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Calgary Flames’ strong start slowly turning sour

Well, it was a good run while it lasted wasn’t it? Okay, not all hope is lost, but the Calgary Flames have hit that everyone-knew-it-would-happen-at-some-point rut in their season, in the form of a six-game losing streak.

A losing streak in general isn’t a great way to go about having success – let alone a six gamer – but in the powerhouse Pacific Division it’s pretty much a death sentence. At one point regularly occupying the second or third spots in the conference, the Flames’ skid has dropped them to fifth in the division and out of a Wild Card spot, despite a 17-14-2 record.

That has largely been due to a lack of production from a team whose goal scoring was top 10 in the league for some time. During this six game span, however, they have scored just 10 goals and only once found the back of the net three times in a game. Compounding the lack of offence has been the poor goaltending the team the team has suffered through at the most inopportune time.

As he has been for much of the season, Karri Ramo was streaking again – this time in the wrong direction. Coming off a stretch of six games in which he went undefeated, Ramo lost his next three contests to the San Jose Sharks, Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers, allowing 11 goals in that span.

Jonas Hiller – who has, for the most part, been much more consistent than Ramo – has been in a serious funk of his own. Winless since Nov. 20, Hiller has definitely been the more unlucky of the two netminders during the team’s slump: In two of his three starts Hiller has given up just two goals, and didn’t allow a goal in his mop-up duty against the Rangers.

The bright side, if there can be one in a six game skid, is the Flames were only dominated on the scoreboard in two games – against the Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs. Even though they lost 4-1 in the latter game, the score was a bit inflated thanks to two empty net goals.

In the remainder of the games, though, they lost by one goal to each of the Sharks, Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks. It’s tough to have to take moral victories in a success-driven league, but if nothing else the Flames can say they had a shot at taking at least one point more often than not.

But make no mistake: the losing can go on for only so long. The Flames weren’t supposed to be one of the top teams in the Pacific, but through 27 games – whether by fluke or not – they showed they belonged. Regardless of expectations, to continue to descend down the standings and out of the playoff picture would be a big disappointment.

In the midst of all this, head coach Bob Hartley signed a multi-year contract Dec. 17 to stay with the team for the foreseeable future. Since joining the team in 2012-13 he has compiled a 54-65-11 record in two seasons, plus a 17-14-2 record this season. Though he hasn’t made the playoffs in his tenure, he has made some great strides with the team.

 

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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