Calgary Flames are hot.
Red Chili Habanero hot.
In rattling off seven straight victories heading into their five-day 'bye week', Calgary has gotten some pretty prominent performances:
- Johnny Gaudreau has been el fuego with points in all seven games, amassing 13 points (2 goals, 11 assists) during that span
- Micheal Ferland is coming off that tear of four straight games with a goal and an assist.
- Mike Smith continues to be lights-out on the road where he now boasts a league-best .948 save percentage. His .924 SV% overall is third among goalies with 20-or-more starts.
- Dougie Hamilton already has four goals in January with three of them game-winners.
- Calgary just swept a four-game road trip (first sweep of a four-game-or-longer road trip since December 2007) and at 13-5-4, they're tied with Tampa Bay (14-6-2) for the NHL's best record away from home. That's a .682 winning percentage that has them on pace to break the club's all-time best road mark of 22-12-6 (.625%) set in 1987-88.
But what else has contributed to the success the team has tasted lately? What else has led to this resurgence that has Calgary not just back in wild card contention in the Western Conference, but suddenly contending for home-ice advantage in the Pacific Division.
#Flames move past LA into second in the Pacific. Ten days ago (pictured), they trailed the Kings by 11 points. Wow. pic.twitter.com/uvqleZ7Ypw— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) January 14, 2018
While the goaltending has been great over this stretch -- Smith has been awesome and rookie David Rittich has been terrific too, the bigger takeaway is shots and chances against have been down. This has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of goals against.
Five starts. All on the road. Four of them on the back-end of back-to-backs. Czech rookie David Rittich has been sensational going 4-0-1 with a 1.77 GAA and a .942 SV% as a starter to help the #Flames pick up 9 of 10 possible points.— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) January 13, 2018
5. Anaheim, 2.28
No, I certainly don't expect you to admit it. At least not publicly.
When Frolik broke his jaw on Dec. 28 in San Jose, it was an injury that had the potential to be crippling. After all, the 3M line has been so good since the start of last season and Frolik had been playing some of his best hockey of the season. Pessimism reigned supreme when Gulutzan made the decision to insert Brouwer into that spot, elevating him from his perch on the fourth line.
Could you say Brouwer has dragged them down a bit? The analytics would certainly confirm that's been the case too. to be honest, a downgrade was to be expected with whoever ended up being the substitute right winger on that line given Frolik's chemistry with the other two.
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For the longest time and we're talking about well into December, they were last in the NHL when it came to the number of first period leads.
What does losing an NHL game feel like? Don't ask Mangiapane as he has no idea.
They've spent more time in the offensive zone, they've been more dangerous and if they're not scoring, that's what you ask of them. Go out there and wear down the opposition D, don't get scored on and try to set up the next line with momentum and/or an offensive zone face-off.
- Stajan - 48.63 (11th), 53.38 (3rd)
- Lazar - 47.27 (12th), 52.43 (4th)
There's a pace and assertiveness to Hrivik's game that makes you think there's more there. The importance of his athletic play to stay onside on that opening goal by Stajan cannot be understated.
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Penalty Kill During the Win Streak - SH TOI, PPGA
Averaging a PP goal against every 4-5 minutes of PK time for most of the season, this recent stretch for Brouwer has yielded much better results. You can add that as another bullet under his improved five-on-five play.
7. Shooting Percentage Rebounding
In fact, with a little more luck around the net -- Calgary is 4th in the NHL in iron hit, either cross bars (10) or posts (26) -- they could be even better. With a little more accurate shooting -- Calgary is 2nd in number of shots that go wide --- they could be even better.
We're talking about Jaromir Jagr, the oft-injured, future hall-of-famer playing on the fourth line, finally being placed on IR after battling all season with a lower-body injury.
Also gone is the team's poster child for an extra forward, Freddie Hamilton. With the departure of 'Freddie the 13th' as he's been cleverly referred to, also gone is the non-stop swirling speculation that he was only on the roster to appease his little brother.
This isn't a knock, just the reality that father time catches up with everyone. A month away from turning 46, Jagr is nearly five full years older than Matt Cullen, the league's next-oldest player. Think about that. Incredible.
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Recent Flames Reading:
- Not-So-Dirty Dozen: Improved Defensive Play Has Flames on Path to Playoffs - Looking back at the u-turn on Dec. 5 in which the Flames season -- beginning with an attention-to-detail, no-nonsense unplanned practice -- took a sudden turn for the better. (Jan. 2, 2018)
- Living the Dream of a White NHL Christmas: Ex-Farmhands Thriving with Flames - Seven one-on-one interviews went into this deep dive into Calgary's development model and four players that have jumped to the AHL, who are not making an impact. (Dec. 24, 2017)
- Breaking the Persona: Hathaway Showing That Maybe There's More There- Finding himself right in the middle of all the Flames key goals lately, Garnet Hathaway is showing that maybe he can be an offensive contributor at the NHL level after all. (Dec. 20, 2017)
- Janko and Benny: After a Three-Year Search, Has Bennett Found His Hockey Soulmate - After three years of searching, has Sam Bennett has found his hockey soulmate in Mark Jankowski, just like Backlund has Frolik and Monahan has Gaudreau. (Dec. 2, 2017)