THE STATS LINE
2-4-1 record [28th overall]
2.14 goals-for per game [21st overall]
2.86 goals-against per game [21st overall]
16.0% power-play success rate [15th overall]
85.2% penalty-kill success rate [14th overall]
THE WEEK THAT WAS
The Flames began their last week with the first installment of the Battle of Alberta at home against the Edmonton Oilers. After surrendering a first period power-play goal to Tom Gilbert, despite out-shooting the Oilers 13-7 in the first, the Flames continued to battle. Finally, the tide broke. Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Tanguay scored 29 seconds apart in the third and the Flames held on for a 2-1 win.
Next up for the Flames was a visit from the New York Rangers. The result wasn’t quite what the Flames hoped for. Despite getting a goal and an assist from captain Jarome Iginla, the bounces just didn’t go their way. Nowhere was this more evident than in the overtime period. A wide point shot from Dan Girardi whizzed past goaltender Henrik Karlsson (and the net), took a big bounce off the end boards and went straight to Ryan McDonagh, who potted his second of the year to earn the Rangers a 3-2 overtime victory. The Flames out-shot the Rangers 35-29, but could only get two pucks past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundquist.
The Flames’ third game of the week was an afternoon affair with the Nashville Predators. The Flames out-shot Nashville by a 33-14 margin, but the Predators won 2-0. While the Flames didn’t have a singular player that took command of the game, they were seemingly once again defeated by the bounces. Examples: The first Nashville goal bounced off of a shot-blocking David Moss before glancing off Nashville’s Niklas Bergfors to go past Miikka Kiprusoff. A beautiful Jarome Iginla pass on a first period power-play was tipped by a stick and hit Rene Bourque in the face, nullifying a strong scoring chance for the Flames. A probable Flames goal in the second period by Tim Jackman that would have tied the game was whistled down even though the puck was not in Predators goalie Pekke Rinne’s possession.
THE HOCKEY GODS VS. THE CALGARY FLAMES
The series of unfortunate bounces and the resulting 2-4-1 start for the Calgary Flames has led some fans to watch the team’s games with a sense of dread, wondering what will go wrong in the next installment. Fortunately, that attitude hasn’t migrated its way into the Flames locker room.
Forward David Moss explains that, despite the lack of success in the NHL standings, the team believes that they are doing the right things. He says that as long as the team sticks to the program, they will have success. The fact that largely the same group went on a bit of a tear last winter adds a bit of confidence to the group that staying the course will reap dividends.
“Anytime you lose a few games, especially early in the year and you’re not where you want to be, certainly you can draw experience from what you’ve learned,” says Moss. “If we’ve learned anything, it’s that you can’t panic. I think there’s certainly times where you’re not playing your best hockey, and it’s pretty evident, then you can panic. But I think the last few games have been more how we want to play. We just haven’t gotten timely goals when we needed them. I think if we stay consistently playing that way, we’ll be alright.”
Moss points to a handful of indicators – time in the offensive zone, shots and scoring chances – as a sign that the team is headed in the right direction and playing the right way. The team’s focus on game film also allows them to see first-hand what practices are working in-game.
“If we play that way consistently, you’re going to be successful more than you’re not,” says Moss. “Just because it’s not happening over a short stretch, it’s no reason to get frustrated.”
ROSTER MOVES: HORAK REMAINS, IVANANS REASSIGNED
Flames veteran pivot Brendan Morrison returned to the line-up on Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers. Through three games this week, Morrison averaged 17 minutes of ice-time and contributed greatly in the face-off circle — winning 64-percent of his draws.
When winger Raitis Ivanans was taken off the injured reserve following the game against Edmonton, the Flames surprised a few observers when they waived the 32-year-old Ivanans and assigned him to the Abbotsford Heat over the 20-year-old Romran Horak.
Then again, it may not be that surprising. Horak has dressed for five of the Flames’ first seven games and has averaged 11:23 of ice-time while earning praise for his calmness and poise. Ivanans last slotted into a National Hockey League game nearly 13 months ago, during the Flames’ 2010-11 season-opener October 7, 2010 against the Edmonton Oilers. For a player who hasn’t played a game in over a year, it is probably a good idea to let him find his game legs in the AHL before rushing him back to the bigs. Ivanans dressed for Abbotsford’s 3-1 loss against the Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday night, but did not hit the score sheet.
Meanwhile, Horak remains excited about playing in the National Hockey League.
“It’s been awesome,” says Horak. “It’s the NHL, right? I’m enjoying it, it’s a great experience for me and hopefully I stick around.”
The main differences that Horak has noticed between the Western Hockey League and the NHL? The speed of the game and the level of preparation that the players bring to the rink.
“People in the NHL, playing NHL hockey, it’s not just being a pro on the ice,” says Horak. “You have to be a pro off the ice, too, and it starts with preparation.”
After two weeks in the NHL, Horak has been scratched for two games and dressed for five. On occasions when the Flames have dressed veterans over their resident 20-year-old, Horak says that is just part of being a youngster in the NHL.
“I’m still a young guy, that’s just life,” reflects Horak. “Sometimes you get scratched and you just have to take it how it is.”
The Flames roster currently sits at 23 players, with forward Mikael Backlund and defenseman Brett Carson on injured reserve.
DISPATCHES FROM THE FARM
The Abbotsford Heat are off to a 4-2-0 start in the American Hockey League. Former Flames first round pick Greg Nemisz leads the team with five points, including two goals. Another former first rounder, goaltender Leland Irving, has posted a 4-2-0 record with a 1.82 goals against average while playing every minute of play for the Heat thus far.
Meanwhile, in the ECHL, forwards Justin Dowling and Mitch Wahl sit atop the Utah Grizzlies’ scorers through five games. Dowling has six points, while Wahl has three goals and four points for the 4-1-0 Grizzlies.
In the NCAA, Boston College forward Bill Arnold sits atop the Hockey East scoring race with 10 points in six games. Arnold’s teammate, freshman and Flames fourth round draft choice Johnny Gaudreau, is Hockey East’s current rookie scoring leader with seven points in six games. Boston College has a 5-1-0 record this season and is undefeated in conference play.
And finally, three Flame prospects sit in the WHL’s top 20 in scoring: Brandon’s Michael Ferland (17 points in 13 games), Portland’s Sven Baertschi (17 points in just eight games) and Kootenay’s Max Reinhart (16 points in 12 games).
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.