The Flames have been rolling along happily enough, but tonight’s not quite the same.
Back when this latest run of positive results was in its infancy, Calgary snuck by the best team in hockey with a 4-3 shootout win. At the time, they had earned points in six of their previous seven, but were flying under the radar a bit because all but three of those had been wins.
Tonight, they play that same best team in hockey again, this time having established themselves far better than the team that was 14th in the West on Jan. 22. Since then, they’ve picked up 14 points in just eight games and climbed six spots up the Western Conference table, not including the shootout victory over Vancouver.
I’m not saying the Canucks took the Flames lightly. But certainly Calgary was just getting its feet under it for this remarkable streak and the result almost certainly surprised everyone, given it came on the road in the second half of a back-to-back.
Tonight the Flames are out to prove something. This point streak is nice of course, but pretty much all of it, and certainly everything since the Vancouver game, have come against teams that could in no way be considered elite or, in most cases, anything more than middling. Nashville, St. Louis, Nashville again, Atlanta, LA, Chicago, Ottawa and Anaheim. These sides aren’t exactly the steel of the National Hockey League, and no real way of testing the Flames’ mettle.
Vancouver is obviously a different story. They enter tonight’s tilt in much the same way they did that last contest: as the league frontrunners. Until they’re most recent game — a 4-3 loss to Anaheim — they’d won six straight (beginning immediately after the loss to Calgary) and earned points in their previous nine.
Clearly, this is still not a team that messes about, and it’s been very impressive despite a run of injuries to virtually every key defenseman they’ve got. Despite that, they’ve allowed just 12 goals in their last seven games, and scored 32. Yes, a plus-20 goal differential in seven games, one of which they lost.
This Vancouver team is terrifying, no doubt, and the Flames will need to rely on more than their pluck tonight to keep the streak alive.