Calgary Flames Early Season Woes Are Becoming Concerning Trend
Watching the Calgary Flames the first three games of their regular season, it is hard to believe that just two years ago, they found themselves in the second round of the playoffs.
With a young core most teams would envy, the Flames were thought to be in position to be annual contenders in the west for years to come.
But all that came crashing down last year, as they went from qualifying for the playoffs, to finishing with the fifth fewest points in the entire league, and after being a Jack Adams Award finalist (best coach), Bob Hartley was sent packing.
The Flames allowed the most goals in the NHL last year, and instead of buffing up the defensive group, they traded for Brian Elliott, coming off the best year of his career with the St. Louis Blues.
Ever since Miikka Kiprusoff retired, the Flames have been looking to have their goaltending solidified by a legitimate franchise goalie. The Jonas Hiller experiment flamed out, and despite his best efforts, Karri Ramo just wasn’t good enough.
Elliott has always been a strong goalie in the league, but has never been the unquestioned number one on whatever team he has played on, going all the way back to this days in Ottawa. Most recently with the Blues, he shared time with Jake Allen, splitting time until the latter was ready to take over full time duties.
So now, at 31 years old, Elliott is getting his first opportunity to be the undisputed number one goaltender.
The only problem is that Calgary’s defense is a long way down from what Elliott played in front of in St. Louis.
That was quickly exposed, as Elliott was lit up in home-and-home season opening series against the Edmonton Oilers. In his two appearances, he allowed ten goals on just 55 shots faced. His .818 SV% (3rd worst) and 5.08 GAA (2nd worst) are among the worst in the entire league early on this season, and easily the worst among goalies who have played in multiple games.
It hasn’t even been completely on the defense, as since the start of last season, Calgary is in the top ten in fewest shots allowed per game. Whoever has been in net, just haven’t been able to make the save.
Even when they were able to find a goalie to make a save this season, backup Chad Johnson stopped 30-of-31 shots in his lone appearance this season - the offense wasn’t able to get anything going. In fact, the lone goal they scored in their loss to the Vancouver Canucks, was when Loui Eriksson put the puck in his own net on a delayed penalty. Calgary would go on to lose the game 2-1 in a shootout.
While they have scored eight (really seven) goals on the season, only one has come from either Monahan or Gaudreau - which wouldn’t be a bad thing if the team was winning. There are going to be times that you need your depth players to score, but when you’re losing, it’s up to the stars to get it done. Each have registered a lone point three games into the season after signing big contract extensions in the offseason (Monahan a goal, Gaudreau an assist).
Calgary will face a Buffalo Sabres’ team that is missing their leading goal scorer from a year ago, Jack Eichel, but also put up a six-spot against the Oilers on Sunday. Four games into the season may be a little too early to do so, but if after Tuesday’s game (against Buffalo) there only saving grace thus far is that they got ‘a point’ against Vancouver, it might be time to worry.