Flames Weekly offers a look at how the Calgary Flames performed in the previous week. Be sure to check in every Monday for my take on the week that was and to find out which storylines and players took center stage. Feel free to use the comment section below to let me know how you thought the team performed or post any ideas or questions about the Flames.
When the Flames were outclassed three games in a row by three of the best teams in the entire NHL last week, I don’t think anyone really blinked an eye. There’s no shame in losing to a superior opponent, and besides, I figured the boys in red were still finding their footing after coming back from a very long layoff.
But, when you lose your first home game in over a month 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators – one of the worst teams in the entire NHL? That’s a tough pill to swallow. After losing four straight in regulation, I think it’s safe to say that Calgary has hit the low point of their 2021-22 season. But fear not! The week wasn’t all doom and gloom, as you’ll soon find out in my latest edition of Flames Weekly.
Gaudreau Selected to Represent the Flames at All-Star Game
Before we dive into that debacle of a game against the Sens, let’s kick things off with some positive news. On Thursday, the league announced the selections for the NHL All-Star Game to be held in Las Vegas on Feb. 5, and for the sixth time in his eight-year pro career, Johnny Gaudreau will represent the Flaming C. The dynamic winger has 15 goals leads all Flames with 39 points. He has three game-winning goals, 105 shots, and has gone pointless only eight games this season.
I don’t think there’s a more deserving player on the roster, and linemate Elias Lindholm certainly agrees.
“It’s fun,” Lindholm told reporters. “The way he’s played this year, it’s fun to watch, and from my side, it’s fun to be a part of and be out there with him. He’s been a really good player for us so far and keeps building his game, and seems to have a lot of fun out there. He’s one of the best playmakers I’ve played with.” For those who think Matthew Tkachuk should also get the opportunity to play with Gaudreau in Sin City, he’s the Flames candidate for the Last Men In vote and still has a shot.
Flames Lay an Egg in First Home Game in Over a Month
Reduced capacity restrictions meant the Flames tilt against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday was played before a half-empty arena. However, I was still hoping that a fan base starved for live hockey plus a well-rested home team would equal some early fireworks and a much-needed victory against the No. 30 team in the league. Instead, the Flames gave up the game’s first goal on the Senator’s first shot, and they never seemed to get back on track.
Before meeting the Flames at the Dome on Thursday, the Senators had only played one game in the past 25 days, but whatever rust they may have accumulated certainly wasn’t a problem. Calgary was down 3-0 after 40 minutes and finally answered early in the third period with a nice goal by Tkachuk, but it was too little, too late. Ottawa’s Connor Brown sealed the deal late in the final frame, giving the visitors a 4-1 road victory.
After the game, head coach Darryl Sutter repeatedly mentioned the team’s emotion (or lack thereof) in every answer he gave reporters: “I think the emotional level of our group has been lacking for some time now.” I would have to agree. During this four-game skid, the Flames haven’t responded well to adversity – which was the team’s unfortunate calling card in past seasons. Right now, the players are all saying the right things, but we’ll see how much fire is in the squad’s collective belly on Tuesday when they hit the ice again.
The City of Calgary Wants to Start Over With a New Arena Deal
It wasn’t that long ago when it was widely assumed we would all be witnessing the groundbreaking ceremony for a new downtown event center in early 2022. The $550 million tab for the snazzy new barn was supposed to be picked up by the Flames and the City of Calgary, but we all know that deal cratered in catastrophic fashion in late December. We also know that there was no last-minute attempt to extend the Dec. 31 deadline to somehow salvage a deal that took years to negotiate.
On late Wednesday night, the city council voted unanimously to continue its quest to build a new downtown arena, so it sure looks like the City of Calgary wants to try again. But, this time, they want the help of a third party who will work to determine if the Flames are still interested in restarting discussions or whether the massive project can move forward with a new partner. Wait, a new partner? I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure who (other than the Flames) has hundreds of millions of dollars burning a hole in their pocket and is willing to get this done.
The Week’s Winners and Losers
With many games postponed, the Flames found themselves down to a single game this week. However, there was no shortage of storylines to follow, so let’s dive in and see who made the biggest impressions, positive or negative.
- Jacob Markstrom had such a strong start to the season that he became an early favorite in the Vezina trophy sweepstakes. But, in his has five starts, he’s posted a 2-3 record, allowed 19 goals against – that’s a 3.80 goals against average (GAA) and an .880 save percentage (SV%). Not great. When asked why he had to sit out last week when Sutter deemed him “not 100%”, the big Swede was beyond evasive with the media. Reporter: “Can you clarify what your injury was?” Markstrom: “No”. Reporter: ” Was it performance-related or physical that kept you out of the game?” Markstrom: “I don’t know.” Well, I don’t know either, but here’s hoping Calgary’s number one puckstopper figures it out soon.
- Before Thursday night’s Flames-Senators tilt, the Tkachuk brothers played 14 NHL games against each other, with Matthew and Brady winning seven each. The “Battle of the Brothers” at the Scotiabank Saddledome this past week was the big tiebreaker and while the younger sibling walked away with a 4-1 victory, I think the elder Tkachuk may have won the war. Late in the third frame, Brady gave his big brother a shove, clearing him from the net and knocking him right on his keister. Matthew, never shying away from a skirmish, responded by giving his baby brother a one-handed slash right in the… mid-section? Groin? Crotch? Any way you slice it it, I’m sure their mom (who was watching at home) didn’t appreciate the brotherly shenanigans.
- Early last week, Andrew Mangiapane’s agent appeared on Sportsnet 960 and was very candid about his client’s future with the Flames. Rich Winter prefers a shorter deal that takes Mangiapane to free agency. “Well, I think more than anything if I was to sum it up in one word, I would suggest ‘patience.’ There’s an awful lot of variables going on around him”, he told Eric Francis. “Like is Johnny staying? Is Chucky staying? What’s happening around you on the team? But more importantly, what other opportunities are there out there? You’re a year away from being an unrestricted free agent at 27 years of age, really in the heart of the best-producing years of your career.” I don’t think a lot of fans in the C of Red expected to hear that coming from the team’s leading goal scorer.
- Another Flame that people have been talking a lot about this season is Sean Monahan, but for very different reasons. I’m sure many fans were hoping that a fully recovered Monahan could bounce back from offseason hip surgery and return to the form that made him a 20+ goal scorer for seven consecutive seasons. That hasn’t happened and he told reporters this week that he really needs to start shooting more. “For me, I have to start to bear down and look at the net more. I’ve been pulling up and not shooting as much as I normally do. And I think once you do that, one goes in and you start to roll with it.” Here’s hoping.
Flames Week Ahead
There are just two games on the docket this week, but the first one scares the bejeezus out of me. On Tuesday, the Flames host the Florida Panthers, who handed the boys in red their worst loss of the season on Jan. 4 and have been averaging six goals a game in 2022. That’s an astounding 42 goals in seven games, including nine against the Columbus Blue Jackets two nights ago. While the Panthers are not the kind of team, you’d like to face while on a losing streak, the team Calgary plays on Saturday night certainly is. The Edmonton Oilers are currently in free fall and could be just the cure for the Flames’ anemic offense.
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Greg Tysowski is a former broadcast journalist who chose the exciting life of a stay-at-home dad for over a decade. He’s now a published author, parenting blogger and aspiring sports writer covering the Calgary Flames for The Hockey Writers. Greg is also a regular contributor to the weekly roundtable discussion “Flames Faceoff”, now streaming on YouTube and all podcast outlets.