If there's anything I've learned as a hockey fan, it's to never proclaim that a future game will be an "easy win," especially not with the Flames as of late.
Alas, I broke my cardinal rule. "Edmonton then Columbus? At this point in the season, those games are IN THE BAG." Yes, I knew that Calgary had not played well against the Blue Jackets this season, and that they were slaughtered the last time they played the Oilers, but come on, when in a playoff race, you win those games that are handed to you on a silver platter. As far as I was concerned, these games were marinated, filleted, cooked, placed on a silver platter, and offered up with 20 different choices of knives and forks.
But no, the Flames like to make things especially difficult for themselves. Losing to the Blue Jackets in the shootout burned, but the remaining two periods were largely encouraging, and the Flames will need to build off of that if they hope to beat the Colorado Avalanche today. From this point on, no games are "in the bag."
The Flames have dominated the season series thus far (4-0-0), but the Avs are 10-3-1 since the trade deadline, putting themselves in the thick of this playoff race, currently two points ahead of the Flames and sitting in the coveted 8th place position.
Yes, this game will be unlike any of the other games the Flames have played against the Avs this season. To underestimate them would be foolish, and the Flames cannot afford to have a three game losing streak. True, the Flames will not be mathematically eliminated should they lose this game, they have a game in hand against the Avs, and anything is still possible. However, much like the late California road trip last year, this game could be a detrimental nail in the coffin. In addition to this game, San Jose is playing LA, and Dallas is playing Phoenix. The Flames not only must win this game, they also have to pray those games don't go into overtime.
This will be the most important game the Flames have played to date. If they start out slowly like they did against Columbus, they will find themselves burned in the end.