Flames Weekly is a new THW series that will look at how the Calgary Flames performed in the previous week. Be sure to check in every Monday for our take on the week that was and find out which storylines and players took center stage. Feel free to use the comment section below to let us know how you thought the team performed or for any other ideas or questions you have about the Flames.
Tumultuous Time in Toronto
After it felt like the sky was falling, the Flames put the fanbase at ease last week, though, in typical fashion, they continued their inconsistent ways. Heading into the week, they faced two games against the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs. During the first game on Monday, Calgary played like they were the division leaders and defeated Toronto, 3-0. Leading the way was David Rittich, whose 34-save shutout included some highlight-reel saves.
Rittich was headed for another shootout on Wednesday against the same Maple Leafs before William Nylander tied the game 1-1 with just over a minute remaining in the third. Toronto’s comeback was completed by Nylander who scored his second of the game in overtime to defeat the Flames. Still, Calgary took three of four points from the division leaders and looked to be on the right track.
Consistently Inconsistent in Ottawa
After the Toronto set, the Flames felt good ahead of their two games against the lowly Ottawa Senators, who had six wins heading into Thursday’s game. Unfortunately, that night, the Sens looked like the division leaders and hammered Calgary 6-1. This game was not only a back-to-back set, but it was also the fifth game in seven nights for the Flames. Still, it was a disappointing loss to the worst team in the NHL.
The Flames got over the loss in their next meeting on Saturday and scored six of their own in this one to beat the Senators 6-3. The win gave them five of a possible eight points on the week, and the Flames are now one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division.
Lack of Depth Scoring
Outside of Saturday’s game, the main cause for concern last week was the Flames’ inability to put the puck in the net. In both games versus the Leafs and Thursday’s against the Sens, Calgary scored just five goals. This isn’t a new concern, as they have struggled to score for most of the 2020-21 season. Their 2.59 goals-per-game average is 25th in the league, trailing even the struggling Sens who average 2.61.
Outside of Johnny Gaudreau, who is having an impressive bounce-back season, many of the Flames’ top players are failing to pull their weight. Matthew Tkachuk has taken some heat with just 16 points in 22 games, while the usually consistent scorer, Sean Monahan, has found the back of the net just four times.
More concerning, however, is the team’s lack of depth scoring. Four of their free-agent signings this summer – Josh Leivo, Dominik Simon, Joakim Nordstrom and Nikita Nesterov – have failed to score a goal this season. They aren’t the only ones struggling either. In fact, 12 players who have suited up for the Flames this season have failed to register a goal, despite a combined 120 games played between them. In those games, they have a combined seven points.
One of the bright spots this season was that the Flames had yet had to deal with many injuries. That changed last Monday when Jacob Markstrom was announced to be day-to-day with what the team is calling an upper-body injury. The injury forced Rittich to start all four games last week.
The 31-year-old has yet to practice with the team, but Markstrom was on the ice before Sunday’s practice which indicates he is feeling better. The coaching staff has been pretty tight-lipped about the situation, so it’s unclear exactly when he will return. For this week, however, Rittich will likely play in most of their four games, if not all.
Derek Ryan, who has been on injured reserve with a fractured finger since early February, missed this past week but appears to be closing in on a return as he, too, has resumed skating. Though the 34-year-old has struggled this season, with just one assist in 10 games, he has been a solid secondary-scorer for the Flames in the last two seasons and will be a welcomed addition to the lineup when he is ready to go.
The Flames should be able to gain some ground in the standings this week, as three of their four games are against the Senators. Of course, the Sens aren’t a guaranteed victory, as they proved last Thursday, but if Calgary plays up to their potential, they should be able to get six points off Ottawa this week.
Then, on Saturday, the Flames meet the Edmonton Oilers. These teams have met three times this season, with Edmonton ahead in the season series 2-1. The Oilers are red hot as of late, with an 8-2 record in their last 10 games, and they should provide a very good test for Calgary.
The Oilers are six points ahead of the Flames as of Monday, though Calgary has a game in hand. If the Flames can win tonight and Thursday night’s games versus Ottawa, it will make this Battle of Alberta a very important and exciting one. Buckle up!
Former Jr. A player turned writer. Cover both the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, and am part of both the Flames Faceoff and Oilers Overtime podcasts.