If you watched only the first twenty-minutes of last night’s Calgary Flames game against the Washington Capitals, you would have left at the first intermission thinking that the Flames are a team bound for the playoffs. Streaking to a rapid 3-0 lead through the first period, the Flames looked like a team possessed to prove all the doubters wrong for picking them to finish near the bottom of the league this year.
But that is why the game consists of 60-minutes and not 20. Perhaps it wasn’t so much of the Flames playing above their caliber as the Capitals laying an egg in the first frame. Eventually Alex Ovechkin woke up, dusted off the home opener rust and led the Caps to a dramatic 5-4 shootout victory.
Not a bad start for the Flames, picking up a point on the road in their season opener, but can they surprise everyone around the league this year and compete for a playoff spot? Or are they truly destined for the label of bottom feeder for most of the year?
Gone are the stars of Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester while Miikka Kiprusoff retired at the age of 36. The Flames roster now consists of a lunch bucket crew that will have to grind away for wins, something that could be hard to come by.
One game doesn’t prove much for any club in this league, especially the season opener. For the Flames, last night’s hot start was a positive but blowing a three-goal lead twice during the game is concerning.
Karri Ramo is a 27-year old netminder with only 48 career NHL games under his belt heading into this campaign. It’s likely Ramo could emerge as the number one goalie in Calgary this season and the Flames are hoping they can catch lightning in a bottle the way they did with Kiprusoff.
If Ramo can’t emerge as one of the game’s great goaltenders, then the Flames will struggle to keep the puck out of their net. Their defence is a mixed bag of experience and youth, led by Mark Giordano and the overpaid Dennis Wideman.
Up front, the burden of the offensive production will fall upon the shoulders of Jiri Hudler, Mike Cammalleri and Curtis Glencross. Lee Stempniak and Matt Stajan will also be on the hook to contribute but given their track record of not living up to the hype, I wouldn’t be putting my money on them to lead this team in points.
All in all, if the Flames have any chance of success it will have to come from a complete team effort with Ramo stealing many games. It would be a tall order to have this roster score by committee on a nightly basis, but stranger things have happened.
A youth movement is under way in Calgary and even though Jay Feaster doesn’t want to use the word “re-build” it’s evident that the club is heading down that path. Can they compete throughout the entire season and be a potential Cinderella team, sneaking into the playoffs? It’s highly unlikely and this isn’t a horse that I’d hitch my wagon to.
Oilers fans should enjoy the upcoming season, if nothing else, for watching the Flames stumble at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Cinderella has left the ball and the clock has struck midnight. For the Calgary Flames that means a long season of job auditions for the future will be in store.
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