Playoffs are closing in and just 3 teams have clinched a spot. The second team to do so was the Calgary Flames. Let’s jump in to the Flames blazin’ season.
The Flames season has shocked most of the hockey world. After successful trades this summer that have brought Elias Lindholm and James Neal (who has a horseshoe up his ass but besides the point) to Calgary, the Flames started off slow but got their feet under them and have been off to the races since and have become the first Western Conference Team to clinch a playoff spot this season.
In the first 10 games, the Flames went 5-5-0. It was a slow start for the team, they only scored 33 goals and were scored on 36 times. 6 of their goals were on the power play while 1 was short-handed but they did let 10 power play goals past them. As a team, the Flames controlled the puck well with a Corsi For of 53.7% which was a big point for them. This slower start gave them some room to learn and try new line combinations and it wasn’t too long after that the real power of this team was unleashed.
By the halfway point of the season, the Flames were dangerous. The team was sporting a record of 25-13-4. Their offense soared after the first 10 games and by the 42 game mark the Flames had 150 goals for and 121 against. Of those 150, 32 were on the power play and 13 were shorthanded. Their penalty kill struggled a bit where they had a 78.5% penalty kill rate (scored on 28 of 130). But other than that they were dominating most teams when it came to goals and puck control. Their Corsi For remained pretty average at 53.3%, which kept the Flames into control when on the ice.
Now let’s talk about where the Flames are at the 73 game mark. The team has bumped their record to 45-21-7 bringing them to a total of 97 points in the standings. Their ‘goals for’ is still skyrocketing at 260 goals and only 208 against with a nice 52 goal margin. 52 of Calgary’s goals have come on the power play which has been above average at 21.22%. Their penalty kill on the other hand is about average at 79.74%. The Corsi For has remain the same at a 53.4% which is a big positive to keep going throughout the whole season.
With the playoffs clinched for this team, they just have to keep their composure here. Now let’s look at the key players for this Calgary team.
One of the best things about this roster is it is not top-heavy. Their points are spread out rather than just 3 or 4 guys dominating and that’s exactly what any contending team needs. You can’t reply upon one or 2 guys to get you to the Cup, it just won’t happen. But if you have what the Flames have with at least 12 guys that have 20+ points, you’re getting the depth scoring and chances you need to get through a long playoff run.
At the top of goals, assists, and points is (no surprise here) Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau is in his 5th NHL season with 35 goals, 57 assists, and a total of 92 points not to mention he’s riding a +17 rating. This kid is the reason why the Flames’ Corsi For is so high, he’s got insane skill with the puck and creates big chances for his team. He’s the type of player that creates his own luck and he’s often underestimated because he’s a smaller player at just 5’9″ and 165 lbs. This wouldn’t be Gaudreau’s first time in playoffs but this time he’s backed up by some powerful and experienced players.
I mentioned before that two big pickups for the Flames were Elias Lindholm. Elias Lindholm has played a big year with this Calgary team. He’s got 27 goals, 50 assists, and a total of 77 points, 2nd in points on the team behind Gaudreau, as well as a +29 rating. Lindholm was picked up from the Carolina Hurricanes this past off-season, alongside Noah Hanifin, and he’s really found his place on this Flames team. He’s been handing out hits left and right and helping them bring in the points that have gotten them this far.
What To Watch
This Calgary team is amazing at puck possession, as I’ve mentioned 50 million times. Find some way to keep the puck or Johnny Gaudreau is going to come in and slice you up like a Ham & Cheese sandwich. They’ve got deadly snipers but more than that they’ve got some heavy hitters. The Flames have Mark Giordano, Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett, James Neal, Noah Hanifin; all big players that know how to throw their weight around.
Right now the big focus for this team will be getting healthy and mentally preparing for playoffs. Out of the line up they have Sam Bennett, Sean Monahan, and James Neal, all big players that are only going to strengthen this team once they return.
It’s nice to see this team add variety and a bit of a twist to the playoffs. I think we’re going to see them hit the Stanley Cup Finals but I’m not too sure we’ll see them hoist the Cup this year. They’ve had their finicky moments and if they make it to the finals, this will be a great opportunity to win or learn and come back better next season.
First To Clinch: Tampa Bay Lightning
Second To Clinch: Calgary Flames
Third To Clinch: San Jose Sharks
Fourth To Clinch: Winnipeg Jets
Fifth To Clinch: Boston Bruins
Sixth To Clinch: Nashville Predators
Featured Image: Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images Stats from Hockey Reference