It’s a connection that’s almost impossible not to make on a Brian Burke-led team: it involves losing, collapsing and an 18-wheeler (and it helps to have a bad team).
What the Flames went through – an eight game losing streak – can’t quite be considered a full-on collapse since it happened in December, but the 18-wheeler Burke referred to in his media address with the Toronto Maple Leafs was getting closer and closer to flying off a cliff. At least for one game, though, the brakes seem to have been applied.
Following the eight game skid during which time the Flames didn’t win for two weeks, it appeared the misery would be extended at least one more game by the Los Angeles Kings. By the mid-way point of their Dec. 22 game against the Kings the Flames had fallen behind 3-0, but a late goal from Flames star rookie Johnny Gaudreau trimmed the deficit heading into the third.
Any potential momentum gained from that goal was absent, however, and the Flames still found themselves trailing 3-1 with just a few minutes to play. But Johnny Hockey was Johnny on the spot again as he scored twice in 1:13 – the last one coming with under a minute to play – to complete the natural hat-trick and tie the game. Mark Giordano then scored with 53 seconds left in OT to give his team a 4-3 win.
The win was not only important in terms of ending the skid, but also in reminding the team of how it won earlier in the season. When the Flames were rolling early on it was primarily on the shoulders of the defence – led by Giordano and TJ Brodie – with a mixture of forwards providing spot contributions. Despite their production increasing as the season wore on, recently everything went dry.
Against the Kings, though, things appeared to be back to normal: on top of the contributions mentioned above, Brodie assisted on the game-winner, plus Dennis Wideman and Jiri Hudler each added two helpers. Despite allowing three goals Jonas Hiller was solid in net for the Flames, stopping 31 of 34 shots, including each of the final 12 he faced.
The next three games for Calgary – two against the Edmonton Oilers and one against the Kings – will provide the opportunity to string a few wins together and offset the losing streak at least a bit. But making up the ground they’ve lost in the standings won’t be easy, given that most other teams in their division and conference have at least one game in hand.
If they have any hope of regaining their playoff spot they’ll need to win more often than they lose (obviously), but more importantly avoid any more lengthy losing streaks for the remainder of the season. In order for that to happen they’ll need more contributions from their core players and on a more consistent basis.