As if life, even under idyllic conditions, isn’t already tough enough in the ultra competitive Western Conference, the Calgary Flames must now cope without their MVP-caliber netminder.
Flames fans’ worst nightmare turned into reality when Mike Smith went down writing in pain with a single tick left on the clock against the Islanders last night. The incident initially looked like a worst-case scenario, as the 35-year-old had to be helped off the ice.
That’s common protocol for a suspected groin injury, though, as every precaution must be taken to immobilize the affected area.
Eric Francis said Smith was walking without a limp in the aftermath, a positive sign for anyone with a vested interest in the team.
Flames must get on with business at hand
Arguably their most influential player, Smith forms the bedrock of this Calgary team, particularly on the road. He perpetually gives his team a chance to win, rarely taking a night off.
For now, though, Calgary cannot afford to wallow in self-pity. Every team, during the long, gruelling 82-game campaign, must face adversity at one point or another. The Flames’ playoff chances could come down to how they confront this misfortune and overcome a potentially catastrophic setback.
The Flames hope for a favourable diagnosis but must, with defiance and resilience, band together and get on with the business at hand. Veterans and leaders, now more than ever, must step up and be held to a higher standard.
It’s rare that a team ascends to greatness without overcoming hardship.
While it’s almost impossible to find a silver lining while the wound is still so raw, the Flames have the strength of character to transform an excessively sour lemon into a tolerably tart, drinkable glass of lemonade.
David Rittich, who is 5-1-2 with a 2.20 GAA and .927 save percentage, has been excellent in a supporting role and must now backstop his team as the temporary starter.
If he continues playing the way he has as a backup, and the collective in front of him eradicate mistakes, the Flames can prove wrong throngs of naysayers, who believe Gulutzan’s side is dead in the water without Smith.
Rittich will be tossed into the deep end against Boston, one of the league’s best teams, tomorrow night.
But I have full faith the Flames’ newly anointed number one will not only stay afloat, but swim imperiously with the power, strength and technique of Michael Phelps.