The Hockey Gods seem to have already decided the fate of the Calgary Flames very early in this still-young season.
Before the games even got under way the Flames got some bad news, losing Sam Bennett – who still wasn’t a sure lock to make the team – to a shoulder injury. To make matters worse, a flu bug was making its way through the dressing room, affecting Johnny Gaudreau in the latter stages of the pre-season and threatening to keep Sean Monahan out opening night.
But when it came time to drop the puck at the Scotiabank Saddledome Oct. 8 both Gaudreau and Monahan were in the lineup to face the Vancouver Canucks. As it turns out, Monahan’s presence – despite playing with the flu – was important in keeping the game close given his role in setting up the team’s second and final goal in a 4-2 loss.
Fortunately for the Flames they had the chance to avenge that loss the following evening when they made the trip north to visit their provincial rival Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. Thanks to newcomers Karri Ramo and Mason Raymond the Flames were able to do some spoiling of their own, but it didn’t come so easy.
Calgary was outshot 25-11 in the first two periods alone, but thanks to Ramo – who, himself, played a role in blowing a two-goal lead – the game remained tied at two apiece. But Raymond took over in the third, completing his hat trick after scoring his first of the night in the first period, which lifted Calgary to a 5-2 win.
The Flames then made the trip to Missouri looking to carry the momentum from the win in Edmonton into their game against the St. Louis Blues. And in what would be an omen for the game as a whole, Joakim Lindstrom got the Blues on the board early – as in 48 second into the game.
By the end of the first period the Flames were down 2-0; by the end of the second the deficit grew to 4-0, but things were slipping by more than what the score let on. By the time the final buzzer sounded the Flames were severely outshot by a 39-24 margin, grossly outplayed and lucky to lose by just a 4-1 final. (Note: Jiri Hudler missed the game because of the flu).
And if they think things will get any easier they need only look at their next few games to see why that won’t be the case. The Flames have four games remaining on their six-game road trip, with stops in Nashville, Chicago, Columbus and Winnipeg awaiting them before returning home October 21.
Adding to the already difficult task of playing the Predators and Blackhawks is the fact they have to do so on back-to-back nights. With wins in those games difficult to come by, Calgary will likely need to defeat both Columbus and Winnipeg to salvage the trip.
While it would be ill-advised to put much stock into wins and losses so early in the season, this early road trip could have major implications. It could inject some much-needed confidence into the lineup or cripple its momentum heading into the latter stages of October and beyond.