Flames left searching for answers after sluggish effort against Avs
After a listless 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche where the Calgary Flames showed little compete and effort through the first 40 minutes, head coach Darryl Sutter summed up the differences between the two teams.
“Different class, that’s for sure,” he said of the defending champions.
“I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of where our team’s at and we’re in the middle of the pack and we’re not in their class.”
When asked if he liked his team’s response after they gave up three goals in the opening 13 minutes, Sutter responded that he did not.
“The greatest coach in the history of the game told me once sometimes it’s better to get beat 9-1,” he added.
Forward Blake Coleman used the phrase “kicked our ass” multiple times after the defeat.
“You put yourself in a hole like that against a team that’s been there and done that, it’s going to be hard to climb out of those,” he said.
“There’s a lot of lessons to be learned, myself included. I can be a lot better.”
Similar to the game in Nashville, the Flames had a poor start and didn’t appear engaged, surrendering several high-danger scoring chances to the Avalanche. They lost battles, didn’t win races to loose pucks, and mismanaged the puck throughout the evening, only getting consistent offensive zone pressure in the game’s final period.
“Obviously when you come out like that in the first against the champs, it’s not going to work very well,” Elias Lindholm said.
“You can’t expect to win when you play like that, so obviously that first period set the whole game up.”
Having played 46 games so far this season, the Calgary Flames are firmly entrenched in the National Hockey League’s middle class and on the wildcard bubble in the Western Conference. Players spoke about how over halfway through the season they still have yet to put together consistent 60-minute efforts and signature victories that seemed to come so easily last season. Currently, they’re 13th in goals-per-game, 15th in goals-against-per-game, 24th in power play percentage, fifth in penalty kill percentage, 26th in five-on-five save percentage, and 24th in five-on-five shooting percentage.
Their playoff fate, thought by many at the start of the season to be a formality preceding bigger and better things in the postseason, is increasingly looking like it will be decided in the season’s waning moments.
“We’ve played 46 games now and we’re still looking for a really good game,” Lindholm said.
“We’ve got to find a way to put 60 minutes together and come together as a group,” Tyler Toffoli said.
“It feels like every time we get on a roll, we do something like this.”
Prior to Monday’s loss in Nashville, the Flames had done a good job at getting points consistently. From Dec. 16 to Jan. 15, they were 8-3-3 and had a 0.679 points percentage that was fourth in the Western Conference in that stretch. The past two games, however, increasingly familiar themes have once again emerged: a lack of compete, inability to score, and needing an extra save or two.
“If you think it was there, then you just say that,” Sutter responded, when asked about the effort level on Wednesday.
“Obviously you guys saw the start,” Toffoli said.
“It wasn’t there and throughout the second and third, there were times we had some momentum and had some opportunities, [but] couldn’t find a way to score a goal.”
Interestingly, players pushed back a bit when told of Sutter’s comments that the Colorado Avalanche are simply in another class than the Calgary Flames.
“In the first [period], yeah,” Lindholm responded when told of his coach’s assessment of the two teams being at different junctures.
“I think we have the same class in terms of players and potential in the team,” Coleman added.
“I think they’re playing up to their game and who they are and we’re just not there yet.”
They have 36 games left in the regular season to prove their coach wrong.