The Calgary Flames are not known for winning games early in the season. Slow starts are the MO. Part of the club identity. Well, we can safely say that all of the years of early disappointment have dissipated. It’s not easy to watch the team pile up wins when you feel in the back of your mind is about to collapse. Something ain’t right, they’re winning too much, beating teams that are elite. Maybe….just maybe, that’s because the Flames are finally “that” team to beat now, skating around with the top teams in the league. Thus far it makes sense. Early wins against reigning Cup champs on opening night, Edmonton, Carolina, Vegas, Pittsburgh, but not Buffalo…. The streak is–well–unexpected.
Early season doubts were expected given how much turnover happened in the lineup, particularly to the top line. Everyone has been watching how the new bodies would fit in. New players often take months to acclimatize to new lineups and systems. Although there is some of that, there are also clear early wins.
I don’t think anybody expected Nazem Kadri (still feels weird to see him on the squad) to be at a point + a game pace so early. He’s been really, really good. You can see in the way he carries himself on the ice, this is business, and his business is winning.
Defensively, BT managed to lock in the other piece of the Tkachuk blockbuster by getting Weegar signed to an 8-year deal. 8 years for the defensive standout. On the back end, despite losing Oliver Kylington to a personal matter, the team is stronger, adding to an already elite top 6. Calgary is even better defensively than last year, which is tall order, and that’s with Jacob Markstrom still finding his legs early.
The largest acquisition from the off-season is of course Jonathan Hockey. When we take a look at all of the new players on their new years, from Gaudreau to Huberdeau, the latter lags. Scoring his first goal last night versus Pittsburgh, the top line for Calgary hasn’t clicked, in fact struggling significantly in 5v5 situations. That means this team is clicking and piling up wins despite not having their top line working. Special teams and lines 2-4 are pulling their weight.
Expect as the season moves forward that the Flames top line will figure their production woes out. Also look for the 4th line to get exposed on the road. We should also anticipate another forward, perhaps from the minors, to slot in where Trevor Lewis sits on the 3rd line. Not a place he should be, but when things work Darryl Sutter isn’t about to try out unproven rookies.
Edmonton in town on Saturday as the team looks to continue their torrid early pace.