Red-hot Flames have suddenly turned the corner

Joey Alfieri
NBC Sports

The Calgary Flames got off to a mediocre start this season, but thanks to their red-hot play (sorry!) recently, they’ve managed to climb back into the Western Conference playoff picture.

Last night’s 5-1 win over the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning was Calgary’s fifth consecutive victory. What is even more impressive is that they beat the NHL’s best team on their home rink. Calgary’s wins have come against the Blackhawks, Kings, Ducks, Wild and Bolts.

Many will point to head coach Glen Gulutzan’s outburst as the reason for the this recent run of success, but the reality is that the Flames had already won back-to-back games at that point. Still, the tirade might have kept his team’s focus in check.

One of the things that has definitely helped turn the Flames around is the play of their top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Micheal Ferland.

Gaudreau, who has 51 points in 43 games, has picked up at least one point in each of the last five contests. He’s accumulated one goal and nine assists during that stretch. Monahan has also accumulated at least one point in each of the games during the streak (he has eight points during this recent run of success). And Ferland, who has been a pleasant surprise for the Flames, has a goal and an assist in four straight games.

The Flames have also received some strong goaltending from Mike Smith lately. He’s been in goal for all five wins and he’s given up two goals or fewer in three consecutive outings.

“I think we want to go in the break feeling good about where we are at in the standings,” Smith said after Thursday’s win, per NHL.com. “Every game is so important now, it’s like a playoff mentality for us. Now is the time to make a push and get points in all the games that we can.” 

Smith’s team heads into tonight’s game, in Florida, sitting in third place in the Pacific Division.

The 2017-18 season looks a lot like the 2016-17 season for the Flames. They got off to a slow start last season, but they managed to come on strong midway through the year. After a loss to Montreal on Jan. 24, 2017, Calgary had a 24-24-3 record. They ended up finishing the regular season with a record of 45-33-4. Of course, a good chunk of those victories came during a 10-game winning streak late in the year.

It’ll be interesting to see if they can replicate that kind of second-half success this season. It might not be the conventional way of getting to the playoffs, but who are we to argue if it works for them.

After their game against the Panthers tonight, the Flames will conclude their road trip with a tilt against the Hurricanes on Sunday. They will then get some time off, as they’ll be on their five-day break from Jan. 15-19.

The Flames will have to hope that their bye week doesn’t turn into a momentum-stopper.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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