Remember when the Calgary Flames were on a winning streak with no sign of slowing down? Yeah, those were fun times. But they seem to be over for now.
Since the All Star Break at the end of January, the Flames have played six games, of which they have been on the winning end of one game. The Flames have lost five of their last six games. Let that sink in for a minute.
Ok, here’s the deal, it’s understandable if the Flames lose to the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, as they did on February 1st against the Washington Capitals in a 4-3 loss. Even without Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals are a strong team. The Flames were still up against the talents of Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Jakub Vrana, and Matt Niskanen. That’s some serious fire-power in both the offensive and defensive roles.
It’s even understandable if the Flames lose to the team that’s at the top of the standings, such as the Tampa Bay Lightning on February 12th in a 6-3 loss. The Lightning are on top of the standings for good reason. They out-played the Flames in every way possible. They skated faster, their plays were more refined, they were faster, had more energy, and they didn’t even seem to think about their plays – they just did what was expected of the 1st place team. Rittich in net didn’t stand a chance against Tampa Bay. And the only way the Flames could score was because of a rare mistake by their opposition or a lucky bounce. Even Bill Peters agreed that the Calgary team “lacked attention to detail,” in his post game interview.
Bill Peters assesses his team’s play against the Lightning. pic.twitter.com/cGqaqcawcC
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) February 13, 2019
San Jose seems to be slipping a bit in the standings as well, but that is not excuse for the Flames to sit back on their heels. Calgary lost to the 5th place San Jose Sharks on February 7th by a score of 5-2 (to which I have not heard the end of because my 11 year old son is a Sharks fan). The Sharks have been a force for a few seasons now and I’m still surprised they haven’t won the Stanley Cup. Joe Pavelski is a great captain who has led guys like Brent Burns and Tyler Meier to show their best talents in the ice. Joe Thornton is one of the best veterans in the league and has added his experience to the Sharks lineup. So when the Flames lost against San Jose, I wasn’t overly surprised in spite of both teams seemingly going through a rough patch right now.
But losing to the Vancouver Canucks who sit in 20th place with barely any hope of making playoffs this season made me scratch my head. The game was ugly from the very beginning and it didn’t get any less ugly as the clock ticked down. Gudbranson has a way about him that gets under the skin of Flames players and fans alike. He’s like that annoying mosquito in summer that just won’t leave you alone until he stings. Add in the fact that James Neal lost eight teeth – yes eight teeth! – and that it was completely unintentional, the game was over before it even started. With Jacob Markstrom making 44 saves on 47 shots, the Canucks won this battle of wits in every way possible. The one good thing to come from that game was that Andrew Mangiapane notched his first NHL goal. Congrats Mangipane!
And again, losing to the Florida Panthers, who are in 23rd place, just doesn’t make any sense right now. The Flames looked flat-footed with a bare minimal energy level against the Panthers. It was an uninspiring game from a team that really needs to step up and show the league that they rightfully deserve a playoff spot. That’s not to say everyone has been sitting back and doing nothing. Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, and Travis Hamonic have been the most consistent defensemen throughout the Flames season in spite of the injuries to Hamonic. All three get on the ice and put in a full effort. Derek Ryan may not be the biggest contender in league, but he comes to play every game. Mark Jankowski puts in his full effort as well. Whether it’s a good game or a bad one, all of these guys show up, do their jobs, and put their hearts on the ice every night. Mike Smith has done some great work in net as well, acquiring yet another assist against Florida on Mark Jankowski’s goal in the third period. And even Smith knows that the rest of the season could be a hard sell after that game in Florida in spite of his 0.938 save percentage.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) February 15, 2019
I’m not giving up on the Flames just yet. All teams go through their slumps. Maybe they can overcome this lull soon. I hope so. If not, it could be an ugly end to a stellar start of the season. This is the time when we find out if the Flames are made for playoffs this season or not. And it could go one of two ways. This could be when they realize what’s on the line, or it could be one of the biggest let-downs in the history of the Calgary team. Time will tell. For now, I’m just going to sit back, relax, and enjoy watching Elias Lindholm have an amazing season. I’m not worried yet.
The Calgary Flames are back on the ice Saturday, when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins and then they return home next week to host the Arizona Coyotes, New York Islanders, and the Anaheim Ducks at the Saddledome.