The Chicago Blackhawks continue their road trip through western Canada Thursday night with a match against the Calgary Flames.
For the Flames, the game against the Blackhawks will be the last in a four-game homestretch before they hit the road for the next two weeks. This current homestead has been pretty successful so far, with Calgary already earning four out of a possible six points, but the Flames have struggled this season with stringing together wins on the regular: the Flames haven’t won more than three in a row all season. It’s the reason Calgary is in a precarious position in terms of their playoff hopes: based on points percentage, they’re just outside the playoffs with the Minnesota Wild just edging them. The Flames need a win against the Blackhawks to keep their playoff hopes going.
The good news for the Flames is that they’re coming off two of the most dominating wins of the season, at least statistically. First, in their 6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday, the Flames owned a whopping 69.34 percent of the expected goals, an impressive feat considering the Lightning are a top-10 team in that category. Second, they beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 in overtime Monday, the game only kept close by Joonas Korpisalo’s outstanding performance in net for the Jackets. The Flames threw nearly 50 shots at the opposing netminder and owned 64.63 percent of the expected goal share.
The bad news for the Flames is they’ve had performances like this previously in the season before and are one of the top shot puck possession teams in the league, but they’ve been unable to consistently turn that into long stretches of wins. Calgary needs their top-end players to step up even more when it comes to converting their quality chances into goals. The Flames sit at just 3.13 goals per game, ranking a mediocre 18th in the league. Calgary is 3-2-0 in the last five games, winning only when it’s been able to score four or more goals.
Some players have been producing lately for the Flames in their last five games: forward Mikael Backlund has five assists, forward Nazem Kadri has three goals, and forward Andrew Mangiapane and defensemen Rasmus Andersson both have two goals and four assists. These four players contributed to nearly every one of the 18 goals the Flames have scored in that same span.
As for the Blackhawks, they came crashing back to earth in their 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday — a regression back to their normal play after winning six of the eight games prior — but they’ve also have already caught the Flames when they underestimate a bottom-feeder opponent. The last time these two teams faced off was just a couple of weeks ago, with the Blackhawks winning 4-3 in overtime. The Flames did outplay the Blackhawks in the games — shots were 47-25 in favor of Calgary, for example — but the Flames made just enough lackadaisical mistakes for the Blackhawks to take advantage of for some opportune goals. It’s absolutely possible for the Blackhawks to repeat that, if they can catch the Flames unawares again.
Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Flames
43.28% (31st) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 55.29% (2nd)
41.96% (29th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 54.03% (5th)
2.39 (32nd) — Goals per game — 3.13 (18th)
3.61 (27th) — Goals against per game — 2.96 (15th)
56.1% (1st) — Faceoffs — 50.6% (23th)
19.3% (24th) — Power play — 19.7% (23rd)
75.7% (22nd) — Penalty kill — 82.0% (6th)
How to watch
When: 8 p.m. CT
Where: Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, AB
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: WGN 720