Are the Calgary Flames turning the corner and figuring out their game?

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
8 months ago
For two weeks in late October, the Calgary Flames kept finding ways to lose. The mistakes they made were the worst possible moves with the worst possible timing, and the fates seemed to conspire to find new ways to twist the proverbial knife.
But since early November, the Flames’ fortunes – and their play – have turned. Thursday’s 5-2 win over Vancouver gave the Flames four wins in a six game span (with a 4-1-1 record).
Speaking to the media after Thursday’s victory, Flames head coach Ryan Huska was asked if the win over the Canucks was the template for how the team needs to play.
“I think it’s getting there,” said Huska. “We did a lot of good things in the second period. That’s one area that we were really happy with after the game, was the pace that we had in the offensive zone. We were able to wear a team down that was on a back-to-back with tough travel, and I think we took advantage of that in the second period and they had a hard time recovering in the third.”
So what’s changed in the Flames’ play that has allowed them to follow a six game losing streak with six games where they’ve gotten much more positive results?
“I think a lot has changed,” said Flames forward Elias Lindholm. “I think we’re following the system more, more dialed in, winning more battles. We’re working harder. It all comes down to… there’s a lot of good teams in this league and you’re not going to win on skill. And we’re one of those teams that need to work harder than the other team to win games, and I think we’re realizing that.”
Huska didn’t think the difference between the two stretches were large.
“A lot of those games we felt like we were playing well,” said Huska. “There was always one or two mistakes that cost us games.”
Here’s a high-level summary of the Flames’ latest six games (Nov. 4-16) and the six that preceded them (Oct. 20-Nov. 1).
Oct. 20-Nov. 1Nov. 4-16
Goals (All Situations)9-2422-16
Goals (5v5)5-1616-10
Scoring Chances (5v5)118-127138-129
High-Dangers (5v5)56-5756-45
SH% (5v5)3.4%10.0%
They’re generating more scoring chances, while limiting high-danger chances against compared to their earlier struggles. And those two factors, in tandem, have led to a reduction in goals against – eight overall, six at five-on-five – and an uptick in goals for – 13 overall, 11 at five-0n-five. (Both sides of special teams have dipped noticeably over the past six games, but their five-on-five improvements have more than made up for that.)
Is some of the Flames’ turnaround based on their puck luck turning? Well, yeah, probably. Hockey’s often a game of momentum swings and bounces. Earlier on, the bounces were seemingly against them and they were making too many ill-timed big mistakes with the puck. Now, their percentages have seemingly found their way to a more moderate level and they’re managing the puck better, especially at key times.
As the saying goes: sometimes you’ve gotta be good to be lucky. For the past six games, the Flames have both been pretty good and fairly lucky, and those two factors have combined to give them some favourable outcomes. Eventually their luck may turn sour again, and they likely hope that the structure, smart play and good habits they’ve started to see flow into their game continues on (and helps them maintain their winning ways when the hockey gods look upon them less favourably).
The Flames are back at it on Saturday night when they host the New York Islanders.

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