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Flames are in a tough spot, goaltending letting them down

A team is really only as good as its goaltending. Sadly for the Calgary Flames, their goaltending has let them down all season long. It has put them in a tough spot coming into the All-Star break.

SB Nation: http://www.sbnation.com/nhl/2016/1/25/10823932/2016-nhl-scores-hurricanes-flames-rangers-senators-bobby-ryan

We expected the Flames to drop off after their analytics-defying run last season, and much of that was due to their instability in net that wouldn’t hold. Since, the pair of Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller for most of this season has not done what management probably expected them to do.

It was much of the same for the Flames in their 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, who have also struggled in net this season. Yet, Eddie Lack was able to shut down Calgary after Ramo allowed three goals on 19 shots in 23 minutes of play, including this easily stoppable five-hole goal from Victor Rask.

Hiller relieved Ramo after the third goal allowed in the opening minutes of the second period and he too faced some struggles, especially near the end of the game. The backup only saw 17 shots in relief, as the Flames started to turn it around after Ramo was yanked to eventually take over the five-on-five play.

An offense can only score so much to counteract its netminding. Sure, the Flames are known for their comeback antics, which is what made their run up to and through the playoffs so spectacular, but soon that will have to end if Calgary wants to become a legitimate contender.

In a very weak Pacific Division, the Flames could be right in the mix if they are able to find themselves a proven goaltender by the deadline. A chance to win now — and a slim one at that — would come at a cost, one Calgary probably would not like to pay. Right now, the best the Flames can hope for is a chance to retool their netminding situation in the offseason. Until then, Calgary will have to deal with unstable goaltending that has not given them the answers they’ve wanted.

Calgary Sun: http://www.calgarysun.com/2016/01/26/calgary-flames-in-bad-spot-heading-into-nhl-all-star-game-benchmark

The NHL’s schedule is filled with official dates.

Opening day.

Trade deadline.

Roster declaration.

But there are other critical junctures to bear in mind — those informal, yet oft-telling, benchmarks.

They are ways of tracking progress, especially for an outfit such as the Calgary Flames, clinging to the very fringes of relevancy.

Take American Thanksgiving.

The rule of thumb … if you’re in a playoff spot then, you’ll be in a playoff spot come April.

Well … the Flames flubbed this early-season litmus test.

On Nov. 26, carrying an unsightly log of 8-13-1, they sat sixth in the Pacific Division. (A couple of days later, they were last, in sole possession of 30th overall.)

No matter.

Because, with an eye on the next unofficial measuring stick, the Flames crafted up a new rally cry – to be “in the mix” by Christmas.

And by gum, with their own version of a holiday rush, they squared their record — 16-16-2 by tinsel time — muscling their way to within two points of second in the division.

Heady times.

Now?

With another gauge — the NHL’s all-star break — dead ahead, the Flames are once again listing.

Hauling themselves home from Texas after an uneventful five-game stretch of road toil, the Calgarians woke up Tuesday and, if so inclined, could have peeked at the league table.

Which revealed this about their plight:

* 25th in the NHL

* 12th in the Western Conference

* Sixth in the Pacific Division

A glance says it all.

“We just have to look at the standings,” said Flames head coach Bob Hartley, whose crew, with 35 games on the docket, is a whopping eight points shy of the Arizona Coyotes, third-place residents of the Pacific. “If we want to be a playoff team, we have to climb — and time is running out. We have to make a statement. In the NHL, we’re supposed to be mentally strong, and that’s going to be a test for us.”

The Nashville Predators’ visit Wednesday stands as the final match before the all-star hiatus, not to mention the last tussle of January. After their admirable about-face in December — 9-4-0 — the Flames are 4-5-1 this month.

“We got to start from the git-go next game,” Mark Giordano said shortly after Monday’s slow-brewing 2-1 loss to the host stars in Dallas. “We have one more before the break that we have to have, and then we’ll get some rest and go from there.”

For nitpickers, there is no shortage of scabs on a group that is bad within the division (4-8-2), bad on the road (7-14-3), bad on special teams (29th in penalty killing, 30th on the power play), bad defensively (28th in goals-against average) and bad when outshot (29th).

Since the conclusion of December’s seven-game winning spree, the Flames are 6-9-1 on a pace that puts them in the running for a lottery pick.

“We’re playing very inconsistent … but, at the same time, we still have time,” Hartley said. “We have to put on a run. Winning one, losing two … won’t cut it. We’re behind, and we have to make space.”

A season ago at the all-star break, the Flames, then 25-19-3, had been holding down a wildcard berth. To boot, they were just two points out of third in the Pacific.

In other words, they were factors in the big picture. Contenders, even.

Hartley acknowledges the challenge facing the current edition, which has been stuck playing catch-up since its 3-8-1 October.

“It’s a different mindset,” said the coach. “But the guys understand. They’ve been through it, and they’re pros. There are teams that have had great starts. Eighty-two games is a long season. As much as fans, ownership, management, coaches want their group to be the most consistent group in the league, it doesn’t always work like that. We’re dealing with human beings.

“Sometimes, you’ll get bad games, good games, injuries. There are so many intangibles you can use … we talk about it with the leadership group and the team.

“Hey, it’s our situation. They’re the performers, and we need to get it done on the ice.”

Coleton MacDonald
The Founder of Weliveforhockey.com
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