It sounds somewhat dumb and obvious, but having success in your home rink is expected to be easy. Your team is playing in front of their fans, on their ice, and sleeping in their own beds each night. Travel woes are related to local traffic, not due to any type of protracted planes, trains and automobiles shenanigans.
All things being equal, a team’s ability to succeed on the road is the recipe for sustainable success. And quietly, the Calgary Flames have been one of the NHL’s best road clubs over the past several seasons.
Last season, the Flames had the best road record in the Western Conference and were tied with Washington for the most road wins in the NHL at 25. (Washington had two more road points than the Flames, a product of turning two regulation losses into overtime losses). The Flames enjoyed a +28 goal differential away from the Saddledome, including +23 differential at five-on-five.
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Over the last five seasons, the Flames are one of just five teams in the NHL to win 100 games away from home – and that period includes that dreadful 2020-21 season where they finished sub-.500 on the road (winning just 11 of 28 road games). Their strong performances on the road include 24 road wins in 2018-19, 20 road wins in the truncated 2019-20 season, and the aforementioned 25 wins last season.
Fans see a lot of stats thrown around, to the point where there’s a lot of noise in the hockey discourse. And let’s be blunt here: good teams should be able to win everywhere, that’s why they’re good. But if you’re skeptical about a club’s quality, or are looking for a silver lining for a hockey club that might currently be in the midst of a four game losing streak, look at their performances away from home.
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There are some positives about road trips. Players can get away from their home life and related responsibilities and just focus on their games, as the only people they really see during these periods are coaches and teammates. Because the other team has last change and is playing in their most comfortable surroundings, the Flames have had a tendency to simplify their game on the road and play a more direct, less fancy game.
But all things being equal, home teams have an advantage – they’re usually favoured in betting lines, for example, because home teams win more often than road teams. The Flames have been an inconsistent home team through their first nine outings at the Saddledome, posting a 4-4-1 record and finding ways to lose over their recent skid. Their current road trip out east, the first overnight jaunt the group will have outside of Alberta this season, could be a great opportunity for them to clear their heads, simplify their individual performances, and streamline their team game.
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Recent history has shown that if the Flames are good on the road, they’ll have a good season. For fans ready to hit the panic button after the sour end to the recent homestand, show a little patience and wait to see how the group plays away from home before freaking out about the direction of the team.