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12 biggest surprises explaining the Flames’ excellent start



Few things around the league are more surprising than the early success of the Calgary Flames.

After missing the playoffs last season, and being unable to replace captain Mark Giordano in a relatively quiet off-season, few believed it could be possible for them to sit atop the Western Conference 19 games in.

It’s been a season of surprises in Calgary, which is why we’ve ranked the 12 biggest to explain how they got here:



The loss of Giordano in the summer left a gaping hole at the back end of a team that was one player short of filling its top four.

Enter Kylington, who had previously been the forgotten man in an organization that exposed him on waivers a year earlier.

A strong camp opened eyes, but not as much as his performance as the team’s leading scorer amongst defenceman with three goals and 12 points to sit 16th amongst NHL blue-liners.

His plus-10 rating is also amongst leaders, proving he’s limited the mistakes that used to define him.


With points in 11 of his last 14 games, the speedy, creative playmaker is proving to be as dependable and consistent as any of the team’s top four defenders.


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Few in Calgary are shocked he’s had a good start, but even his biggest supporters couldn’t have fathomed he’d be second in NHL goal scoring behind Leon Draisaitl with 15 goals in 19 outings.

A league-leading 14 of those have come on the road.

Well before his breakout as world championship MVP, he’d been trending as one of the game’s most efficient 5-on-5 scorers, but the run he’s on now has people starting to understand why Team Canada put him on its Olympic long list months ago.

A dependable penalty killer whose tenacity makes him a good fit as a role player for Canada’s Olympic squad, his success has come despite playing just 15 minutes a night as a second-liner who has yet to crack the team’s top power-play unit.

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The club’s shocking 11-3-5 start has come largely on the road.

The Flames have opened the year with taxing, five and seven-game roadies out east. They have league-best 9-2-2 record away from the Saddledome.

The early money was on Calgary to be amongst the teams battling for third in the NHL’s weakest division, behind Vegas and the Oilers.


Instead, they’re a point up on their northern rivals, albeit having played two more games.

If the Flames can duplicate their road success at the Saddledome, the race for first place could be a long one.


In a league in which backup goalies need to win at least half their starts for a team to make the playoffs, the unproven 24-year-old was a significant gamble.

The Flames gave Boston a third-round pick for Vladar, who had only five NHL starts under his belt.


In five starts as a Flame, he is 4-0-1 with a 1.57 GAA and .946 save percentage, which includes shutouts against the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins his last two outings.


Given how much the Flames paid him two summers ago on the open market, it shouldn’t be too big a surprise he’s found the form to make him a dominant force.

However, his five shutouts in 14 starts has him on pace to shatter Miikka Kiprusoff’s franchise record of 10 goose eggs.


His 1.71 GAA and .942 save percentage have helped him to a 7-3-4 record that has backstopped the Flames to tops in the Western Conference.


Based on previous squads coached by Darryl Sutter, if anyone thought this team could have early success, conventional wisdom suggested it would be by way of boring, defensive, 2-1 games.

Instead, this team is actually entertaining to watch, even on low-scoring nights when Markstrom or Vladar are putting on goalie clinics.

Johnny Gaudreau is back to being one of the most electric players in the league, spearheading one of the most creative and prolific lines in the loop with Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk.


The Flames sit eighth in goals scored per game (3.32), and are tops in goals against per night, at 1.89 — a combination any fan can get excited about.

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Most people would have assumed Sean Monahan would be a big part of any Flames bounce-back.


Not so.

Perhaps still dealing with the effects of off-season hip surgery, Monahan has largely been playing on the third and fourth lines, where he’s a team-low minus-5.

Five of his nine points have come on the first power-play unit, where the 206-goal man has managed to remain a part of their success.

Full credit to the veteran, who has accepted his new role and is working hard to play himself back into the top six.



Expectations were low, even for a sixth defenceman, but the veteran has been a huge part of the team’s fifth-ranked penalty killing unit.

Brought in for his toughness and experience, he’s been the third-pairing mainstay alongside Nikita Zadorov and Juuso Valimaki, who have taken turns trying to grow their games.


Experts on prospects have long suggested the Flames don’t have much in the pipeline compared to other teams.


However, the Stockton Heat are atop the AHL’s Pacific Division with a 10-0-2 record.

There are a litany of young stars spearheading the team-record 12-game point streak, including Glenn Gawdin, Adam Ruzicka, Matthew Phillips, goalie Dustin Wolf and first-rounder Jakob Pelletier, whose first year as a pro has started brilliantly.

It gives hope that when the Flames do need to summon help from the minors, there are plenty of viable options.


Over the last few years the knock on the Flames has been their inconsistency, as in, no one knew when they’d show up for a game.


Not so this year.

The Flames have scored first in 15 of 19 outings this year, going 11-1-3 in those games.

They’ve scored first in all 12 road games.

An incredible turnaround for a team clearly more prepared for puck drop than previous years.

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Given the tough love Sutter gave the young defenceman upon arriving last year, we figured the ride would be rough for the first-round pick.

However, few would have predicted he’d play only eight games in their first 19, making it hard for the youngster to build momentum and confidence.

The unforeseen emergence of Kylington has impacted Valimaki more than anyone.


Few should be surprised he has found the bounce in his step and perfect linemates to sit fourth in NHL scoring as the reigning NHL Player of the Week.

What no one saw coming was this stat: he has yet to be on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal scored against him or his line.

He’s bought into the program and made himself a more conscientious backchecker, putting himself amongst league leaders at plus-14.

