1. Maybe they can beat good teams
Last week I was roundly criticized for being too hard on the team by saying they weren’t that good and maybe, as it turns out, those critics were right. I wrote of how underwhelming the Flames’ performance against the Wild — a team with 45 points at the time — had been and lamented that the Red Wings and Canucks, teams who had won a boatload of games in the previous two weeks, almost all by terribly convincing scores, would likely kill the Flames where they stood.
That didn’t happen.
Instead, Calgary went out and turned in a pair of strong defensive efforts, then scored enough goals to win. That’s probably all you can ask from a team like Calgary, certainly when they’re playing teams the caliber of Detroit and Vancouver. One of the commenters said that taking two points from those games had to be considered a success and I would agree with that. Taking four points, especially given that the games were played on back-to-back nights, was a dream we only dared imagine.
And to do so with Leland Irving between the pipes against the mighty Vancouver Canucks is even better. What a great way for a kid to pick up his first NHL win. Olli Jokinen, I thought, played very well both nights and got the points to show for it. Hey, Mikael Backlund even scored in that one!
That was a strong way to enter the brief Christmas break.
2. But don’t get it twisted
With all that having been said, let’s not misconstrue the situation. It’s certainly not that I think this suddenly vaults Calgary into the position of home ice contender or anything like that, but it sure is nice to see this team actually go out and win games against teams they theoretically should not.
However, my fear is that this will embolden management to start dipping a toe in the water to see if they can acquire someone to improve the team. Certainly, having a string of games against the Blue Jackets, Islanders, and Senators is only likely to lead to more winning and more belief that the team is capable of whatever it is people who want it to succeed this season see in it.
That, I think understandably, has me worried. I’m very firmly in the "blow it up" camp and perhaps because of my distance from Calgary itself I’m more willing to sit through four, five, six bad seasons if it means the team becomes competitive in the way that the Oilers soon will be (if they ever get goaltending). I’m not buying the tickets 41 times a year. And while it’s perfectly nice to see the Flames win, especially over the Red Wings, I also think the result of those W’s could be negative going forward.
3. About last night
One concern I’ve had especially is that the Iginla line seems to be the only one scoring on a consistent basis. Obviously he had the only Calgary goal in regulation and then the only goal in the shootout, but I was wondering just how many goals someone who wasn’t Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen or Curtis Glencross had during this winning streak.
The answer, it probably won’t surprise you to learn, is two. Backlund scored the game-winner against Vancouver and Blake Comeau scored the second goal against Detroit. Two goals out of nine. That’s really bad. I was going to start listing people who need to start scoring more but it’s easier to list those who are scoring an appropriate or even excessive amount: Iginla, Jokinen, Glencross. That’s it.
Obviously it’s working right now but how long does that line continue to score enough goals to keep Calgary competitive? It wouldn’t have worked last night if the team they were playing had been any good at all.
4. Arnold is looking like a keeper
Flames prospect Bill Arnold may not have scored four points in the United States’ WJC-opening win over Denmark like Charlie Coyle or Jason Zucker, but he was strong in all areas of the game throughout, then picked up a goal and an assist within the space of 30 seconds as the US pushed the game out of reach.
I’ve seen Arnold live more than a few times now because, living in Boston and being a college hockey fan as I am, it’s pretty hard to avoid his Boston College Eagles. He’s a really strong player who’s playing well against the best competition his team’s opponents have to offer.
His 11 goals and nine assists in 18 games so far this season may sound a little underwhelming for a World Juniors player, but you have to keep in mind two things. First, he’s only a sophomore and obviously still under 20, playing against guys who are as old as 24. And second, he’s doing most of his damage in conference play, which is important. Hockey East is probably the second-best top-to-bottom league in the NCAA and his 10 goals in 13 games there is second only to Isles prospect Corey Trivino’s 12 in 12 for rival Boston University. (Trivino, by the way, won’t be adding to that total, since he was kicked off the team earlier this month following an arrest.)
If you all remind me, I’ll try to update you on the exploits of Arnold and fellow Eagle-and-Flames-Prospect Johnny Gaudreau for the rest of the season.
5. And because I promised it last week
Here is a picture I drew of Jarome Iginla on a pretty pony that you can print out and look at whenever I’m bummin’ you out.
You’re welcome, everyone.