What an up-and-down season for the Calgary Flames. Last season’s Western Conference champions are 3-3-1 after seven games. The offense isn’t pumping out goals, and the team is averaging just over 2.5 points per game (18 goals in seven games). After scoring from the usual suspects [Johnny Gaudreau (7 points), Matthew Tkachuk (6 points), and Elias Lindholm (five points)], the team’s secondary scoring hasn’t been up-to-par.
Although the Flames beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 to end a two-game losing streak, the team hasn’t found it’s regular-season form quite yet – at least not last season’s form. The team’s play has improved, but they aren’t registering wins.
Veteran Michael Frokik noted as much by saying, “We kind of saw ourselves that there wasn’t much scoring from our bottom guys. It’s still the start of the season and some guys need time to settle in. It’s good timing that it happened tonight. Some other guys scored and it’s a good thing. Hockey’s all about confidence and when those other guys score, it’s all about building confidence and getting better. I think tonight was a good effort.”
More is expected from the team, but – as Flames’ fans realize – the season is young yet. In this post, I want to review some of the player news from the team – just a bit more than a week into the season.
Item One: David Rittich: Good-Enough So Far, But Not Getting Much Scoring Help
The Czech goalie has been up and down this season. Against the Flyers, Rittich was strong, stopping 21 of 22 shots as he led the team to the 3-1 victory over the Flyers. The 27-year-old will look to keep rolling in a home matchup with a Detroit team that’s averaging 2.83 goals per game this campaign, 19th in the NHL.
Although those numbers seem strong enough, in the team’s 6-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, Rittich allowed six goals on 30 shots. That’s a bit tough, especially when three of the goals he allowed came from the Golden Knights’ fourth line. So, it’s difficult to say what one might see from Flames’ goalie this season.
Item Two: Derek Ryan: Scores His Second Assist of the Season
Derek Ryan is an interesting story. The 32-year-old Spokane, Washington, native didn’t have many opportunities to sign a professional contract so, instead, he looked to Canada and arrived in Edmonton to play hockey at the University of Alberta. He’s worked hard to make it to the NHL, so it’s hard not to root for him on two counts. First, I like hard-workers. Second, because I was a professor at the University of Alberta for over 40 years, I root for their alumni.
Ryan now plays with the Flames as a depth center. He’s typically a third-line player, but head coach Bill Peters uses him throughout the line-up – as needed. Last season, Ryan played in 81 games and scored 13 goals, 25 assists, for 38 points. Not bad for someone only a few fans outside of Calgary really know much about.
In the team’s 3-1 win over the Flyers, the veteran (he also played a couple of seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes) center scored his second assist of the season to end a five-game zero. He’s a bottom-six player for an offensively-gifted (or should be) Flames’ team.
Item Three: Mark Giordano: It’s Not Last Season, But He’s Still Producing
Last season, Mark Giordano had a career season and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. In total, he scored 17 goals and 57 assists (74 points) in 78 games. So far this season, he isn’t as productive. However, really there’s little chance he could have been. That’s a season of one’s childhood dreams – and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
Giordano has four points in seven games, so he’s still playing well. He’s also at a +4 rating on a team that has scored fewer goals than it’s given up – so that’s strong play. Undoubtedly, his totals will fluctuate in response to the team’s overall success and will rise accordingly as the team improves its won/lost record. No one expects the Flames to be bottom dwellers this season.
Item Four: Michael Frolik Scores in His 800th Career Game
Michael Frolik has been a productive right-winger for four different NHL teams (the Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets, and now the Flames). He’s in his 12th NHL season and, obviously, just finished his 800th NHL game. During game 800, he registered an assist.
The 31-year-old Czech native has only scored a single point in seven games this season, so he’s going to have a hard time producing his usual offense. However, we at NHLTradeTalk.com congratulate him on his milestone.
Item Five: Tobias Rieder: New Team, Same Old Problem
Given Tobias Rieder’s showing last season with the Edmonton Oilers (no goals, 11 assists, in 67 games), it was good to see him sign a contract with the Flames. Sadly, however, he’s off to a slow start with his new team. He had a strong training camp but hasn’t followed-up that camp with a productive start to the season. He has no points and has a minus-4 rating in five games with the Flames so far.
What’s Next for the Calgary Flames?
The Flames play their second of two home games tonight – this time against the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings started well, but have lost two-straight games. Jimmy Howard starts for Detroit and is coming off a loss to the Toronto Maples Leafs where he gave up four goals in 40 shots.
The Flames have gone 2-0-1 at home, and look to take another victory from a visiting team. I’m predicting a high-scoring game where the Flames finally break out if a scoring drought. My prediction is 6-3 Flames. Watch out for Milan Lucic’s first goal of the season.
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