SUN Hockey Pool

Goals are up -- and so are their victories -- as Flames show high-octane out of the gate this NHL season

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

Quick question: Compared to the first season after the lockout, are the Calgary Flames games higher scoring or lower scoring this year?

The answer: Higher. Make that much higher.

Through the first 14 tilts this season, Flames games have added up to 89 goals -- the most post-lockout. (We know the 13-goal outing Thursday night with the Nashville Predators may skew the figures, but the trend was set before that tilt.)

At the same point in 2005-06, Flames games added up to 71 goals, plus one single shootout winner.

Now, to look at the glass as half-full and half-empty at the same time.

Of four post-lockout seasons, their record of 8-5-1 is their best start. Offensively, the 45 goals scored is a huge increase from 2005-06, when they scored 32 times.

Defensively, they haven't been as strong, but the difference isn't as big. In the first two post-lockout years, the Flames allowed 39 goals, plus lost once in a shootout.

Through 14 games this NHL season, the goals-against total is at 45. Sure, it's only a six-goal difference (too bad the Flames didn't shut the door when they had that huge lead on the Preds), but it adds up to nearly half-a-goal per game.

The lesson is simple.

If the Flames keep scoring like they have -- eighth best heading into last night's tilts -- and shore up their defence, they have a chance to make it an entertaining season.

FLAMING C-NOTES

Flames fans take note, tonight's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets has been added to the CBC schedule. That's right, you don't have to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens for the 1,000th time in CBC history ... Good thing LW Todd Bertuzzi had a three-assist game in the Flames' 7-6 win over the Predators the other night. Bertuzzi (minus-10 heading into the night) was plus-3 against the Preds, a needed boost since only Atlanta Thrashers D Mathieu Schneider had a worse plus-minus at that time ... Back on topic of the Flames' start to the season, only once since 1993-94 have they been better through 14 games. That would be during the 2001-02 campaign, when they burst out with 13 wins and 30 points through the first 19 games and still missed the playoffs ... Just curious, is it more enjoyable to see the Edmonton Oilers spanked 5-0 or lose 5-4 when they were down by five goals as was the case Thursday night in Pittsburgh?

HOCKEY TALKY

Today, Phoenix Coyotes C Olli Jokinen will play his 735th game. What's the significance? It will move him past former Flames assistant coach and head coach Guy Charron, who has the distinction of having played the most games without an NHL playoff game on his resume. Jokinen is yet to skate in a post-season clash, and it doesn't appear the Coyotes are a playoff team yet. Next year should be a different story, but that is a dubious distinction ... Former Flames D David Hale is closing in on the NHL's longest goal-scoring drought in history. Hale, who is one of the true nice guys in the game, has played 226 games without scoring -- he surpassed Terry Murray's mark of 217 games to start a career. The longest drought in NHL history belongs to Ken Daneyko at 256 ... Circle this date on the calendar -- Jan. 14. That's when the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Washington Capitals, and you can bet C Sidney Crosby will want to show LW Alexander Semin what makes him special. Throw in the way LW Alexander Ovechkin seems to crush C Evgeni Malkin at every turn, it could be the most emotional contest among the skilled players. We're still not sure what Semin was thinking when he said to Yahoo Sports, "What's so special about (Crosby)? I don't see anything special there. Yes, he does skate well, has a good head, good pass. But there's nothing else. I think that if you take any player, even if he is deadwood, and start promoting him, you'll get a star, especially if he scores 100 points. No one is going to care about anyone else. No one is going to care whether he possesses great skill." Not sure if a 100-point player in today's NHL could be called "dead wood" ... Anybody else surprised to see eight of the top-10 teams in goal scoring on a per-game basis are in the Western Conference. That's a big shift from the last couple of seasons.

YOU DON'T SAY

"I've been thinking of going to Dunkin' Donuts, buying one of those 10-cup boxes they sell, and going around the stalls of some of our guys and saying, 'Have a cup of coffee and be ready to go.' "

-- Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson when asked for a plan to get his players to show some early spark.


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