Flames in Need of a Winning Week to Rebuild Confidence and Playoff Hopes

The Calgary Flames put up a lackluster effort in a four-game series against the Vancouver Canucks where they were somewhat lucky to come away with a two-game split. Then the team lost two in a row on back-to-back nights against the Edmonton Oilers and panic was beginning to set in. Calgary was unable to give David Rittich any run support when he was able to finally settle in a play his first great game of the season on Friday night. Then Saturday it was the Connor McDavid show as the Oilers beat the Flames 7-1.

The panic began to set in after winning just two of six games against both teams and the questions began to rise. Pat Steinberg from The Fan 960 in Calgary kept the phone lines open until nearly two in the morning for disgruntled fans to air their grievances about the team. Even Elliotte Friedman discussed in his most recent 31 Thoughts podcast about whether Brad Treliving may be looking to make some big changes.

Blake Wheeler Mikael Backlund
Mikael Backlund of the Calgary Flames and Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets face off during Game One of the Western Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, Aug. 01, 2020. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

After a strong performance on Monday night against the league’s best team in the Toronto Maple Leafs, followed by a tight overtime loss on Wednesday the Flames have a chance to start turning the tide.

2 Of 4 Versus Vancouver

In three games at Rogers Arena, the Flames were heading back home with two wins, but all three performances weren’t very encouraging. Vancouver outshot Calgary in all three games including putting up 46 shots in their 3-1 win. The fourth game between the two clubs saw the Canucks walk away with another two points after a 5-1 victory. Unlike the three games before the Flames outshot Vancouver, but after a late second-period breakdown, the visitors ran away with the game.

In the first and second periods, Calgary looked to be more engaged and was out chancing Vancouver through most of it. It was the first time that the team didn’t get the saves they needed as Jacob Markstrom posted one of his worst performances of the season allowing five goals on 29 shots. The 5-1 loss was another stumble to the finish line type of game that featured more line-blending, there was suddenly now cause for concern surrounding the team.

Back-to-Back Battle of Alberta Losses

Last Friday the Flames hosted the Oilers for the second time this season and were unable to collect any points even after David Rittich’s best performance of the season. Rittich looked comfortable in the net and made some key saves for the Flames. Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, and Mikael Backlund were able to shut down the Oiler’s top line keeping McDavid and Leon Draisaitl off the score sheet. Despite the loss, the team looked much better than in their four games against the Canucks.

Matthew Tkachuk Calgary Flames
Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Saturday night in Edmonton was eerily similar to the Flames final game of the 2020 playoffs against the Dallas Stars. Calgary outshot and out chanced their rivals but couldn’t get much offense nor could they get a save from Markstrom who had his worst performance of the year. McDavid stole the show at home as he notched three goals and two assists including an incredible no-look shot that beat Markstrom five-hole.

The Flames were starting to show signs of maybe turning things around in terms of shots and chances but they were unable to get scoring or goaltending which led to their demise in the weekend set of games.

2-Game Set Versus Toronto

There were plenty of questions surrounding the team and what might happen whether in-season or after the 2020-21 season, but the Flames came into Scotiabank Arena and took care of business. The Maple Leafs have been one of the hottest teams in the league which includes Auston Matthew’s incredible 18 goals in 20 games. The Flames played a solid 60 minutes and Rittich was outstanding in getting his first shutout of the season.

David Rittich Calgary Flames
David Rittich, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Monday night’s game also saw the coaching staff stick with their lines they penciled in to start the game. Calgary’s top nine played more than eight minutes each at five on five and it led to a victory with goals both at even-strength and on the power play.

The second episode of Flames Faceoff was posted to THW’s YouTube Sunday evening and I mentioned that Geoff Ward needs to keep his lines together through thick and thin. The Flames were never trailing against the Leafs but these four lines should play together for another 60 minutes on Wednesday to try and find more consistency. That is exactly what happened Wednesday night as all four lines stuck together. The Flames were heavily outplayed by Toronto but Rittich once again had a solid performance in the crease on the way to a 2-1 overtime loss.

5 Of Next 7 Against Ottawa

Calgary is the only team in the Scotia North Division who has yet to play the Senators but they will play five of their nine games against the Sens in just 11 days. Ottawa has struggled this season as was to be expected, but they have started to find their game as they’ve managed to beat both Toronto twice and Montreal three times this season. The Flames may have their hands full with some of Ottawa’s young guns, but they have to take advantage of their weak goaltending.

Matt Murray and Marcus Hogberg are 57th and 59th in the league in save percentage (SV%) respectively and the Flames will need to be shooting from everywhere. The Senators are ranked 24th in the league on the penalty kill and Calgary should be looking to get their power play clicking again like it was in the first 10 games of the season.

Matt Murray Ottawa Senators
Matt Murray, Ottawa Senators (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It won’t be a walk in the park but the Flames should be aiming for at least four wins of five against the young Sens to get themselves into the heat of the playoff race.

Flames Have A Big Week Ahead

Elias Lindholm was about an inch away from sealing the deal until the Leafs came back to tie the game up and win it in overtime. It was a tough pill to swallow but walking out of Scotiabank Arena with three of four points is a good start to the road trip. If the team can string some wins together against Ottawa over the next eight days they can get themselves back into the conversation for playoffs and also build back their confidence that has been noticeably missing recently.

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