It was a tough start for the Calgary Flames. But they seem to be coming together.
They were 4-5-1 in their first ten games. Their best line consisted of Michael Frolik and Mikael Backlund. Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau seemed snake-bitten after they both signed big contracts. The Flames defense was non-existent and Brian Elliott started with a 3-9 record in the first 12 games. Johnny Gaudreau, Chris Versteeg, and Lance Bouma suffered injuries. The fans were questioning Coach Gulutzan’s methods. It wasn’t the greatest start for a team that has been through a major overhaul in the past few seasons.
But things change. Players gel. Chemistry is created. And things seem to be looking up for the small market team. They have won three of their last five games and the team seems to be playing smarter, faster, grittier hockey lately. And that’s something that was sorely missing in the beginning of the season.
After a dozen or so slashes on his hands in one game, Gaudreau is now on the IR after having surgery to fix a broken finger. I blame the refs for their non-calls that eventually led to this scenario. Regardless, the offence has stepped up in Johnny’s absence and has pushed harder in the oppositions zone to come out victorious in most games.
The defense has tightened up – namely Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie – who seemed to start out rough this season. This is so very uncharacteristic of Brodie and I believe it surprised a lot of people. But he’s back in good form and returned to his quiet style of consistent play.
Kris Versteeg has returned after missing 9 games and he was back with a vengeance – until Troy Brouwer took him out at centre ice and Versteeg again missed another game. When he’s on the ice, Versteeg is an impact player and fights for his space, clearing the way for his teammates to take chances on net.
Matthew Tkachuk has been a stand-out all season so far with his chances on net and his truculence. He doesn’t take shit from anyone and won’t allow the opposition to shove around his teammates. It’s nice to see on a team that has been lacking in grit for quite a while.
Brian Elliott may have been hired as the starting goalie, but Chad Johnson is making a case for himself, winning 7 of his 11 starts and earning a .928 save percentage and 1.98 GA. If it was up to me, I’d ride Johnson as long as possible as the starter goalie because he’s earned it. Not to say that Elliott is a bad goalie – I’m not saying that at all. But this season goes to prove the forceful impact of the St. Louis defense that stood in front of Elliott in the past few seasons.
After a less than stellar start for Calgary, they seem to be more productive recently and I really hope they can continue this trend far into the season.