The month of October played out like a typical Flames game. Out of the gate with a bang; 4 straight wins, 3 in the division, and a power play running just under a 50% clip. But, just like they did so many times this month, the Flames wandered off the winning path, and gave some points back to the field. Slowly becoming the team that gives up leads, the Flames gave up numerous multi goal cushions throughout the month.
Draw the curtains open.
The Flames start 4-0, getting 2 dramatic wins in the City of Champions, beating the Canucks in the opener and downing the Mini Mites from le Belle Province.
Enter Curtis McElhinney and chalk up the Flames first loss, a 5-2 drubbing at the hands of the Dallas Stars. The questions about backup goaltending persist as the Flames have yet to receive quality goaltending from their local backup tender.
Fly to Chicago, score 5, yes 5, goals in the first 11 minutes of the game. Chalk up another win, move to 5-1…errrrr hold up! The Flames manage to hold on and push the game into overtime and lose 6-5 in the extra frame; Flames tie record for biggest lead blown in a game and fail to gain an ounce of revenge on the team that bounced them from the playoffs a year prior. A possible turning point early in the season? Definitely a lesson learned in how to NOT maintain a lead in hockey.
New term in the dictionary created: “5 goal lead”- worst lead in hockey.
Flames play in Ohio the next night and are outplayed by a Blue Jacket team that has 2 goals disallowed that should have counted. End result, the Flames lose their third straight and that amazing start is a thing of the past. Kiprusoff continues to be solid to start the season, shedding the label of slow starter that has haunted him for the past 4 years.
Another home date with the Canucks and the Flames manage to get out to the “Worst Lead in Hockey”, yet this time manage to hold on for a 5-3 victory. Brian McGrattan gets the Gordie Howe Hat Trick in his home debut and knocks Darcy Hordichuk out with one swift punch to the melon; in the process becoming an instant fan favourite.
The Flames score 11 goals in their next two games and establish themselves as the highest scoring team in the league. Pundits everywhere are perplexed as to where the scoring could be coming from as Cammalleri no longer plays on the team. They finally realize that the depth the Flames acquired once Cammy left, makes the team more dangerous then in years past. Newcomers Sjostrom, Dawes and McGrattan continue to impress. Sjostrom showing his speed for the nail in the coffin against Columbus, while Dawes tallies 2 in the third straight victory over the Oilers. Mcgrattan fights MacIntyre in what should be lauded as the best fight of the year, so far, and gains even more fans in the process. Rene Bourque is the teams leading scorer and continues to rack up points on the teams second line with Langkow and Dawes; part of that depth that was mentioned earlier.
The Colorado Avalanche are leading the division? Is this 2001? A team thought to be battling the Leafs for 30th overall, is running through the league at an incredible pace. The Flames score 2 goals in the first 70 seconds of the game, only to slowly give up the lead and eventually lose to a team that should have been tired from playing the night before. The Flames lose their first divisional battle and 2nd home game of the season. Defensive miscues and timely giveaways starting to become habitual for Calgary as Brent Sutter’s system still has kinks left to be worked out.
This brings us to the Halloween game against the Red Wings and the only thing scary about this game was the lack of finish and the lack drive the Flames had. Not to mention the horrendous giveaway by Regehr to Maltby for the empty net goal to finish off the game. Kiprusoff makes a few awe inspiring saves, but lets 2 quick ones by him in the second, and the Flames lose their second straight and finish the month with a record of 7-4-1. 15 points through 12 games; not amazing, but not horrible. On par with the last two seasons starts of 6-3-1 and 6-3-3. The good news lies in the fact that the Flames have not pieced together too many complete games of hockey. The back to back wins over the Jackets and the Oilers stand as their best hockey to date, but there is undeniably more work to be done.
Kiprusoff is the MVP of the month, as he played outstanding in the majority of the time that he stepped on the ice. A drastic improvement from the October Kipper of old, and a welcoming sign that the goalie of 2004 is no longer hiding under a mound of grass anymore.
Rene Bourque, Eric Nystrom, Freddy Sjostrom, Brandon Prust, Mark Giordano and Brian McGrattan are all very close runners up to Kiprusoff in October. The depth players on the Flames all outperformed the stars of the team on numerous occasions.
“Olli Jokinen, please report ice level to pick up your prize as worst Flame of the month.” Scoring just two goals in the month and seemingly invisible for a majority of the games, Olli continues to not do himself any favours. The forced chemistry with Iginla failed as many predicted it would, and now Jokinen is meandering in the depths of the unknown as he continues to fail to find his spot on this team. $5.5 million for what exactly? If this continues, Jokinen might be on a direct flight out of Cowtown come July 1st of 2010.
Iginla will soon need to snap out of the funk he finds himself in, as when the scoring dries up, as it has the last couple of games, Iginla needs to be around to carry this team out of the fire. He has been anything but spectacular over the first month, scoring a paltry 9 points over the first 12 games; a far cry from the 19 he had 2 seasons ago.
With some work to be done in order to achieve elite status in the NHL, the Flames travel to Dallas on Wednesday to start a very busy November in which they play 14 games in 26 days. There is a lot of hockey to be played, and the Flames look as if they are a couple steps away from being the team to beat in the NHL.
This has been,
Newman on the Flames
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