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Happy Monday! The slick Blasty black jersey is back in action. The Calgary Flames beat the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. It may be cold as heck, but there are reasons to smile.

Onto the mailbag, we shall go!

Well, the bad news is the Flames had yet another drab first period. But they managed to pull out of the proverbial tail-spin, something they haven’t done often this season. And Edmonton is a pretty talented hockey club, boasting a couple really good players named Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and the Flames managed to largely keep them in check.

Actual progress is if they can put together a good 60 minutes, but Saturday’s win was a nice step in the right direction.

Yes and no?

Yes, because there’s an obvious drop-off between the Flames’ top three lines and their fourth line lately… and that will probably be something they have to deal with until Derek Ryan’s back from his broken finger.

No, because in a compressed schedule it still makes some sense to roll lines (as much as can be done practically) because it would be incredibly dumb to burn out their best players before the end of the season. It’s the same rationale behind not wanting to play Jacob Markstrom all 56 games of the season; he’s excellent in net and you could do that, but it seems like a poor long-term strategy if you want to have anything in the tank for the playoffs.

I don’t know this for sure, and I’ll ask him eventually, but my theory is he does it because it forces the Flames to play more simply and directly. The Flames have a tendency to get too damn fancy in the offensive and neutral zones at times, with wacky drop passes and whatnot. That can lead to turnovers, goals against, and misery. Putting some of the less skilled players higher in the rotation forces the team’s fancier players to calm it down, make smart, simple plays, and put pucks on net.

Is it a perfect strategy? Well, no, because it puts the less skilled players in more prominent spots. But the logic behind what it’s meant to achieve isn’t completely bonkers.

My gut says we get a Sam Bennett trade sometime in February, but that’s only so that saga doesn’t continue to be a distraction for longer than it needs to be.

Nobody’s mentioned it yet, but from being in the arena for a few games thus far, the building seems colder, there’s less fan-centric programming on the ice so the flood has more time to freeze during the intermission, and it seems like the puck is doing less weird stuff than in prior seasons. (There’s one temperature setting for the ice plant, but the ambient air temperature being lower with fewer human bodies warming the building likely helps things be a bit more stable for ice conditions.)


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