Flames look to surpass .500 plateau yet again
Four-point weekend has Calgary feeling good
Boy, are the Calgary Flames ever getting ahead of themselves. One thrilling win and, well, just listen to Michael Cammalleri.
“Yeah, start the parade.”
But seriously, folks, he’s joshing. This is just a toss-off line to make a point.
Because Cammalleri continued, eloquently explaining why a single victory — even one as rousing as Sunday’s come-from-behind 5-4 decision over the visiting Phoenix Coyotes — is not a season-maker. Or even close.
“I know that you guys like to search for these big momentum (shifts), these moments that you can say were the determining factor and it’s great for the gossip columns,” he told reporters Monday before the squad hopped a charter flight to Minnesota, the starting point of a two-game trip. “But the truth is, it’s about a consistent effort. If you look over a season, you want to give yourself a probability to win more often than not. I don’t know that one game does that for you. In fact, I would tell you that one game doesn’t do that for you.
“I would tell you that it’s your habits, day in and day out, that end up making you a good team — or end up making you a team that’s not good enough.”
Minutes after the morning’s optional practice, Bob Hartley had been whistling a similar tune.
The coach is aware that everyone had been jazzed by Sunday’s result, which gave the locals a four-point weekend. But perspective must rule.
“This was a feel-good game — we had the lead, we lost the lead, then two big goals, the fans go crazy, you feel the electricity on the bench, you get in the room and the music is loud,” said Hartley. “It’s almost like a playoff win. Obviously, that leaves some good feelings. But on the other end, you can’t sit on this because the next morning you have to look at the standings and say, ‘We still have a ways to go.’ ”
A ways to go? Certainly.
For starters, there’s this — the Flames have not been above .500 this season. Not once.
Sure, they’ve had four cracks at it, but each time they’ve badly faltered, getting outscored 18-4 in the process.
“We’ve flirted with it a few times and we haven’t capitalized,” said Cammalleri. “I’d like to see us get excited about the opportunity . . . but (here’s) more of a big-picture thought. My thought on that is you don’t think about it as a one-game thing, you think about it as, ‘Let’s not worry about the result. Let’s worry about playing a better hockey game than we have.’ If we do that, chances are the result will chase us.”
Against the Minnesota Wild, they try again to nose over the break-even point.
“It would be a huge step, I think,” Tim Jackman said of winning Tuesday. “Hopefully, this time we’ve got it figured out a little bit more than the last couple opportunities that we had. Hopefully, we can take advantage of it.”
At the start of the campaign, Hartley divvied the 48-game schedule into seven-game chunks. The goal is to mine nine points out of each “series.”
The Flames went 2-3-2 in the opening seven (six points), then 3-3-1 in the second (seven points). Now into the third instalment, they’re 2-1-0.
Despite falling short of targets, nothing is being tweaked or softened.
“When you present something to the players or to the media, you can’t change your mind every five minutes,” said Hartley. “That’s going to be our game plan this year. That’s going to be our game plan next year. I believe in short-term goals. Those seven games represent what we can accomplish.
“When you’re a playoff team, you dream about the Stanley Cup. That’s why we have pictures in the room of this. To recreate playoff atmosphere, that’s a great challenge for the players.”
But moseying into the Xcel Energy Center, the Flames won’t be thinking of the Stanley Cup — or even of Sunday’s heroics. Those two points are banked, with little carry-over.
“You drain the good stuff and keep it, but we can’t be satisfied — far from it,” said Hartley. “It’s going to be a race and we have to stay in that race to keep moving up in the standings. Every time there’s a three-point game, it complicates (the Western Conference).
“The bar for the eighth spot just keeps going higher.”
Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH
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