point streaks alive. Every point will count as the Flames look to continue climbing the ranks in the Pacific Division, with hopes of knocking on the Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers’ doors.