Standing in the Calgary Flames’ locker room after a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night, alternate captain Elias Lindholm offered a sobering assessment of his club’s performance. “We’ve played 46 games now, and still looking for a really good game. It’s concerning.”
The loss was the Flames’ second in a row, and bumped them out of a playoff spot by virtue of points percentage.
Through 46 games, the club has posted a record of 21-16-9 for a .554 points percentage. Framed differently, the club has 21 wins in 46 games, for a winning percentage of .457. They’ve accumulated points consistently of late, but they’ve been largely a win-one, lose-one (or win-two, lose-two) team for the bulk of the regular season.
Following the game, head coach Darryl Sutter was pretty blunt in his assessment of where his club is at compared to Colorado.
“Different class, that’s for sure,” said Sutter. “I think I got a pretty good idea of where our team’s at, we’re at the middle of the pack and we’re not in their class.”
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The difference against Colorado was execution at key times – as has been the challenge in several outings this season. Sutter pinpointed some poor execution on two goals – a defensive zone face-off win followed by multiple turnovers on one goal, and an offensive zone face-off loss that turned into a Colorado two-on-one for another.
Through 46 games, the Flames are ranked 23rd in goals per game at 3.04. Their power play is ranked 24th, converting on 19.9% of their man advantages. Quite simply, with 36 games remaining, these Flames have not shown the ability to out-score their mistakes.
And when they make mistakes, these are the types of mistakes they’ve tended to make – miscues in their own end or in the offensive zone that produce high-quality chances for the other team. And with 36 games remaining, the Flames’ goaltenders have not shown the ability to out-save the mistakes of the guys playing in front of them.
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As a result, at times they play like a nervous group, 20-odd guys not wanting to make a mistake in whichever zone they’re in.
Are the Flames a bad team? Nope. Are they a great team? Also nope. As Sutter assesses, they’re probably a middle of the pack team. Do they have the potential to be more? On paper, probably they do. They’re a team with many talented players with recent successes that have become expensive pieces to the puzzle.
“I think we have the same class in terms of players and potential as a team,” said Flames forward Blake Coleman, comparing his club to the Avalanche following the loss. “I think they’re playing up to their name and who they are and we’re just not there yet. It’s been few and far between in the games that it’s been there. We’re still, for whatever, reason, the consistency’s not good enough, that start’s not good enough.”
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The Flames are a good enough team to be in the playoff pack. They have too much talent to completely fall out of the pack. They haven’t shown the consistency this season, between games or even within them, to do much to separate themselves from the other teams battling for playoff spots.
So the Flames remain in a clump of teams, lumped in with Minnesota, Los Angeles, Edmonton, Colorado, St. Louis and Nashville. With 36 games left on the docket, unless they can find that consistency, they’re probably doomed to play musical chairs with those six other teams. There are probably only four playoff spots – the two wild-cards and the final divisional spots in the Central and Pacific – and seven teams vying for them.
And unless the Flames can unlock their lofty potential and bring some consistency to their play, they may not be in one of those spots when the music stops on April 13.
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If nothing else, friends, we advise you to take your anxiety medicine of choice and strap yourselves in: this could be a bumpy ride over the next three months.