The Calgary Flames were pretty much pegged by everybody to be Western Conference doormats this NHL season. While we’re only a handful of games into the 2013-14 campaign, the team certainly stands out as an early surprise. The Flames have picked up points in all five of their games thanks to a 3-2 victory over the visiting New Jersey Devils. The Flames are an impressive 3-0 and two to start the season.
A number of key early season attributes were on display in their latest triumph ranging from hard work, physicality, good goaltending from Joey MacDonald and the red-hot goal scoring touch of rookie Sean Monahan. Monahan, who was the team’s first round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, netted the game-winning tally, his fourth of the young season.
One wild scramble late in the final period was a prime example as to why this team is being embraced by its fans in the very early stages of a substantial rebuild. While the big names are gone, the work ethic and compete levels have more than made up for it. Grinding forward Lance Bouma drew thunderous applause from the crowd and kudos from his teammates for a pair of enormous shot blocks with his goaltender under siege and the team running around in its own end. Mikael Backlund provided a key shot block in the dying moments as well with the Devils furiously mounting an attack for the equalizer.
Head coach Bob Hartley, who’s in his second season with the club, has his group playing an up tempo brand of hockey that’s been much more entertaining to watch than that of the previous regime. The players have clearly bought into what he’s been preaching, and it has translated to early success. MacDonald has been solid between the pipes, making a number of highlight-reel saves during his four consecutive starts. The newly turned 19-year-old Monahan has been everything the organization could’ve asked for and more and talented defenseman and Captain Mark Giordano continues to lead by example with the effort he puts forth on a nightly basis.
Again, it’s very early and no doubt there will be some rough patches along the way for this unheralded group, but so far, there’s been plenty to like.
Rick LaFitte is an NHL Writer for Rant Sports