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Does The Early Bird Really Get The Worm?

Calgary plays a Saturday afternoon matinee at Philadelphia and that got us thinking: How do the Flames do in early afternoon games?

NHL: Calgary Flames at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Flames play at 11 AM MT (1 PM ET) in Philadelphia this Saturday. It’s fairly rare that Calgary plays that early....you would think. But the NHL schedule makers have the Flames playing 7 afternoon games in 2017-18. For this piece, let’s define “afternoon” as a game that starts before 5 PM ET. That seems fair, no?

Here’s what the Flames schedule looks like for this season in regards to “afternoon” games:

11/18: Calgary @ Philadelphia 11 AM MT

1/14: Calgary @ Carolina 1 PM MT

1/20: Calgary vs Winnipeg 1 PM MT

2/19: Calgary vs Boston 2 PM MT

2/24: Calgary vs Colorado 2 PM MT

3/18: Calgary @ Vegas 1 PM MT

3/24: Calgary @ San Jose 1 PM MT

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

That’s A LOT of early games for the Flames. While Calgary does catch a break with only Philadelphia as their early game before the end of the calendar year, they get hammered once January comes around. The Flames get 6 afternoon games in 2018, with 4 of them coming in a 5 week span. Luckily for the good guys, travel shouldn’t be an issue. Before the Flyers game this weekend Calgary has 2 days off. They do get hosed a little before the Carolina game as they play Friday night in Florida (but that’s a short flight). They have an entire week off before their afternoon tilt with Winnipeg. They are at home with a day off before they play the Bruins in a rare Monday afternoon match up. The Flames will have 1 day off each when they get the Avs and Golden Knights and their final afternoon affair with the Sharks is after having 2 days off. What does any of this have to do with anything you ask? Well, we were wondering what the Flames record was during these early day contests. We only went back 5 years. That’s a safe number and it sort of gives you a feel for how they’ve done RECENTLY, because trends from 20 years ago don’t really matter for various reasons. So, from 2012-13 to 2016-17 the Flames are.........4-7-1. That’s actually not as bad as we thought it would be. Look, it’s not a great record, but it is admirable considering travel, walk through’s and the day to day rigors of the NHL. And for a team that plays the majority of their games between 7 PM MT and 8 PM MT, 4-7-1 isn’t the horror show it appears to be. Here’s a look at those 12 games from the last 5 seasons.

2012-13

None

2013-14

Calgary 2 @ Anaheim 5 L (2 PM MT)

Calgary 2 @ Buffalo 1 (OT) W (12 PM MT)

Calgary 3 @ Pittsburgh 4 L (11 AM MT)

Calgary 1 @ Philadelphia 2 L (11 AM MT)

2014-15

Calgary 6 @ Florida 4 W (1 PM MT)

Calgary 2 vs Columbus 3 (OT) L (2 PM MT)

Calgary 1 @ Winnipeg 5 L (2 PM MT)

2015-16

Calgary 2 @ St. Louis 3 L (1 PM MT)

Calgary 4 @ Anaheim 6 L (3 PM MT)

Calgary 4 @ Pittsburgh 2 W (1 PM MT)

2016-17

Calgary 3 @ NY Rangers 4 L (12 PM MT)

Calgary 3 @ Carolina 1 W (1 PM MT)

Calgary 5 vs NY Islanders 2 W (2 PM MT)

What does any of that prove? Not sure. What it does tell you is the Flames don’t necessarily play well in matinees. And with the amount of those type of games the Flames have this season, that’s not good. While the season still has to shake itself out and a lot of these game are a ways down the road, the Flames don’t have it easy in the teams they match up against in these early bird specials. Winnipeg is currently in 2nd place in the Central. Vegas and San Jose are 2nd and 3rd in the Pacific. The Flames have dropped 3 out of their last 5 to Boston at the Saddledome. At least there’s reprieve with Colorado and Carolina being bottom dwellers this season. The Flyers? Calgary lost to them in an early afternoon showdown 4 seasons ago and the Flames have lost 3 of their last 4 in Philly. So, how’s that make you feel? In the end, none of this may matter. There’s different players and different coaches in place, but the fact remains that the Flames have struggled in early afternoon games over the last 5 seasons. At least they get to play at home for 3 of the 7. So there’s that.