Flames stumbling on laundry list of problems as playoff chances grow slimmer by the day

 

Ugly GAA, poor home record, terrible goal differential, little grit ... it sure isn’t pretty here in Cowtown

 
 
 
 
Flames defenceman Chris Butler, right, collides with Los Angeles’ Dustin Penner during their game at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday. Calgary was pushed all over the ice in a 3-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champs.
 

Flames defenceman Chris Butler, right, collides with Los Angeles’ Dustin Penner during their game at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday. Calgary was pushed all over the ice in a 3-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champs.

Photograph by: Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald

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Technically, just four points (and five teams) separated the Calgary Flames on Thursday from the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

That’s the lone nugget of sunny news for Flames fans clinging to the faintest of reasons for optimism in these dark days down at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The laundry list of disturbing signs is as lengthy as the line of traffic snaking in both directions on the Deerfoot during the morning commute.

To wit:

* The local heroes are tied with Washington for 27th on the 30-team circuit with a stinky goals-against- average of 3.40. Only the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers are more porous on the back end.

* The Flames hold the dubious distinction of being just one of three NHL teams with only two victories on home ice.

Their record at the Dome? A brutal 2-5-2.

* Calgary’s goal differential (which measures the gap between goals for and goals against) sits at minus-14, which puts the Flames at a putrid 28th overall. A telling category indeed.

* Lacking grit and sandpaper, the entire team stood idly by Wednesday night when L.A. centre Trevor Lewis clobbered goalie Joey MacDonald and faced zero in the way of consequences (minus a minor penalty assessed by the refs.)

So how about those Calgary Stampeders?

Anyone ready to start obsessing over the statistical chances of acquiring the first overall pick (Seth Jones, anyone? Nathan MacKinnon? Jonathan Drouin?)

“It’s definitely not good, but there’s still time,” a glum T.J. Brodie was saying Wednesday of his team’s playoff hopes after a 3-1 loss to the Kings. “We’ve just got to play with confidence and work hard every night and play the game that we want to play.”

But what, exactly, is the game they want to play? Clearly not blessed with size or ingrained pugnacity, the Flames remain an enigma 15 games into this shortened season.

Offensively, they lit up the opposition through the first month of the regular season, only to collect just one goal in the last 120 minutes of play.

“It’s hard to put a finger on,” defenceman Jay Bouwmeester said of the sudden impotency on offence. “We need to generate more and put everything at the net. Nowadays, so much happens just off of that.”

The Flames took Thursday off, but the boys can expect a gruelling practice today with an ornery Bob Hartley in charge of the proceedings.

“You get back at it pretty quick,” Bouwmeester said. “That’s probably the best thing. You play a lot of games in a short period of time, so if you want to dwell on things or feel sorry for yourself, you’re going to put yourself in a pretty big hole.”

Sensing the black hole enveloping his team, Hartley has clear and definite plans for today’s session at the Saddledome.

“I can promise you on Friday we will be working on defensive zone coverage, “ Hartley said. “We need to find a way to be a more responsible team in our own zone. They’re willing to learn. They’re willing to listen. So we should see some improvement. We’re going to put lots of emphasis on it. Not that we didn’t before, but there comes a point we have to cut down on the easy goals.”

Cutting down on the easy goals against, according to Michael Cammalleri, should help the Flames on both ends of the ice.

“I’m a firm believer that your offence and defence are very connected,” Cammalleri said. “The better you are in your own end and the better attention to detail defensively, the more offence you create — and not only that, the more quality offence you create, and generally that means the puck goes in the net more.

“I would say we need to get skating all over the ice and get more aggressive and be on our toes.”

Otherwise, the Flames can look forward to packing their bags and bidding one another farewell before the calendar flips to May.

Again.

“You know the season ticks away,” Cammalleri said. “You’ve got to get going. We’ve got to get really aggressive in our mentality and everything about our game.”

Next up: back-to-back home games this weekend against Minnesota and Phoenix.

“Realistically, with where we are right now, we have to get over that hump.” Bouwmeester said. “You have to get over that .500 mark, and the only way to do that is the cliché, but it’s one game at a time.

“We’ve got two big ones coming up this weekend, and all you can do is focus on Saturday and then go from there. It’s not going to happen all at once.”

vhall@calgaryherald.com

 
 
 
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Flames defenceman Chris Butler, right, collides with Los Angeles’ Dustin Penner during their game at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday. Calgary was pushed all over the ice in a 3-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champs.
 

Flames defenceman Chris Butler, right, collides with Los Angeles’ Dustin Penner during their game at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday. Calgary was pushed all over the ice in a 3-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champs.

Photograph by: Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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