Hockey Costs

The flames leave too many points on the table, especially alarming amid a four-game meltdown


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In any season of the National Hockey League, there are times a team can look back and ask, “What could have been?”

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If they had only won a few more games in a long losing streak – or if they were able to win a few more games with a goal, force overtime to gain a point, or, in the Calgary Flames case so far, winning that crucial second point in overtime.

Last week has been unforgettable for this group.

Four straight losses, a 0-3-1 streak that saw the Flames lose two on the road and two at home, including Saturday’s 4-2 to the Boston Bruins.

Then there was Thursday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, which produced a disturbing statistic that the Flames have won just one overtime game this season in seven tries. The only two times the Flames games extended past settlement, they won in shootouts (more on that later).

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They are 15-7-6, which was good enough for the Pacific Division tops and second in the Western Conference heading into Sunday’s action. Nothing to complain about, but the Flames are certainly not happy with their current situation. Imagine if they would have won at least three of those overtime games? If that had been the case, they would have led the NHL with 42 points and an 18-7-3 record.

Whether it’s the team’s busy schedule on the road finally catches up with them or just a bump along the way, this could turn out to be one of those alarming stretches where it costs them at the end of the season – especially s’ they can’t figure things out soon, and especially in overtime.

“So far that’s what it is with the losses we have in overtime,” Flames defenseman Erik Gudbranson said, before the team hit the road ahead of back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday in Chicago. and Nashville, respectively. “You just have to go ahead and bank as many points as you can so you don’t even have that worry towards the end of the year.

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“It will be a very difficult job and will take a lot of commitment.”

Flames head coach Darryl Sutter told media after Saturday’s final effort at the Scotiabank Saddledome that the praise for the squad at the start of this season was a bit over the top.

“You know what? You got a head start on yourselves,” Sutter said on Saturday and, yes, he might have a point, even though it was one of the best starts in the history of the franchise and that they’ve won five straight road games (which is hard to do no matter how you cut it).

There is a deeper process for this group, and learning to deal with adversity is one of them.

“I would say the reason we haven’t faced adversity this season is that the guys know how to react to a loss,” said Flames forward Blake Coleman, whose experience has been well advertised in this area with two straight Stanley Cups. with the Tampa Bay Lightning. “The eighty-two seasons of games are long and there will be times when the pucks just don’t go in and you’re going to lose a few games… there is no panic in the room. We have a lot of guys who have been there before and understand that the season comes and goes and you have to be balanced. You can’t go too high or too low, I say that all the time. But you want to stop the bleeding, you don’t want to let it go because that’s when things get a little bit risky. Two (losses), the meter rings a little in the head and three, it is too much.

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And four is alarming.

Prior to Sunday’s NHL game, no other team had played as much away from the ice as the Flames. So, questions about why their home record is only 4-3-4 is a moot point – they just haven’t been around long enough to develop a meaningful pace.

That will balance out in the second half of the season, and even after that two players. They will have four more home games before Christmas and will host the Battle of Alberta on December 27. Winnipeg Jets.

Blake Coleman of the Calgary Flames defeats Connor Clifton of the Boston Bruins at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday, December 11, 2021.
Blake Coleman of the Calgary Flames defeats Connor Clifton of the Boston Bruins at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday, December 11, 2021. Photo by Brendan Miller /Postmedia

“It was definitely a lot of games on the road,” Coleman admitted. “Quite long road trips. But, on the other hand, we came out of it pretty well. There will certainly be no excuse for the rest of the way. We have a pretty user-friendly schedule – lots of home games and a few chunks where we should be able to go about business (at the Saddledome).

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“Luckily we’ve been pretty good on the road and that has helped us to position ourselves where we are. Now it’s just up to us to make sure we translate this house. “

And, ideally, if they’re in an overtime situation from now on.

Sutter has previously grumbled his thoughts about 3v3 hockey, subtly reminding the media that there is no 3v3 in the playoffs. But it’s worth addressing.

This format is a puck possession game, no different than their goal in Sutter’s 5v5 system. But according to Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane, face-offs and movements, not forced plays, are all a part of it.

“You see a lot of goals when people are tired and are circling to their own end,” Mangiapane said. “You trap the guys out there and take advantage of it when they’re tired. I think that’s the key there. And don’t force the games. You never want to be on your own side because you tried to force a game that wasn’t there.

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“You always want to be fresh. “

Gudbranson might not get many turns in this scenario, but he has provided an overview of what the Flames need to do.

“We’re trying to isolate a team and basically surprise them on a bad change and create a two-on-one that you can take advantage of,” he said. “It’s extremely slow until you get that quick break and you have to be ready for that split second to grab this opportunity. The other side, too, is that when you get a good opportunity, you have to complete it. Because there is a good chance that this is a Category “A” opportunity that will turn the other way.

“It’s a very delicate way to end hockey games and one you have to be extremely precise on. “

But they were not – and, instead, they left valuable points on the table because of their poor record. It hurts them, especially in the middle of a four-game losing streak.

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“You win half of it and we’ve got a pretty good cushion right now,” Coleman said. “We have to find a way to win these games. We’ve done well in the shootings, but you don’t want to just wait for a shootout. You have to find ways to win in overtime and there are a lot of things that as a player you watch the video and find ways to create more offense. Whether it’s bad changes from other teams or things like that, these are just things we can improve on as a group. We get our chances, but we give up some nice Class “A” opportunities and let Marky (Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom) dry out a bit… it’s one of those things where you can’t ignore him. Points are points.

“And, at the end of the day, you need all the points you can get.”

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