Flames Rolling Along In the Right Direction
By Patrick Hoffman
It is amazing what having a solid and consistent goaltender along with a consistent offense and steady defense can do for a hockey club.
The perfect example of this are the Calgary Flames. As of this writing (January 17, 2018), the team has won seven straight games and has vaulted themselves into third place in the Pacific Division with 54 points (25-16-4).
One of the main reasons why the Flames have been such a good team recently has been the play of their goaltender Mike Smith. In 38 games, Smith, 35, is 20-13-3 with a 2.46 goals against average, a .924 save percentage, and two shutouts.
While the numbers are clearly good, it is about more than just the numbers when it comes to Smith. Smith plays with a ton of confidence, makes the big saves, and is basically the club's third defensemen as he is incredible when it comes to playing the puck.
Smith may be getting up their in age, but he's still quick, agile, and is able to stop a lot of pucks. Because of that, the team in front of him is playing with a lot of confidence and is not afraid to take chances in order to put the puck in the net.
Speaking of the team's offense, several of their youngsters have really stepped up this season. Their leading scorer, Johnny Gaudreau (15 goals and 39 assists for 54 points), is already 7 points away from matching last year's output, and has looked like the franchise player this team knew he could be.
Following Gaudreau, guys like Sean Monahan (21 goals and 21 assists for 42 points), Matthew Tkachuk (13 goals and 18 assists for 31 points), Micheal Ferland (19 goals and 10 assists for 29 points), and Mikael Backlund (9 goals and 20 assists for 29 points) have all provided solid offensive depth for this hockey club. These guys have also provided the club with speed, tenacity, and a nose for the net.
The Flames have also been terrific defensively this season. As of this writing (January 17, 2018), the club is eighth in the league in goals against with 122 goals allowed in 45 games, which is good for a 2.71 goals against average per game.
While a lot of that is due to the play of Smith, the club's backend has also helped Smith out a bunch this season. Led by team captain Mark Giordano (8 goals and 13 assists for 21 points) and 24-year-old stud Dougie Hamilton (8 goals and 14 assists for 22 points), this team's defense can supply a bit of offense along with consistent play in their own zone.
One area that this team could be better in is special teams. The team is currently (January 17, 2018) 20th in the league on the power play (17.8 percent conversation rate) and 18th in the league on the penalty kill (79.9 percent).
If this team wants to have success come playoff time, playing well on special teams is an absolute must. This team has the offense to be able to convert their chances with the man advantage and they have good enough defensive depth and pesky forwards to kill penalties.
With Smith in goal, Gaudreau being a beast on offense, and the defense playing extremely well, the Flames are in good position to making the postseason. May be this time around, they can steal a round or two because of the confidence they have in not only their goaltender, but in their team as a whole.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.