It wasn’t perfect and much of the second period wasn’t pretty, but the Calgary Flames improved to 2-0-0 under interim head coach Geoff Ward by way of a 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.
For the second consecutive game, the Flames led for more than half of the game. They held the lead for over 40 minutes, the most time they’ve led in a game since their 3-0 win in Columbus on Nov. 2. It took them four weeks to drive a game like that again.
They out-chanced Ottawa by a small margin both by “regular” chances (27-24) and high-danger chances (13-10). It’s the first time since Nov. 16 in Arizona that they’ve led across the board in chances and just the eighth time all season. It wasn’t necessarily a complete, dominant 60 minutes of hockey, but the team’s new bench boss feels the club is trending in the right direction.
“I thought we were much, much better away from the puck,” said Ward following the game. “I thought we were tracking on it really hard with our forwards, allowed our D to stand up behind it. I thought the guys did a better job when we didn’t have anything in front to get the puck in behind and go to work. So I thought we did a good job keeping the puck to the outside for the majority of the night. We grinded it out real well to get the win. I think that was the biggest improvement we’ve noticed over the past couple games, just how tight we were defensively and it was better than it has been.”
Ward noted that the team had bodies around the puck most of the night, didn’t have to real or pull or do anything drastic to stay with it. Because of that, they only took one penalty and didn’t allow the special teams side of the game to disrupt their flow.
The good news after 29 games is that while the Flames haven’t really had their whole team clicking at any particular point, they’re above .500 and are tied for the last wild card playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The bad news is they’ve played more games than every other team in the conference (and therefore lose all tiebreakers for the last playoff spot) and they’re idle for four days, allowing everyone above them to potentially put some distance between them.
But after a chaotic month, there finally seems to be a bit of calm around the club and the players are hopeful that they’re about to turn a corner. After nearly 30 games, maybe we’ll finally see the Flames we all expected to see this season.