Wait, the Calgary Flames are tied for top spot in the National Hockey League? Did the NHL hire gremlins to take care of stats?
By accumulating at least one point in each of their first five games, this year’s Flames have established a new team record since the league changed its overtime points. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year with fans looking to the bottom of the standings to find the team.
How else to explain that, as of the morning of Oct 12, Calgary had the fourth best offense at 3.60 with rookie Sean Monahan’s four goals already second best among rookies and Jiri Hudler quietly tied for most points in the league with seven? In fact, the Flames had three players in the top 14 in points with Hudler, Monahan and captain Mark Giordano.
And the team has been without its top scorer in Mike Cammalleri nursing a hand injury as well as two other veterans, Matt Stajan and David Jones.
What is noticeable in the first five games of the season is the team playing at a high tempo and working hard. There are youthful mistakes and a system still under construction with coach Bob Hartley. The defense needs a lot of working with the Flames sitting 25th in goals against (3.20) and the PK 26th (66.7%).
Of course, five games do not make a season but regardless of what happens in the next few months, the team is off on the right foot. Confidence and working as a team will go a long ways into the future. There seems to be a good balance of youth and veterans in the lineup with Giordano proving himself the right choice as captain.
Here are some questions ahead for the Flames:
-How will the team face adversity on a five-game road trip that includes California where it has struggled recently, especially in Anaheim?
-Should management return rookie sensation Sean Monahan back to juniors?
-Will Hartley rely on goaltender Joey MacDonald or give Karri Ramo another chance to prove himself?
-How can the team maintain its scoring prowess while cutting back on goals allowed?
Mario now covers the Los Angeles Kings and writes other hockey features. He is an experienced journalist who has covered sports and entertainment in daily and weekly newspapers, magazines and online, including thedigitalbits.com/columns/inside-cinema. He is also the co-creator of The Gaffoos, www.gaffoos.com