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Calgary Flames riding high into 2015 All-Star break

Heading into the All Star break the Calgary Flames got a major confidence boost after finishing their most recent road trip with a 4-1 record. The record alone is enough to admire, but who those wins game against – and the way they earned them – is even more impressive.

Before the first game of the trip against the Vancouver Canucks the Flames already had to deal with adversity in the form of a key injury. Goaltender Karri Ramo went down, leading to a recall of Joni Ortio from the Adirondack Flames of the American Hockey League.

Without hesitation, though, Ortio was thrown in the line of fire against the Canucks. The 23-year-old – with nine previous NHL games on his resume, to boot – dazzled, stopping all 36 shots he faced in a 1-0 win. Riding the hot hand, Ortio got the start in the following game against the Arizona Coyotes.

He wasn’t as busy in Arizona as he faced only 28 shots from a struggling Coyotes team. But he was up to the task – stopping 27 of those shots – and received some offensive support in the form of a four goal outburst. Mikael Backlund scored for the second straight game, while Dennis Wideman, Lance Bouma and Sean Monahan each put up multiple points.

Next up were the San Jose Sharks who, like the Coyotes, were going through some struggles of their own. In somewhat of a surprising decision Ortio was given his third straight start since his recall. It wasn’t so easy for Ortio or the Flames in this game as the team blew a 2-0 lead, falling behind 3-2 before tying it late in the second and winning it in overtime on a Monahan goal.

Goals were harder to come by in Calgary’s next game against the Los Angeles Kings – whom the Flames had already beaten in their previous two meetings. No goals were scored until the third period, in fact, when the two teams scored within a few minutes of each other. As with the game against the Sharks, though, the Flames were able to pull out the win in overtime thanks to Dennis Wideman.

It was only at the end of the trip when they faced the Anaheim Ducks that the Flames looked outmatched. Ortio had his worst game of the trip, allowing four goals on 11 shots in just under a period and a half of work. The Flames were only able to get as close as two goals before Ryan Kesler put the game away with the Ducks’ sixth goal of the game on an empty netter.

The trip may not have ended ideally – that’s probably putting it lightly – but to come out of the trip with a 4-1 record facing three of the best teams in the Pacific Division is no small feat. On top of the wins themselves there are multiple positives that can be taken from the trip.

With the exception of the the Anaheim game Ortio played magnificently (and he can receive a pass for that game considering he hadn’t received a break since joining the big club). Aside from the goaltending, 14 players had at least one point, including some players who appeared to get a spark from the trip.

Backlund had three goals and four points, Monahan had four goals and five points, Wideman had two goals and three assists and Bouma had four assists. Mark Giordano and Johnny Gaudreau continued to roll, meanwhile, each registering four points.

Their great stretch put them within three points of the second-place Sharks and gave them a slight cushion on the teams below them in the standings. Just how the All-Star break will affect the team remains to be seen, but the Flames are in a great spot heading down the home stretch.

 

Andrew DiRienzo
Andrew is a die hard sports fan who follows any and all sports. When he realized a career as an athlete wasn't in the cards he decided to venture into the world of sports writing. Born and raised in Canada's capital, Ottawa, Andrew has a journalism diploma from Algonquin College and an Honours Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Ottawa. In addition to covering college athletics while at Algonquin, he has also covered the Women's World Hockey Championships (2013) and junior hockey.
Andrew DiRienzo
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