Writing the annual “top moments” of any given calendar year might be the most fun I have on this site. It’s cool to revisit different moments from January through December, and 2017 was no different for the Flames. The only unfortunate part of this year’s countdown is the complete void of positive playoff moments, but maybe 2018 can rectify that. Happy New Year and enjoy!
5. Music City madness
Calgary’s 6-5 overtime win in Nashville on Feb. 21 was significant for one main reason: what happened next. Read on for more details, but a rather significant win streak started with this thrilling Flames win at Bridgestone Arena. With 2017 about to end, I think it’s safe to say this was the most exciting game of the year.
Also of note was the formation of Calgary’s top trio for the remainder of the season. Micheal Ferland was placed on a line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau to start the game and the results were immediately positive. Ferland rewarded the decision with a pair of first period goals and helped the Flames open up a seemingly commanding 4-1 lead early in the middle frame. Until it wasn’t commanding.
The Predators turned on the burners and scored four goals in the final 9:10 of the middle frame to take a 5-4 lead into the second intermission. Credit Calgary, though, because they’d tie the game midway through the third period before Mark Giordano won the game 43 seconds into overtime. The game was a blast and what it sparked was even more exciting for Flames fans.
4. It’s a clinch
Now let’s fast forward just over a month to March 31 and a home game against the San Jose Sharks. After failing in their first opportunity to clinch a playoff spot two nights prior, Calgary left no doubt in punching their postseason ticket the second chance they got. Thanks to a torrid second half of the season, the Flames clinched a playoff spot for the second time in three years.
There’s not much to tell about the game itself, however. Johnny Gaudreau scored 12:26 into the first period and Calgary never trailed en route to a 5-2 win, but those details are rather trivial. More importantly, the Flames got themselves back to the postseason and it felt much more merit based as opposed to 2015.
3. They can win there!
Hearing fans at the Honda Center pummel the Flames with “you can’t win here” chants this past April was infuriating for most, mainly because of how painstakingly accurate the message was. That’s why Oct. 9 was more than just a win over a despised division rival; it was also the end of perhaps the most frustrating streak in team history.
Dating back to Jan. 25, 2004, Calgary had lost 25 straight regular season games in Anaheim, already an NHL record for futility. When you combined playoff and regular season losses, the awful run bulged to 29 games from April 25, 2006. It was ugly any way you sliced it.
But in their third game of the new season, the Flames got an early goal from Sean Monahan and rode a stellar Mike Smith performance in net to their 2-0 slump buster triumph. You could tell how fired up Mikael Backlund was when he scored early in the third, because he knew this streak better than anyone on the team.
In the end, Smith made 43 saves for his first shutout with his new team and Calgary won a game in Anaheim for the first time in 5,013 days. Sure, it’s only one win in 26 tries, but it also made this phrase accurate again: they can win there!
2. Make it 10
Had you told a Flames fan in October or November of 2016 to hang tight for a double digit win streak in a few months, they’d have thrown a drink in your face, even if you weren’t at a bar. Well, starting with our number 5 moment on this countdown, that’s exactly what happened.
Culminating with a 4-3 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Calgary put together a 10-game heater between Feb. 21 and March 13 to truly salvage their season and solidify a playoff spot. The Flames outscored opponents 36-18 over the course of the streak, posted a pair of shutouts, and etched a spot in franchise history.
Calgary’s 10 straight wins made up the the longest run since the team moved from Atlanta in 1980, besting the previous record of eight, accomplished three times (1989, 1993, 2005). The Flames also tied the overall franchise record set in 1978 with the team was still in Atlanta.
Unfortunately, a 5-2 loss to Boston on March 15 rendered Calgary unable to set a new team record, but it didn’t diminish the importance of those three weeks in the spring. Without those 10 straight wins, the Flames would have been nip and tuck for a playoff spot.
1. Jaromir Jagr
Some may disagree on this at number one, but that’s okay, because this is a very subjective countdown. For me, seeing the NHL’s number two all-time scoring leader pop on a #68 Flames jersey is one of the coolest moments I can remember in a long time. Whether you think his time in Calgary has been productive or not, how is a smiling Jagr in the Flaming C not awesome, even just a little bit?
Number one on this countdown isn’t a particular moment or date, though. It’s more a combination of what we’ve seen since Jagr’s signing became official on Oct. 4. His opening news conference was massive, the ovation when he scored his first goal on Nov. 9 was huge, and the merchandise sales might be the biggest winner of all. All of it combined has been surreal to witness.
Some believe Jagr’s time with the Flames has been a bust, while I’m in a different camp, because I think he’s been very effective. Unfortunately, a nagging lower body injury has kept Jagr out of Calgary’s lineup too often and has made his chance of passing Gordie Howe’s all-time games played record this season rather slim.
It might be for just one year and he might only play 50 games, but Jagr remains a living legend. That’s enough for me to put him number one on our 2017 Flames countdown.