By David Song, January 29 2015 —
The Calgary Flames went into the National Hockey League’s all-star weekend with 25 wins, 19 losses and three overtime losses. They sit fourth in the Pacific Division and eighth in the Western Conference. If the season had ended after the all-star break, the Flames would have made the playoffs, booking a postseason date with the league-leading Anaheim Ducks.
They’ve defied expectations with their goaltending, work ethic and emerging young stars.
The Flames’ last outing before the break was a 6–3 loss to the Ducks. They were overpowered despite a gutsy comeback. Despite all of this, they’re in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
In net, Calgary is served equally by former Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller and Kontinental Hockey League import Karri Ramo, with up-and-coming Finn Joni Ortio also in the mix. Together, Hiller and Ramo represent fine depth in net.
Meanwhile, Ortio has an excellent save percentage of .931 and a goals against average of 1.98 through five games. Should he manage to round out his game, Ortio will become an elite goalie.
Last season, Calgary competed in a franchise-record 48 one-goal games, showing they work hard to keep it close. It’s the same so far this season. Head coach Bob Hartley has set the tone in the locker room, reminding his troops to play a full 60 minutes every game. As a result, the Flames have become tenacious, willing to take on their opponents with their
That said, Calgary also has its fair share of talent. Rookie sensation Johnny Gaudreau has 35 points in 46 games, using his quickness and puck-handling skills to create offence.
Sean Monahan, a first-round pick in 2013, has 30 points and a plus-seven rating through 47 games. He has played most games with blue-collar forwards Curtis Glencross and David Jones. They have been crucial in shutting down the opposition and giving Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler time and space to work with.
Captain Mark Giordano is on pace for 70 points and a plus-33 rating, a truly sensational performance for a defenceman. In fact, the Flames have had more scoring from their defence than any other team in the league, with T.J. Brodie and Dennis Wideman on pace for 51 and 49 points, respectively. Blue-line production has allowed the Flames to score goals in situations where the forwards had their hands full.
The Calgary Flames could still miss the playoffs, but even if they do, this season will be a success. They’ve shown they can compete with the best and that they are developing spades of young talent. Calgary hockey fans really do have something to cheer about.