The 1997-98 Calgary Flames were, to be blunt, bad.
They racked up just 67 points over an 82 game season and firmly in the dreadful Young Guns era of hockey, they were the worst Flames club there ever was. With tonight’s shootout win over the third-overall San Jose Sharks, this year’s Flames club (a) broke the 30 win barrier and (b) guaranteed they’ll be better than the 97-98 team.
And it was a pretty nice game, too, with strong goaltending from Karri Ramo and a great performance by a rookie defender.
The first was all Sharks. Well, mostly Sharks. But the Flames did their best to keep things to the outside, and Karri Ramo did his level best to keep stuff that didn’t stay to the outside out of his net. However, late in the period, just after a Flames power-play, Matt Nieto and James Sheppard broke into the Flames zone. Ramo went down for Nieto’s shot…which instead hit Sheppard in the back, so he spun around and put it past a sprawling Ramo. An adequate first period sullied by a weird play. Sharks led in shots 18-8 and attempts 23-18, but the Flames held a 17-14 face-off edge.
The second period was mostly Flames. They came out fast and pressured well, but the Sharks did their best to keep the chances to the outside – the fourth line and the Agostino line each set up nice scoring chances, though. Late in the period, Tyler Wotherspoon found Joe Colborne beside the net with a slap-pass, which Colborne put past Stalock to tie things up. Calgary led in shots (12-4), attempts (17-13) and face-offs (11-6).
The third was very much like the first, in that the Flames appeared to run out of gas a bit against a good Sharks team, but Karri Ramo kept them in it. Nobody scored, so it was off to overtime! Shots were 10-5 Sharks, attempts were 26-11 Sharks and face-offs were 7-6 Sharks.
Nothing was solved in overtime. Shots were tied 2-2. The Sharks 7 attempts to Calgary’s 2. San Jose dominated face-offs 4-0. Mike Cammalleri scored the lone goal in the shootout to give Calgary the extra point.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
After letting the Sharks dictate the pace early, the Flames took control in the second period and then stuck with it – via some great Karri Ramo netminding in the third – long enough to give themselves the chance to win.
Tyler Wotherspoon’s played 10 NHL games. This was probably his best: 16:58, +1, a great assist and he put six pucks towards the net (four got blocked). Add in some strong defensive play and Wotherspoon had a tremendous evening.
SUM IT UP
This year’s Flames are guaranteed not to be the worst edition in franchise history. Considering how low expectations were going into the year, that’s a minor accomplishment. They’ve got 10 games left, so it’ll be very interesting to see how they fare from here on out.
They welcome the Anaheim Ducks – they of the 7-2 losing effort earlier this month – back to town on Wednesday night.