Road rinks friendly to Flames

PETER MAHER -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

It only seems like the Calgary Flames have cornered the market on having a better record on the road than they do at home.

In reality, seven teams have superior records away from home, led by the San Jose Sharks, who the Flames play tomorrow.

And that's scaled down from last week when, at one point, 12 teams had better records away from their home rink. If the trend continues, it'll be a significant change from recent seasons.

In 2006-07, for instance, only four teams finished the season with better records on the road than in their friendly confines and, for two of them, the difference was only one point.

The Sharks, though, have been consistent. Last year, they led the NHL in road wins with 26. They are on pace to better that this year, having already won a league-leading 16 road games.

In addition to San Jose and the Flames, the NHL's other road warriors are the Edmonton Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers.

Heading into last night's action, road teams had collected 276 wins in 583 tries. That's a 47% winning clip for the visitors.

Last season, the success rate for road teams was 44%. The campaign before, it was 43%. Before the obstruction crackdown, the winning rate on the road was 34%.

The shift to shootouts, where there's always a winner, plays a big role, but a 13% swing in road wins in three seasons is noteworthy.

Flames coach Mike Keenan thinks parity is the reason.

" Perhaps (it) is because it's so competitive and the teams so tight that playing on the road, a team can focus better on preparing for the game," he suggested. "At home, players have obligations that may take away some focus and with the teams so close, that may be the difference."

The equality brought on by the salary cap is clearly a factor. Another factor is teams now play more games against division rivals. With more familiarity to other clubs' rinks, the advantage of being in your friendly confines is reduced.

Still, it's a bit amazing the Flames could win 30 home games in each of the past two seasons and now are on pace to win just 18. Their road record has kept the Flames in the playoff race through the first half of the season, but to annex top spot in the Northwest Division, a better home performance needs to be branded.

In their history in this city, the Flames have only once had a better regular season record on the road than at home.

That was during the 2000-01 campaign, in which the squad finished well out of the playoff picture.

However, in their run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004, the Flames had a vastly superior record on the road, where they won 10 times, tying an NHL playoff record. During that spectacular spring, the Flames were 5-7 at the Saddledome.

Peter Maher is play-by-play broadcaster of Flames on The Fan 960 and can also be heard Monday thru Friday at 8:05 a.m. and 5:05 p.m. His column appears in The Sun Wednesdays.


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