The Calgary Flames are not playing good hockey heading into the Heritage Classic
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
The Calgary Flames were booed off the ice on Thursday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome by the fans who were sturdy enough to stay until the final buzzer. Speaking to the media afterwards, one player opened by apologizing to the fans. Two players characterized the team as playing “like shit.” Head coach Ryan Huska was a bit more charitable, bluntly stating that the team “sucked” and “We’re not playing good hockey right now.”
Suffice it to say that the 2023 Heritage Classic arrives at simultaneously a great and horrible time for the local hockey club.
On one hand, the Flames are flat-out not playing the way they want to play. The players know it. The coaches know it. The fans certainly know it, and they let the team know occasionally during the back half of the game, and vehemently at the buzzer.
“I would have booed too if I saw the way we played,” said alternate captain Elias Lindholm.
Blueliner Nikita Zadorov opened his scrum by apologizing to the fans for the performance, then added “We’re playing like shit right now. It’s tough to watch.”
Huska criticized his team’s work ethic in the loss, noting that the team deserved the response from the fans.
“This is a collective one,” said Huska. “In the games we’ve dropped before, turnovers have been a challenge for us, that’s for sure. You haven’t questioned work ethic. Tonight, that’s a different story. That’s not acceptable. Mistakes are going to happen in the game of hockey, what cannot happen is having an effort like we saw tonight. That should never happen.”
When he spoke to the media, defenceman MacKenzie Weegar characterized the team as “disconnected” and noted the challenges they had in all three zones and stating that the team needed to get on the same page.
“There’s one thing, it’s a privilege to play in the NHL right now,” said Weegar. “I don’t want anybody to forget that. I think you’ve got 20 guys in here that know it’s a tough league, you’ve got to earn it. You’ve got to earn to be in this group and to be out there. I think we need to remember that. The only way we’re going to get out of this is with the group of guys. We’ve got to grab ahold of this now and end it.”
On the other hand, if there’s one team that knows the same struggles that the Flames are feeling right now, it’s the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers dropped their final game before the Heritage Classic to the New York Rangers by a 3-0 score on Thursday, getting booed by the Rogers Place crowd at the end of the contest. The Oilers have opened their season with a 1-5-1 record.
And if there’s one team that historically the Flames have been able to use as a rallying point – a team they absolutely can get emotionally up for playing – it’s the Oilers. The Heritage Classic is a big spotlight game for both teams, and undoubtedly both teams will be trying to use the event as a chance to turn their flickering seasons around.
Weegar downplayed the notion of any panic within the Flames’ room regarding their start, noting that it’s still early and turning attention to Sunday’s big game.
“We look forward to this Heritage Classic,” said Weegar. “We can rally around a big Heritage Classic here. Big win against Edmonton, I think we can go on a little roll here.”
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