The Calgary Flames are getting it done. Every which way.
On Wednesday, Mark Giordano and Co. pulled one off against the Colorado Avalanche with a 5-3 victory. The defenceman had three assists and pulled into third in points at his position this season with 43 in 43 games. His helpers put him past Joe Nieuwendyk on the Flames’ all-time assists chart.
“Just trying to put pucks on net, jump in when I can,” said Giordano. “Playing on a pretty good power play with pretty good players, trying to move the puck around to those guys and get it in their hands and when you do that with those types of players, they reward you.”
More than that, the Flames took the victory against the Avalanche – and the NHL’s top scoring line – with a little puck luck and a big showing from the dude in goal. Goalie David Rittich was as advertised, keeping Colorado at bay despite his club being outshot – big time. He made 32 saves for the win.
Gabriel Landeskog had a dozen shots on goal, while Nathan MacKinnon had six and Mikko Rantanen had five. They shelved a combined five points but it wasn’t enough.
“They were the quicker team from the first period right to the end. The shots will support that,” said Calgary head coach Bill Peters. “We were a little worried coming off the trip. Usually that first game at home is a little tough, and it was. But we found a way to grind it out.”
The Flames are now 28-13-4, leading the Pacific Division with 60 points. That actually makes them second overall in the NHL at press time, eight points back on the monstrous Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flames have also scored the most goals in the Western Conference, two more than the San Jose Sharks.
So, yes, the Calgary Flames are the best team in Canada.
The path to here started a long time ago, it could be argued, but the franchise undoubtedly struck a pivotal blow over the summer with the hiring of Peters as head coach. His tenure has been one of establishing puck possession, of battling, of setting high expectations.
“He’s a great coach,” Johnny Gaudreau said. “He knows how to win. It doesn’t matter if you’re top line, bottom line, if you’re not playing well you’re not going to be on the ice. He’s not going put you over the bench there. He expects a lot out of his players and it’s been great playing for him this year.”
With the right coach, the right players, the right system, the right goalies, and the right drive, the Flames may finally be that team. The pieces are in place for a marvellous run, especially if Calgary keeps finding ways to win. Every which way.