The Calgary Flames had earned six points in their last 10 games entering tonight’s contest with the powerhouse St. Louis Blues.
The sheen may have finally fallen off the turd… or however the saying goes.
But these were the results most expected entering the official first year of the finally accepted rebuild. And while the points have been lacking, the effort has not. Still, as the Flames start to slip down the standings how does one find meaning in a probable playoff-less season?
I’ll tell you.
Prior to the season the Flames segmented the season into mini five game chunks, seeking six points a set toward the ultimate goal of playoff hockey. While the points haven’t necessarily been there, each chunk has carried with it an intriguing story-line that has peaked the interest of Flames fans:
1-5: The Flames surprising strong start. 3-0-2.
6-10: Fall back to Earth. The Monahan decision.
11-15: MacDonald waives goodbye. Reto Berra checks in.
Fortunately I have acquired a crystal ball that may show what other compelling side-stories lie in store for the Flames in the frozen months ahead.
16-20: Injuries mount. The Flames sustain more long term injuries to anyone wearing a letter.
21-25: Coaching staff begins to lose hair due to hair loss. Thanks to their participation in Movember, they begin to resemble a trio of Mike Kennan’s behind the bench.
26-30: Jarome Iginla returns to Calgary as a Bruin.
30-35: Flames make roster moves. Ice all Swiss starting lineup. Sven Baertschi, Damien Brunner, Hnat Domenichelli, Luca Sbisa, the Ricola guy, and Reto Berra.
36-40: Berra back to Heat. Ortio makes NHL debut.
40-45: Hartley starts the Scotiabank kid beside Monahan and Hudler against the Blues. He finishes +1. Baertschi benched again.
46-50: Sean Monahan named to Canadian Olympic Team. Joe Colborne on Taxi squad.
50-55: Goodbye Ortio. Hello Ilya Bryzgalov.
56-60: Flames fans celebrate the annual mathematical elimination of the Oilers from post season play.
61-65: Jarome Iginla returns to Calgary as a Senator.
66-70: Brygalov disappears and Freddie Brathwaite makes his triumphant return to Calgary.
71-75: Flames win five games in a row. Move within 6 points of 8th spot in the West. Would be good for 2nd in the East.
76-80: Flames win ten games in a row. Move within 1 point of 8th spot in the West.
81,82: Flames lose both games. Finish 9th in West. 17th overall. Miss playoffs again. They wouldn’t make another… until 2022. The year Bryz was discovered…
Okay, so maybe the crystal ball is actually an empty liquor bottle. The point still stands though, there will be plenty of unexpected twists and turns to enthrall Fans even if the hockey suffers and the Flames struggle.
So cheer up, crack open a crystal ball, and enjoy the season as it unfolds! Dang nabbit.
On The Line
The Flames suffered a serious thumping at the hands of the Wild on Tuesday night. Thursday offered a chance for a bounce-back performance and a return to .500.
The first was a horror of Hitchcockian fashion. The Flames were manhandled by the Blues in almost every facet, and the refs delivered some deadly calls. Speaking of Hitchcock, he must have sprinkled some Pringles on the shoulders of his squad as they all played with a serious chip on their shoulder, bullying the Flames all over the ice. Apparently though this is the style the St. Louis Blues like to play — Coined by the panel at intermission as “heavy hockey”. Not sure if that was also meant as a pun or not. Goals by Tarasenko and Lapierre put the Blues up 2-0 at break. Meanwhile the Flames were only able to muster two shots.
The second was a sequel to the first. Like most sequels, it didn’t live up to its predecessor. The Flames were able to close the shot-gap, outshooting the Blues in the period, and held St. Louis to a lone goal, a beauty goalmouth flip by NHL scoring leader Alex Steen. Why was Steen left all alone in front? Good question. Moving on.
The Flames were able to discover the secret of success in the third. Puck to point, traffic to net, bang in rebound. First it was Tim Jackman doing the honours and roofing home his first of the season. Then it was Mike Cammalleri, on one knee as usual, sniping a Butler rebound overtop a sprawled Brian (almost called him Billy) Elliot to bring the Flames within one. The Flames were handed some golden powerplay opportunities, but the man advantage remains a real horror story for the Flames, as they were unable to generate much in the final minutes and ran out of time with Berra on the bench. 3-2 final. A valiant comeback effort after a very lacklustre start.
- Alexander Steen: Doubtful he’ll continue his pace of goal per game as the season progresses, but you wouldn’t bet against him with an effort like he showed tonight. Always dangerous, always present. Finished with 1 goal off six shots..
- Jordan Leopold: The former Flame burns his old team with two assists.
- TJ Galiardi: Not sure if any Flame deserves a star tonight, but Galiardi was one of the few Flames busting his round things in the first half of the game.
Reto Berra on Steen in the first. Steen showed off his goal-scoring hands with a nifty deke in tight, but Berra was equal to the task stretching out that huge limb of his to propel the puck wide. Berra was steady enough on the night. Not great. Not poor.
Tim Jackman hitting the ice twice in his first period scrap with Barret Jackman (no relation). The winner? Jackman. Figure it out. The fight almost earned him the goat horns as it nearly negated the Flames’ only real scoring chance of the period. But his goal in the third saves him from the ultimate shaming.
The powerplay without a doubt. 0 for 22 heading in. 0 for 29 heading out. Pathetic. Six straight penalties by the Blues over the last 45 minutes, and the Flames couldn’t make them pay.
Max Reinhart. For finishing plus 1 in his season debut. That’s all I got really. Where’s my crystal ball?
Odds and Ends
Newsflash: The Blues are good. One of the most stifling and frustrating periods the Flames have endured this year to begin the game. Full credit for another comeback attempt however. Bob Hartley said it, and it’s holding true, this team does not quit. Gotta respect that… Do not like Sven Baertschi being scratched for two consecutive games. What message are you trying to send? And really don’t like Jackman alongside Hudler and Monahan. Some confusing decisions… Imagine we will see Kari Ramo between the pipes tomorrow. With an opportunity to run with the ball if he manages to knock off the rolling Avalanche. Berra has been a little shakey since his stellar debut, but I still like what I see from the big man, and feel he’s our best shot going forward. Until Brathwaite returns of course.
It doesn’t get any easier as the Flames fly in to Denver to take on the Central Division leading Colorado Avalanche Friday night. 7 pm on Sportsnet West.
Lines (To Start):
Bouma – Stajan – Jones
Hudler – Monahan – Jackman
Cammalleri – Colborne – Galiardi
McGrattan – Backlund – Reinhart
Russell – Wideman
Butler – Brodie
O’brien – Billins