The gamethread’s title was the now infamous chant we all heard in the Shark tank last, during what was likely the most humiliating loss the Flames have suffered in recent memory. The subliminal message layered beneath the Sharks fans non-too-subte mockery was perhaps the more devastating one, however: you’re not up to our level, son.
The Flames have been perpetually poised on the cusp of greatness since the run of 2004, without ever really breaking away from the Western Conference middle class. Hopes were high after landing Bouwmeester in the off-season and then leading the division for the first couple of months last year…but the 9-1 loss to the Sharks was truly the dagger in the heart of those aspirations.
After missing the dance last year and without significant changes in the summer, the Flames fanbase is haunted by the fear that the window for the club to actually take that step into the lelite ranks is rapidly coming to a close. Every game against the likes of the Red Wings and Sharks represents another "validity" tests this year; another one of those chances for the Flames to give us a sign they’ll stop merely battling for a play-off spot and actually become a contender.
I’m not sanguine about the Flames chances of making the leap this year, but I’m always open to being convinced. The Columbus game seems to have generally soothed anxieties about the club’s offense in town, but I remain skeptical: the quality of opposition, as well as the hideousness of it’s goaltending, makes me pause in celebrating Calgary’s new-found potency. Some blow-outs are earned, with the score a true reflection of the contest. That wasn’t true on Friday: the scoring chance count for each club was within range and the Flames didn’t run away with anything possession wise. The primary difference between the teams was the Flames shots happened to go in. That seems glib and unsatisfying, but it’s the way of things sometimes – there are nights when the bounces favor you and curse the puck-stopper at the other end. This isn’t an indictment of Calgary’s performance against the BJ’s by any means, but I would say that the 6-spot managed by the Flames on Firday isn’t necessarily indicative of anything but the struggles of one Steve Mason during an off-night.
The Sharks, on the other hand, are a truer test. They’re on the second night of a back-to-back and the Flames are in their own barn, so this is as favorable as this match-up is going to be for Calgary (short of someone knee-capping Thornton, Heatley, Marleau and Pavelski of course). Like in Detroit, the Flames big guns have nowhere to hide this evening: it’s either perform or get buried. Here’s hoping it’s the former this time.
Let’s get it going.