Red-Hot Calgary Flames Surging up the Standings

Tampa, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan (23) celebrates with Calgary Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton (27) and Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) after scoring a goal in the second period of the NHL game between the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning on February 23, 2017, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“We were pathetic.”

“It was a pathetic display. No bite back, no kick back. Our top guys didn’t do anything. We needed someone to step up.”

Calgary Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan said these words after his team was dismantled 5-1 by the Montreal Canadiens. That latest loss coming hot off the heals of a 4-0 shutout at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs the night before and a 7-3 drubbing by their Alberta rivals Edmonton three nights earlier.

Oh, how the times have changed in cowtown.

Red-Hot Calgary Flames Surging up the Standings

Since then Calgary has gone an impressive 12-2-1 giving them 25 points and catapulting the team into the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.

What Signalled The Change?

You could start by looking at three of Calgary’s better players. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Mikael Backlund. Since getting spanked by the Habs that night, the trio have scored a combined 43 points (Gaudreau with 15, Monahan and Backlund each with 14). The trio started the season at a rough pace. But since the end of January all three players have been among the leagues hottest.

But surely you can’t just look at offence?

Over the last few seasons, a lot has been made of Calgary’s defence. They’re high priced and at times ineffective. The high price tag is still relevant. Combined the seven men that make up Calgary’s blue line make $27,929,567. That is the highest paid blue-line in the entire NHL.

Defence Wins Championships.

However just like the the afore mentioned forwards, the defence has started to come around led in large part to the play of 23 year old Dougie Hamilton. In his last 15 games Hamilton has registered 11 points, a plus/minus rating of +8, and has played 20 minutes or more in 10 of those 15 contests. Based on his play as of late, Hamilton is starting to develop into the elite defenceman that Calgary thought they were getting when they acquired him from the Boston Bruins.

Net Gains.

That being said, the high powered offence and steady defence has been there for quite some time. Its the goaltending that’s been lacking ever since Miikka Kipprusoff retired in 2013. Brian Elliott was brought in during the off-season to try and stabilize the net but got off to a weak start.

At one point Elliott was replaced in net by career backup¬†Chad Johnson.¬†As luck would have it Johnson was in between the pipes that night in Montreal. Since then Elliott has grabbed the reigns and ridden the horse ever since. In the 13 starts he’s made since reclaiming the net Elliott has gone 10-2-1.

His hot play has vaulted Calgary into the 2nd wildcard spot in the west, and they have their eye on something else. Right now the team is tied with the Anaheim Ducks for 3rd in the ever tightening Pacific division.

One thing is for certain, after a rocky start the Flames are quickly becoming one of the west’s best teams. Should this recent run of hot play continue, Calgary could be one to look at come playoff time.

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