So… the Flames play the Kings tonight, and it’s kind of a big deal.
When Bob Hartley became the Flames’ head coach, Darryl Sutter already had half a season of the Kings under his belt. The Flames’ record against the Kings ever since the games became a Hartley vs. Sutter matchup is an even 6-6.
That first season was a floundering mess, though. Thanks to the lockout, Hartley didn’t get to have a normal training camp with his new team. Then the team realized they were bad and traded away star players and everything was sad and miserable, right up until about the time Sean Monahan happened.
In the time since Hartley has become acquainted with the Flames, things against Los Angeles got really, really wacky.
The upcoming chapter is the most important one yet.
2013: The lockout year
The Kings swept the season series 3-0, and outscored the Flames 9-4. The Kings’ overall 5v5 corsi that year was 56.3%, tops of the league. The Flames’ was 47.4%, sixth worst. So it’s not particularly surprising the Kings dominated.
Fun fact: It was during the back-to-back games against the Kings that happened that season that woke management up to the fact that, yes, they would have to trade Jarome Iginla; a Stanley Cup with him here was not going to happen.
… That fact is not fun at all. Okay, here’s an actual fun fact: My dog was born during one of those games against the Kings! As of today she is exactly two years and one month old. She is very cute and very sweet.
2013-14: Rebuild officially underway
That season, the Kings had a 5v5 corsi of 56.8%, once again tops of the league, because they are terrifying. The Flames, meanwhile, fell to 46.3%, the fourth worst team in the NHL. So it should have been even more of a bloodbath, right?
Things went from making sense to going crazy.
In game one, the Kings out-corsied the Flames, 58-47. Every single goal was on the powerplay, except for one shorthanded Jeff Carter goal. For once, the Kings did not have a multi-goal lead, and it looked like the game was headed to overtime.
Anze Kopitar hooked Dennis Wideman. With 18 seconds to go on the penalty kill, and 30 seconds to go in regulation, TJ Brodie wound up from the point and scored, giving the Flames the 3-2 regulation win.
The next time the two teams saw each other, the Kings once again out-corsied the Flames, 56-43. Tied at one, the game was set to go to overtime. And then Mike Cammalleri won it with 23 seconds to go.
Twice in a row, the Kings went from controlling the puck most of the game to dying in the final seconds. That couldn’t happen a third time, though, could it?
Nah. Next up, the Flames out-corsied the Kings 55-40 – wait what? – and the Kings won in a 2-0 shutout, spoiling Joni Ortio’s NHL debut. Afterwards, the Kings just barely got the edge, with a 51-49 corsi count in their favour, and won 3-2. The Flames scored twice in the final five minutes to try to tie it, but as they did not have a Johnny Gaudreau at the time, they were unable to get that third goal. Brian McGrattan scored, though!
The inexplicably close season series went down to the wire. Both teams – one a soon-to-be Stanley Cup winner, the other in the adorable waddling stages of a rebuild – had the chance to take the season series. The Flames decided to kick things off by jumping out to a 3-0 lead, because as established, nothing about games between these two teams makes any sense. The Kings brought it hard in return, tying things back up, and out-corsiing the Flames 79-42 along the way.
Sean Monahan won it in a shootout.
2014-15: Two very different teams fighting for the playoffs
Things were simpler in lockout times. Then a combination of sheer will, determination, and some ridiculous puck luck made things a whole lot more complicated, what with all the last-minute goals and almost blowing a three-goal lead and then actually blowing a three-goal lead but recovering.
This season was not going to be content with just that.
For some reason, these two divisional rivals did not meet until right before Christmas. The Flames were mired in the midst of a very sad eight-game losing streak, compounded by an own-goal against, and looking to have a very sad holidays. Their nice little run to start the season was coming to an end. The Kings, meanwhile, had some recent wins under their belt, and with a three-goal lead and pretty clear overall 78-60 corsi advantage, were looking to cruise into the holidays.
Then this happened.
Then this happened.
Christmas crisis averted! A 12-year-old and a very nice, soft-spoken dude just saved everyone’s butts. Mostly the 12-year-old.
The Kings weren’t going to take that lying down, though! Especially not when they played the Flames again just a week later. Out for revenge, they posted a nice 69-34 corsi score in their favour, which would surely teach the Flames a lesson.
I mean, it probably would have, if the Flames hadn’t scored twice in just over a minute back in the first period, ultimately fending off the defending Cup champs for a 2-1 regulation final. That part kinda messed Los Angeles’ plans up.
But no matter; the Kings are the superior team, and they know it. Soon enough, they met again, and after two scoreless periods, Jarret Stoll got them the lead with just under 10 minutes to go. I mean, Sean Monahan tied it right up three and a half minutes later, but the important thing is the Kings had a lead against the Flames for the first time since before Christmas.
A much closer game, with the Kings only out-corsiing the Flames 67-60, and in the depths of overtime. The game was soon to head to a shootout, about to cost its ultimate victor an all-important potentially tiebreaking ROW. The Flames were doing alright in the shootout, but the Kings’ record was pretty awful and
For some reason the Flames, in the second year of their rebuild, took one look at the defending Cup Champions, apparently decided to make a pact to screw with them as much as possible, and then actually managed to follow through.
Nobody could have possibly predicted the ramifications this reaping would have on the playoffs.
The Kings finally decided they’d had enough. In game four of the five-game season series, they out-corsied the Flames 87-42. They spit on the Calgary Third Period mythos and scored three third period goals themselves to take the 5-3 win, as well as any dreams of a Calgary season sweep. It was numbing because, after a season and a half’s worth of pretty hilarious games, the Flames just got straight up destroyed instead.
This season, the Kings are a 55.1% corsi team; again, the best in the league. The Flames are at 44.4%, third worst.
The Flames can eliminate the Kings tonight.
Nothing about Flames and Kings games has made any sense in the past two years and I am very excited but also very scared.