Johnson: Flames all over the map in stumbling to 0-2 start
Borderline schizophrenic performance by a team working hard but not always smart
Bob the Builder knows it’s already time to rummage around the tool box.
Some immediate repairs are most definitely in order.
Those flashy options, the lovely bell and whistles that add to the pleasing esthetics are all well and good. But the foundation, the plumbing, the central heating, the guts, better be in pristine working condition or else the whole is apt to fall in on top of you.
And at the moment, they’re in desperate need of a service call.
“We put ourselves in a big hole right from the start,” acknowledged Calgary Flames’ coach Bob Hartley, in the wake of a topsy-turvy, impossible-to-get-a-handle-on 5-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. “A couple of misreads in our zone. The first goal they got a great tip. They owned us in front of our own net. A couple of bad decisions in the corner and they beat us to the net. But I’m real happy with the way we bounced back.
“That’s the one thing I can’t fault this team — The way that we work. We’re relentless. The guys want to do good, obviously. We didn’t get much practice time, but working in our own zone is going to be a key for the next couple of days, that’s for sure.
“It’s about decisions. We have some players not playing their position. There’s a couple of situations where you need to react, jump on the puck quick. Sometimes we’re giving up too much time. Especially when you’re playing teams that (have) Joe Thornton and Co., tonight Getzlaf and Perry. Those guys don’t need too much time to find the back of the net. And that’s what happened early.”
These guys aren’t merely inconsistent.
They’re bordering on schizophrenic.
Good Flames. Bad Flames. Responsible Flames. Neglectful Flames.
Monday night, again, was a perfect example. They were all over the lot. Down 3-0. Tied 3-3. Down 5-3. Back to 5-4.
Pluck, resilience, are admirable traits in any player, any team, but ultimately, in this shrunken-head of a season, of no substantive benefit without the two-point payoff.
This edition of the Flaming C has been re-jigged to a more fan-friendly, uptempo, pressing style. And so far, that’s been delivered. But the defensive solidity, the “boring” slap-it-off-the-wall, clear-the-zone, cautious mandate of a previous regime, seems all but abandoned.
Perhaps this is where the ridiculously brief training camp, given a new coaching staff and switch in style philosophy, has risen up to bite them.
“For me,” said Lee Stempniak, refusing to use that explanation as a crutch, “it comes down to hard work and the basics. It seems we don’t stop, we turn away and we turn pucks over. Which against a team like this, they turn it back in a hurry. I don’t know how long a camp would change that.
“It’s got to be a commitment in us.”
Right now, it’s all too scrambly, far to scattershot to provide any sort of confidence.
“We need to be sharper,” agreed captain Jarome Iginla softly. “Guys are working hard, guys want to do the right things. But we’re making some mistakes. Consistency in going to the right positions. Being in the right spots. Throughout our lineup.
“We’ve got to get tighter there. We know that. We’re going to work hard to correct it. Offensively doesn’t seem to the problem. But we get running around in our own zone and in tight games one or two plays changes the whole game.”
In Game 1 on Sunday, the Flames put in a first period for the ages. Monday, they couldn’t have started worse, trailing by three after 11 minutes.
Wednesday in Vancouver? Who’d be daft enough to predict ...
A deft Ryan Getzlaf tip set the Ducks on their way at 1:06. Then Saku Koivu, the old campaigner, fired in a double-post banker. Then Daniel Winnick, helped along by a fortuitous glance off Calgary defenceman Dennis Wideman, appeared to have put the matter beyond all doubt.
Give the Flames this. They couldn’t could’ve rolled over and curled up in a fetal position. Instead, they fought back on two goals from Curtis Glencross and one by Alex Tanguay.
“We obviously got behind, but I thought we showed some good character to battle back to even,” adjudged Hartley. “But unfortunately 3-3 in the third at home ... guys are working hard, but we’re making mistakes. We’ve got to tighten up defensively. The effort is there, but we’ve got to be smarter.
“Guys went to the net. Guys worked. When things aren’t going your way early in the season it’s easy to feel sorry for yourselves, ‘Geez, things aren’t going our way.’ We didn’t do that. But they’re close games and it’s the one or two breakdowns that cost you.”
This 0-2 start isn’t exactly but it’s far from a death sentence. Left winger Alex Tanguay quite rightly pointed out that the ’94-95 Stanley Cup-winning New Jersey Devils opened a stuttering 0-3-1 in the last lockout-shortened season.
But, remember, that Jersey group was a veteran bunch, a known quantity coming off a 106-point season and already considered a genuine title contender.
This, here, now, is a vastly different proposition.
“That’s not the way that we wanted to start, for sure,” said Hartley. “I’ve been in many great buildings but from the bench, to see all those red jerseys, the Sea of Red ... there’s nothing more we wanted than to give them a win. We want wins for us, too, because we know that 48 games will go quick and you can’t leave any points on the table.
“I felt we played hard enough in both games to win. But we didn’t play well enough to win either game.”
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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