What a difference a year makes. Last night the Calgary Flames visited the Colorado Avalanche in the last of three meetings between the two Western Conference teams. To everyone’s relief, the Calgary Flames scored four goals in a 4-3 victory. The Flames had been shut out in three of their last four games before last night’s contest, while the Avalanche had scored 11 in a three game winning streak. To no one’s surprise, the Avalanche took the series 2-1. No surprise because though just a season ago the Avalanche finished dead last in the West with 39 points, 3 less than the Calgary Flames, this season the Avs are 5th in the Conference, while the Flames are 15 points out of a playoff spot and sitting in 13th.
Just a year ago, Flames management tried to pry Avalanche holdout center, Ryan O’Reilly to no avail. The Avs matched the Flames’ offer and O’Reilly’s 28 points this season are just under last year’s numbers but are still good for fourth in Avalanche scoring (would be 2nd on the Flames). Matt Duchesne’s team leading 38 points is only narrowly ahead of Jiri Hudler’s 35 points and yet the Avalanche have 7 players over 18 points whereas the Flames have just two.
Flames fans knew the loss of Jarome Iginla and Jay Boumeester would make the 2013-2014 season a rebuilding one, and so far that has held true. Former Flames, Alex Tanguy and Corey Sarich have joined Colorado this season, while David Jones and Shane O’Brien have not helped the Flames improve despite their younger legs. The Flames have a decent defensive core and penalty kill that’s ranked 12th in the league but, to put it mildly, the team has struggled to score goals. Going into last night’s game the Flames were one of only two teams to score less than a 100 goals at the halfway mark and their power play is ranked 27th. “Team confidence, scoring-wise, I hope I’m not giving you guys a big scoop right now that it’s not very high,” said Flames head coach Bob Hartley after Sunday’s practice.
Meanwhile, the team that Hartley won the Stanley Cup with in 2001 have turned heads this season under rookie head coach Patrick Roy. Most expected the team to level out after a tremendous start that saw the young Avalanche team win 14 of their first 16, but still, despite adversity and a string of losses here and there, the Avs have managed to maintain a strong work ethic and winning attitude that has carried them into a playoff spot as they enter the second half of the season. Their special teams are ranked in the middle of the pack but their 2.88 goals per game is good for 8th in the league, coupled with the 10th fewest goals allowed puts the Avs in good stead as the season moves forward.
What a difference a year makes. After 42 games, the Calgary Flames are two points behind last year’s pace whereas the Avalanche are 26 points ahead of last year’s team. The Flames last made the playoffs in 2009, whereas the Avs last made the playoffs in 2010. This season, one team is proving to have executed a successful rebuilding campaign that brought in young talent from the coaching on down. The other? Time will tell.
The Flames are currently on a two game road trip with including last night’s contest in Colorado and tonight’s against the Phoenix Coyotes. They return to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday to face the surging St. Louis Blues.