It’s the Week 2 Edition of 3 Things! The Flames went 3-1-0 this week, but there’s a lot to work on in Calgary. The Flames special teams fell apart and they seem to be enjoying the time they’re spending in the penalty box more than the time they spend on the ice. Upside? Mike Smith. Without Mr. Smith this season looks DRASTICALLY different. Let’s dig in to those subject in 3 Things.
Mike Smith: He’s Legit.
The Flames have struggled to find a solid option in goal since Miikka Kiprusoff left Calgary’s crease. They appear to have found the solution in 35 year old Mike Smith. There was some head scratching when the Flames added the veteran this off-season, but Smith has silenced the critics (this site included) with his play so far. Calgary is 4-2-0 and in first place and he’s played every single game, with only that stinker on Friday at home as a “down” performance. And if you watched that game, you knew it wasn’t his fault. Smith gave up 5 goals, but only one was on him. He was screened and his defence was non-existent at times. Smith looks like he’s going to carry the workload if he stays healthy and that’s a good thing for the Flames. Eddie Lack was brutal in the preseason and it’s going to be on Smith to carry the Flames to playoffs. Let’s face it, without Smith the Flames aren’t sniffing 4 wins.
HOLY PENALTIES BATMAN: Calgary is about as disciplined as a puppy.
The Flames are finding out the hard way that it’s hard to play when you’re down a man. Calgary has been taking penalties at a concerning pace lately. Saturday night alone, the Flames took 5 in the first period and 9 total on the night against the Canucks. And this is AFTER Glen Gulutzan got on the team for taking 6 penalties in their 6-0 loss to the Senators. Sam Bennett is the current leader on the team with 10 PIM, most of them boneheaded and unnecessary. If this is how Calgary responds after being lectured about taking penalties, it’s going to be a long, frustrating season.
Special Teams: They’re special...ish.
Last season the Flames special teams were far from special at the start. They were absolutely brutal. This year Calgary started off hot, killing penalty after penalty. But that luck ran out against the Senators. Calgary gave up 3 PPG goals in their 6-0 loss and that kind of result was inevitable (see the above paragraph). When you’re taking as many penalties as the Flames are, the PK unit can’t kill off that number of penalties consistently. By way of some miracle the Flames are still 5th in the NHL at killing penalties, killing 26 of the 29 chances they’ve had. On the flip side, the Flames PP unit is middle of the pack. The Flames sit in 16th place and have scored only 5 PPG in 25 chances. A prime example of the dismal PP was their 4 minute PP they had against the Senators that generated nothing. Summarize: Overworked PK, brilliant. Lots of PP chances, not so much.