Don’t look now, but the Calgary Flames are atop the Western Conference.
It seems it was only a month ago that we were talking about goalie Mike Smith’s stumbles between the pipes and how the Flames were struggling, but here we are a month later and things are going beyond well in Calgary.
The Flames knocked off the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Saturday night and won their fifth straight, passing their opponents for the top of the Western Conference.
Calgary improved to 19-9-2.
There are a number of reasons the Flames are rolling, from the play of Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm sparking the offence to Smith finding his mojo. Gaudreau is on a seven-game point streak, while Lindholm is on a six-game point streak.
But it is perhaps Smith who owns the best redemption story of the bunch. He made 25 saves against the Predators to improve to 11-7-1, giving him six straight wins after what can only be called a disastrous start. Smith was shelved in mid-November in favour of David Rittich, but he seems to have climbed back into the starting position after finding his game again.
The Flames are finding ways to win night after night and Saturday’s effort, even with Mikael Backlund out with a concussion and both Mark Giordano and Ryan Lomberg serving suspensions.
Saturday’s win also told a story of team depth, with Stockton’s Alan Quine and Oliver Kylington scoring goals.
Kylington had his first career goal, playing in just his seventh NHL game. He collected an assist on the night as well and was named the first star of the game.
The Flames are fast writing the story of the team the league forgot. They’re collecting points and shutting down opponents and receiving very little credit for it, but that may change come playoff time. Gaudreau’s efforts and Smith’s turnaround could, by that point, be THE story in the NHL for this season.
Now, in fairness to the Predators, they were also missing vital pieces of the puzzle on Saturday night. P.K. Subban, Viktor Arvidsson, Kyle Turris, and Filip Forsberg were all on the shelf.
But these Flames are something else and the effort put forth in their last handful has been what’s telling the tale. They’ll have the Oilers next on Sunday and it could be a problem without Giordano in the lineup, but the kids, so far, are more than alright. That could spell trouble for Connor McDavid and Co., who could use a little momentum.