Calgary Flames

Sunday Census: Road trip success, struggles, and early MVP candidates

Welcome back to The Sunday Census. Throughout the week, The Win Column will be posing topical and intriguing polls on Twitter (@wincolumnblog) to gauge the fan-base’s stance on pressing issues. Want to make sure your opinion is taken into effect? Vote in the polls, start a debate, and propose alternative suggestions on the polls!

The Flames have two five game road trips this season, the first of which wrapped up in Washington DC. After starting with an overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets in the Heritage Classic, the Flames went on to post a 2-2-1 record over the trip.

Although not perfect, the first question we had this week was what was your favorite moment on this trip. For most of our voters, it came down the the comeback against Nashville, where the Flames were down 4-1 but battled back to win the game 6-5 or the beautiful overtime goal by Matthew Tkachuk to win that very game.

Tkachuk’s goal is one we are going to see on the highlight reel for the rest of the season, if not beyond. His OT marker was out of this world and will absolutely be a candidate for goal of the year. That being said, his goal is especially noteworthy because it came with just seconds left in overtime after the Flames already came back against the Predators. Were it not for the Flames turning the game around going into the third, this goal does not happen.

There is no denying the beauty of Tkachuk’s goal, but until that comeback against Nashville, it did not look like the Flames had much fight in their game. The fact that they were able to come back and win on the road against the Predators showed the tenacity and character in the team we grew to love last season. Since that game, the Flames have picked up points in four of five, which is huge for a team that was lacking consistency. This feels like a moment the team will look back on down the road as a turning point in the season.

Our first poll was focused more on the positive, but our second was a bit more sour in nature. This poll was much more controversial as it looked at the not-so-fun parts of the road trip and which one stung the most.

Nobody likes being scored on, whether it is three by Vrana, two shorthanded goals from Jarnrok, or a beauty from Svechnikov. Of those 6 goals, Andrei Svechnikov’s goal was unstoppable (the uncalled stick to the face on Rittich aside). It hurt, but it hurt more that they lost a game in which they generally looked good through the first 40 minutes.

The hat trick by Jakub Vrana hurts probably the least. The Flames were reasonably good at shutting down the top players from the Caps and limiting the chances Alexander Ovechkin got from the slot. Cam Talbot probably wanted one of those goals back, but at the end of the day if the Flames are going to lose against any team, it hurts less losing against the best team in the league.

The two shorthanded goals by Calle Jarnkrok were frustrating, especially since at that point the Flames were simply a disaster. Allowing one shorthanded goal is already too many, but two against in a game stings deep. Not to mention the number of odd-man rushes the Flames gave up because of sloppy defensive plays all game long. The Flames were lucky not to be down by more in that game. As much as Jarnkrok, cousin of Elias Lindholm, was willing his team to win, this one hurts a little less because the Flames eventually came back to win.

That being said, the clear winner here has to be the Heritage Classic loss. In the first outdoor game for the Flames since 2011 (not to mention how beautiful those jerseys were), the Flames definitely wanted a better result. It’s difficult when you generally hold your own throughout a game, then give up the lead with minutes left in the third and go on to lose. Although the weather was not great and the Flames were playing with new lines, they simply were not good enough to close it out. That hurt.

After the win against the Arizona Coyotes, Coach Bill Peters ripped into his team for the lack of effort so far this season. The Flames have looked better of late, but they still struggle to look like the team that picked up 50 wins last season all while having generally the same roster.

With all due respect to Milan Lucic and Lindholm, this one is a toss up between David Rittich and Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk has been excellent for the Flames and has felt like the team’s talisman so far this season. When he is going, the whole group gets going. Not only does he score timely goals, he also buzzes around the net and infuriates the opposition. Tkachuk is fast becoming the heart and soul of this Flames team for a very good reason.

But as incredibly as Tkachuk has been, he has also been guilty of not starting on time and of not getting things going until the third period. It has been Rittich that has kept the Flames in games all season long. Without him behind them, this team would have had no chance to be near the top of the Pacific Division. Putting up a league leading number of start and wins, the Czech sensation has been phenomenal this season. It seems like any questions about him being a starter in this league have quickly evaporated.

Want to be a part of the conversation next time around? Follow us on Twitter @wincolumnblog and be sure to keep a look out for our polls throughout the week.

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