The Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t the only divisional winner from last season off to a slow start–the Calgary Flames are mired in sixth place in the Pacific Division and have been passed up by ‘upstarts’ such as the Arizona Coyotes and their hated rivals the Vancouver Canucks. The Flames are 6-6-2 on the season and their performance thus far has a very strong home/road bias. At home, they’re 4-1-1 but on the road they’re 2-5-1. They’ll face a tough challenge on Thursday night as they head down South to take on the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville is off to a good start this season and enters this matchup having won 4 straight, 5 of their last 7 and 7 of 10. They’re coming off a solid 3-0 home win over the Chicago Blackhawks in which goaltender Pekka Rinne got his second consecutive shutout. Rinne has always been a streaky goalie but if he’s on this type of run it can continue for awhile. He’s up to #3 in the NHL goals against average leader (1.74) and #3 in save percentage (.937). He’s also tied for second in the ‘most wins’ category with 7. Rinne has yet to lose in regulation this season going 7-0-1.
Calgary is coming off of back to back road losses at Winnipeg and Carolina by identical 2-1 scores. Those scorelines clearly underscore one of the Flames’ biggest issues–a lack of offense. Calgary is currently #25 in goals scored per game at 2.50. The defense has been performing reasonably well and the Flames are currently #14 in the goals against per game category. On special teams, one thing the Flames have been doing well is killing penalties–they rank #4 in the league killing off 86.8% of man advantage situations. The power play has struggled, however, raked #21 at 17.8%.
The Flames have won their last three trips to Nashville–they won the only game they played at Bridgestone Arena last year and split a pair of games on their home ice. With the Predators in good form they’ll be a tough matchup for the Flames–and particularly now that they’re scoring goals. In road games with a total of 6 or more–in other words, against good offensive teams–the Flames are 0-6 this year for -6.9 units. With Calgary’s road struggles and the Predators good recent performance Nashville looks like the play.