It's the third edition of a new content feature -- Eight from 80 Feet.
Comprised of a blend of anecdotes, recaps, statistics, analysis and maybe an opinion or prediction sprinkled in as well, it's a round-up of random thoughts on the current goings-on with the Calgary Flames.
- All six goals have come even strength (so 6 on 5)
- Hudler is the only Flames player that has been on the ice for all six goals. Glencross and Giordano (5) are next, followed by Brodie and Monahan (4), and then Gaudreau (3)
- Flames hold a 25-5 edge in shots
- Flames hold a 43-13 edge in shots attempted (shots on goal + missed + blocked)
It's amazing how in the span of about 20 minutes in real time, the whole mindset of where the Flames were at psychologically, heading into the break, changed 180 degrees. On the cusp of a nine-game winless skid and being five points back of the Kings, Calgary instead goes into the three-day Christmas layoff on a win and just two points back of Los Angeles and that final playoff spot.
Did that furious rally change the fact Calgary was outplayed much of the first two periods? No. But maybe, just maybe, a bit of good luck to balance out some of the bad luck experienced lately will turn out to be a pivotal point in this season and get the Flames back headed the right direction.
As I see it, Calgary has to catch at least one of:
- San Jose (4 points up, 1 game in hand)
- Vancouver (3 points up, 3 games in hand)
- Winnipeg (4 points up, 1 game in hand)
- Los Angeles (2 points up, 1 game in hand)
Meanwhile, the Flames need to stave off all of:
- Minnesota (4 points back, 4 games in hand)
- Colorado (5 points back, 2 games in hand)
- Dallas (6 points back, 3 games in hand).
- 3:01 versus San Jose on Nov. 26
- 4:45 at Buffalo on Dec. 11
- 4:16 at Chicago on Dec. 14
The Flames have led after the first period only five times all season, which is tied for second-last in the NHL with Edmonton. Only Montreal -- with four, have had fewer first period leads.
In a related stat, Calgary has scored the third-fewest first period goals with 17. That is ahead of only Buffalo (14) and Montreal (12).
However, with the exception of the most recent 5-1 spanking at home to Arizona, Edmonton appears to be a more emotionally invested team and I'd argue they're playing better hockey under interim coach Todd Nelson. Here's some proof of their improved play lately: The six games prior to the Coyotes loss on Dec. 23 were made up of two losses in extra time, and four losses that were each by a margin of only one goal if you exclude empty net goals that occurred in two of them.
The key for Calgary will be to get a lead on the Oilers as they haven't had nearly the same success as the Flames in coming from behind in the third period. While Calgary has gone a remarkable league-best 7-11-1, the Oilers are a meagre 0-17-1 in the 18 games in which they've trailed after two periods.
The win against the Kings was very reminiscent to the dramatic come-from-behind victory last season against St. Louis in the last game before Christmas. Described by many as the most exciting game at the Saddledome last year, Giordano scored the tying goal with five seconds remaining and in a shootout, Joe Colborne scored the deciding goal in the 4-3 win over the Blues.
However, the layoff over Christmas last year successfully killed any momentum from that game as the Flames proceeded to go on a dreadful and historic goal drought starting right after Christmas. During the four-game homestand that immediately followed, Calgary was outscored 10-1 with Sean Monahan the only player to hit the scoresheet. Here's a flashback to what I was writing a year ago during that rough patch.
It's hard to fathom another dry spell offensively like that one considering the opponent in two of the next three games is Edmonton, which has given up 15 goals in its last three games.
However, Calgary needs some of its slumping forwards to catch fire. During the last nine games, Gaudreau and Giordano have combined for 10 of Calgary's 17 goals. The rest of the team only has seven.
- First period, .883 (14 GA on 120 shots)
- Second period, .879 (17 GA on 141 shots)
- Third period, .946 (6 GA on 112 shots)
I fully expect Hiller to get the start again on Saturday against Edmonton. If he can address his first period jitters and if the Flames can score early, those two rare things of late could be the real key in getting a vital six-game, 14-day home-stand off to a good start. I would suggest Calgary needs to pick up a minimum of eight points and probably nine or 10 points to maintain a realistic shot at making the playoffs.
- Last Minute Shopping: Flames Players Gift List - From bubble wrap for Lance Bouma to a Yanic Perreault instructional video for Markus Granlund to salary secrecy for Deryk Engelland. It's my light-hearted look at the Christmas (or Boxing Day sale) wish list for various Flames players.
- Entertaining, Compelling, Unexpected: Enjoying the Flames Season For What It Is - Calgary's season has been a lot of things but boring hasn't been one of them. A hot start has been followed by a cold middle with what's next very much a mystery. Keep in mind that in 2004, the Flames nearly missed the playoffs yet went to the game seven of the Stanley Cup final. So you just never know.
- Eight From 80 Feet: PK is Killin' It, Pre-Christmas Exam and More - A round-up of eight thoughts on the Flames from the past week, including a rubric for their eight-game pre-Christmas exam, Giordano's flirtation with NHL MVP, and a close-up look at Calgary's bizarre success with their goalie pulled.
- Bennett Happy With How His Recovery is Going - The Saddledome has turned out to be a pretty exciting workout facility for injured prospect Sam Bennett, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. He spoke about how his rehab is going, what his timeline is and the excitement around how the Flames are playing and the club's bright future.
- Wrong Side of the Tracks, Right Side of the Standings - If the 2014-15 NHL season was an 80s movie, the Flames with Byron, Bouma and Jooris would be cast as the poor kids, up against the rich kids in Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. So far, the poor kids are dating the gorgeous cheerleader.