From December to the end of January, the Flames lost just five games in regulation. Their record was an astonishing 16-5-3, a win % of 66.7.
Unfortunately, the Flames have already lost four regulation games in February and the month isn’t even over yet. Their record thus far is 3-4-2 (33.3%) and I think we can all agree that they didn’t even deserve a couple of those W’s.
And we’re not talking about an inordinately tough schedule or bad bounces here: the Flames were outshot in six of the nine contests and they’ve already given up 40+ shots three separate times (twice to non-play-off teams in COL and LAK). In addition, the Chicago Blackhawks were the only adversary the Flames played this month who were positioned above them in the standings.
No, it really looks like the Flames have been coasting on inertia. If Kipper hadn’t recently awoken, I’m guessing the Feb record would be even uglier.
Of course, this is actually a familiar script for Flames fans. In 06-07, Calgary enjoyed a high-flying January (8-3-2, despite missing an injured Jarome Iginla) only to return to mediocrity when the Captain was activated in February (6-5-3).
Last year, the Flames actually had even less losses in regulation from December to the end of January (16-4-5) than the current season, but again the wheels started to fall off in the final full month of winter (7-6-1).
In both the previous years, bad beginnings and endings doomed the club to a median finish in the standings and a difficult first round opponent in the post-season. This year, the Flames are lucky in that the rest of the division has been fairly awful, affording them a nice eight-point buffer in the standings — so, despite another shitty start to the season, the Flames could well end up with a favourable match-up in round one even if they fade down the stretch again.
I would prefer it, though, if the club didn’t coast to the finish line for the third straight year. For the first time in well over a decade, Calgary has significant contributions coming from all corners of the roster. With Kipper starting to finally come around, the Flames have the kind of depth that could lead to some real success if they could just get all their shit together.
That starts with tightening up the PK and the own-zone play in general, which has been as loose as a drunken cheerleader at prom so far this month. It also means Jarome Iginla not looking like a third liner for weeks at a time. It means Todd Bertuzzi either improving his decision-making at even-strength or taking a seat now and then. It means Dion Phaneuf taking a step forward rather than a step back. It may also mean the acquisition of one more top-six forward or top-four defenseman to get one of the struggling stars out of his rut.
The Flames previously rock solid ES play has fallen on hard times this month. And the PP hasn’t exactly been bailing them out. So let’s get back on the horse here boys, yes?…or else I think the irony of Kipper getting better while the record gets worse is going to kill me.