I don’t know how, but they did. Calgary returned from an early season Eastern road-swing with a perfect 5-0 record taking on some heavy hitters like the Washington Capitals and NY Rangers.
After a shaky start to the season v. Edmonton and Anaheim, which reminded many fans of the Flames of old, Calgary took off East to find their winning groove. What went right?
Right off the bat Sutter’s mark is being felt on the back-end. As fans rightly grumbled about Zadorov and Gudbranson, the latter has been working well with young Valiamki as the 3rd pairing. The former hasn’t seen the lineup since Game 2 after some costly and repeated errors. Mike Stone even got into the lineup to replace the injured Noah Hanafin in Pittsburgh to cap off the trip.
Kylington, Andersson, Vali, are all playing to expectations. It’s also nice to see the best performing players logging the minutes. Couple that with a goaltending tandem that’s been lights out, and you have a recipe for success. But you still need scoring.
Among the league leaders are Andrew Mangiapane and Elias Lindholm. Both sit atop the standings in goals. Both early surprises. Can they continue the pace? For Mangiapane, he’s making due with Ritchie as a linemate and the new test of Dillon Dube at C (with Monahan playing 4th line duties). So far so good. The team is clicking and everyone has a role that they’re filling in. I guess you could call this “Sutter hockey”. Which works for me when it, well, works. Can they get up for bigger games against Divisional rivals? Can they win consistently at home?
We’ll see how they fair in November, but as of right now, October is almost done and the Flames sit atop the Pacific Division, which if we’re fair, most of us didn’t think that was in the cards at season opener. But we’ll take it.