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The Flames haven’t been smiling that often this season.
Johnny Gaudreau is foiled by a diving Darcy Kuemper.
You weren’t worried, were you?
You know, worried about how the Calgary Flames would respond to the challenge laid out by interim head coach Geoff Ward? The challenge he issued after some disconcerting play on home ice? How he highlighted some horrible habits that had seemed to come to a head after a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Feb. 6, following an emotional series of games against the Edmonton Oilers, a three-game losing streak and a massive reality check?
You weren’t worried about how the team would fare on a four-game road trip through the Pacific Division including three opponents that are currently out of a playoff spot, were you?
How about when the Flames did lose to the Los Angeles Kings in a 5-3 decision on Wednesday, when they were beaten by a team that clearly has had their number all season and won only its 20th game of the season? Were you worried then?
And it was the correct response to a critical juncture in their season, in the face of some adversity and in the wake of key injuries to their blueline . They came away with six points of eight on the table and, apart from the game against the Kings, won games they needed to win.
Scoreboard watching has been a nightly occurrence for this team since the calendar flipped to 2020 and the Flames were able to maintain their spot in the mix, waking up Friday morning in the first wild card position with 66 points.
Unless some teams completely self-implode, there’s more than a handful that will leap-frog each other the entire way to the finish line.
But, since the National Hockey League All-Star break and their CBA-mandated bye week, Ward has suggested this is the start of their playoff run. Ward noted that his team should already be in kill-or-be-killed mode and the very evidence of that was Thursday’s bounce-back 6-0 win over the Ducks.
You weren’t worried, were you, over whether or not they would, actually, bounce back?
Or whether or not they’d even win a single game in California, at all?
They looked like they were on a business trip, checking off boxes along the way. Their scoring depth has seemingly improved. Their stars looked like stars again. Their goaltending has been consistent. Their blueline is figuring things out in the absence of Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic. Their powerplay has even looked somewhat deadly at times.
So, with 23 games remaining starting with Saturday’s date with the Chicago Blackhawks, they’ll try to continue to piece their game together and make a serious run at playoffs.
Or nabbing a playoff position, at least.
And while this is happening, Flames general manager Brad Treliving will evaluate his club and decide whether or not to tinker and add to the current roster as the NHL trade deadline approaches on Feb. 24.
The Flames have three home games to show the boss what they need (or don’t) and will try to win for the first time at Scotiabank Saddledome since Jan. 11 or improve upon their mediocre 13-10-4 record on home ice.
Then, they’ll head out on the road for five games with stops at Detroit (Feb. 23), Boston (Feb. 25), Nashville (Feb. 27), Tampa Bay (Feb. 29) and Florida (March 1).
The dark cloud hanging over this entire 2019-20 season has been whether or not this team will get out of the first round of playoffs after the disappointment of such a successful regular season in 2018-19 and falling flat against the Colorado Avalanche. This year’s group has no buffer: they don’t have a handful of points they accumulated early in the season to allow for stumbling down the stretch.
It’s all in, right now.
You’re not worried, are you?
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020