If we’ve learned anything over the years, you never count out Getzlaf and Perry; and to the Ducks’ daunting d-corps, add in forwards the likes of Silfverberg, Rakell, and Eaves, and it’s only a matter of time until they start paddling – or is it swimming? – their way up the standings. I would expect no less of the Kings, although time is quickly running out on them, and the Bishop deal seems to have been misguided at best.
The Sharks, meanwhile, have seemed content to let the Ducks crowd these coastal waters, and currently would match up against the formerly-doused Flames.
But nobody’s eager to play with this Calgary fire these days for several reasons. In net, Brian Elliott has picked the right time to get on a roll, and with Chad Johnson waiting in the wings as a reliable number two, the Flames are feeling more confident.
Throw in a d-corps that has been highly esteemed around the league for a few years, that is now gelling in front of consistent goal-tending, and you see how those back-end elements can head-man that confidence up to the forwards. Most notable is Dougie Hamilton, who is finally becoming the player they hoped – and the rest of us feared – he would become. We’ll get to the “Wideman factor” in a bit.
The Flames boast a clutch of forwards as talented as any group in the league, with a couple absolute game-changers in Gaudreau and Monahan. Perhaps more impactful than any others on the team is Matt Tkachuk, who clearly plays on or over the line on a regular basis, but whom nobody doubts is an impact player you’d love to have on your side. The fact is, not many teams have the stomach to front this guy because he can back his play with his fists. And by the way – he can score, even if his PIMs have doubled his points.
And then there’s what I call the “Wideman Factor”: noticing for themselves that the officials seem to be exacting their pound of flesh penalty-by-penalty for Wideman’s career-ending crosscheck on one of their own, and hearing their coaches and GM crying foul (pun intended) about the same, is likely galvanizing the room in Calgary. It’s not surprising that the experience would foster an “us against the world” mentality, fanning the flames of victimhood where the likely response is to bond together tighter to fight for one another and defy all comers.
Such a chip on a team’s collective shoulders can be a powerful motivator, and anyone underestimating the Flames might just get burned.
Thanks for reading and don’t trip over the blue line as you enter the zone.