Sunday Census has been revamped the 2020-21 season, where we’ll be posting polls on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram revolving around a central question or theme. Be sure to check out all three platforms to participate in each week’s set of polls!
Top Duos to begin the season
Among the options listed, it was a clear runaway for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, whose first few games have been looking like they’re back to tip-top shape. Can’t fault Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm on their starts either.
However, for the other two options, the sentiment was as follows:
“Hanifin & Tanev, through last nights game, have been the D pair with the most positive impact on their team across the entire league. So I’ll go them, though 6-89 is too 25 so far too”@Flash_33
“55-8 tbh. They’ve been great while 5-4 have struggled.”@BabyIginla
“Hanifin – Tanev. Noah finally looks like a top-4 D and Tanev silenced the haters.”@Despo_Hockey
“Been very impressed with Andersson and Markstrom but couldn’t vote for them based on who they’re put with”@Cam_Woolridge
“[Hanifin] and Tanev should’ve been there ahead of Gio and Ras”@WCMC1983
The second pairing of Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev has far exceeded their expectations and have overall been playing some quality hockey. While Mark Giordano and Rasmus Andersson have had better results on the scoresheet, they’ve struggled otherwise. The fans have spoken, scoring more points does not give them the leg up over Hanifin and Tanev, who have demonstrably played quality hockey on both offence and defence.
Jacob Markstrom has brought a lot of stability to the team’s goaltending, and has looked solid in the handful of games he’s played. Maybe he and David Rittich would have gotten more votes as a tandem had Rittich played a better game to start his season off, but in general, you have to be happy with what we’re seeing from the goaltending.
All in all, there are several different reasons to be happy with the team so far, but the exercise of selecting duos can make it tougher to justify picking one pair over another. It’s clear that the Flames’ best forwards are off to a great start, whereas the top defence pairing, not so much.
Goaltending is definitely a positive, but the impact from the forwards overshadow the body of work from Markstrom and Rittich so far. Maybe overall sentiments may have already changed, as Markstrom picked up his second shut out of the season as the Flames bounced back on Saturday with a shut out win over Montreal. If Rittich’s next few games are better than his first, then the Flames will look mightily fine in net.
The new Flames
On Facebook, we asked about the new Flames. This includes the likes of Markstrom, Tanev, Nikita Nesterov, Josh Leivo, Dominik Simon, and Joakim Nordstrom. Maybe the question was phrased poorly, as it may have come off as being impressed with the team as a whole.
Given that the chatter on Markstrom and Tanev have been pretty positive, as well as what Nesterov and Leivo have brought to the table too, it was a surprise to see so many people vote no. Even Simon has been a generally good addition when he slots in over Nordstrom, even earning playing time with Gaudreau and Monahan.
Rethinking the question as being impressed with the team as a whole might give better insight into the results, as the Flames started 2-0-1 followed by going 0-3-0 (at the time the polls were sent). The early swing from a good start followed by a bad streak is reason enough to not be impressed.
THe Flames’ overall start
On Instragram, the question didn’t leave room for interpretation, and the results were even more overwhelmingly negative. Again, the Flames were 2-3-1 at the time the question was posed, and the fan votes show that the team has not been good enough in six games to be satisfied with them.
The Flames had an opportunity to get ahead in the division given that they played fewer games than any other team in the league, but weren’t able to capitalise. They’re still in a position to get ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks once they match the same games played.
Here’s a good, grounded response from Instagram:
“I’m sort of in the middle, shouldn’t be too much overreaction, however it is a 56 game season and more you fall behind more you’ll be chasing all season, so some of the negative is a bit warranted.”noahadler99
It’s true. With less total games played in the season combined with all games being in the same division, two points from a win means more now than it ever did before. It’s still too early to get worried, but the Flames could have and should have put themselves in a better position.
It’s fair to say that expectations for this team are sky high in the North Division. They can easily be a top-three team that coasts to the playoffs, but they can’t rely on other teams playing poorly either. They have to take matters into their own hands, plain and simple.
Big week ahead
The Flames are now in a much better position to begin their chase back into an early playoff spot. With three straight games against the Winnipeg Jets, the Flames have an opportunity to turn the tides and climb the standings if they play well, setting everything up for a great showdown when they face the Oilers for the first time this season this coming Saturday.
Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images