Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
What the six game homestand will tell us about the Calgary Flames
By Raz Devraj1 month ago
There are certain stretches in the season for every team where it can either make or break its chances to push for a playoff spot. It can also provide insight into the identity of a team. One of those stretches is the six-game homestand the Calgary Flames will start on Tuesday night.
Why is this home stand so important? Let’s break this up into three parts. The six teams the Flames play will throw a little bit of everything at them. They are up against three teams that are very close to them in the standings and are fighting for the same playoff spots, a solid playoff team, and the last two are bottom feeders.
Since they play every type of team or should I say at least one team in all three parts of the standings, after it is all said and done we will have a clearer idea of the identity of this team and if securing a playoff spot can be a reality.
Close teams in the hunt
The three teams the Flames will play that are around the same spot as them are the Arizona Coyotes (21-18-2), Edmonton Oilers (23-15-1), and St. Louis Blues (21-19-2). These three games are crucial for the Flames’ positioning in the standings and what makes these three games even more important is the fact that the Flames have more games played than all three.
The Flames have 45 points through 43 games, while the Coyotes have 44 points through 41 games, the Oilers have 47 points through 39 games, and the Blues have 44 points through 42 games. The Flames will need to be playing at their best for these three games because blowing these potential four-point swings will be detrimental to their playoff hopes. They have a massive opportunity to force their opponents to blow their games in hand while collecting points and these three games will be a huge test to see if this squad has what it takes to be successful in important games.
Playoff team/fringe contender
The Toronto Maple Leafs (21-12-8) come to town on Jan. 18. They currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division with 50 points. The Flames are 12-9-2 against playoff teams so far this season and being over .500 against the better teams in the league is a positive sign. This will be a good test for the Flames to see how they fair up against a comfortable playoff team just over the halfway mark of the season. If the Flames hope to make a playoff spot and attempt to go on a run they will need to be able to handle teams like the Maple Leafs. With an elite forward group that the Maple Leafs possess, staying disciplined in the defensive zone and being able to capitalize on weaker goaltending will be key.
The last two games of the home stand will feature two teams whose goal is to draft Macklin Celebrini. The Flames will play the Columbus Blue Jackets (14-21-9) and the Chicago Blackhawks (12-29-2). These are two teams the Flames have already played once this season and it did not go well at all. They lost to the Blue Jackets 3-1 on Oct. 20 and lost 4-3 to the Blackhawks on Jan. 7. The Flames have trouble playing against these bad teams. It’s always the problem of playing down to their level and it has bitten them too many times this season as they have lost five out of 11 games to teams below them in the standings.
A loss against a bad team is going to happen every once in a while but good teams who are in and around a playoff spot need to be able to find ways to win and pick up two points against teams that are nowhere near the same level. Not only should these two games be an easy four points for the Flames to collect especially considering how well they have been playing as of late, but it’s also going to speak to how badly this team wants a real shot at a playoff spot. The question will be, after playing four tough games throughout the home stand will they be able to end it off on a high note and possibly see themselves in a wildcard spot?
One of the big reasons this team has been able to stay in the hunt so far this season has been Jacob Markstrom. With him out day-to-day and missing Tuesday’s game against the Coyotes is a huge blow considering the team has only won six of the 13 games Dan Vladar has started in.
A huge test for the Flames has become an even bigger challenge but if they can find a way to have a successful homestand and at the least be able to pick up points against the Coyotes, Oilers, and Blues there could be a path towards a playoff spot for the Flames.
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