We’re confident right now and we’re loose. That’s a big part of why we’re doing well. We’re going to continue to do that, be confident in each other, believe in each other and get the job done here on this road trip. - Sean Monahan
CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames aren’t selling the next seven games short by any stretch.
They aren’t backing down from the challenge of a season-long seven game, 14-day road trip either.
“As a group, this is a big trip for us. It’s seven games,” said Flames sophomore Sean Monahan, who with a goal against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday became the first Flame to record back-to-back 20-goal seasons to start his career since Sergei Makarov accomplished the feat in 1989-90 and 1990-91. I think we’re going to take this game-by-game. We need as many points as we can and I think we’re going to do a great job.
“We’re confident right now and we’re loose. That’s a big part of why we’re doing well. We’re going to continue to do that, be confident in each other, believe in each other and get the job done here on this road trip.”
A day before embarking on the season-high spin through Eastern Conference while the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier curling championship occupies Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames rested in the second of two-wild card spots in the West with 68 points.
But they aren’t resting easy.
By way of two games in hand over the San Jose Sharks, Calgary lays claim to the final playoff position. The Flames could awake prior to their departure to New York on the outside looking in, pending what the Minnesota Wild can accomplish Sunday against the Dallas Stars. Minnesota trails the Flames and Sharks by one entering action Sunday.
Looking up, the Flames are also locked with the Los Angeles Kings, who lay claim to third in the Pacific Division having played one fewer game. The Vancouver Canucks are within range, too, with 69 points and a game at hand over Calgary.
“This is a huge trip for us,” rookie Johnny Gaudreau said. “These next seven games are pretty crucial for us (and) a playoff push. You can see five, six teams that are right on that bubble there. We need to come out of this road trip with a couple more points than expected.”
A strong road trip might help put some space between the Flames and some of that pack.
As it stands, though, Calgary coach Bob Hartley is more than fine with gritting it out in the West.
“I told (the players) this morning the same thing that about a month, month and a half ago,” Hartley started, “If Gary Bettman, Day 1 at camp, would’ve stepped in our locker room and said ‘I have a deal for you. I’m taking you to this seven-game road trip, you’re starting your season now and I’m putting you in the eighth spot in a jam packed in a major club sandwich in the Western Conference are you taking it?’
“We’d be in. That’s what I told them. This is the fun. This is the fun. It’s going to be a great measuring stick for our young hockey club but at the same time we want to have fun with this.”
And there’s plenty of fun to be had on the road.
“It’s fun,” Monahan said. “You’re with the team every day and you’re on the road. It’s a fun time. When you’re on the road and you’re playing in these different buildings its different atmospheres. It’s a fun way to win in those different situations.”
The trip won't be all fun and games, though.
After stops against the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders to open the trip, the Flames will welcome a bit of a break in Philadelphia just in time to usher in the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline.
“We can’t hide this,” Hartley said. “Obviously it’s going to play on some players’ minds. Some handle it better than others. We can’t get away from it. There’s going to be plenty of speculation and rumours and friends calling. This is where you need to be able to park the distractions and focus on your job.
“It’s easier said than done.”
The easier Calgary can park it, the better off their chances in the remaining stops starting with the Philadelphia Flyers before three games in four nights against the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators.
It’s simple, after all.
“We need some wins,” Hartley said. “We need to jack up some points because we want to move up in the standings. We just don’t aim at an eighth spot. We’re challenging for better than this. We want to win every game. We want to win every game and I told the players this morning -- team commitment, pride and hustle -- I want to see hunger in everyone and if I don’t you might get a secondary role. We’re going on this road trip on a mission.”