The Flames show how hot they can burn

The Calgary Flames were one of the NHL’s hottest teams at the start of January, and have given fans reason to be cautiously optimistic.

Going into the game against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, Jan. 24, the Flames had points in nine straight games and had started 2018 by winning seven games in a row. They currently are on pace to make the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons.

This is a stark contrast to the first three months of the season, where the team struggled to stay at .500 and was often out of a playoff position.

However, there also appears to be some parallels to last season, which ended in a disappointing first-round playoff exit. The Flames have only advanced past the first round twice since winning the Stanley Cup in 1989.

In the 2016-2017 season, the Flames had a poor first half before reaching the playoffs in the second half, largely due to a 10-game winning streak in late February and March.

According to Flames fan and blogger Mike Pfeil, who writes on and, the team’s turnaround this year was partially inevitable.

Pfeil noted that shooting percentage bounces have started to go the Flames’ way, such as shots hitting the post. Also, goaltending has “for the most part continued to be steady.”

Another fan and blogger, Tomas Oppolzer, agreed with Pfeil.

Oppolzer, who writes for, said that “a lot of [the Flames’ recent success] has to do with bounces going their way at even strength.”

Especially encouraging for the analytics-inclined, such as Pfeil and Oppolzer, are the Flames’ puck possession numbers.

A great team possession rate, tracked by shot attempts for and against, has a strong correlation with a team making a deep playoff run. The Flames are in the top 10 in this category.

However, apart from the underlying numbers, the two bloggers agreed that the team also has several glaring weaknesses that could prove their undoing in the end.

“A flaccid power play in the playoffs can be a real blow,” said Oppolzer.

Pfeil said he was “surprisingly tempered on my expectations” for the team going forward.

“They have warts, like any team and a winning streak can mask a lot of them,” he said.

Both Pfeil and Oppolzer singled out the power play, which sits a very poor 21st in the league.

“[Power play coach Dave] Cameron’s power play approaches are just confusing and often too predictable,” said Pfeil.

“A flaccid power play in the playoffs can be a real blow,” said Oppolzer.

The Flames’ struggling power play has already caused them to lose several games, or be forced to overtime, when they could not convert critical chances when tied or trailing by one.

Pfeil said that people were “possibly overlooking” that most of the games in the seven-game win streak were won by one goal.

He also noted that the Flames remain thin on right wing.

While the Flames have managed to survive the short-term injury to two-way specialist right wing Michael Frolik, their depth at that position still is questionable.

Jaromir Jagr was signed at the start of the season to shore up the position, but the 45-year-old legend could not stay healthy and struggled to fit in with the team as a result.

Veteran third-liner Kris Versteeg has also been injured for much of the season with a hip problem. He reportedly may return in mid-March.

Still, Pfeil said that if the Flames general manager is able to acquire a good right-wing before the Tuesday, Feb. 26 trade deadline, “it’ll get interesting.”

“As it stands now, they’re probably a playoff team looking at a very tough matchup in the first round,” said Pfeil

“I’ll say this though, if they go on another streak with some higher scoring games, then I’ll get a little more hyped.”

Oppolzer was more optimistic.

“They’ve got a solid team and when they play to their ability they’re one of the best teams in the NHL,” said Oppolzer.

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