Starting on Thursday, the Calgary Flames meet the Vancouver Canucks every second day for a week. Entering the week of games in fifth place in the (Scotia NHL) North Division, the Flames could really do themselves a big favour with a big week against a reeling Canucks team.
How has February gone for these two teams?
Vancouver has had a rough month. They’re winless in five, having lost five times in regulation to Montreal (twice) and Toronto (thrice). They’ve been out-scored 26-10 over these five games. These losses have slid them to a 6-10-0 record.
The Flames have gone 3-2-0 in their five February dates, beating Winnipeg (twice) and Edmonton and losing twice to Winnipeg. They’ve scored 16 goals and allowed 16 goals this month, but have put together five straight periods of really good hockey against the Oilers and Jets.
Have the Canucks been that bad?
If you believe the analytics: yes. The Canucks have a 40.6 expected goals percentage this month, so the thumping they’ve taken against Montreal and Toronto has been earned. Their opponents were good, but they got their show run by them – the Canucks have been below 50% expected goals in every game this month.
Have the Flames been better than Vancouver?
You have to account for the difference in opponents, but yes. Their expected goals percentage is 62.8, one of the best in the NHL in that span and they’ve been above 50% expected goals in every game, even the two that they lost.
On a per 60 minutes basis in February, these four games pit the NHL’s second-best defensive team (by xGA/60) against the 23rd-best offense (by xGF/60), and the sixth-best offensive team against the worst defensive team. If you believe that their last five games represent what these two teams are, the Flames win both match-ups.
How much can the Flames help or hurt themselves?
Here’s how the standings look between these two clubs as of Thursday morning.
The two most extreme scenarios:
- The best case scenario: four regulation wins would put the Flames at 10-5-1 with 21 points and Vancouver at 6-14-0 with 12 points.
- The worst case scenario: four regulation losses would put the Flames at 6-9-1 with 13 points and Vancouver at 10-10-0 and 20 points.
That’s a pretty big swing. In the recent past, the Flames haven’t often made life easy on themselves in situations like this. But if the Flames are going to get where they want to go – both this season and in a larger sense – they have to be a team that throws struggling clubs anvils rather than life preservers.
The Canucks are down and out. For the next week the Flames have got to be prepared to kick them while they’re down, otherwise they’re letting a massive opportunity go to waste.