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Mike McDaniel Makes His Thoughts Clear About Dolphins’ Potential



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After picking up a resounding 70-20 win over the Denver Broncos in Week 3, the Miami Dolphins moved to 3-0 and are now the only remaining undefeated team in the AFC.

The Dolphins have looked like a team completely in rhythm, especially offensively as they dumped 726 yards of offense on the Broncos’ defense.


Mike McDaniels has to be happy with how his team has performed out of the gates of the 2023 NFL season as they look sharp and locked in every snap.

Miami was considered to be a Super Bowl hopeful coming into the season and there’s an argument to be made that they could be the outright favorite right now.

Even though Denver hasn’t been the most imposing team, to embarrass them the way they did should illustrate just how good Miami is.

The sky feels like the limit for this Dolphins squad and McDaniels doesn’t think any sort of ceiling should be placed on themselves via Cameron Wolfe of NFL Network.

“Shame on us if we put a ceiling on what we’re capable of,” McDaniels said.


With Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill playing at the level they are, the offense will remain one of the most electric units in the league.

Couple that with their backfield tandem of Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane and it’s hard to imagine any team being able to keep up with them on the scoreboard.

The defense has also shown signs of life, and if they’re able to do their job then there really aren’t many answers for the Dolphins.

Three weeks isn’t much of a sample size, but McDaniels has a point that there’s no telling what else this team is capable of.


The post Mike McDaniel Makes His Thoughts Clear About Dolphins’ Potential appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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Yankees lose to Diamondbacks, miss playoffs for first time since 2016



NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016, getting mathematically eliminated with a rainy 7-1 loss Sunday to the Arizona Diamondbacks as Zac Gallen got his 17th win.

Arizona (82-73) won for the sixth time in seven games and remained in position for the NL’s second wild card, a half-game ahead of the Chicago Cubs. The Diamondbacks also clinched their first winning season since 2019.

New York (78-77) was eliminated from contention with a week to play. The Yankees head on the road to Toronto and Kansas City is in danger of finishing with a losing record for the first time since 1992.


New York would have 85 wins if the Yankees finish 7-0. Baltimore (97 wins) and Tampa Bay (95) will split the AL East and the top wild card, and Toronto (87) is in position for the second wild card. Texas (86) could win the West or get a wild card in a race that includes Seattle (84) or Houston (85). Because the Astros and Mariners play three times in the final week, one must finish with more wins than the Yankees.

Gallen (17-8) allowed three hits in six innings, struck out eight and walked two. He won for the third time in four starts and had his fourth scoreless outing this season.

Tommy Pham and Christian Walker produced sacrifice flies on consecutive pitches in the first inning off Carlos Rodón (3-7) and that was enough for Gallen, who is second in wins, one behind Atlanta’s Spencer Strider.

Evan Longoria added a two-run single and Geraldo Perdomo had a sacrifice fly in Arizona’s three-run seventh following an error by New York left fielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa and a wild pitch by Randy Vásquez. Walker added an RBI groundout in the eighth and Gabriel Moreno hit an RBI double in the ninth.

The Yankees avoided getting shutout when Aaron Judge drew a bases-loaded walk in the ninth.


The game started about 50 minutes late and the rain never stopped. It grew heavier during the middle innings but lessened in the final innings.

Rodón allowed five runs — three earned — and five hits in 6 1/3 innings.


Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said he was going to call Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore to get an update on the forecast.

Lovullo met Cantore in Atlanta when Arizona television play-by-play announcer Steve Berthiaume made the introduction.


“You get that, you got to take advantage of it,” Lovullo said before the game.


Diamondbacks: 2B Ketel Marte (illness) was scratched from the original lineup.

Yankees: RHP Frankie Montas (right elbow) threw 25 pitches in two innings in his second rehab start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre Saturday and could be activated for the final week. A free agent after this season, Montas was 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA in eight games after being acquired from Oakland at last year’s trade deadline and has not pitched since Sept. 16, 2022. … C Jose Trevino (torn right wrist) said he plans to start hitting in a few weeks and should be ready for spring training. … OF Everson Pereira (hamstring) missed his ninth straight game.



Arizona RHP Merrill Kelly (12-7, 3.37 ERA) opposes New York RHP Clarke Schmidt (9-9, 4.65) Monday afternoon in the makeup of Saturday’s postponed game.

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Robert Saleh Makes Clear Statement On Zach Wilson After Loss



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The New York Jets have tried to remain even-keeled since Aaron Rodgers went down with an Achilles tear, but it might be time for them to start panicking after another loss.

Coming off an embarrassing defeat against the Dallas Cowboys, the Jets looked more competitive against the New England Patriots in Week 3.


New York was in a position to win the game late, but unfortunately fell short and would suffer their second loss of the season.

Zach Wilson has been starting for the team and he had another uninspiring performance as he only completed half of his pass attempts for 157 yards and no touchdowns.

Robert Saleh opted to try and run the ball more in order to protect Wilson, but with the Jets trailing he had no choice but to let the signal caller try and win the game.

The noise is only growing louder for New York to find another quarterback, but Saleh reiterated his confidence in Wilson via Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk.

“Zach Wilson gives us the best chance to win,” Saleh said.


There were rumors that New York was going to look around the trade market or free agency to bolster the quarterback room, but for now it seems like Saleh will continue rolling with Wilson despite his struggles on the field.

At 1-2, though, the Jets still have a chance to make up ground and get back into the playoff mix though it’s hard to imagine they’ll be able to do that so long as Wilson remains under center.

Week 4 could be the last straw as New York draws the Kansas City Chiefs.

The post Robert Saleh Makes Clear Statement On Zach Wilson After Loss appeared first on The Cold Wire.


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