After losing five of six at home since Jan. 20, heading out on the road for a six-game trip is the perfect tonic for the Calgary Flames.
The importance of beating the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday should not be overstated. It was, in a way, a peace-offering for Calgary’s fans, who, over the last three weeks, watched helplessly as their beloved team dropped into 10th place in the Western Conference.
Sean Monahan’s overtime winner on Saturday will restore belief in the locker room, injecting confidence as the boys depart for the second half of the back-to-back with Chicago.
In a recent interview, Glen Gulutzan said his team doesn’t mind playing on the road. His answer is a candidate for biggest understatement of the year. He does, however, get points for modesty.
Calgary Flames’ impressive road record
The Flames head to the Windy City with the third best away record (13-5-5) in the league in terms of winning percentage, trailing only Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston. Eight games above .500, the Flames have won four of their last five away encounters.
Maybe suffering from holding their sticks too tightly at home, Gulutzan’s team can get back to basics during the forthcoming trip.
Winning four of six would be a successful stint, particularly considering the Flames have to play on back-to-back nights against two teams – the Rangers (17-9-3) and Devils (15-8-3) – that are tough to beat at home.
After that the Flames play the Islanders, Bruins and Predators before returning home on Feb. 17. As you can see, none of those games are of an easy variety, with the final two offering especially difficult tests.
But don’t put anything past the Flames, who have proven time and again to be worthy of their road warriors moniker. It’s crucial to sweep the mini-series against the Blackhawks, the worst of the six at home (12-10-3).
Mike Smith, with a league-leading .948 road save percentage, has been lights-out in unfriendly confines all season, and Gulutzan’s men support their all-star netminder proficiently on the road, locking it down in their own end.
In five recent away games, the Flames have conceded only nine goals, which equates to 1.8 goals against per game. In comparison, the Bruins, who concede 2.38 goals on average, lay claim to the league’s stingiest defence this season.
Those paltry numbers combined with Calgary’s propensity for finding the back of the net bode well for the current road trip.
The Flames have scored 3.8 goals per game in the last five away outings, which, albeit over a small sample size, tops the Lightning’s league-best 3.56 per game.
If they can maintain those impressive numbers at either end of the ice, the Flames will further cement their status as one of the league’s most dangerous road teams.
(This piece originally featured on Flame for Thought. Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)