Handicapping the Flames’ very important (long) road trip

Photo credit:Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
While the Scotiabank Saddledome prepares to hosts Disney on Ice and games from the Calgary Wranglers, Hitmen and Roughnecks over the next couple of weeks, the Calgary Flames are on the opposite side of the continent about to begin their longest – and potentially most important – road trip of the season.
It’s a six game trek that has the potential to set them up nicely for the next stretch of the schedule, or undo a lot of the progress they’ve made so far.
Here’s a rundown of each game, and each team, that the Flames will tackle over the next 10 days.
For reference, offensively the Flames are between 10th and 17th in the possession metrics, while defensively they’re between 4th and 9th. Their power play is ranked 20th, while their penalty kill is ranked 8th. All stats cited here are from the fine folks at Natural Stat Trick.

Thursday: Tampa Bay

  • Last 10 games: 6-3-1
  • Offence (5v5, per game): 11th in expected goals for, 5th in scoring chances for, 2nd in high-danger chances for
  • Defence (5v5, per game): 18th in expected goals against, 28th in scoring chances against, 21st in high-danger chances against
  • Special Teams: PP 22.7% (11th), PK 80.3% (12th)
The Lightning have been playing a higher-event game than they usually do, with some injuries and roster changes leading them to play a bit more river hockey than they probably would prefer. They have the weapons to win that style of game, but the Flames’ structured defensive style could mesh well against how Tampa tries to play.

Saturday: Florida

  • Last 10 games: 5-5-0
  • Offence (5v5, per game): 2nd in expected goals for, 2nd in scoring chances for, 4th in high-danger chances for
  • Defence (5v5, per game): 10th in expected goals against, 3rd in scoring chances against, 16th in high-danger chances against
  • Special Teams: PP 16.1% (27th), 77.4% (20th)
The bad news is the Panthers are pretty legit on either side of the puck. The good news is when they have breakdowns, they have big breakdowns. But those breakdowns are few and far between. The Flames will need to be sharp, poised and emotionally engaged to compete. The good news is: they probably will be given the emotion component of Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar returning to Sunrise and Matthew Tkachuk’s first-ever game against Calgary.

Monday: Philadelphia

  • Last 10 games: 3-4-3
  • Offence (5v5, per game): 28th in expected goals for, 29th in scoring chances for, 27th in high-danger chances for
  • Defence (5v5, per game): 29th in expected goals against, 32nd in scoring chances against, 28th in high-danger chances against
  • Special Teams: PP 17.3% (26th), PK 76.0% (24th)
The Flyers aren’t particularly good with or without the puck this season.

Wednesday: Pittsburgh

  • Last 10 games: 2-6-2
  • Offence (5v5, per game): 4th in expected goals for, 13th in scoring chances for, 12th in high-danger chances for
  • Defence (5v5, per game): 13th in expected goals against, 19th in scoring chances against, 9th in high-danger chances against
  • Special Teams: PP 18.2% (25th), PK 75.9% (23rd)
As the Flames have already experienced – they beat them 4-1 in Calgary on Oct. 25 – the Penguins are a good but flawed team. They boast high-end talent across the board, but they’re a bit top-heavy and their metrics across the board are merely respectable. (Their special teams ranks are a tad disappointing given the personnel involved.)

Next Friday: Washington

  • Last 10 games: 3-5-2
  • Offence (5v5, per game): 25th in expected goals for, 21st in scoring chances for, 22nd in high-danger chances for
  • Defence (5v5, per game): 20th in expected goals against, 15th in scoring chances against, 18th in high-danger chances against
  • Special Teams: PP 18.8% (24th), PK 79.3% (14th)
The key pieces for the Capitals are starting to show their age, as their offensive output (5v5 and power play) seems to be sporadic and/or waning. They feel like an average team with better than expected defensive structure and a few potentially game-breaking players.

Next Saturday: Carolina

  • Last 10 games: 6-4-0
  • Offence (5v5, per game): 3rd in expected goals for, 3rd in scoring chances for, 5th in high-danger chances for
  • Defence (5v5, per game): 2nd in expected goals against, 1st in scoring chances against, 6th in high-danger chances against
  • Special Teams: PP 16.1% (28th), PK 78.0% (18th)
So, uh, the Hurricanes are legit. Their special teams are merely “fine,” but they’re really good on both sides of the puck. The Flames face them in an afternoon game on the second half of a back-to-back (with travel), in the final game of the road trip. They’re either gonna be all revved up to face a really tough challenge, or they’re going to be dreaming of sleeping in their own beds. It’s a game that either goes really well or really poorly for them, probably. (The Flames managed a close home win over the ‘Canes back in October, so you never know…)
Oddly enough, the Flames have made seven road trips of six games or longer since Brad Treliving became general manager in 2014. Aside from a 2-3-1 trip during the “no fans” pandemic 2020-21 season, the Flames have posted records above .500 in six of those seven trips. (They went 4-1-2 during a seven-game trip that unfolded about this time last season.)
How do you think the Flames will do on this road trip? How many points do they need (out of 12 possible points) for this to be a successful trip? Let us know in the comments!

Check out these posts...