Playing catchup is the wrong route to take to a winning season. The Calgary Flames are proof positive.
Heading into their road clash with the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night, the Flames are on a miserable roll. Calgary has surrendered the first goal in six of its past seven games. It’s a bad trend and making almost every outing an uphill battle.
“Our starts have to the better in general,” forward Derek Ryan said. “I don’t know what exactly the solution is there besides the cliches of being more prepared and be ready to start right away. We’ve got to find our legs earlier and be more mentally prepared.
Moreover, in four of the past five outings, the Flames have fallen behind by at least two goals before hitting the scoresheet. That was the case in the first two meetings of this three-game set against the Jets in Winnipeg. The Flames managed a successful comeback in the first clash of this series, a 4-3 shootout victory on Monday, but weren’t able to find an equalizer in a 3-2 loss on Tuesday.
“We have a good enough team where we can come back if we’re down one or two and stick to our game,” captain Mark Giordano said. “Once we clean this up and start sticking to our game, that’s when we’re really going to be at our best. Especially against Winnipeg, if you don’t transition quickly enough, they literally have five guys in the neutral zone, and you’ve got to break that down. And the only way to do that is to put pucks behind their defense and get in on the forecheck.”
The Flames, losers of four of the past six games, are not the only team in the North Division struggling to find momentum. The Jets opened the season as winners in four of five outings but have just two victories in their past five games.
Even so, coach Paul Maurice is seeing signs of what he’s looking for from his squad.
“We’ve got pieces of our game that look really good, that look differently than they have in the past,” Maurice said after Tuesday’s victory. “I’m starting to very much like our offensive game. I don’t think I would have said that to you over the last couple of years. Also, I really like what’s going on, on our bench. (Monday) night, even when the (Flames) take the lead, the leadership on our bench, the shift length, is right. And it has been since we kind of got into Ottawa. They’re playing for each other. I like where the team is going, I like where the culture of the team is going.”
Tuesday’s win, even with something of a nail-biting finish in a third period that saw the Flames hold a 17-5 shot advantage, was a step forward.
“To be able to take the lead and keep the lead was good for us,” Maurice said.
“We made it tough on them to get in the zone I thought,” forward Trevor Lewis said. “They had to rim a lot of pucks, that led to not clean zone time. Getting in lanes and blocking shots is huge, and getting those clears when we can.”
Of note going into the game, Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau has the longest active point streak in the league right now. Gaudreau has hit the scoresheet in all nine games, having collected six goals and five assists in his run to start the season.
–Field Level Media