Game No. 52: Back to it

So here we go again.

It’s now officially time for the post-break push, which should be even easier for the Flames because, I believe, they were the only team in the NHL that was in no way represented at the All-Star Game or Skills Competition. Having seen the first two-thirds or so of this season, though, you can probably figure out why pretty easily.

Despite the recent run of shocking success, you can’t feel too great about where this team’s at right now, even in terms of making a playoff push in the home stretch here. It’s an old team with middling talent that needs to play extremely well every night to win games. Granted, it has done so lately, and with frequency, but how much can we expect that in these final 30 games?

Last year, after February 1, Calgary, which had very few players participate in the Olympics, went just 12-12-1. They only scored 60 goals in those 25 games (2.4 a night), which is really not very good, and gave up 68 (2.72 per game), which is ghastly.

The problem with last year’s team — and to a similar extent this year’s — is that you really don’t have any idea what you’re going to get on a given night. Big-time scoring spree? Calgary’s popped in four or more 17 times this year. Bone-dry on offense? It’s also scored one or none 16 times. That makes up a hefty proportion of the season, and includes a lot of middling offensive nights where you need your goaltender and defense to bail out the offense.

But then there are the 18 games in which Calgary has given up four or more, and just eight in which they’ve allowed no more than a single goal (and while three of those have come in the last two weeks, it also hasn’t shut anyone out since November). It might be asking too much for a spotty defense to cobble together another string of strong own-zone games in front of a goalie that’s been remarkably Jekyll and Hyde this season.

Anyway, Nashville is a team Calgary has shown it can handle, and with some of that defensive aplomb I was talking about. There aren’t too many teams that average less than a goal a game against the Flames this year.