The Calgary Flames ran their losing streak to five games with sub-par start in Edmonton
Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
They say you can’t make the playoffs in October, but you sure can miss them. The Calgary Flames completed their October schedule on Sunday in Edmonton, in the form of a 5-2 loss in the 2023 Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium.
The loss was their fifth setback in a row and seventh in their last eight games.
On one hand, the Flames haven’t played consistently poorly throughout their five-game skid. However, the challenging thing is they’re consistently finding ways to lose hockey games, often in new ways.
In some games it’s been turnovers. In other games, notably Thursday against St. Louis, it was work ethic that drew their coach’s ire. On Sunday in Edmonton, it was their start.
“I thought we were waiting for something to happen instead of going after it and attacking the game,” said Flames head coach Ryan Huska following the game. “So we were sitting back. I thought one team was skating and one wasn’t in the first period. I thought the second and third period we got better, and we had a lot more zone time from that point.”
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“And then once you get into the zone, you have to find a way to be a little bit more dynamic offensively in order to generate some five-on-five chances.”
At one point, Edmonton led in five-on-five shots on goal by a 23-3 margin. The Flames battled back and finished the game down in five-on-five shots 31-18, but they weren’t able to generate a ton of quality scoring chances against Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner at even strength.
Following the game, Flames captain Mikael Backlund said he wasn’t concerned about the team’s struggles to score at five-on-five.
“It’s something we got to work on,” said Backlund. “Obviously it’s a tough start, but I know we’re capable of scoring more and I know we have a lot of good players down there so I know it’s going to come.”
Addressing a media question about what needs to change for the Flames, Huska discussed how the team (doesn’t) take care of the puck and what they need to adjust in order to have more success.
“We seem to be, every time there’s a little bit of pressure, we want to throw it into the middle of the ice,” said Huska. “Well, that’s a recipe for a turnover. So we have to get ourselves committed to, in situations like that, putting it behind and bringing speed to the puck. Whether you call that boring hockey or whatever it is, it’s effective. We started to play that a little bit better in the second and third period and it allowed us to get some more time.”
It’s early. In the Pacific Division, aside from the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, it’s filled with teams that are still figuring themselves out – Seattle and Edmonton have both won just a pair of games apiece. There’s time to right the ship for the Flames and steer it towards the post-season.
But even thought it’s early, the Flames have a tall task ahead of them if they want to return to the post-season. If the cut-off for the playoffs is 95 points, then they need to earn 90 in their remaining 73 games – that’s a .616 clip. That’s over a 100-point pace over an 82-game schedule. It’s doable, but it requires a lot of things to go right for the remainder of the season that haven’t been going right early on.
The Flames are not done and dusted. Not by a long shot, especially in a division as wide-open as theirs is. But their October is over and they’re still figuring things out. If they don’t have a much better handle on who they are and how they need to play in a few short weeks, they may have dug themselves too deep a hole to find their way out of.
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