While the Calgary Flames were on the short end of a 5-4 shootout decision against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 20 to begin their final home stand before the Christmas break, you couldn’t help but think that fans leaving the Scotiabank Saddledome were far more exhilarated than disappointed by what they saw. After all, the sellout crowd of 19,289 had just witnessed one of the most entertaining games of the 2018-19 season between two red-hot clubs and fellow divisional leaders.
The heavyweight thriller, which lasted to a seventh round of the shootout, was the latest exciting offering for Flames fans to absorb during what’s been a remarkable turnaround. Despite the setback, the Flames’ current home ice ledger sits at 11-3-3 in this initial season under the watchful eye of bench boss Bill Peters. They’ve managed to secure at least a point in nine straight home dates while posting a stellar 7-0-2 record during that span. There’s no denying it’s been a robust rebound from how things played out last season.
Faithful Fans Rewarded After Mediocre 2017-18 Season
The Flames have emerged as one of the league’s most pleasant surprises to this point of the season and it’s been a much-improved Saddledome record that has been one of the keys to their unexpected march to the upper echelon of the Western Conference. Last season, as the Glen Gulutzan-era was winding down after two campaigns, the Flames turned in a mediocre home record of 17-20-4.
Not only were they a group that compiled a below .500 record in front of their rabid fanbase, it was the way they went about doing it. They were offensively-inept on many nights, especially during what proved to be a disastrous stretch drive, and they failed to provide much in the way of entertainment value as well. They produced one goal or less in 14 of their 41 home engagements, which is definitely not a recipe for making life difficult for the opposition. Being better at home was clearly an area of importance for 2018-19 in order to get back on track.
This season the Flames have become must-watch TV and they’ve been especially dramatic when it comes to rewarding their home faithful. They’ve been able to stage several comebacks on home ice, including remarkable third-period rallies that helped produce improbable victories against the Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flames’ attack has been clicking at a dynamic rate this season with 71 goals in 17 home games, including 41 goals in their last nine contests. The offence, spearheaded by the top unit of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and impressively productive newcomer Elias Lindholm has been difficult to contain. Unlike last season, when a bad break caused things to snowball in the wrong direction, there’s no quit in this group and their resilience and consistency have been impressive calling cards.
Flames Showing Resilience & Consistency
Interestingly enough, despite all of their success, it was a dreadful home-ice performance that produced the low point of the season. After suffering an embarrassing 9-1 late October loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team did some major soul-searching and quickly regrouped.
Instead of letting that defeat lead to a crumbling confidence and the type of skid that became commonplace a season ago, the Flames responded to adversity in their next outing against the Washington Capitals. After falling behind by 2-0 and 3-2 deficits, Matthew Tkachuk netted a late goal that helped garner a point in a 4-3 shootout loss against the defending Stanley Cup champions. It’s been pretty much clear sailing since on the home front.
Since that Oct. 27 contest, the Flames have compiled a terrific 9-1-2 record against visiting teams. They have given their supporters plenty to cheer about by notching at least five goals in six of those outings, including impressive triumphs against fellow conference powerhouses the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators.
The atmosphere at the Saddledome and the confidence level of this team is a far cry from the misery the Flames endured as they limped to the finish line to close out a disappointing 2017-18 campaign. Fans’ hopes for a return to the post-season are now giving way to a true sense of belief that they could be a legitimate contender.
Flames Proving They Can Hang With the Elite
The Flames are showing no signs of regressing and as the wins and solid performances continue to pile up, there are plenty of encouraging signs moving forward. Last season may have ended on a lackluster note with little to be enthusiastic about, but this version of the club is definitely proving that shaking up the team’s chemistry can produce some major good fortune.
Off-season changes were made both behind the bench and in on-ice personnel and the early returns would suggest that Flames fans are in store for further high-levels of excitement and, most importantly, success. They have achieved their goal in making the Saddledome a tough environment for whoever they face and their loyal fans are responding in kind as their cheers have become louder and more frequent this season.
Have loved sports since an early age as both a fan and a participant and eventually was fortunate enough to get into the Sports Radio business. The highlight of my career was being part of Calgary Flames broadcasts at Sportsnet 960 The Fan during their run to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. I was an on-air personality from 2001 to 2012 at the station and had the pleasure of covering many a game at the Saddledome over that period. In the last few years I’ve transitioned to sports writing and have been an NHL contributor for RantSports.com and most recently a UFC writer for Today’sKnockout.com.