Have you ever decided to treat yourself and get a disgusting and gluttonous fast food concoction? And, how you manage to discover, against all odds that these culinary creations are really good, despite the source? Well, a quarter of the way into the NHL season and the Calgary Flames are actually are pretty good team, despite being the Calgary Flames.
The past five seasons have not been nice to the Flames; they've haven't made the playoffs in any of them. That being said, being a winning team in the Western Conference is no easy task given the fact that the Stanley Cup winner has emerged from that conference four out of the last five seasons. In addition to their playoff troubles, the Flames were also forced to trade away the best player in their history (and future Hall of Famer) in Jerome Iginla so that he could have the opportunity to actually win a Cup. So, it's clear that the Flames have had a rough go of it recently.
So, how is it that they're third in the Western Conference?
Well, some would say that they're this year's Colorado Avalanche. That is to say that they're just a young team, defying the odds, and playing perfect hockey at an unsustainable rate. However, I beg to differ.Instead of the high-flying, offense-first game the Avalanche played last year and continue to play this year, the Flames choose to lead with fast-paced defense. And, as we all know, defense wins championships. I mean, am I right or am I right?
Regardless of whether or not that sports truism is actually true, I actually think the Flames success is sustainable. They're a solid goal scoring team, scoring about 3.05 goals per game with contributions from everywhere on their roster including 17 goals out of their 59 coming from their defensemen. In fact, their leading point scorer is actually captain defenseman Mark Giordano with a staggering 21 points, good for sixth in the league and a full 15 spots ahead of the next defenseman.
If you're wondering if their defenseman can actually defend and not just score, well, they can. They're 14th in the league with a 2.6 goals against average while only giving up 29.3 shots per game, which is 15th in the league. While these stats are solidly average, their starting goaltender Jonas Hiller is solidly above average with a .922 save percentage and a 2.3 goals against average, which are both in the top 35% of the league.
Through these statistics and the defensive-mindedness of their team, I think the Calgary Flames are a surprise worth paying attention to.