The Calgary Flames returned to the ice as Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return to Play plan got underway.
The Flames’ training camp roster consists of 20 forwards, 11 defencemen, and 4 goaltenders. Most of the roster was intact, other than the absence of Travis Hamonic, who was the first NHL player to opt out of the 2020 playoffs.
Skating in two groups, the Flames more or less got their feet wet again after being off the ice for so long during the COVID-19 pause. Given the (not-so) split squad practice, it’s hard to materialise any real thoughts how the Flames will look when they face off against the Winnipeg Jets other than to expect mostly the same regular season roster.
Also of note, Connor Mackey is present for training camp and skated today with the first group, but will not be eligible to play in the playoffs due to his contract.
Among the players listed on their training camp roster, Dillon Dube and Buddy Robinson were the only Flames not on the ice today.
Johnny Gaudreau and Andrew Mangiapane skated in the second group away from Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, and Matthew Tkachuk. With neither of the Flames’ Top-6 lines in full formation today, that’s a good an indication as any that the purpose of today’s session is far from getting game-ready.
Another tidbit worth noting was that the Flames ran two power play units that consisted of 4 forwards and 1 defenceman. Throughout the season, the Flames were in the middle of the pack in terms of power play efficiency, ranking 12th in the league with a power play conversion rate of 21.2%, well short of the Edmonton Oilers’ league-leading 29.5%.
Though there will be lots of tweaks to come, figuring out the power play can pay big dividends come the play-in series against the Jets, as the Flames will have to solve Connor Hellebuyck and the power play will provide good opportunity to take advantage of the Jets’ weak defensive showing this season.
Lastly, a little more info on start times for the Flames vs. Jets series:
Hockey is officially back. As the countdown to the playoffs is merely weeks away, there’s a lot left to monitor in terms of how the NHL addresses the COVID-19 situation. With players in the league still testing positive, the league must take this process seriously. The push for the playoffs continue in full-force, but it should be expected that at any instance, an immediate shutdown may once again be necessary.
The risks associated with returning to competitive sport during a pandemic are all too obvious, but these are (mostly) grown adults making decisions in their own best interests. Watching from the sidelines, we can only hope that the players’ health and safety remain at the utmost priority as the league goes ahead with the return.
Go Flames Go.