Expectations weren’t too high for the Calgary Flames ahead of the 2021-22 NHL season. After all, the Flames missed out on last season’s playoffs after going 26-27-3 during the regular season, continuing their streak of having not won a playoff series since the 2014-15 campaign.
Fast forward to the 2021-22 season and the Flames are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. After a streaky start to the season, Calgary currently sits in second place in the Pacific Division with a 26-13-6 record, having won six straight contests. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the Flames are now just one point back of the Vegas Golden Knights for the top spot in the division with three games in hand as of February 14.
While there’s a lot of hockey left to play in the season, it’s evident that the Flames have what it takes to be one of the better teams in the NHL. The only questions that remain are:
- Can the Flames beat out the Golden Knights to win the Pacific Division?
- Are the Flames legitimate Stanley Cup contenders?
Only time can answer both of those questions, but here’s a look at what Calgary’s chances are to win the Pacific Division and potentially go on a Stanley Cup run.
Flames Need Top Players to Keep Scoring to Continue Success
One reason why the Flames have found as much success as they have this year has been because their top players have stepped up when needed to score goals.
Calgary is currently operating at a 3.39-goals-per-game pace — the eighth-best average in the NHL. Most of that production has come from four players who have combined for 82 goals so far, with each of them having scored at least 18 apiece.
Former sixth-round pick Andrew Mangiapane leads all Flames players in goals, setting a new career-high with 24 this year in just 46 games. Meanwhile, Matthew Tkachuk (22) has also reached the 20-goal mark, while Johnny Gaudreau (19) and Elias Lindholm (19) are pretty close.
Some fans might be concerned that the Flames could use more depth scoring considering how Blake Coleman (10) is the only other player to have reached double-digit totals. Fortunately, general manager Brad Treliving addressed that need one Valentine’s Day when Calgary traded Tyler Pitlick, prospect Emil Heineman, a top-10 protected 2022 first-round pick and a 2024 fifth-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for veteran right winger Tyler Toffoli.
As a proven goal-scorer, Toffoli should easily fit into Calgary’s top two lines. He may only have nine goals on the season, but he scored 28 in 52 games last year (44-goal pace in 82 games) and might just need a change of scenery to get back to where he was. If he can, the Flames odds to win the division and Stanley Cup should go up.
Markstrom, Defense Also a Key to Calgary’s Success
While the Flames’ goal-scoring has certainly helped them achieve success, it’s important to point out the stellar season that Jacob Markstrom is having between the pipes.
The 32-year-old Swedish netminder is in the midst of the best season of his career. He currently owns a 20-10-5 record, along with a .926 save percentage, 2.12 goals-against average and NHL-leading eight shutouts. He’s also had 20 quality starts while recording a career-high 17.6 goals saved above average.
Of course, Markstrom likely isn’t playing this well if the defense in front of him wasn’t stellar. From the first pairing to the third, Calgary’s defense has been buying into head coach Darryl Sutter’s system and it’s paying off. The Flames’ 2.40 goals against per game is second only to the Carolina Hurricanes (2.37) and their 84.5% penalty kill rating is also third-best.
Having a balanced offense and defense is the key to succeeding in the NHL and the Flames are fortunate to have that going for them. If the players show up to play strong on both sides of the puck every night, more success could be in the Flames’ future.
Can Calgary Beat Out Vegas and Go on a Stanley Cup Run?
While everything has gone well for the Flames so far, fans are still wondering what the rest of the season will look like. The good news is that the latest betting odds help paint a clearer picture.
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Flames are actually favored to beat out the Golden Knights (+135) and win the Pacific Division at -115 odds.
One thing that Calgary has going for them is that they have the aforementioned three games in hand compared to Vegas. Not only but the Flames also have 10 of their next 13 games (including the upcoming four in a row) at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Winning a majority of those games will go a long way in catching the Golden Knights and creating more separation, especially with only one game remaining against Vegas this season.
When it comes to the chance of going on a championship run, the Flames have +2000 odds to win the 2021-22 Stanley Cup on FanDuel Sportsbook. Those odds put them in a tie with the New York Rangers for 10th-best. Considering how the Golden Knights have the third-best odds (+800), jumping them in the standings could easily move Calgary up the list.
At the end of the day, it’s looking like this is Calgary’s season to lose at this point. The offense is there. The defense and goaltending are there. They have games in hand and a fairly favorable schedule. If the Flames can put together all the pieces and continue doing what’s been working, the Pacific Division title and Stanley Cup could be within their grasp.