Flames’ home indigestion could see them miss playoff feast

Dougie Hamilton's hat trick wasn't enough to spark Calgary as the Flames fell to the Florida Panthers 6-3 Saturday.

I know when you get on in years the tendency is to talk about the good ol’ days. You remember when playing at home was a distinct advantage.

For the 2017-18 Calgary Flames it has not been home sweet Saddledome. Their appetite for home cooking has left them with a sore stomach.

The Flames are one game below .500 at 13-14-3 after a 6-3 setback Saturday night at the hands of the Florida Panthers. No need for Tums on the road. The Flames lay claim to one of the best road records in the NHL.

Following a six-game, 11-day excursion, Glen Gulutzan’s gang returned to Calgary with a 4-2 mark leaving them at a very impressive 17-7-5 away from home.

Entering Monday’s action, only the Tampa Bay Lightning sported more wins on the road with 19. In terms of winning percentage, the Lightning have amassed their totals in 32 games compared to the Flames’ 29. So why the discrepancy? Special teams have played a role as Calgary’s power play is ranked 28th at 14.7 per cent but on the road it’s much better at 20.8 — good enough for 12th.

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The penalty kill shows a similar story. At home it is also 28th overall at 75.6 per cent while on the road it’s 82.3 per cent (8th).

As for stopping the puck from going into their own net, they’ve given up 95 goals in 30 games at home but just 73 on the road. Goals for is the one area that is almost same split across home and away. The Flames have scored 82 times in their own building and in one less game in enemy territory the red light has come on 84 times.

The same kind of disparities show up on an individual level as well. All-star netminder Mike Smith is on the shelf right now with a lower-body injury and is 11-4-3 on the road with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage, but at the Saddledome he is 12-12-3 while allowing 2.89 goals per game and stopping 90.5 per cent of pucks. Johnny Gaudreau has connected for 37 of his 68 points on the road. Sean Monahan has 16 of his team leading 27 on the road.

In so many ways it doesn’t make sense. At home you have much more control of matchups and building momentum should be much easier.

Not for this crew.

Personally I don’t get it. The eye test for me suggests the way they have played, the amount of chances generated and given up should actually leave a far more even result between home and away. In fact, according to the club’s coaching staff and the analytics department, the Flames do indeed create more and yield less quality chances at home than on the road.

One thing you can’t always measure is confidence. In this day and age I truly believe there is more outside noise and pressure, thus more distractions when teams, especially Canadian based, are at home.

This year’s Flames seems to trust their game more on the road and stay with what they do best for longer stretches. That’s just my take, and trust me, the question has been asked to those who play and coach on a regular basis. How come? Why are the results so good on the road, and not where they would like them to be at home?

If the main participants in this equation had the answers they would most certainly fix it. With 11 home appearances left on the regular season menu, you can bet that if the Flames’ home indigestion continues they likely won’t be part of a post-season feast.

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