The Calgary Flames have had quite the up and down season including a coaching change, lineup struggles and a stronger Pacific Division than previous years. However, with less than 20 games to be played the Flames are surging into the final stretch of the season and ramping up for the playoffs.
After getting off to a poor start the Flames have catapulted themselves towards the top of the Pacific Division and are now competing with the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks for playoff seeding. With the coaching change from Bob Hartley to Glen Gulutzan it’s going to take time for Calgary to get used to new systems, but the team didn’t get off to quite the start they wanted in the 2017 season. Brian Elliot, brought in as the team’s new number one netminder, had an extremely unfavorable start to his season gathering a 3-8-0 record in his first 12 games.
Despite these struggles the Flames continued on and have now found themselves on competing for the top spots in the Pacific Division going 9-0-1 in their last 10 games and topping off an eight game win streak with a commanding 5-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night.
Although there is no exact turning point of the season for the Flames, the team’s 3-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs not only began a 6 game winning streak, but helped the team reach over .500 for the first time all season. Since then the Flames’ goaltenders have rebounded nicely with Elliot gathering a 19-13-3 record with 2.58 GAA and .907% save percentage and Chad Johnson accumulating a 18-13-1 record with 2.54 GAA and .913% save percentage. Despite Calgary riding Johnson for a while, Elliot has reclaimed the starting goaltender position getting 9 of the last 10 stars going 8-0-1 in the process. If Elliot can continue his trend upward, he could get hot at the just the right time for the postseason to begin.
The Flames have also seen recent success to their revitalized offense. During the first half of the season players such as Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau were unable to put the puck in the net. These players were major parts of the Flames offensive core and it showed in the standings. However, both of these players have picked their games up with Gaudreau leading the team in points including 8 points in his last 5 games. Monahan is also on pace to have another excellent season with 22 goals and 23 assists in 67 games including this beauty.
Another incredible addition to the Flames roster has been Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk made Calgary’s opening right roster after being drafted 6th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Despite not getting as much media spotlight as Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews, Tkachuk is having a spectacular rookie season recording 43 points in 63 games. Tkachuk has found a lot of success playing with Michael Frolik and Michael Ferland and along with being 4th in scoring on the Flames’ roster, he is also fifth in rookie scoring behind Matthews, Laine, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.
Teams go through points of highs and lows throughout the seasons, but generally you want to head into the playoffs on a high note. With the Flames having a season high win streak of eight games and their team gelling as a whole, they not only have the likelihood of heading back to the playoffs, but also challenging for one of the top three spots in the Pacific Division. After missing the playoffs last season, fans could be in for a potential Battle of Alberta in the first round and once you’re a lock for the postseason, anything is possible.