Saddledome woes hitting home for slumping Flames

Dec 11 2021, 5:44 pm

The splits, by most metrics, are the pits. 

On the road, they’re warriors.¬†

But it hasn’t quite been ‘home sweet ‘Dome’ for the Calgary Flames this season.

“Our record is not good at home and it’s not where we want it to be,” Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom said bluntly following a 2-1 loss — at home — against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.¬†

“That’s on us players, too. We want to give the fans…they show up and they get us going every night we show up here at the dome. We need to improve our home record and our games at home. There’s nothing more fun than to win at home in front of the fans and family and friends.¬†

“We need to get going and keep going.”

The Flames are among the NHL’s best when it comes to virtually every statistic away from Calgary. Within city limits, not so much.¬†

Tough to pinpoint why the hotel beds seem to be cozier. 

Assistant coach Ryan Huska has the most plausible theory. 

“I think it’s maybe the noise or distraction when you’re at home,” he offered. “You have family. You have different demands that are placed on the players, and at times maybe not quite as sharper focused that you have to be to play that same style of game that we do bring on the road.¬†

“I think that’s maybe the biggest thing for us, is to make sure we’re clear of all the outside noise or distractions, if you want to put it that way, and make sure we’re committed to playing the same way in whatever building we’re in.”

The raw data hasn’t shown a successful approach just yet.

On the road, the Flames rank first in wins (11), points (24) and goals for (56), and special teams have been just that, ranking seventh with a 26.2% power-play efficiency and eighth with an 84.8% kill rate. 

Granted, they’ve played an NHL-leading 17 games away from the Saddledome this season, so there’s plenty of runway to run up some of those stats.¬†

But that’s still an average of almost 3.3 goals-per-game, and they’re on pace for 58 points in 41 road games.

At home, they’re trending towards a still-respectable 49-point grab at home — clipping at a 2.7 goals-per-game rate and the power-play mark drops dramatically to 17.7%.

More bluntly, they are 4-2-4 at home opposite an incredible 11-4-2 run on the road.

But why, as Ryan Reynolds might question. 

“I don’t know, really,” said Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane, who might be a metaphor for the swing with one goal in 10 skates at the Saddledome, yet 16 snipes in 17 skates on the road.

“I think we’ve just got to fuel off our fans and start getting some wins. I think we’ve been close in a couple games here at home. A couple bounces go our way and probably a different story…you get more points and get more wins.¬†

“I think we’ve just got to put the past behind us and focus on winning our next game here at home.”

Chalk some of it up to sample size. That’d be more than fair.

The Flames have constantly been switching rinks, too, and have only settled into one lengthy homestand this season. 

Not ideal. 

“We haven’t really got into much rhythm at home,” newcomer Blake Coleman said. “It’s been one or two games and out, with maybe the exception of one little stand. Sometimes it’s just nice to be at home and settled in a little bit and get into that routine.

“But on the flip side of that, we come out of that in a pretty good spot right now. There’s certainly going to be no excuse the rest of the way here. We’ve got a pretty friendly schedule, a lot of home games and some good stretches where we should be able to take care of business here.¬†

“Thankfully we’ve played really well on the road and it’s helped us get into the spot that we’re in, and now it’s on us to translate that to home.”

Yes, it is. 

But it hasn’t happened yet.¬†

And it’s on the players to make sure the reasons — from general sample size to bad bounces to home distractions — are taken care of.

“The message can come from our office, but at the end of the day it has to come from (the players),” Huska said.¬†

“Once the coaches walk out of the room you need your leaders and your core people to be the ones that take over and make sure that message is staying in the dressing room and not just being delivered and that was it.¬†

“I think we have a good group of guys who are on top of that this year, and pretty sure that message stays in the room.”

Aaron VickersAaron Vickers

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