Yesterday the Calgary Flames posted their 10th straight victory. It’s been quite a run for a team that’s season was in peril in early January. Now, the Flames are hockey’s hottest team and has leapfrogged over Vegas for the best record in the Pacific.
During their double-digit streak, the Flames have only beaten three current postseason teams, including mopping up the Golden Knights 6-0. Calgary have been sharp in bother ends, outscoring their opponents 42-15 over that ten-game span. The Flames are getting outstanding efforts from their offense, defense, and goaltending.
I don’t put a lot into 10 in a row, unless they were 10 in a row in the playoffs. -Darryl Sutter, CGY coach
Matching Offensive Talent
What makes Calgary so dangerous for Vegas is their ability to match skill in offensive and defensive positions. Slickster Johnny Gaudreau (20 Goals, 43 Assists) is having a borderline MVP season for the Flames. He’s a 1.31 point per game player and he’s on a line with two other forwards that have scored 20 or more goals this season. Gaudreau’s center, Elias Lindholm is having a fabulous season as well and some expect he’ll pick up Selke votes. But it doesn’t end there. It’s unfair to compare the two because of injuries, but the Golden Knights have one player with 20 goals and the Flames have four. With the addition of Tyler Toffoli, the Flames will have multiple offensive options in the playoffs.
Ten in a row is nice. It looks good. We were struggling a little before we started this streak. It was nice to see it go in. Ten in a row feels pretty good. -Elias Lindholm, CGY center
With the addition of Jack Eichel, Calgary will have their hands full as well. The Golden Knights new top-line center will neutralize some of the Flames’ talent. For instance, Lindholm will be too busy covering Eichel that his offense might suffer. Eichel’s vision will find seams and his speed will create problems for Calgary’s NBA-sized defense.
I don’t think any of us expect it to be too long. (Eichel) will still be an impact player right away but we all understand it’s going to take a little bit of time for him. Even if he feels 75% of where he was a year ago that it’s pretty darn good. –Alex Pietrangelo, 32 Thoughts Podcast
Markstrom Leads The Way
The Flames are anchored by one of the most efficient goaltenders in hockey. Statistically, the 32-year-old Jacob Markstrom is having a career year. He’s second in the NHL with 2.06 Goals Allowed Average and second in Save Percentage (.928). Nevertheless, Vegas isn’t distracted by Markstrom’s success.
The Golden Knights have faced the Swedish goaltender a dozen times over their five-year existence and they’ve had success. On average the former Canucks goalie allows the Golden Knights to score an astounding 3.61 goals per game. Vegas has an 8-4-0 regular season record and more importantly a 3-1 postseason record against Markstrom.
The constants we’re being asked about are the streak and how many goals we’re scoring. You’ve got to play low scoring games, that’s very simple. For this outfit here, that’s the way it’s going to work. -Sutter, CGY coach
In their last two playoff exits, the Golden Knights struggled against big defensive units. In last season’s semifinal, the Canadiens blueliners were more like linebackers. Monsters like Shea Weber made Vegas work for every chance on net. Montreal’s average defender was 6’3″, 210 lbs. The same thing happened in the postseason bubble. Dallas eliminated Vegas in five games with a big help from their enormous defense. The Stars’ average defender was 6’4″, 217 lbs. Each unit used their size in the defensive zone never giving up an inch.
In Calgary, the average defender is 6’4″ and weighs 218 lbs. The Flames decided to go just as tall and just as wide. It’ll be a test for Calgary if they face off against a big, healthy, and hungry Vegas lineup.
There have been reports that Calgary is interested in another defenseman with size. The Flames made a splash for Toffoli earlier in the month and likely will make another move. Calgary’s front office may be even more aggressive at the deadline in preparation for a potential matchup with the Golden Knights.
So, why are the Flames a legitimate threat to the Golden Knights this season? Because they’re rich in talent, and have role players that will make it challenging for Vegas or any other contender. It starts with the top all the way down to the players. Their leader, Sutter is a two-time Stanley Cup winning coach that isn’t all that impressed by a ten-game winning streak.
As for Vegas? Well, they have a new weapon, a loaded roster, and a proven track record. Eichel is potentially one of the most dangerous centers in the Western Conference and might be the piece to get Vegas back to the Final. But for now, we’ll have to be patient and wait another three days before the next game.