Seven games. Fourteen days. Evicted from their home ice. All to throw some rocks at some other rocks.
The Brier swept (pun intended) through the Scotiabank Saddledome over the course of the past two weeks, and now that John Morris and company have their championship, it's time for a fast paced, edge of your seat game to return to the ice. By no means am I dissing curling, but come on, the resilience and heart the Flames showed on the road trip was something you can't find pretty much anywhere else in sport these days.
The Flames finished a strong 4-2-1 or 9 points over their swing against the Eastern Conference, a conference that they had little success against all season. Really, if you don't count the games against teams whose names start with New York, it was a great trip. Here's a brief look at all seven games and stories from those games.
Game 1: Rangers 1, Flames 0; A battle of the goaltenders more or less. Karri Ramo with perhaps the save of the year. Emile Poirier with his first NHL game. Nothing else really as the Flames didn't muster much of anything.
Game 2: Flames 3, Devils 1; Mark Giordano got hurt. That's the only real thing that this game will be remembered for. Perhaps Curtis Glencross' last goal as a Flames was somewhat mentionable. But still, Gio.
Game 3: Islanders 2, Flames 1; Never mind here that the game winner ended up being an empty netter, but the Flames really weren't able to make up for being without Giordano. A tough loss but not terrible as they were in it until the end with a very good team.
Leadup To and Trade Deadline Day; The Flames spent Trade Deadline day mostly concerned after learning the fate of Mark Giordano. They were also able to net two 2nd round picks and a 3rd in this year's draft in separate deals by way of trading Glencross to Washington, and Sven Baertschi to Vancouver. Not bad trades as both players were unlikely to re-sign in the offseason. Glencross seems to be enjoying the change of scenery as he has 2 goals and 2 assists in 3 games with the Caps. Calgary also picked up David Schlemko off waivers and we all know what happened in his debut. A smart trade deadline day overall as Brad Treliving didn't make any rash moves to replace Giordano or anything that would set the rebuild back.
Game 4: Flames 3, Flyers 2 (OT); Calgary seemed to find a new gear in Philadelphia for the 1st period. Sean Monahan got his first 1st period goal of the season and the Flames led 2-0. The lead was then blown in the third but Jiri Hudler won the game in overtime and the Flames escaped with two points. Deryk Engelland actually had a decent game, and no, last time I checked, it isn't April Fools yet.
Game 5: Flames 4, Bruins 3 (SO); The Schlemko. Is there anything else to say? The Schlemko. Overall, an exciting game as both teams battled hard in a very even game which the Flames took in a shootout. Once more? The Schlemko.
Game 6: Flames 5, Red Wings 2; Second half of a back-to-back after a tough battle in Boston and then facing a very good Red Wings team. Simply looking at the schedule, it could have easily been pre-determined by doubters as an automatic loss. It certainly looked like it was going that way after Justin Abdelkader scored twice to give the Wings a 2-0 lead. Somehow though, the Flames managed to find a way to score five goals despite being heavily out-shot and out-corsied. Sometimes, you just have to watch the games and not the advanced stats.
Game 7: Senators 5, Flames 4 (SO); What can even be said about this game? I watched until it was 4-0 when I had to leave for a prior commitment. I had almost completely written off the Flames chances, after all they had a long road trip, and were down by FOUR(!) goals going into the third. Yes, they found a way many times for two goal deficits or even three. But come on, four, I don't think so. Well I learned once and for all that we can't ever write off the Flames as that wild third period comeback was something that came out of a work of fiction. Calgary stole a point in Ottawa and was some post-luck away from two. Bob Hartley summed it up best by saying "Let's leave the building before the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) show up" and rightly so.
Three Stars of the Trip:
1. Kris Russell; Even if see you see the dress as gold and white, there's no doubt in my mind that anyone sees Russell as anything but black and blue after all of his shot blocks (38 to be exact) during the trip. He also chipped in 2 goals and 3 assists. He was a crucial player in the absence of Mark Giordano.
2. Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller; A duo here but together they were solid backstopping the Flames during this trip. Ramo was absolutely spectacular in his first five starts and Hiller performed very well in Detroit and in relief in Ottawa. It will take this effort from both goaltenders down the stretch for the Flames to stay in the playoff picture.
3. Jiri Hudler; Hudler was solid on this trip all the way through. He provided the Flames with leadership after Giordano and Glencross went out, along with tallying eight points during the road trip. Hudler was just named the first star in the NHL for this past week.
Honourable Mention: Bob Hartley and Brad Treliving; Another duo, yet this trip wouldn't have been as successful without either on of them. Hartley continued to support his team through losing their captain to injury as well as an alternate to a trade. He continued to have as much fun as the players and did a strong job mentoring them through the ups and downs of this trip. Trelving showed a lot of faith in his current roster by not trading the farm for another defender after Gio went down as well as getting rid of the few problem cases within the Flames organization. Well done gentlemen!
Well, that's it, the Johnny Gaudreau homecoming trip, plus Detroit and Ottawa, has come and gone. The Flames will now return home for their next game against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday after capturing nine points on their road trip. They currently sit in third in the Pacific with 77 points, holding the tiebreaker against the Kings, and three points ahead of the Sharks.