Columns, Sports

Hey, you know what? The Flames are right there

When we last checked in with the Calgary Flames, we gave you a little refresher on just who exactly our heroes are, which was fun. Wasn’t it fun?

It was.

Well, with the first week of our shiny new NHL Lockout shortened season, and the added posterity that comes with it, we are given the opportunity to just go ahead and add more to the story. Because obviously everything we could possibly ever need to know about this squad can all be obtained after a scant 3 games of a campaign that was void of any hint of a training camp. So this should be easy.

Needless to say, the Warriors Of The Order Of The Flaming C did not gain the immediate success they would liked to have seen. That’s a granted. Three games in, with only a point to show for it?  Hey, if you were performing your job with equivalent results, well, you’d be pretty gosh darned terrible at your job, wouldn’t you? Maybe if you applied yourself just a little bit more.

But the good news for your Calgary Flames is that they are not you.

Indeed, while the numbers don’t look good, there’s more to this beautiful game than the numbers, which is great, because no one likes math (also it’s early, so take a few pinches of salt from the shaker and hold onto some of those grains – we’ll need them).

And the Flames are certainly better than what their still very miniscule record looks like, which may be a surprise, as nobody is expecting the Flames to be anywhere other than where they are in the standings currently.  (The Flames have got them right where they want them!)

But if you’ve been watching the games (WHY HAVEN’T YOU BEEN WATCHING THE GAMES??!?!), you’ll see that for the most part, Calgary has been right in these games.

In Calgary’s first tilt with the San Jose Sharks, a sea based fish that has apparently mastered skating, the Flames lost an admittedly ugly contest 4-1, as this intrepid author who witnessed the affair in the adorably titled “Press Level” seats at the Scotiabank Saddledome can attest to (which, by the by, are quite honestly the best seats in the building as far as being surrounded by fans is concerned).

But if not for an atypical performance by Antti Niemi, who played like virtually almost any goaltender that wasn’t Antti Niemi, and just an abysmal second period, Calgary could have easily won the game. The Flaming C went full ham in the first period, controlling the play for roughly 15 minutes, and even took an early lead thanks to the beginning of Lee Stempniak’s biennial hot streak. Even the third period could have gone either way, and if not for Miikka Kiprusoff playing an Antti Niemi kind of game, we could be talking about a strong home opening win.

Which would have been just lovely.

One wild night later, Gordon Bombay and the Anaheim Ducks rolled into town. That means Teemu Selanne, and that means Teemu Selanne using the ice as his own personal canvas, which is of course always worth the price of admission. What was not artistic, however, was the start by the Flames. When you’re down 3-0, that should be the be all and end all.

And it was. But not before the Flames made it interesting by coming alive in the second period to tie it, playing some lights out puck and knocking those high and mighty Ducks down a peg or two. Ultimately, the Flames lost again, after a few boneheaded breakdowns allowed offensive juggernaut Daniel Winnick to sink the Flames’ ship. But it was better than the first game, so hey, upgrade!

And that takes us to Cowtown’s latest tangle, going toe to toe with those dastardly Canucks last Wednesday. You could easily claim it to be the team’s best game in this young season by default, seeing as it’s the only game thus far they’ve collected any points in. But man, what a match for both teams, of which both really needed the win, and quite honestly, the Canucks were lucky to come away with it. Even though the boys in red once again fell behind in the second period, they turned it on almost immediately and stormed right back. Through the third period and into overtime, it was pretty evident that the Canucks were running around tired on the ice (A welcome change, as in the past, we’ve gotten used to Calgary playing that role), and the game was Calgary’s for the taking. Miikka rounded back into form and held strong in his crease, while the offense once again found it’s scoring touch, but it’s that damned shootout making things tough on the team once again.

Still, it’s clear that the Flames are finding their range. Fans like to scream doom and gloom when their team gets off to a rocky start, but there’s cause for optimism. The Canucks are still an elite team, and Calgary hung with them all game.  Probably would have won if overtime had gone on any longer.

You can see that the team is buying into new head coach Bob Hartley’s offensive system, and it’s going to start paying dividends. There are still a lot of defensive miscues to address, and they will, once they figure out who plays smart together and what situations they’ll need to be used in (remember, these are elements a team will toy around with and learn about over the preseason, which we did not have this year)

Couple all this with the return (and debuts!) of Czech mates Roman Cervenka and Jiri Hudler, while allowing your horses like Mike Cammalleri and Jay Bouwmeester to round into form after dual slow starts, and brother, the wins will start coming.

Those adorable children from Edmonton are in town tomorrow night, and the Battle of Alberta is always an eye opener. Anything the Flames need to learn about their team will become abundantly clear after locking horns with their provincial rivals. They always do, as the Flames and Oilers always go to Hell and back when facing off against each other, no matter how bad the Oilers are (which, usually, is like a whole ton).

Taking the lessons learned from that game will be paramount, as the Flames will not play again until next Thursday after the BoA, so there will be plenty of time to work out the remaining kinks in practice.

And that’s when things will get REALLY exciting.


The Book of Loob is a pereptually stunned blogger talking all things Calgary Flames. When he’s not busy misrepresenting them at the Spectator Tribune, he can be found professing his love to Blair Jones at The Book Of Loob and Flames Nation. You should probably check him out on Twitter.